Those who know me or have read my book Living With Wanda know how much my wife Jenni and I enjoy traveling in our campervan Wanda. We find it to be a freeing experience to make our own path and agenda as we travel the country. But every once in a while, it’s nice to set that aside and enjoy a few more amenities than an 84 sq. ft. van can offer.
Enter Pilot Cove.
Pilot Cove is a 20 cabin complex, nestled in the forest and tastefully constructed at the gateway of the Pisgah National Forest in Brevard, NC. In fact, their website describes them as the “Gateway to Adventure” and indeed they are.
Jenni and I, along with our dog Annie, had the privilege of spending a few days in one of their two-bedroom units. (They also have efficiency and one-bedroom units to meet a variety of needs.) We used the cabin as a springboard to the hundreds of waterfalls in the Pisgah Forest and Transylvania County, as well as exploring the fabulous City of Brevard.
We started with a late afternoon arrival. (Why late afternoon? I’ll explain that another time but it involves a panting dog, rings, and a wallet.) The first thing on our impromptu agenda was . . . a nap! I’m serious! I get more like my parents every day but there was something so relaxing about being in a cabin with the sliding doors open to the shady deck and cool forest. The songbirds practically sang us to sleep! And Annie is ALWAYS in the mood for a nap.
Once we woke up, I took a short stroll to check out the bike and hiking trails. There are over two miles of trails on property as well as a designated closed-course Flow Track for bike enthusiasts. As for me, I enjoyed the gurgling stream and photographing the plant life that was waking up to Spring in North Carolina.
Because we live within an hour of Brevard, we have always enjoyed popping over the mountain for a day of exploring or special events. But sometimes we need more time to explore. There are a bajillion restaurants in Brevard (give or take a couple) and we started our week with one we had not been to in years—the Cardinal Drive-In. But rather than sit in our car drive-in style, we opted for indoor dining where you sit in a booth, pick up a telephone attached to a cord (remember those?), and someone takes your order and delivers it to your table. Only thing missing was a jukebox. The burgers were delicious but the onion rings were incredible.
It was a comfortable night back in our cabin and we enjoyed a slow wake-up the next morning. At home, we’re so accustomed to popping in a K-pod for our morning coffee. Here, the act of brewing a pot of coffee and going back for a second cuppa just seemed to add to the vacation vibe. (A bonus was the complimentary local Pisgah Coffee Roasters’ blend.) We gathered our hiking gear and headed out the door to check a few waterfalls off our ever-growing list.
We took Hwy 64 to Rosman and then turned north on NC 215. Our first intended destination was Big Bearwallow Falls. The directions were specific about where to park on the shoulder of the road. Despite precise distances, I managed to second guess them and then after a few U-turns we were unsure where we should pull over. We could hear the roar of a waterfall far below us through a thicket of rhododendron and mountain laurel; there was a quick election ,and a unanimous vote, that there would be no bushwhacking so we crossed that one off the list. The next was Lemon Falls which only required scampering down some rocks right at the edge of Macedonia Road. It was worth the stop and always nice to have a place to ourselves.
Next we went to one of our favorites—Mill Shoals Falls, located next to Living Water Ministries in Balsam Grove. (If you go, park on the shoulder near the ‘T’ intersection for the flattest ground.) We had been tthere before, but still wanted some new pictures. Afterwards, we took the trail downstream to Bird Rock Falls. Amazing! Between these two waterfalls are several “runs” or cascades that are worthy of names and directions themselves. If you go, remember the trails here are compliments of the folks at Living Water Ministries so be respectful and practice #leavenotrace principles.
The next on the list, Courthouse Falls, was up the road a few miles but then three miles behind a locked forestry gate so we skipped it and headed to Skinny Dip Falls on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I had forgotten about a flash flood in August, 2021 that drastically changed this waterfall. It was hardly recognizable to me. You would be hard pressed to find a pool big enough for skinny dipping now. Darn. We called it a day and headed back to our cabin for a post-hike nap. We opted for Mexican food that night at El Chapala near Pilot Cove.
I had promised Jenni that I would not make her hike everyday so we used Pilot Cove’s proximity to Asheville to do a little shopping in the city. Three pair of shoes later our mission was accomplished. We grabbed what we needed from Aldi in Brevard for a charcuterie and crashed at the cabin with a glass of sangria that evening.
For our final full day at Pilot Cove we were committed to finding three new waterfalls, all located in the fairly new Headwaters State Forest. First up was Reece Place Falls (aka Hidden Falls) located off East Fork Rd. How far off the road, we were not aware when we started out through a thicket of mountain laurel. After about 1.2 miles we reached an incredible waterfall that made it all worthwhile, even the 1.2 mile trek (mostly uphill) back to the trailhead.
The next stop at East Fork Falls involved less than a 100 yard walk so I earned some redemption at that point.
Our final choice for fast-flowing water was Gravley Falls. Finding the trailhead was simple. From that point we were supposed to take the fork to the right at "0.1 miles." I think we took one at 0.09 miles instead and walked a mile more than we should have. We were prepared to give up once we backtracked but Jenni sent me on with her blessings. I did find the waterfall, climbed down some roots and skated on some slick rocks to see it from the bottom. It was pretty, but perhaps not worth what I had gone through to see it.
That night we feasted on Chinese food from New China in Brevard and admitted how dangerous it would be if we lived closer to such a supply of great restaurants. Thanks to the amenities in our Pilot Cove cabin we were also able to do laundry that night and pack all clean clothes in our suitcases. No need to make a mountain of dirty clothes when we returned home the next day!
Our stay at Pilot Cove was complete the next morning. The fully equipped cabin had made our stay perfect. Good WiFi kept us connected while we were there. We didn’t lack for anything. On our way out, we checked out the awesome amphitheater on site. There is a covered stage as well as restroom facilities. It can seat 250+ people and looks perfect for weddings, private events, or small concerts.
If you are looking for a place that gets you closer to the outdoors and allows you an earlier start to the trails and waterfalls, Pilot Cove is the definitely worth investigating. Keep an eye on their website or Facebook page for new developments as they have gotten approval for development of a campground that will consist of primitive sites, private shelters, glamping sites, and Wanda's favorite: RV/camper sites!
And if you’re interested in some of the waterfalls we saw, contact me and I’ll try to spare you a little frustration in finding them!