Amazingly, we have 3,000+ miles of free, public hiking trails near Asheville, including 1,600 miles in the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests, 850 miles in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and many more along the Blue Ridge Parkway and in state parks and forests. Where to begin?
Here are our favorite hikes near Asheville in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains. To find the best hiking trails, we evaluated hikes for all skill levels. When selecting hikes and walks, we use the following criteria:
1. The hike is 80 miles or less from downtown Asheville.
2. It is safe, well marked, and not overly strenuous.
3. It does not require any special equipment or shoes.
4. It is easy to locate.
Note: Many of our picks are along the Blue Ridge Parkway (also see our Blue Ridge Parkway Top 10 Quick Hikes). This makes for great convenience except in the winter months when the parkway is closed in the higher elevations.
For additional short hikes, see our Top 50 Waterfall guide.
Before a hike, energize with a hearty breakfast at one of the Asheville Bed and Breakfasts!
Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes, South of Asheville
Listed in order from north (nearest Asheville) to south. Full page guides for each.
Mt. Pisgah: (3 miles roundtrip, strenuous) Mt. Pisgah can be seen from downtown Asheville on a clear day. Hike up to the top of the 5,721-foot summit on this popular hiking trail. Milepost 407.6
Fryingpan Tower: (1.5 miles roundtrip, moderate) Avoid the crowds at neighboring Mt. Pisgah and get better views with this hike to the historic fire tower. Milepost 409.6
Graveyard Fields: (1 to 4 mile options, moderate) This very popular spot features two waterfalls in a mile-high valley filled with wildflowers and surrounded by Blue Ridge Mountains with 6,000-foot peaks. Second Falls is just 1/3 mile from the parking area. The Graveyard Fields Loop is about four miles. Milepost 419
Black Balsam Knob: (1 to 10 miles, moderate) For sweeping 360-degree views, hike across these bald mountaintops. Almost entirely devoid of trees above 6000', the summit is more reminiscent of New England than North Carolina. Part of the 30-mile Art Loeb Trail, so you hike as far as you want. Milepost 420
Sam Knob (2.2 miles, moderate) Located next to the Black Balsam hike, this 6,045-foot peak provides panoramic views from the top. Milepost 420
Devil's Courthouse: (1 mile roundtrip, strenuous) Short but steep trail climbs a half mile to the peak for spectacular views. The bare rock profile named Devil's Courthouse is sinister in appearance and legend. Milepost 422
Richland Balsam: (1.5-mile loop, easy) Hike the top of the highest summit along the Blue Ridge Parkway in the cool forest. Milepost 431
Waterrock Knob: (2.4-mile roundtrip, strenuous) Hike to the summit (6,292 feet) of the 16th highest mountain in the Eastern United States. Milepost 451
Hikes Along the Blue Ridge Parkway, North of Asheville
Listed in order from south (nearest Asheville) to north. Full page guides for each.
Rattlesnake Lodge: (2.8 mile roundtrip, moderate) Hike back in time as you discover the rock foundations of Rattlesnake Lodge, an early 1900s family retreat. The hike is only a 30-minute drive from downtown Asheville. You can extend the hike since it is part of the Mountains to Sea Trail. Milepost 375
Craggy Gardens: (1.5 to 3 miles, moderate) For one of the best panoramic mountain views in western North Carolina, hike the 3/4-mile Craggy Pinnacle Trail to the observation area. Also hike the Craggy Gardens Trail between the picnic area and visitor center. Milepost 364
Mt. Mitchell Deep Gap Trail to Mt. Craig: (Up to 9 miles roundtrip, moderate) Our favorite hike at Mount Mitchell, the highest point in eastern America, is the Deep Gap Trail to Mt. Craig (the second highest point). A two-mile roundtrip hike includes a good bit of climbing, but it is not overly strenuous. Continue on the Deep Gap Trail for another 3.5 miles. For a more challenging hike, take the 5.5-mile Mt. Mitchell Trail from the Black Mountain Campground to the summit, climbing 3,600 feet in elevation. Milepost 355
Balsam Trail (3/4 mile loop, easy) Take a loop hike through the dense aromatic fir forest on the summit of Mt. Mitchell. Milepost 355
Green Knob Tower: (1 mile roundtrip, moderate) Get a close up view of the historic fire lookout tower visible from the Blue Ridge Parkway near Mt. Mitchell. Milepost 350
Setrock Creek Falls & Roaring Fork Falls: (2 miles roundtrip, easy) Take two one-mile roundtrip waterfall hikes, just a few miles off the Blue Ridge Parkway (exit onto NC 80). Milepost 344
Crabtree Falls: (3 miles roundtrip, moderate) Hike to a beautiful 70-foot waterfall with wildflowers along the way. Milepost 340
Linville Falls: (1 to 4 miles roundtrip, easy to strenuous) This is probably the most photographed waterfall in North Carolina. Hike to one or all five viewpoints via two trails that leave the Visitors Center. Only one of the trails is strenuous, and you can hike to all five spots with a four mile hike. Milepost 316
Beacon Heights: (1 mile roundtrip, easy) A quick walk to the summit has a big pay-off with spectacular views from several rock platforms to explore safely. Take a picnic! Milepost 305
Grandfather Mountain: (1 to 12 miles, easy to strenuous) More than 12 miles of regularly maintained hiking trails ranging in difficulty from easy nature walks to strenuous backcountry challenges. Our favorite hike is going out along Grandfather Trail from the Swinging Bridge parking and returning along Underwood Trail. Milepost 305
Linn Cove Viaduct (1 to 8 miles roundtrip, moderate) Hike under and above the Viaduct from the visitor center. Hike south to Beacon Heights or continue north on the Tanawha Trail to Rough Ridge.
