Put on those hiking boots, grab some bug spray, and pack a picnic lunch, because we’re heading into Dupont State Recreational Forest for the day! The area was officially designated a state forest in 2011 to preserve its natural resources while providing scenic enjoyment and a plethora of outdoor recreation for you. It became a popular destination after the release of the first Hunger Games movie, which filmed at key locations throughout this area.
Start at the Visitor Center
The Aleen Steinberg Visitor Center is a great place to start your adventure in the 10,400-acre forest. Located at 89 Buck Forest Road in Cedar Mountain, the center is staffed by knowledgeable volunteers who can give you trail maps and direct you to popular forest features and off-forest attractions. You can also pick up your pre-arranged permits here. It’s open daily from 9 am to 5 pm from March 15 to December 31, but the onsite restrooms are open year-round. The center also has free Wi-Fi internet access, which you probably won’t find once you enter the forest.
The forest has an impressive 40 miles of roads and nearly 60 miles of multi-use trails. The terrain can get very rugged, so be prepared for a serious workout, but there are easy access trails as well for some of the falls. The extensive trail system passes through majestic scarlet oak, chestnut oak, and pitch pine trees, as well as other unique ecological communities, including stunning lakes and waterfalls.
With the exception of a few, the trails are multi-use so you’re likely to encounter horses and mountain bikes along the way. Blind turns are common, so it’s proper trail etiquette to call “hello” on corners so oncoming horses know you’re not a predator and mountain bikers can avoid an accidental collision with you.
It’s important to respect the forest’s vulnerability by staying on the trails. The Forest Service asks that you also consider avoiding the trails after heavy rains and snow to prevent damage from rutting and compaction.
The hike to Bridal Veil Falls is a 4.6-mile loop trail leading to the spectacular 120-foot waterfall. A good portion of the hike is on level gravel roads, so it's considered relatively easy. Special Note: a scene from The Hunger Games was filmed here and at the nearby Triple Falls!
The Triple Falls Hike leads you to 3 breathtaking waterfalls in one. The waterfalls are stepped one below another until they plummet into a glistening pool below. The 2.9-loop trail is considered fairly easy with beautiful scenery along the way. You’ll pass beneath a wood and metal bridge and follow the Little River to reach the falls. The boulders at their base are the perfect sunny spot for a picnic or grab some shade in the nearby picnic shelter. In addition to The Hunger Games, The Last of the Mohicans was also filmed here.
You can hike or mountain bike from the High Falls Visitor Center to the beautiful 150-ft tall High Falls. The 1.2-mile roundtrip trail is considered to be moderate in difficulty. Or you can combine your waterfall exploration by hiking the 2-mile High Falls Loop Trail until you see the Base of High Falls side trail. Follow that to a viewing platform and picnic shelter and then continue on to Triple Falls.
Equestrians are welcome on all but a few trails in Dupont. Enjoy the scenic wilderness trails offering tie-outs and watering sources along the way. Because these are multi-use trails, it’s recommended you call “hello” on blind corners to avoid accidents.
The two best parking lots for horse trailers are the Guion Farm Access Area and the Lake Imaging Access Area.
The trails in the Dupont are ideal for mountain biking, although they are multiuse and caution should be taken when around hikers and horses. You won’t find the steep, downhill drop that’s typical of mountain biking trails, but these are a relaxed and scenic alternative. The best parking for mountain biking can be found at the Mill Shoals, Fawn Lake, Lake Imaging, and Guion Farm Parking Areas.
You can choose from 5 inland-public fishing lakes in Dupont, provided you have a valid NC fishing license. However, if you’re fishing for trout, you must possess a special trout fishing license in addition to the basic fishing license. You can also fish for trout in the streams with some exceptions. Parts of the river are stocked with trout, but the fish must be released if caught between October 1 and June 1.
Catch-and-Release – Please Do No Harm
The article Catch-and-Release: Best Practices to Release Your Fish Unharmed by Ross Purnell on FlyFisherman.com is an invaluable resource for how to catch and release with as little injury as possible to the fish. Learn priceless information, such as:
- How to release a fish without touching it.
- Why you want to use a net with soft rubber mesh instead of abrasive cotton or nylon.
- Why it’s important to remove the hook with clamps or hemostats and not regular pliers.
- Why you should never touch a fish with dry hands or lay your catch in the grass or snow.
We know how seriously you take your responsibility to fish responsibly and with compassion, and we applaud you!