Pisgah National Forest Big Ivy And Coleman Boundary

Big Ivy Trailhead In Pisgah Forest

Big Ivy is the area of Pisgah National Forest near the upper reaches of the Ivy River in northern Buncombe County. Because of the geography and where the roads go you will have to drive north out of Buncombe County to get there. Follow signage along West I-26 for directions to Barnardsville. Barnardsville is about 6 miles off exit 15 (HWY 197). Upon entering Barnardsville turn right on Dillingham Road, just past the fire station and from there on into the Big Ivy section of Pisgah Forest.

Big Ivy and Coleman Boundary (the name most often used by old timers and locals) hosts some of the highest land features in Pisgah Forest. It sits at the base of Mt Mitchell and Craggy Gardens, a series of peaks that top out at over 6,000 feet. Big Ivy also boasts some spectacular waterfalls, rivers and natural beauty. Access to the Big Ivy area is made by Forest Service Rd 74. This road will connect to the Blue Ridge Parkway and is a very scenic drive. Along the way you will pass many trail heads, car campsites, rivers, waterfalls and other sources of wonder. About halfway between the Big Ivy parking lot and the Blue RIdge Parkway you will find Douglas Falls, one of the tallest unimpeded water falls in the eastern U.S.

Pisgah Forest - A World Apart

Pisgah Forest is a sprawling National Forest located within western North Carolina. The forest comprises more than a half million acres in plots and tracts ranging from Brevard in the south west to Barnardsville and Linville in the north. Within the forest are many other national and state attractions such as the Shining Rock Wilderness Area, The Blue Ridge Parkway, the NC State Fish Hatchery and the Big Ivy/Coleman Boundary areas.

Pisgah Forest is so vast it includes not one but twelve different counties and more than a half dozen different mountain ranges. The most prominent of the mountain ranges includes the Black Mountains, the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Smoky Mountains and the tallest peak east of the Mississippi, Mt. Mitchell. On the lower end of the elevation scale you will find that Pisgah Forest also includes some tracts surrounding Asheville as well as many acres along the French Broad River and in the French Broad River Valley.

Pisgah Forest hosts over 46,000 acres of original old growth forests. These forests are managed by the Parks and Wildlife Service as part of the National Forests Of North Carolina. Many activities are allowed within the forest including camping, hiking, biking, fishing, pick nicks, horseback riding, swimming and river rafting.

I have enjoyed many visits to Big Ivy. I fish in the river, I ride my bike on the trails and bring my family out for hiking and pick nicks. No matter how you like to enjoy the out doors, even from inside a car, you can find you like at Coleman Boundary/Big Ivy. And, as an added plus, you will also find the Big Ivy Historical Park along Dillingham Road on your way in!

Map To Coleman Boundary

show route and directions
A markerBarnardsville, NC -
Barnardsville, NC 28709, USA
[get directions]

Coleman Boundary/Big Ivy are located in Pisgah Forest near Barnardsville, NC and just below MT. Mitchell, Craggy Gardens and The Blue Ridge Parkwa

B markerBig Ivy TrailHead -
1440 Dillingham Road, Pisgah National Forest, Barnardsville, NC 28709, USA
[get directions]

What Is A Babyhead?

Babyhead- Definition a small rock or chunk of earth 4-6 inches in diameter or roughly the size of a baby's head. These rocks are usually found loose in the middle of a trail and are considered to be very hazardous to mountain bikers, horseback riders and hikers.


Example - "The trails in Big Ivy are filled with babyheads."


What To Do At Coleman Boundary

Coleman Boundary is what I call a full service National Forest trail head. You will not find a rest stop, bathroom, water fountain, store or inn. There is not a paved road and there is only one way out other than the way you came in. What you will find there is access to hiking, biking, fishing, camping and wilderness adventure.

  • Hiking - There are over 100 miles of trails in Coleman Boundary/Big Ivy for hikers. Some of them are hiking only. The Mountains To Sea Trail runs through the upper reaches and can be accessed above Douglas Falls.
  • Biking - There are at least 6 trails designated for biking in Coleman Boundary. Most are rugged, steep and technical. Expect to find jumps, drops, rocks, roots, water crossings, baby heads, mud, ruts and rocky-rooty-muddy-babyhead filled ruts.
  • Fishing - The lower stretches of the Ivy River are hatchery supported, the trout waters turn wild as you venture up into the inner areas.
  • Camping - Car and wilderness adventure camping are allowed in Big Ivy. Only car camp in designated areas. Wilderness camping is allowed anywhere more than 200 yards from the road and out of sight.

Bear Pen Trail At Big Ivy

Bear Pen is one of a half dozen or so trails available to mountain bikers, just be careful of horses and people that may be coming the other way.
Bear Pen is one of a half dozen or so trails available to mountain bikers, just be careful of horses and people that may be coming the other way. | Source

Mountain Biking In Big Ivy

Big Ivy and Coleman Boundary are home to some big biking too. Any time the terrain has an elevation change from 6,000ft to about 2,000ft you know there has to be some good biking. Big Ivy hosts at least 6 trails that are open to bikers, not counting FS 74 (the main road). I ride at Big Ivy at least once a month and see all kinds of cyclist there from cyclocross to big hit/downhill gravity junkies. The important thing to remember that the trails are all mixed use so there is a high probability of running into something or some one if you are not careful.

  • Elk Pen
  • Bear Pen
  • Staire Creek
  • Laurel Gap
  • Little Andy
  • Upper Corner Rock

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Exotic Plants Of Appalachia

The Appalachian Mountains are home to rare and exotic plant species. The Big Ivy Section is no different. In the spring at least 4 types of trilliums can be found as well as more common species like Jack-In-The-Pulpit. The temperature, elevation and annual rain fall combine to make the southern Appalachians one of the most diverse biological areas on earth. A walk up on of the trails in Big Ivy is like walking through a museum exhibit. The higher you get the more the vegetation changes.

  • Big Ivy, Pisgah Forest and much of western North Carolina are a Temperate Rain Forest. Temperate rain forests are coniferous and deciduous forests of northern latitudes with rain fall comparable to that of the tropical rain forest. There are two temperate rain forests in North America, the Pacific Temperate Rainforest and the Appalachian Temperate Rainforest.

Jack In The Pulpit

Jack In The Pulpit is only one of many kinds of exotic plants found in Pisgah Forest
Jack In The Pulpit is only one of many kinds of exotic plants found in Pisgah Forest | Source

Wildlife In Big Ivy

Big Ivy is also home to a watch list of wildlife any global bio-trekker would love call his own. Of course there is the usual you would expect to find. Squirrels and flying squirrels, rabbits and other rodents, white tail dear, black bear, wild boar, foxes, coyotes, turkey and many other bird species. The not so obvious is what really sets the Appalachians apart from anywhere else. The Appalachians have one of the highest numbers of species of amphibians of any place on the planet. And because of the terrain a salamander you find in one holler deep in the mountains might only live in the that holler. One day in early spring I was out there with friends when it was very wet. I don't mean rainy wet, I mean dripping tropical rain forest kind of wet. The point is on that day we found salamanders everywhere. I saw some that were red, blue, yellow and green.

The day I took this picture butterflies were emerging from their cocoons. There must have been at least a thousand butterflies just like these.

Wild Butterfiles Call Pisgah Forest Home

These butterflies had just emerged from their coccons at Big Ivy Trailhead.
These butterflies had just emerged from their coccons at Big Ivy Trailhead. | Source

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