Trout hatchery tour, free things to do in beautiful Pisgah National Forest

One fish two fish red fish blue fish…

Western North Carolina, the land of the waterfalls, is truly breathtaking in the fall.

Bobby N Setzer Fish Hatchery Raceway Exhibit

Fun free wild things to do inside Blue Ridge Parkway


Recently, we spend a weekend hiking between Hendersonville and Brevard.

We had fun visiting the Bobby N. Setzer Fish Hatchery and Raceway Exhibit housed at the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education.

This is the largest hatchery in the state, which stocks about half million brook, rainbow and brown trout a year and feeds over 80 streams and lakes in 15 counties.

The center is located inside the Pigah National Forest of off Hwy 276 and about 20 minutes drive from scenic Blue Ridge Parkway.

Blue Ridge Parkway Trout Fishing

Self guided tour at the Fish Hatchery, Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education

The raceway exhibit is open Monday to Saturday, 8AM to 5PM and admission is free.

Here you can watch and feed brook, rainbow and brown trout.

The fingerlings grow in a series of 54 outdoor raceways, which are elongated, concrete fish-rearing ponds with a constant flow of fresh water.

In fact the raceways channel 3,500 gallons per minute of cold mountain water from nearby Davidson River and Grogan Creek!

About the trout… (data from the “Raising Trout for North Carolina Waters” brochure)

North Carolina native trout

Beautiful specled trout at Bobby Setzer Hatchery


The brook trout, is North Carolina’s only native trout, nicknamed “speckle” because of the blue-bordered, red spots on its flanks. The back has green worm-like markings and the lower fins are red with a black stripe and white leading edge.

The rainbow trout was brought from the Pacific Northwest in the late 1800s. It has many dark spots, a greenish back that fades into silvery white on its belly and a red stripe along its flanks (hence the name). Rainbow trout can tolerate warmer waters than brook trout.

The brown trout was brought from Europe, also in the late 1800s. It is brownish yellow with many black and few bright-red spots along its flanks. Currently, it thrives in the North Caolina streams and can tolerate warm and turbid waters.

Once done with the hatchery tour, you can take the easy interpretive trail through the beautifully restored wildlife garden and hardwood forest habitat. Inside the auditorium you can get up close to colorful fish, frogs, salamanders and snakes.

If you plan to stick around for a few days, take advantage of the high quality outdoor classes for all age and skill levels: fly tying and fishing, hunter education, outdoor cooking, waterfall photography and more. Details online or by phone at (828) 877-4423.

Easily accessible waterfalls Blue Ridge Parkway

Nearby Looking Glass Falls right off Hwy 276

For ever enchanted in beautiful Western North Carolina!

Let the adventure begin at majestic Table Rock State Park (Greenville weekend fun outdoor activities)

So much to see, so much to do at Table Rock State Park the undisputed jewel of the South Carolina mountains. The park is at the edge of the Blue Ridge Escarpment off of scenic highway 11, relative short drive from Greenville and little over an hour drive from Charlotte. Table Rock Visitors Center photo Table Rock mountain has a spectacular granite outcropping which at 3124 feet is a stark contrast to the heavily wooded forests below.

The first white men moved in the Oolenoy Valley soon after the Cherokee treaty at a place called Pumpkintown. In 1840 the Keith and Sutherland families built a hotel that soon became a popular area attraction. A second hotel was built in 1899 at present White Oak Picnic Shelters site then moved in 1920 to Saluda Valley to become a summer lodge.

Things to know before you go at Table Rock and Caesar’s Head parks

1. Carrick Creek is the only recommended hiking trail for young kids at the Table Rock state park. It starts at the Nature Center and about 2 miles it takes an hour to complete. It weaves around Carrick Creek and rewards hikers with dozens of gorgeous, refreshing and easy accessible mini waterfalls. It gets better at the end (or beginning!) when you and your brave little ones can goof around at the swimming area.
Rock sliding Nature Center at Table Rock Park photo

Here are all Table Rock hiking trails. Hikers are encouraged to register at the trail head kiosk and be off trails at least one hour before sunset. No overnight camping on trails. Foothills Trail hikers need to purchase a parking permit at the Visitors Welcome Center.
• Pinnacle Mt. 8.4 miles 6-7 hours
• Table Rock 7.2 miles 5-6 hours
• Mill Creek 5.8 miles 5-6 hours
• Carrick Creek (kid friendly) 1.9 miles 1 hour
Hiking on Carrick Creek trail photo

