The best hiking trails in North Carolina are open at different times of the year. North Carolina is also the ideal place for big adventures especially when hiking is the primary interest. There are hiking trails that are perfect for all of us at varying levels of difficulty.
Best Hiking Trails In North Carolina
As usual, if you want to enjoy your hikes in North Carolina, prepare adequately. You will need weather-appropriate clothing, plenty of food, water, and good hiking boots. A delightful way to explore is when you are accompanied by friends or family.
Grandfather is one of the most difficult trails in North Carolina. The trail takes you to three peaks. Visit the Visitors Centre for a permit. The peaks are accessible all year round. You can start the hike at the back of the restrooms.
A large, sturdy bridge stretches a hollow near the beginning of the trail, up and down some timber steps. It’s a beautiful start to the hike.
There are several switchbacks that take you down a descent to Watauga River. There are a few side curves into smaller adjoining coves. Tiny streams or seeps flow in.
After less than half a mile, the trail swings right and begins climbing. The trail is well-graded and maintained. The trail winds its way up onto a low ridge with lots of beech trees, then heads back to a larger cove where you cross a stream.
Foscoe View is the best place to take a rest. The view stretches to the Amphibolites Mountains and the mountains of Virginia. The trail gets rockier but arranged in a stair-step fashion.
After the switchbacks and rock outcroppings, you will see the Profile Cliffs. The trail continues to Shanty Spring Branch before the summit. Finally, you get to the summit of Calloway Peak.
Looking Glass Rock Trail
A hike along the Looking Glass Rock Trail is slightly demanding. Make sure you have nice hiking shoes and plenty of water. The trail spans a 6.5-mile round trip.
The trailhead starts off the graveled FS 475 south of Looking Glass Falls near Brevard. The trail crosses a wooden bridge into an open forest consisting of mostly hemlock trees.
At .5 mile the hike carves through a sharp switchback. At 1 mile you will get through a dense rhododendron thicket.
Views of the mountain’s steep-sided walls begin to appear through the trees. At 2 miles the trail reaches a broad rock outcrop.
The nearly-level ledge doubles as a helipad for rescue teams. The trail then moves away from the helipad and the climb proceeds further.
There is a campsite at 2.4 miles and you will reach the mountains true summit 2.6 miles. The trail begins a gradual descent breaking through the mountaintop tree cover. You will now come to an open view, stretching wide from the massive rounded outcrop.
After the gorgeous views, you will return to the trailhead. The return hike is easier than the outboard. At 5.5 miles you will be at the parking area.
Catawba Falls Trail
Catawba Falls is an easy trail that offers stunning beauty. The trail is 3- miles. It has added new footbridges. The trail marks a waterfall and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also allowed to use this trail.
The trail starts at the new parking area on the right side of the restrooms. The trail moves moderately past some level areas.
There is an old dam and some old building foundations. The trail makes an easy rock-flit crossing of Clover Patch Branch.
There is a creek crossing at Chestnut Branch before you reach the falls. There is a second bridge where the trail climbs up. Few rocks scramble before you reach the base of the falls. There is a beach below and a nice view to enjoy.
From there the trail is closed since it’s steep, slippery, and dangerous.
Crabtree Falls Trail
Crabtree Falls Trail is a 2.6-mile difficult trail. The trail can get muddy and slippery after heavy rain. The Crabtree Fall Trail features a beautiful waterfall and is also rated as moderate. If you have dogs, they are allowed to use this trail.
Crabtree Falls trail is accessible all year round. The trail starts in a Blue Ridge Parkway campground. The lower portion of the trail is good for people who use wheelchairs.
This trail starts behind the parking area. There is a short paved section that goes past an old amphitheater for the campground. You will enjoy a field filled with wildflowers along an old wood road.
There is a sign that the hike is 2 miles but from the map, it’s longer. Take the trail behind the signboard which is a thicket of Rosebay rhododendron. In July there are white flower petals.
You will rapidly reach the intersection with the other side of the loop. Turn right to begin the descent to the falls. The wide, smooth, graveled trail takes you to a mixed hardwood forest. The trees are very large.
The trail goes downhill through a shallow high cove. There is a dry stream bed at the bottom and as you move on the stream becomes steeper. The trail service becomes rougher and the sounds of the fall can be heard.
The trail switches back and forth until you reach the base of the falls. You will go through several rocky sections, roots, rock steps, and wet areas. The fall is photogenic as the water spreads into a wide veil.
The toughest part of the hike is just past the falls. You will have to climb 200 ft for a quarter-mile. The trail climbs boldly and toggles back many times and ascends the ridge.
You can rest at a bench while nearing the top. The next part is a long set of stairs then a nose of the ridge. You will transverse the mountainside where a stone retaining wall has been built. Before the creek, the trails will descent slightly.
Follow the trail to the last intersection and continue straight to the trail that leads back to the visitor center.
Triple Falls Trail
Triple Falls Trail starts in the park off Staton Road. View the river’s scenic rocky bed by crossing the wood and metal bridge. There is a glassy pool with tall grasses that line the river banks.
The trail follows a wide rocky path diving deeper into the forest. You will enjoy the shade from the tall trees covered in green moss and orange-brown leaves.
