This past weekend I went on a short backpack in Pisgah. We only hiked in a short way because one of our party is handicapped. But this turned out to be a beautiful little hike for beginner backpackers or children or the elderly. It is the Pink Beds Loop in Pisgah National Forest in western NC, near the Cradle of Forestry museum there.
We started on the north part of the loop, leaving from the Pink Beds picnic area. The Pink Beds are named for the rhododendrons that had just finished blooming. The trail is smooth, wide, and level, and does not ascend or descend much. On your right are several large clearings that are maintained by the forest service as clearings for deer and turkeys. Any of them would be nice camping places; we chose the last one. There is a nice stream right by it, handy for water. There are also trees convenient for hanging bear bags high enough, and enough space for a lot of tents, should your party be large.
After we made our camp, some of us continued around the Pink Beds loop, which is about 4 miles total I think. This is a nice trail, but the bridge over the South Fork of the Mills River was out. We knew it was, but we thought that the logs we saw lying across a smaller stream was the "out" bridge: one of the logs was broken. So we crossed it and ended up on another trail that took us into the Pink Beds through a lot of laurel thickets and eventually petered out. We had to retrace our steps back to the SF of Mills River, and wade across the river to get back on the Pink BEds loop proper.
We saw some beaver ponds and some wild orchids. It is a very nice trail and I highly recommend it, as long as you make sure not to end up on that false trail that goes down into the laurel thickets.
This is a perfect short backpack for families with children or parties with handicapped people or old people.