Bracken Preserve is home to a network of approximately 9 miles of trails that connect Brevard to Pisgah National Forest. One of the newest additions to this trail system is Pinnacle Trail, a 1.5 mile trail connecting Brushy Creek Trail to Bracken Mountain Trail.

The network of trails in Bracken Preserve offers many options. The hike described here is a 7.2 mile loop that includes the new Pinnacle Trail. This loop ascends 1,200 feet in elevation as you make the climb from Southern Mountain to Burl Mountain. This trek offers picturesque views of a flowing river and a series of cascading waterfalls, along with abundant wildlife in the unique mountain cove habitats along the trail.

This hike is part of Conserving Carolina and WPA’s White Squirrel Hiking Challenge 6, which invites you to explore eight amazing hikes on protected lands. Check out all eight hikes! 

Conserving Carolina volunteers aided in building Pinnacle trail, which opened to the public in 2019. This extension created a new loop in the network of trails and expanded upon the Bracken Preserve trail system. The trail was named for the Pinnacle community, founded by Black and Native people, including a couple that had escaped from captivity. To learn more about the history of this remarkable community, check out the signage at the trailhead kiosk.

Length: 7.2 mile loop

Difficulty: Strenuous

Great for: Hiking, Mountain Biking, Fungi, Wildflowers, Wildlife

How to Get to Bracken Preserve

The address for this trailhead is 186 Pinnacle Rd, Brevard, NC 28712.

Trail Map for Bracken Preserve

Not all trail maps for Bracken Preserve show the new Pinnacle Trail, so we created this one using the Trail Forks app. This hike takes you up the Bracken Mountain Trail and Pinnacle Trail, descending the Bracken Mountain Trail. While there are many options for hiking Bracken Preserve, for the Hiking Challenge, the key thing is to make sure you hike the pink-blazed Pinnacle Trail at highest point of the preserve! As long as you hike (or bike) the Pinnacle Trail, this hike counts toward the challenge.

What to Look for at Bracken Preserve

  • Flowing river and streams alongside the trails and a series of small cascading waterfalls
  • Mountain coves supporting an abundance of biodiversity
  • Bountiful wildlife, including newts, rat snakes, coyotes, foxes, wild turkeys, and black bears (hint: look out for claw marks on the trees!)
  • Lavish plant life, including ferns, mosses, wildflowers, and a diverse array of fungi species

Hiking Bracken Preserve

Bracken Preserve links downtown Brevard with Pisgah National Forest, forming a connection between the urban greenway system and the vast network of trails in the national forest! The preserve is owned and managed by the City of Brevard.

This hike in Bracken Preserve is a 7.2-mile loop connecting Brushy Creek, Pinnacle, and Bracken Mountain trails. This loop rises 1200 feet in elevation as it connects you from Southern Mountain to Burl Mountain, and back. Although you start out near town, the trail soon becomes secluded in the dense forest and immerses you in all of the wilderness Bracken Preserve has to offer. Participants can hike or bike to complete this part of the White Squirrel Hiking Challenge 6.

Be prepared. This is a challenging trail in a remote area. Bring lots of food and water and wear layers to prepare for the changes in elevation.

Once you arrive at the parking area, cross the parking lot to reach the trailhead. As you begin your trek, be prepared for a steep climb for the first half mile of the trail. You will then reach a fork in the trail, at which we suggest taking Brushy Creek trail for your ascent. Take a right onto Brushy Creek trail and follow the red blazes as you walk alongside lush streams lined with a diverse array of plant and fungi species. About a mile and a half from the trailhead, you’ll reach the scenic Renzulli Falls. Make sure to bring your camera!

At the second fork, about 3.5 miles from the trailhead, take a right and follow the pink blazes to Pinnacle trail. Be prepared for a steeper climb.

At the third intersection, about 5 miles from the trailhead, take a left and follow the blue blazes to continue on to Bracken Mountain trail, beginning your descent.

At the fourth, turn left and follow the yellow markings on to Mackey Ridge trail. Continue on to Bracken Mountain trail as the blazes turn blue.

At the fifth and last, take a right and follow the blue markings on to Bracken Mountain Trail to complete the loop and head back to the parking lot.

Rise & Shine scholars at waterfall
Rise & Shine scholars enjoying the waterfall in Bracken Mountain Preserve.

Bracken Preserve Trail Ethics

  • Dogs must be leashed at all times
  • Remove all waste
  • No collecting of flora, fauna, or any other natural items
  • Mountain biking is allowed
  • No horses or motorized travel
  • Stay on the trail at all times

Complete the White Squirrel Hiking Challenge 6

This hike is part of Conserving Carolina’s and WPA’s White Squirrel Hiking Challenge 6. This challenge takes you to 8 amazing places that Conserving Carolina helped protect or open to the public. They are there for you to enjoy so get out and explore them! The challenge takes you to the highest waterfall in the eastern U.S., new trails in the Hickory Nut Gorge, and much more. Check out all eight hikes! 

The challenge is sponsored by Witherspoon Platt and Associates, a conservation focused real estate firm. We are grateful for their strong support of conservation!