Hiking In & Near Asheville, NC
The Blue Ridge Mountains surrounding Asheville, NC are a paradise for nature-lovers. With hundreds of trails within a short drive of downtown, the Asheville area offers seemingly endless opportunities to discover the beauty of Western North Carolina for hikers of all skill levels. We've compiled information on of some of our favorite Asheville hiking destinations.
Asheville NC Hikes for Tykes
Many hiking destinations around Asheville North Carolina offer numerous trails. Shorter hikes with minimal elevation changes tend to be better suited for children. Our two favorite Hikes for Tikes are Graveyard Fields and Chimney Rock Park.
Graveyard Fields Hiking Near Asheville NC
Don't worry parents; there are no actual graves at Graveyard Fields. A number of stories exist as to how the area got its name. Most involve trees being knocked down by wind or logging, and the remaining stumps and roots that were left resembled gravestones. Either way, Graveyard Fields is one of the most popular family hiking destinations in the Asheville area. It is relatively flat, has stairs and walkways in many areas, and is easily accessible from a sometimes-crowded parking area. There are two waterfalls, some swimming areas and a camping area. Be aware of the falls as one of the more popular swimming areas is right above "Second Falls". In late August, Graveyard Fields is a popular place to pick blueberries. National Park Service rules allow for the picking of one gallon of blueberries per day for personal consumption.
Directions to Graveyard Fields: From Asheville, take the Blue Ridge Parkway South past Mount Pisgah. The Graveyard Fields overlook is at milepost 418; park here. The trail starts at the right side of the large map.
Hiking Near Asheville NC: Chimney Rock Park
Chimney Rock Park, located near scenic Lake Lure, is a perfect destination for families visiting near Asheville North Carolina. Their "Great Woodland Adventure" is an interactive user-friendly trail designed for families with small children. Grady the Groundhog, the Park's mascot, teaches children about his forest friends though journal entry signs and 12 discovery stations. Large sculptures of animals make the hike extra fun. The trail is 0.6 miles in length and takes about 15-45 minutes. A 32-foot climbing tower and Grady's Discovery Den, a live animal viewing area, are located near the trail.
Hickory Nut Falls Trail (at Chimney Rock Park) is a bit more strenuous at 0.75 miles and has a few moderate uphill sections and a small set of stairs that lead to the base of Hickory Nut Falls. That said, it is still quite easy for children. The falls are 404 feet high and create a mist on areas of the viewing platform. Can you say "photo op"?
Chimney Rock itself is a 315-foot rock monolith that is accessible by elevator or stairs and offers a magnificent view. Chimney Rock Park has an almost theme park feel -- however, spectacular views and a variety of activities makes this a great destination near Asheville. There is a restaurant, bathrooms and a gift shop. There are more advanced trails for the adventurous. Throughout the year the Park has lots of special events, guided nature tours and activities for children. Visit the Chimeny Rock Park website to learn about the variety of available activities.
Admission is $15 for adults ages 16 and over, $9 for kids ages 6-15 and free for kids under 6. Group admission is available as well as AAA discounts.
Directions to Chimney Rock Park: From Asheville, take Interstate 240 East to Exit #9 (Blue Ridge Parkway and Highway 74A East). Stay on 74A East for 20 miles and the Park entrance will be on the right. For directions from other areas, visit Chimeny Rock Park's directions page.
Blue Ridge Parkway Hiking Trails
Developed as a "New Deal" public works program during the FDR administration, the Blue Ridge Parkway is true national treasure. Stretching 469 miles from the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in North Carolina, the parkway encompasses over 6,000 acres of parks, trails and campgrounds. Many of the best hikes around Asheville North Carolina can be found on or just off of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Using the mile markers (numbers go up as you head South), spectacular views and Blue Ridge Parkway hiking trails are easy to find. Dogs are allowed on the Blue Ridge Parkway provided they are on a leash. Sections of the Parkway close during winter months, so be sure to check ahead before heading out. For general Parkway information call (828) 298-0398 or visit the Blue Ridge Parkway website. Also, you can visit the Parkway Association's website at: www.blueridgeparkway.org.
See Hikes for Tikes
This mountain rises to 5,946 feet just outside of Linville, NC. Home to the famous mile-high swinging bridge, Grandfather Mountain is one of the world's most environmentally diverse nature preserves. Grandfather Mountain has 11 trails ranging from mild to challenging. Their in-park nature trails can be accessed from the summit road. These trails were designed to offer a low-impact foray into nature, allowing guests to get out in the North Carolina Mountains without requiring a long and strenuous commitment.