2. There is a big playground near Pinnacle Lake with plenty of age appropriate equipment in a nicely shaded place. Beware of the geese wandering throughout the parking lot and the picnic area. They are mean, mean, mean and will harass you as soon as they sense the food. My 4 years old and I had to take refuge on top of the picnic table. No kidding! I finally braved to chase them away using some stick musketeer style.
Young kid on Carrick Creek trail photo

3. Caesar’s Head State Park has the “take it with you, no trace left behind” policy. There are no trash canes or restrooms along the park. The welcome center has restrooms and vending machines. I encourage you to replenish there and use the facilities.
Caesars Head overlook photo

4. The trail to Raven Cliff Falls from Caesar’s Head is about 5 miles long so plan ahead. If there is not much time left you can still enjoy incredible vistas of Campbell, Paris, Table Rock, Raven Cliff and Glassy mountains and the immaculate Table Rock reservoir (it supplies the city of Greenville with fresh water) at the Caesar’s Head overlook. From there you can hike the short and moderate Devil’s Kitchen trail. Caesar Head park photo
Be mindful this park is frequented by black bears.

5. If waterfall viewing “it’s on the menu” drive to Dupont Forest State Park (couple miles after crossing the NC border off of hwy 276; here are driving directions to and map of Hooker Falls Access Area). It provides easy hiking and quick access to some of North Carolina most beautiful waterfalls: Triple Falls, High Falls and Grassy Creek Falls. There is a $12 map you can purchase at Caesar’s Head welcome center. Here are some great Dupont Foreast park hike trails details, an interactive map and waterfall photos.

Table Rock Admission, Lodging and Rental Prices

Admission fee: $2 per person; $15 per bus; $1.25 SC senior citizen. Annual passport $50 (good at all SC State Parks); Palmetto Passport $25 (for SC seniors or disabled citizens). Tip: if you got a permit or day pass from another SC park you can use it at Table Rock (and any other state park) as long as the permit / pass are still valid.
Lake Oolenoy Table Rock State park photo

Cabins: There are 14 cabins (8 with 1 BR, 5 with 2 BR and 1 with 3 BR) that can accommodate 4-10 persons. They range in price from $75 to $120 per night. Check in 4 PM, check out time 10 AM. Tip: rent Sunday thru Thursday to save $15-20 per night. Cabins 5, 6, 7 and 8 are right by Pinnacle Lake and have the best views. You can reserve a cabin up to 11 months in advance. Call 1-866-345-7275 or go online www.southcarolinaparks.com.

There are 96 camping sites at the White Oaks campground equipped with showers and a recreation building. Price is about $20 per night (including tax); again is cheaper during the week.

Equipment Rentals: Spring thru fall, Tuesday to Sunday from 11 AM till 5 PM (weather permitting).
• Pedal boats – 2 person $5 per half hour; 4 person boat $7 per half hour
• Kayaks and canoes – $5 per half hour; $15 per day
• Fishing boat – $15 per day; $35 per day for boats with trolling motor (3 person maximum). Note that no private boats are allowed on Pinnacle Lake however you can use them at Lake Oolenoy across Hwy 11.
Table Rock swimming area photo
Swimming: June till mid-August Tuesday to Sunday from 11 AM till 5 PM; August 16 thru Labor Day weekends only. Adults $2, children 4-12 years $1.50, free for kids 3 years and under.

Enjoy the beauty of the South Carolina Upcountry parks!

Must see waterfalls in the South Carolina Upcountry (fun things to do outdoor with kids)

Here are some free and highly rewarding outdoor activities near Oconee State Park and Lake Jocassee in the breath-taking (I know I used this term a lot…but it’s so true) South Carolina Upcountry and Western North Carolina. Your kids will remember these trips for ever. To help you plan ahead here is a custom Google Map with these waterfalls as well as other area attractions worth shouting about.

Issaqueena Falls and the Stumphouse Tunnel
Issaqueena is the most visited waterfall Isaqueena riding to her love and the only one with a “Romeo and Juliet” like love story. Legend has it Issaqueena rode her horse great distance to warn her (white-man) husband about fast approaching Indians seeking revenge for her marriage betrayal. Some say she died during the quest others speak of a happy ending. Either way the power of love prevailed.
The hike from the viewing area to the bottom of the fall is short but strenuous. I had to piggy back carry my 4 years old but we were rewarded with an up close view of the 200 feet gorgeous waterfall.