At .2 miles you will turn left to visit the lower of the three waterfalls. Below the falls the river flow is serene with blocky rocks, grass, and tall trees.
At .3 miles the hike reaches the lower waterfall. You will catch an adjacent view of the tumbling waterfall. Begin your climb to the upper and middle waterfalls. Gorgeous views of the top two tiers of triple fall open up.
The hike reaches a wide expansive rock outcrop. The lower waterfall thunders downriver. The radiant expanses of rock make a perfect spot for a mid-hike water break. After soaking in the beauty, the hike returns to the trailhead after a mile.
Art Loeb Trail
Art Loeb Trail is one of the best hiking trails in North Carolina but it’s longer and more difficult. It is also one of the most prominent trails. The trail was named as a memorial to Art Loeb who was an activist.
You will travel mainly in peaks and ridges, not in valleys. You will skirt along the southwestern rim then climb up past the Blue Ridge parkway.
You will enjoy the finest scenery to be found in Pisgah especially landmark mountains. There are also campsites along the trail. The trail uses the same path as the mountains-to-sea trail. Many trails are connected to the Art Loeb.
The Art Loeb Trail transverses some significant peaks including Black Balsam Knob, Tennant Mountain, and Pilot Mountain.
Whiteside Mountain Trail
Whiteside Mountain Trail is a 3.1 kilometer heavily trafficked circuit trail. The trail features beautiful wildflowers. The trail is available year-round and dogs are allowed.
A restroom is located at the far end of the parking area. Beautiful views of the surrounding area from a vantage point all along.
From the parking garage, there is one trail that heads out of the lot and into the forest. At .1 miles you have the choice to go left or right. If you go left there is an ascent and a gravel road that goes up at a nice even grade.
The southeast part is fenced in viewing areas. The fence protects you from a high vertical drop. Some people fear coming near the fence line.
The trail goes around the back or north side of the mountain and then along the ridge. The hike reaches a side trail at .3 mile catching limited views from an angular open rock outcrop.
The trail peaks at .75 miles reaching the white side mountain’s summit. The trail rolls elevation and ascends at 1 mile. From the midpoint, it’s a downhill back to the trailhead.
The trail passes next to an overlook platform rounding a sharp curve. At 1.2 miles there are incredible views. The trail arcs southwest to a gravel roadbed framed by a large rock.
The hike descends steadily along the roadbed. You will finish the adventure in 2 miles.
Old Mitchell Trail
The hike departs from the trailhead at Mt Mitchell state park restaurant parking. The trail dives into a highland forest descending through switchbacks. There is a rocky, boulder-studded forest and fields of wildflowers.
The trail dips through a power line clearing at half a mile. You will cross a wooden bridge and get limited views from the clearing. The trail bed becomes rockier as the hike begins. Climbing wooden stairs and boulders in a lush shady forest is fun.
The Old Mutual Trail meets at.8 miles with the Camp Alice Trail. At 1.1 miles the hike hangs a right spiraling towards the summit.
The hike later departs the summit retracing the Summit Trail and old Mitchell Trail. At 1.7 there are carving through stands of young pine and mossy, fragrant balsam forest.
The sound of spilling water fills the forest as the trail parallels Lower Creek. At 2.1 miles the hike turns right following the Commissary Trail.
At 2.7 miles the hike reaches the park office and Old Mitchell trailhead.
Moore’s Wall Loop Trail
Moore’s Wall Loop Trail is a 4.7 moderately strenuous mile and one of the best hiking trails in North Carolina.
The trail starts at the picnic area at Hanging Rock Lake. At 1.5 miles there is a beautiful mountain Creek passing through the junction of Magnolia Springs Trail.
At 1.5 miles the trail turns right and begins a steeper ascent of the Moore’s Wall. The trail climbs the elevation slowly leading to the highest point in the Sauratown Mountains.
The trail crisscrosses a small creek and passes behind the campground amphitheater. The trail goes back to the woods and meanders along the back of the lake.
Black Rock Trail
Black Rock is a 1.8 mile moderately trafficked trail. The trail is accessible all year round and dogs can use the trail as one of the best hiking trails in North Carolina.
The trail is well maintained but muddy. You will not have trouble since the trail is well marked with yellow blazes.
There is a paved path that was recently placed parallel to the Black Rock Trail. This allows families and riders of all skill levels to explore the area. You will follow a single-track trail on your right.
The trail is green with sections of technical lava rock. The Lava field is a great viewpoint for the Cascade Range. After the Lava field, the trail meanders down to the Railroad tracks. The trail ends near the intersection of the Pedway.
There is a point where you will be required to use a rope and a ladder to get to the view. You will have to cover yourself since there are large snow patches that can get very cold at times.
North Carolina offers the most scenic waterfalls. The trails are well maintained. You will enjoy wildflower-filled forests and enjoy stunning summit views at the highest peaks.
You can also enjoy the sunrises and the sunsets as you explore the trails. I hope this post on the best hiking trails in North Carolina gave you some ideas on where to begin.
All the best as you explore these North Carolina trails. Please share this post and also follow me on Visiting Travelers Pinterest.