More Adventurous Hiking at Grandfather Mountain
Grandfather Mountain's Backcountry Trails are for the more adventurous and fit. Many of the trails use ladders and cables to climb sheer rock faces. One of the cool things about Grandfather Mountain is that even though it is an admission-based park, you don't have to pay admission if you just want to hike. If you want to visit the swinging bridge and other park attractions, access to the trails in Grandfather Mountain State Park is included as part of your attraction admission price. Guests who purchase a ticket may access the state park from the Hiker's parking area below the Swinging Bridge. For hiking only, you may access Grandfather Mountain State Park from off-mountain trailheads. You will be required to register for a free hiking permit at area outlets. Guests wishing only to hike can access Grandfather Mountain State Park from one of the two off-mountain trailheads located either on US 221 or NC 105. A trail map will be supplied when register for your permit.
Directions to Grandfather Mountain: From Asheville Take I-40 East to Marion, NC to Exit #85. Turn left at the bottom of the ramp and go one mile to a stoplight. At the stoplight, turn left and follow US 221 North to the entrance of Grandfather Mountain (about 30 miles). You can also take the Blue Ridge Parkway, though it takes a lot longer (about 2.5 hours). Head North on the Parkway to the US 221/Linville exit and follow the signs to Grandfather Mountain. Other than the fact that this is a much more scenic drive, it also goes right past the Linville Falls visitor center (see Waterfall Hikes).
Mt. Mitchell boasts the tallest peak East of the Mississippi at over 6,500 feet. Two perks of visiting Mt. Mitchell are free admission and the fact that you drive to the top of the mountain for parking. A quarter-mile hike on a paved path takes you to the observation deck that offers an amazing view. Deep Gap Trail and Balsam Trail offer a mild to intermediate hike. Mt. Mitchell Trail, Colbert's Ridge Trail and the Black Mountain Crest Trails offer a challenge. It's always a lot cooler up there than in the city, so dress accordingly.
Deep Gap Trail begins near the summit parking area and is a two-mile round-trip hike that provides a view of Mt. Mitchell from Mt. Craig. Balsam Trail is a shorter, easier hike that loops from an area near the observation deck to the parking lot.
Colbert's Ridge Trail is a challenge. It ascends from 2,750' to 5,700' in 3.7 miles. The trailhead is located near the Carolina Hemlocks Campground and connects to Deep Gap. If you then head South along the Black Mountain Crest trail, Cattail Peak at 6,675 feet is a mile away.
The Black Mountain Crest Trail begins at the parking lot and crosses three peaks on its twelve-mile trek before descending into Deep Gap. Mt. Mitchell Trail is 5.6 miles and a bit less strenuous than Colbert's Ridge.
Directions to Mt. Mitchell: Take the Blue Ridge Parkway to Milepost 355.4 or take I-40 East to exit 86, U.S. 221 North. Follow 221 North to U.S. 70 West. Stay on 70W for two miles until you reach NC Highway 80. Take 80 North to the Blue Ridge Parkway and follow signs to Mt. Mitchell.
Mt. Pisgah Trails
Part of Pisgah National Forest, Mt. Pisgah Trail is a 3-mile round-trip hike to a 5,721' summit. Offering (on a clear day) views of Asheville NC and Mt. Mitchell to the North and a great view of Cold Mountain, this is a very popular spot for hiking and picnicking. The hike is short but very strenuous. The view is worth every drop of sweat. News and local transmitter for ABC, Channel 13, has their transmission tower here and it's a bit of an eyesore but a necessary evil. The trail is very rocky and has some rock stairs, so good footwear is a must. Trails to nearby Frying pan Lookout Tower offer nice views as well.
Directions to Mt. Pisgah Trail: Take the Blue Ridge Parkway southwest of Asheville to Milepost 407.6.
Appalachian Trail - Max Patch
The Appalachian Trail (or A.T. for short) is the world's longest continual hiking trail, stretching from Georgia to Maine. It usually takes someone about six months to hike the Trail one-way. For a slightly shorter venture, visit Max Patch near Hot Springs, NC and you can say you've hiked the A.T. (or at least part of it). Part of Pisgah National Forest, Max Patch is a 4,600' mountain whose trees were cleared, giving it the feel of a bald. A couple of options are available for Max Patch hiking, including two fairly easy loop trails of less than 3 miles each. As this is part of the A.T., you can hike north or south of Max Patch as you choose. The 360° view from the top is majestic. Wildflowers are abundant in the spring. It is usually quite windy (so dress accordingly) and if you plan on camping, bring a smaller tent that can handle the wind.
Directions to Max Patch: Take I-40 West to Exit 7; Harmon's Den. Turn Right onto Cold Springs Road. This road is mostly gravel, so go slow and watch for cars coming from the other direction. Max Patch Rd./SR-1182 is just over six miles on the left. Take Max Patch Rd. one and one-half miles to the parking area on the Right.