While in the area visit the Stumphouse Tunnel where big railroad dreams crushed but the blue cheese flourished. 1,500 Irish-immigrants workers and their families came to Stumphouse Mountain to work on the tunnel meant to complete the railroad from Charleston all the way to Ohio. In the 1850s “Tunnel Hill was a rough town with more saloons than churches”. The tunnel supposed to be 5,863 feet long and its deepest point 236 feet below the surface. However the massive granite stone posed significant challenges and workers could barely get to 200 feet a month. Stumphouse Tunnel

It was hard back-breaking labor of 12 hours a day six days a week using only sledge hammers, hand drills and black powder. The Civil War and constant lack of funding put an end to the project and Tunnel Hill faded into history.

In 1940s Dr. Paul G. Miller from Clemson University noticed the tunnel ideal conditions for curing blue cheese: year around temperature of 59 degrees and 85% humidity.

Issaqueena Falls and the Stumphouse Tunnel are located on Hwy 28 between Walhalla and Oconee State Park.

Whitewater Falls
Upper Whitewater FallsAt 700 feet the Whitewater Falls are the highest falls series in the East (the Upper ones are 411 feet). The falls are close to Devils Fork and Oconee State Park and you can get to the park from highways 28, 107, 11 and 130. You will need to pay $2 daily admission fee. A half mile trail takes you to a breath-taking viewing area; beware the last segment has steep boardwalk steps. There is no trail to reach the base of the Upper Whitewater falls.

If you travel with little kids make sure to point out the funny cartoon sign remind them how dangerous the waterfall area can be. It worked well with my daughter.

Oconee Station Cove Falls
You can access the trail leading to the Cove Falls from Oconee Historic Station parking lot or Oconee State Park (connecting from the Oconee Trail). This is by far the longest (~3 miles round trip) and most diverse hike around a peaceful pond, through odd shaped trees, into a deep eerie forest, and along an intimate and refreshing creek. Fun at the bottom of Cove Falls
At the end it’s all worth it. The fall has a wide base area which makes it very popular with kids as they can hop around the rocks and get in the water safely.

Table Rock Falls
The Table Rock State Park has lots of mini waterfalls along the 1.9 mile Carrick Creek Trail that loops around the Nature Center. This is the only recommended trail for hiking with young children. With a fall every other minute it provides instant gratification to the little ones and perfect photo background. Right above the Nature Center it’s a fantastic rock-sliding and swimming spot little children just adore. This is the perfect “bribe” to keep them hiking on your way back.

Bridal Veil and Cullasaja Falls
These are separate falls located along scenic Hwy 64 Boy rock slides in Cullasaja river between Highlands and Franklin, the NC gem and gold mining star. Yes is the other Carolina but very close to the border and worth shouting about!
Bridal Veil is the only one I know of that you can drive through it. Cullasaja river boasts the teens’ favorite rock-sliding and swimming spot in the area. Motorists stop frequently to take photos, enjoy the incredible views and just have a laugh watching the children jump Tarzan-style into the river.

Make sure to stop by the Jackson Hole Gem Mine for some rubies and sapphires rock-hounding. Your kids will love that.

Downtown Greenville Reedy River Falls

An oasis of relaxation downtown Greenville

An oasis of relaxation downtown Greenville

One can’t forget the 60 foot falls nestled along scenic Reedy River feet away from downtown Greenville. Relaxing with loved ones along the river walk has become a weekend tradition for the Upstate capitol city.

You can picnic, walk, jog, bike, feed ducks and geese, play freesbie with the dog and enjoy the free entertainment at the pavilion.

Little kids love splashing about at the man-made water park or take part in classical story tales at the Children’s Garden. Everyone is invited to a funny quirky “Mice on Main” scavenger hunt downtown and to greet elephants, lions and giraffes at nearby Greenville Zoo!

History lovers and art collectors must visit Pendleton, “the Charleston of the Upstate“. The entire town is on the National Register of Historic Places. Notable attractions: Farmer’s Hall (oldest continuous operating hall in the country), Hunter’s Store, Ashtabula (1st licensed tavern), Old Stone Church (where Andrew Pickens and Gen. Anderson are buried) and Woodburn (centuries old 4 story mansion and farm)

Safe hiking and happy waterfall viewing in the Carolinas!