9 Popular Hiking Trails in North Carolina (2023)
North Carolina, though, is popular for beaches, but it also boasts more than 900 miles of hiking trails. While the majority of hiking opportunities are in and around the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Appalachian Mountain too serves for the same. North Carolina’s scenery is filled with abundant natural beauty, and therefore deciding the best hiking route can get overwhelming at times. However, getting inside and outside its mountainous beauty and keeping a foot on those adventurous pathways is what makes every single visit to North Carolina extremely exciting.
North Carolina is a dream for hikers considering it is home to some of the highest peaks on the east coast. The best hiking trails here will lead you to coastal habitats behind rushing waterfalls and summits that unfold the epitome of beauty. With a state where diverse hikers from all across America ensure trekking here at least once in their lifetime.
9 Popular Hiking Trails in North Carolina
Read on to discover the 10 most beautiful and popular hiking trails in North Carolina. Have a look:
1. Grandfather Trail
One of the most dangerous hiking trails in North Carolina, the Grandfather trail is bliss to start with. It might be labeled as the most dangerous hike in North Carolina, but it is a must to experience for any seasoned enthusiast. The 2-mile-long Grandfather trail goes all the way across rock outcrops through patches of spruce and fir trees. The highlight of this trek is the Mile High Swinging Bridge, US’s highest suspension footbridge. The hike further includes cables and ladders to traverse sheer rock faces towards the highest peak. Grandfather Trail is incredibly beautiful; however not suitable for a faint heart.
2. Hawksbill Mountain Trail
Hawksbill Mountain Trail is 2.1 miles long and is an excellent choice if you are looking for a shorter trek option. The trail takes hikers to the Linville Gorge view while passing through rhododendron forests. The distance, though, is short; however, the views and challenges it brings are combined with a huge payoff. Upon reaching the top of Hawksbill Mountain, hikes can grab 360 degrees panoramic view of Pisgah National Forest. Also, on a clear sky day, hikers can capture a splendid glimpse of Charlotte’s skyline a little far away. Hawksbill Mountain Trail is considered a moderately challenging route that also welcomes dogs both on-lease and off-lease.
3. Mount Mitchell Trail
Mount Mitchell is an 11.9-mile out-and-back trail near Montreat in North Carolina. Offering a challenging hiking adventure, the Mount Mitchell trail winds up at the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. The trail takes about 7 and a half hours to complete, which includes fording the occasional stream and hiking up miles of a switchback trail. The trail begins at the Black Mountain Campground on the Toe River and gains 3600 ft elevation at over 5 1/2 miles. Throughout the elevation changes, hikers will come across a variety of forests, from cove hardwoods to mixed hardwoods and Red Spruce and Fraser Fir stand (ranging from the lower and mid-end towards the summit, respectively). Upon reaching the summit, hikers will come across an observation point, museum, and snack stand.
TIP: An extra three-mile loop through the Deep Gap trail leading ultimately to Mount Craig.
4. Grassy Ridge Bald
Grassy Ridge Bald is another popular hiking trail in North Carolina. This moderate out and break trail take around 2 hours to complete and is quite popular for backpacking, birding, and camping. The trailhead to Grassy Ridge is pretty easy to find at Carver’s Gap (5500′). When here, step onto the Appalachian Trail at the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. The beginning of the hike is more like passing through the forest, which ultimately leads to Balds, which are wide open, green, grassy, and beautiful. Since Grassy Ridge Bald is more about stunning surrounding views, it is better to choose a clear day for hiking. The best time to hike here is either during the wildflower season or the snowy winter season.
5. Rattlesnake Lodge Trail
The Rattlesnake Lodge Trail is an incredible loop of 3.7 miles that makes up for a one-of-a-kind pathway beside the Blue Ridge Parkway. Generally considered a moderately challenging route, it is suitable for both beginners and experienced hikers. And since the trail is near the city of Asheville, it makes a nice option for a day trip. To access the trail, take the Blue Ridge Parkway north at the intersection with Ox Creek Road. Unlikely the trail’s name, you will rarely find any snake visiting or appearing in this area.
Instead, the forest through the trail is dense and tall, and you will find the most interesting remains of the old estate. Some of the popular activities here include exploring wildflowers and bird watching.
6. Looking Glass Rock Trail
Looking Glass Rock Trail is a popular hiking destination for world-class hikers. The trail is located near Brevard in the heart of Pisgah National Forest and is about 6 miles long. The trail is moderately paced, and it climbs up nearly 2,000 vertical feet. Being moderately paced, this trail is often populated, and why not the scenic hike that follows a cascading river is worth it. This spectacular way rises through switchbacks and patches of wildflowers and ultimately reaches the breathtaking summit of large granite and hardwood forest. Regular hikers usually keep their goal up till here, though the ones who are up for more sweeping views of the Appalachians make their route all the way past through the summit of the namesake waterfall. It is also a great spot for an afternoon picnic.
7. DuPont State Forest three waterfalls hike
Hike a waterfall is always an experience, and when in DuPont State Forest, this experience is worth living. This ultra-scenic adventure on the Little River is a stretch of 4.5 miles and covers great trails, extraordinary mountain views, and some glassy lakes. The route covers the extravagant High Falls, the three-tiered gorgeous Triple Falls, and the wide, symmetrical Hooker Falls. The hiking route, though, is easy, but during heavy rainfall or the snowmelt season, the geography might bring some challenges to the pathway. However, while the water levels are down and the rocks are exposed, hopping over them for more adventure and better views unfolds like a dream. The DuPont State Forest/Recreational Area is less than an hour from Ashville, and therefore these waterfall hikes make for a fine day trip.
8. Moore’s Wall Loop Trail
For an adventurous hiking experience in North Carolina, consider trekking on Moore’s Wall Loop Trail. The trail is nearly 5 miles long and is located inside the Hanging Rock State Park. The trailhead begins from the visitor’s center parking lot right behind the stone bathhouse. Hiking here comes out as quite challenging as well as strenuous. While the Moore’s Wall hike begins, it climbs along several craggy outcrops and leads its way to the former fire tower (also known as the Observation tower). Climbing up the tower offers panoramic views of the countryside. Further, it leads down as step 684 stone staircase, following towards a creek and ultimately leading its way back into the woods before it completes the loop. Hiking on this route takes about 2 to 3 hours, and enthusiasts even choose the nearby campgrounds for resting for the night.
9. Hemphill Bald Hike
Hemphill Bald is one of the finest viewpoints of North Carolina and has a bit of everything. Out of multiple reasons to choose this hike, some finest ones count as Shady stream-side campsites, stunning panoramic views, old-growth poplar, local wildlife, and the adventurous fear of bears. The trailhead for the loop begins about 4 miles north of the Blue Ridge Parkway on Heintooga Ridge Road, right at the Polls Gap parking area. The parking lot has ample room, plenty of clean drinking water, and some basic restroom facilities. Hemphill Bald loop is about a 13.5-mile loop, and it climbs over 1600 feet before actually opening up the astounding views of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The trail operates year-round and is quite frequented by locals and visiting hikers.