These falls, located on the Blue Ridge Parkway near milepost 316, are fantastic. This spectacular 90-foot waterfall is one of the most popular in North Carolina. The visitors' center has restrooms and an information station. Two trails leave the visitors' center. One, labeled "to Linville Gorge", is a bit of a challenge with a few steep inclines and some sets of stairs. Five viewing points are accessible by a four-mile hike.
Directions to Linville Falls: For the scenic route, take the Blue Ridge Parkway north to milepost 316. In a hurry, take I-40 East to Marion, get off on US Hwy. 221, exit in Marion and head north. Take US-221 all the way to the Blue Ridge Parkway, head north on the BRP and the Right Turn for Linville Falls is about a mile down.
Du-Pont State Forest
Near Brevard, NC is a 10,000-acre state forest with 900 miles of hiking trails. Three impressive falls are found within the boundaries of the Forest; Hooker Falls, Triple Falls and High falls are all accessible in less than five miles of easy hiking.
Hooker Falls is right near the parking area. Cross the road from the parking area and follow the trail upstream to see Triple Falls and High Falls. The pool below Hooker Falls is a popular swimming area, and dogs are permitted on a leash in Du-Pont state forest.
Directions to Du-Pont State Forest [parking lot]: from Asheville NC: Take I-26 to exit 40/Highway 280/Airport Exit toward Brevard. Turn Left on U.S. 64. Travel east on U.S. 64 for 3.7 miles. Turn Right on Crab Creek Rd and go 4.3 miles to DuPont Rd. Take a Right, drive 3 miles, and you will see the Hooker Falls parking lot on the right just before the Little River bridge.
Looking Glass Falls
This 60-foot fall is extremely popular due to its easy access. You don't have to get out of your car to see the falls (although, it is highly recommended to get out). We hesitate to call this a hike, but due to its beauty and the swimming area at the bottom of the falls, it had to make the list. A set of stairs from the parking area allows a close-up view of the falls. As you may have guessed because of its proximity to parking areas, this is an incredibly popular falls, especially on the weekends.
Directions to Looking Glass Falls: From Asheville North Carolina, take 240 West towards 26 East. Take 26 East to exit 40 towards the Airport, New Airport Rd/NC 280-S. Follow 280 South for 16 miles to Hwy. 276. Take 276 about nine miles north of Brevard, NC and it will be on the right. From the Blue Ridge Parkway, take the exit for highway 276 and drive south nine miles and it will be on the left. Popular attractions Sliding Rock and Moore Cove Falls are nearby.
Suggestions for Those New to Hiking Near Asheville NC
- Before you head into the great outdoors, it's good to be prepared. Having a bit of knowledge about where you're going and what you'll need to bring can make all the difference in having a safe, fun experience hiking near Asheville.
- Footwear is one of the most important things to consider when gong hiking. Hiking boots are perfect for most situations, but not a must. For many of the less-strenuous hikes, athletic shoes are sufficient, though ankle support is a bonus. Avoid newer shoes as they may give you blisters and there is always a good chance you'll encounter mud and water while hiking, so if you're worried about keeping your new kicks clean, consider yourself warned.
- Maps are your friends. Trail maps are available for most Asheville hiking areas and are recommended for longer hikes in low traffic areas in the North Carolina Mountains.
- Stay on the trails. It may be enticing to make your own trail, but that's how people get lost, hurt, and encounter poison ivy (and other not-so-pleasant things). In addition to your safety, going off-trail endangers wildlife and could get you into trouble with a park ranger. Established trails are just that - established, and for good reason.
- Check the weather before heading on your excursion. It is always good to bring a raincoat if there's a chance of rain. Hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains during a shower or after being soaked leaves even the happiest hikers a bit down. Higher elevations usually have colder temperatures, so even though it's nice in Asheville NC, it might be 20 degrees colder in the higher elevations, so if you don’t bring a raincoat, pack a long-sleeve shirt.
- Bring a snack and plenty of water. Water is a must. Streams and waterfalls may seem inviting, but are not necessarily potable. However, if a hiker is so inclined, there are many kits available at our local outdoors shops to help purify stream water. Hiking near Asheville can build an appetite, so bring a snack or pack a lunch/meal.
- Just in case: bring a cell phone in case you get lost or injured. If you don't bring a cell phone, make sure you let someone know where you're going and when you plan to return.
- Black bears inhabit the mountains around Asheville North Carolina. While you are unlikely to see any as they tend to stay off the trails, it's good to know they're out there. Don't ever get between a mother and her cubs. Do not run from a bear, rather, back away slowly. This will reduce their fear of your sudden movements. Do not feed them, and make sure if you are camping overnight to use a rope system to sling your foodstuffs high off of the ground. Sidenote: If you are truly worried about bears, bear mace is available at the aforementioned outdoors stores.