Rough Ridge: (1.5 mile roundtrip, strenuous) This unique hike offers plenty of viewpoints and a wooden boardwalk over fragile vegetation. The mountainside Tanawha Trail features rock outcrops to enjoy the views. Continue on the trail to Beacon Heights (4 miles one way). Milepost 303
Julian Price Park: (2.7 miles and 2.3 miles) Hike around a beautiful lake or to the top of Green Knob. Milepost 297
Also see Top 10 Fast Hikes on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Hawksbill Mountain (1.5 miles roundtrip, moderate) Enjoy spectacular mountaintop views overlooking the Linville Gorge. Hike nearby Table Rock the same day!
Table Rock Mountain. (2.2 miles roundtrip, moderate) Hike to the top of one of the most recognized peaks in the Blue Ridge Mountains. This trailhead is just five miles from Hawksbill.
Shortoff Mountain: (4.5 miles roundtrip, strenuous) Near Lake James is a beauty of a hike to the top of a plateau summit with spectacular views of Linville Gorge.
Lake James: (.5 to 3.5 miles). This state park with a beautiful lake has seven hiking trails (easy to moderate) and a beach for relaxing afterwards.
Also see: Linville Falls hike
Brevard / Highlands NC Area Hiking Trails, Southwest of Asheville
Click on the links for much more info & photos!
DuPont Forest Waterfalls: (1 to 7 miles roundtrip, easy to moderate) This state forest has hundreds of miles of hiking trails. While there are quite a few waterfalls in DuPont, you can see three of the most impressive, Hooker Falls, Triple Falls and High Falls with a moderate 3-mile hike. And a 4.4-mile roundtrip hike takes you to Bridal Veil Falls. See three of the biggest falls on our 7-mile DuPont waterfall hike.
DuPont Forest Cedar Rock Mountain: (4.5 mile loop, moderate) This loop hike provides wonderful views and dramatic scenery - and it's not difficult. Rising only a few hundred feet above the surrounding plateau, walk across areas of granite with views.
DuPont Forest Stone Mountain: (2.4 miles roundtrip, moderate) A mostly wooded hike with a gradual climb takes you to the top with a rock face with great views.
Rainbow Falls & Gorges State Park: (3 miles roundtrip, moderate) This 150-foot tall waterfall is impressive, and you can experience the falls from the front, bottom, side, and top! Located in the Nantahala National Forest, the hike begins in Gorges State Park. The great swimming hole, Turtleback Falls is a short hike above the falls.
Forest Discovery Center at the Cradle of Forestry: (2 miles loop, easy) Walk paved trails to see restored buildings from the early 1900s and learn about how forestry begin in the United States.
Pink Beds: (5 mile loop, easy) This woodland hiking trail is wide and mostly level, located adjacent to the Cradle of Forestry near Looking Glass Rock. Great spot for wildflowers.
Looking Glass Rock: (6.5 miles roundtrip, strenuous) For 180+ degree views from a rock face, hike to the top of this iconic summit in the Pisgah National Forest. It's an especially great hike for cooler winter months since it's accessible year-round (weather permitting) unlike many hikes from the Blue Ridge Parkway. To reach the top, hike the "backside" of the mountain, gaining 1,700 feet in elevation.
John Rock: (5 mile loop, strenuous) Just a mile from the trailhead to Looking Glass Rock is a rewarding loop trail that takes you to the top of another rock face with panoramic views. From John Rock, you have a great view of Looking Glass Rock. And you'll find many fewer hikers here.
Daniel Ridge Falls: (4 mile loop, moderate) Hike a loop (near Looking Glass Rock & John Rock hikes) with a 150-foot waterfall.
