Best Hikes Near Asheville- Our Top 10 Favorite Trails
Rolling mountains, lush forests, cascading waterfalls, and more. It’s easy to see why Asheville, North Carolina, is a top destination for nature lovers. If you’re planning a visit and interested in doing some hiking, you might be wondering about the best hikes near Asheville.
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After all, with so many options within a short drive of the city, it’s hard to figure out which hiking trails are the best to explore during your time in the area. That’s why we’ve put together a list of our favorite hiking trails near Asheville.
Whether you’re interested in enjoying panoramic views from the top of a mountain or taking in the stunning beauty of plunging waterfalls, you know you’ll find exactly what you want on this list of the best hikes near Asheville.
1. Mount Mitchell State Park
Not only is Mount Mitchell the highest peak in North Carolina, but at 6,684 feet, it’s also the highest point in the Appalachian Mountains. Mount Mitchell State Park has an incredible variety of hiking trails for hikers of all levels, including an entry onto the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
One popular option is the Balsam Nature Trail. This 0.75-mile moderate hike takes you through the forest and teaches you more about the plants and animals in the area. It also goes by a tiny stream that’s the highest spring in eastern America. Since the spring’s elevation is so high, its average temperature is only 36 degrees!
If you want to get to the top of Mount Mitchell to take in the stunning views, you have two options. For a challenge, take the Mount Mitchell Trail. This 6-mile trail starts in the Black Mountain Campground and offers a strenuous climb to the summit.
While the 2.2-mile Old Mitchell Trail isn’t quite as long, it still offers an arduous hike to the top of Mount Mitchell. Or, for something easier, you can drive to the upper summit parking lot and take the 280-yard paved path to the observation platform.
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2. Grandfather Mountain
With its nature museum, wildlife habitat areas, and daily programs, Grandfather Mountain is a great attraction to visit near Asheville even you aren’t planning on doing any hiking. However, the mountain also has 11 trails that range from an easy stroll through the forest to a strenuous hike across rugged peaks.
The mountain’s Mile High Swinging Bridge is a must-see landmark. While you can easily drive to the summit parking lot right at the suspension bridge, consider parking at one of the lower lots and taking the 0.4-mile Bridge Trail. This trail winds through a mixed hardwood forest and over rocks for a moderate and scenic hike to the bridge.
When you’re at the summit parking lot, another breathtaking trail to explore is the 2.4-mile Grandfather Trail. Although this trail is very challenging and sometimes requires the use of ladders, the views you’ll enjoy along the way to Calloway Peak are absolutely spectacular.
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3. Graveyard Fields Trail
While Graveyard Fields Trail has an ominous name, you shouldn’t let that dissuade you from hiking it. This 3.3-mile round trip trail that takes you through fields of wildflowers and delivers stunning views is one of the most popular hiking trails on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
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The name for the trail comes from a time when logging, windstorms, and fire destroyed much of the forest and left behind nothing but tree stumps that looked like gravestones. Today, the dense forest is back and lush with wild blueberry bushes, laurel, and rhododendron.
You can get to the trail by parking in the Graveyard Fields Trail parking lot at Milepost 418.8. From there, you’ll descend down to see the Lower Falls waterfall. You can then continue on the trail to reach Upper Falls.
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4. Looking Glass Rock Trail
Looking Glass Rock is an iconic natural landmark that rises high above the lush trees of the Pisgah National Forest. While it looks impossible to hike to the top from the Blue Ridge Parkway side, if you travel around to the other side in the Brevard area, you’ll find a very manageable hiking trail that takes you to the summit.
Here you can enjoy great views of the surrounding mountains and the unique perspective of looking back toward the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Looking Glass Rock Trail is situated off the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway.
Keep in mind that this is an extremely popular trail, so it can get a little crowded in the summer and fall. If you’re hiking during one of these seasons, you might want to consider arriving early.
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The 6.5-mile round-trip trail climbs about 1,700 feet. However, there are many switchbacks along the way that make the hike achievable. Plus, the views from the top are well worth the effort you’ll put in to get there!
5. Crabtree Falls Loop Trail
If you’re looking for some amazing waterfall hikes near Asheville, you’re in luck. The region is known for its spectacular waterfalls, and many of them are easy to hike to.
Crabtree Falls is one such option. These spectacular falls cascade over a 60-foot rock cliff into a hollow filled with ferns and wildflowers.
