The Pink Beds Loop is about as perfect as it gets if you’re looking to hike a relatively easy 5.4-mile loop near Asheville, North Carolina, and not too far off the Blue Ridge Parkway.
On the last Saturday in June, husband John and I, and of course hiking dogs Murray and Munson, headed toward Brevard, NC to give the Pink Beds Loop a try. We’re glad we did!
The trail is relatively level and travels through the forests of Pink Beds Valley and beside an open field once used for farming. There are plenty of clear mountain streams for Murray and Munson to splash in and get a cool drink of water.
The trail would be suitable for most children too, as it’s not very long or strenuous. We saw a number of young teens on the trail as well as parents with a toddler in a baby carrier.
We hiked the loop in a clockwise manner. If you prefer to hike the wetland section first, you should hike counter-clockwise. Click to see this trail map for reference.
During the first mile, the trail wanders in and out of open fields and meadows, which are maintained by the forest service as feeding grounds for deer and wild turkey. We didn’t see any wildlife except for butterflies and small birds though.
After 1.4 miles, you cross a trail intersection with Barnett Branch Trail. If you decide you want a slightly longer hike, you can turn left here and head up to the nearby waterfalls and then return to continue the loop.
Continuing on the Pink Beds Loop Trail, it will lead you through mountain laurel and rhododendron thickets. Many locals believe that Pink Beds derived its name from the abundant pink and white blossoms on the mountain laurel trees and the bright pink rhododendron flowers. Since we hiked in late June, we missed much of this normally spectacular color display.
After hiking for another mile, you will cross another trail junction. Go left if you want to visit the nearby gauging station or turn right to continue following the stream on the Pink Beds Loop. The ferns are thick here, and in some places, line the entire forest floor as far as the eye can see.
At mile 3.6, you will again cross Barnett Branch Trail and enter the Pink Beds wetlands area. This high elevation mountain bog is home to the fire swamp lily. The best time to view the pink flower cluster that rises above the lily pads is in early spring. Sadly, we didn’t hike at the right time of year to catch a glimpse of this beauty.
I was worried about hiking through a known wetland and bog area for the next 1.6 miles. The trail of the remaining portion of Pink Beds Loop and back to the trailhead was not overly muddy however. It definitely wasn’t too boggy to avoid muddy shoes and we easily hiked despite the wet spring and early summer weather western North Carolina had already experienced.
There are many wooden bridge structures over the muddiest areas and as long as I kept a watch on what the dogs were doing, they ended the 5.4 mile hike wet from a lot of stream-splashing play, but not overly dirty.
Directions to Trailhead
Take the Blue Ridge Parkway south from Asheville to mile marker 411. Look for scenic US 276 and signs for the Cradle of Forestry. Turn south on 276. After about 4 miles, the Pink Beds Picnic Area and Trailhead will be on your left.
From Hendersonville or Brevard, take US 276 north, past Looking Glass Falls and Sliding Rock. The Pink Beds entrance will be on the right, just past the Cradle of Forestry.
Hiking Time: approximately 3 hours
Elevation: 3,314 feet at trailhead to 3,170 feet at South Fork of Mills River
Do you hike with your children or your pups? Have you hiked Pink Beds Loop? Tell me about your experience in a comment below!