Hiking & Scenic Views
Come to the foothills of the universe . . .
The fact that NASA located its first east coast satellite-tracking facility in a spot of natural scenic beauty is no accident.
During the infancy of the U.S. space program NASA conducted a worldwide search for protected sites to host its network of tracking stations. Located in the half-million acre Pisgah National Forest, the scenic jewel that became PARI is protected for generations to come from man-made light pollution and radio interference.
In other words, if you want to leave behind the noise and bustle of daily life, NASA concluded the PARI site is the best spot on the East Coast.
The scenic heart of the PARI campus is a quiet oasis named in honor of Jo Cline, a PARI co-founder and the “First Lady of PARI.” Jo loved this spot that looks out over the pond and the main campus so we carved out a small park in her honor. Today, visitors can enjoy a picnic lunch in Jo’s Cove, or simply sit and take in the quiet solitude. Jo would like that.
Emanating from Jo’s Cove, a network of hiking trails tunnel through groves of rhododendron and mountain laurel.
The network includes a switchback trail for novice hikers and a steeper side trail for those wanting exercise. The switchback trail intersects the steep trail at four places. There are several other side trails to the top of each of the several hills on the trail, plus an additional cross trail to the clearing for underground cabling back to the PARI main campus and Cline Administration Building.
The trails are continually being improved with bridges, additional spurs and the reintroduction of local wildflowers.
Parks Observation Deck
Another feature that attracted NASA to the PARI site is a high ridge that protects the main campus from noise and light pollution. The ridge serves another purpose: it provides million-dollar views stretching to the horizon in every direction.
PARI has built optical observatories on the ridge and a generous donation from Janet Parks in honor of her husband, Edward “Chip” Parks, provided for the construction of the Parks Observation Deck. The observation deck is handicap-accessible and features a wide platform ringed with seats and railings. A paved road from the PARI main campus leads directly to the Parks Observation Deck.
Bring your binoculars. You’ll be glad you did.