To see the beautiful waterfall for yourself, you can hike the 2.5-mile Crabtree Falls Loop Trail. The parking lot for the trail is located at Milepost 339 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. From there, the trail descends into a mixed oak-hickory forest and through thickets full of rhododendron.
Once you see the falls, you can return to the parking lot either by following the same trail that took you down, or by crossing Crabtree Creek and taking the longer but more gradual trail back up.
6. Catawba Falls Trail
If you’re not done exploring waterfalls near Asheville, consider the Catawba Falls Trail. The 3-mile round trip trail offers an easy hike through a mossy, shaded forest that’s almost as beautiful as the falls themselves.
To reach the trail, you can park at the Catawba Falls trailhead parking lot on Catawba River Road. From there, you’ll take a flat trail that follows an old wagon route. Along the way, you’ll see numerous stone foundation ruins from the early 1900s.
Once you get to Catawba Falls, take your time soaking in the beauty of the series of cascades that are 100 feet tall. The area also has plenty of large boulders that are ideal for taking a break before your return hike.
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7. Shining Rock Mountain
Shining Rock Mountain is a unique natural landmark in the Shining Rock Wilderness. It gets its name from the white quartz outcropping near the top of the mountain that seems to gleam when sunlight catches it.
There’s an extensive trail system in this area, so you’ll find more than one way to reach the summit of Shining Rock Mountain and take in the spectacular views. The 9-mile round trip Ivestor Gap Trail offers one of the least strenuous climbs because it follows an old railroad grade roadbed through much of the wilderness.
If you’re looking for something more scenic and don’t mind a challenge, go for the 10-mile round trip Art Loeb Trail. This trail follows the rolling elevation changes over several mountain balds covered in wildflowers before eventually reaching the sparkling summit of Shining Rock Mountain.
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8. Craggy Gardens
When you hear something described as “craggy,” you probably don’t picture it being very pretty. However, Craggy Gardens along the Blue Ridge Parkway is the exception.
These high mountains are home to some of the most stunning floral displays in the area. The most popular time to visit is in June when the pink and purple blooms of the Catawba rhododendron are at their peak. However, if you can’t make it during that month, don’t despair.
During the other summer months, blackberry bushes, violets, mayapples, and Turk’s cap lilies all burst into color. Plus, you know fall is always a spectacular time to enjoy the area.
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If you’re interested in doing some hiking around Craggy Gardens, one of the best trails is the Craggy Pinnacle Trail. The 1.5-mile round trip trail offers exceptional panoramic views. Another spectacular option is the short Craggy Gardens Trail, which takes you through the rhododendron and up to an overlook.
9. Triple Falls Trail
If you love waterfalls, the 1-mile round trip Triple Falls Trail is a fantastic hike near Asheville. As the name suggests, this hike offers a view of three tumbling waterfalls that spill in succession over wide rock ledges. There are several ways to see the falls, but if you’re looking for an easy, kid-friendly hike, start by parking at the Triple Falls parking lot on Staton Road.
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You’ll immediately use a bridge to cross the Little River and take the wide, graveled, and shaded trail to Triple Falls. Once you’ve enjoyed the beauty of these falls, you can retrace your steps back to the parking lot, or you can continue down the High Falls Trail to High Falls, which is a gorgeous 150-foot waterfall.
If you’re not quite done, you can also extend your adventure with a short hike to Hooker Falls, which is accessible from the Triple Falls parking lot.
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10. Rattlesnake Lodge Trail
If you enjoy learning a little history on your hike, the Rattlesnake Lodge Trail is the one for you. This trail follows an old, narrow road through a lovely hardwood forest to the remains of an estate built in the early 1900s as a summer home for Dr. Chase P. Ambler and his family.
And don’t worry, the lodge didn’t get its name because there’s a plethora of the slithering creatures in the area. Instead, it was named for the living room ceiling covered in rattlesnake skins.
There are two ways you can reach the ruins. There’s a steep 0.5-mile trail from the Blue Ridge Parkway, or a 1.4-mile trail from Ox Creek Road that offers a more gradual climb.
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Once you reach the site of the former estate, take some time exploring the stacked-stone foundations of the lodge, swimming pool, barn, spring house, tool house, and other surrounding buildings.
While this trail doesn’t offer breathtaking views like some of the other hikes on this list, the upside is that it’s often quieter and less-traveled.
Best Hikes Near Asheville
Whether you like waterfalls or scenic views, you know you’ll be able to explore the amazing scenic beauty of Western North Carolina when you check out these best hikes near Asheville.
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