Cove Creek Falls: (2 or 4.2 mile loop, moderate) Near Daniel Ridge Falls, hike along a beautiful stream with several nice cascades, sliding rock, and 50-foot Cove Creek Falls.
Twin Falls: (6.5 mile loop, strenuous) Hike Avery Creek and Buckhorn Gap trails (also near Looking Glass) to matching waterfalls in Pisgah National Forest.
Panthertown Valley: (5 mile loop, moderate) Hike 30 miles in this wilderness area with waterfalls and dramatic cliffs. A great half day hike is a five mile loop to Schoolhouse Falls, Greenland Creek Falls and Little Green Mountain. It's easy to extend the hike in the network of trails.
Whiteside Mountain: (2 mile loop, moderate) A landmark in the Nantahala National Forest, Whiteside rises to an elevation of 4,930 feet, located between Cashiers and Highlands. A loop trail takes you on top of sheer 750-foot high cliffs (plenty of railings for safety) with outstanding views. Highly recommended!
Glen Falls: (1.5 miles roundtrip, moderate) This is probably the most beautiful waterfall setting in the Highlands area with two nice waterfall sections.
Cold Mountain: (10.6 miles roundtrip, strenuous) Journey to the summit of the mountain made famous by the novel and movie, in the beautiful Shining Rock Wilderness Area of the Pisgah National Forest. Limited views from the top.
Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest: (2 mile loop, easy) See an old growth cove hardwood forest with 400-year old towering poplar trees.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Hiking Trails
Click on the links for much more info!
Mt. LeConte & Alum Cave: (11 miles roundtrip, strenuous) The Alum Cave Trail is the most hiked in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You'll see why with interesting geological features and stunning views. To reach the 6,593-foot summit of Mount LeConte (third highest peak in the Smokies) from the parking area on U.S. Highway 441, you'll climb 2,853 feet in elevation in 5.5 miles.
Clingmans Dome: (1 mile roundtrip, strenuous) At 6,643 feet, this is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. An uphill, paved trail takes you to the top for panoramic views from the observation tower.
Andrews Bald: (4 miles roundtrip, moderate) At an elevation of 5,920 feet, this is the highest grassy bald in the Great Smoky Mountains. The hike near Clingmans Dome is not overly strenuous, but includes a good bit of uphill and rocky sections. And you won't see the crowds that you find on other hikes in the Smokies.
Chimney Tops: (4 miles roundtrip, strenuous) One of the most popular and rewarding hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With an elevation of 4,800 feet, the rare rock summit is one of the park's most recognizable geological structures. The mountain views at the top are the best in the Smokies! To reach the summit, you will climb 1,700 feet in elevation with intimidating rock cliffs at the top.
Charlies Bunion: (8 miles roundtrip, strenuous) Hike on the Appalachian Trail from Newfound Gap north four miles to this rocky ridge with spectacular views of the Smokies. You climb about 1,600 feet in elevation, but it's gradual.
Mt. Sterling: (5.4 mile roundtrip, strenuous) Atop Mt. Sterling (5,842 ft elevation) is the historic, 60-foot tall steel fire lookout tower with nice views. You will climb 2,000 feet in elevation.
Mt. Cammerer: (11.8 miles roundtrip, strenuous) The hike up from Big Creek is a 5.9-mile constant climb with a gain of about 3,000 feet in elevation. The stone fire tower on top affords fabulous views as your reward for the climb.
Purchase Knob: (7.5 miles roundtrip, moderate) Hike the Cataloochee Divide Trail along the ridge to Gooseberry Knob and Hemphill Bald for great mountain views.
The Wildland Trekking Company
This award-winning adventure tour company specializes in guided hiking and backpacking tours to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A top-rated company on TripAdvisor with all-inclusive trips and expert guides, they are one of the Smokies' premier adventure options.
Click here to visit their Web site.
More Great Hiking Trails Near Asheville
Click on the links for much more info!
Chimney Rock Park: (1 to 4 miles, easy to strenuous) Hike a variety of trails with spectacular views of Hickory Nut Gorge or a 400-foot waterfall. Often overlooked, the challenging Four Seasons trail begins near the Meadows and takes you through a beautiful deciduous forest and boulder fields.
Bearwallow Mountain: (1 mile roundtrip, moderate) Near Chimney Rock, hike to the summit of this bald mountain with wonderful views. It's an easy drive from downtown Asheville!
Trombatore Trail: (5 miles roundtrip, strenuous) Adjacent to the Bearwallow Mountain trail is this new trail (opened in fall 2014) to the grassy summit of Blue Ridge Pastures.
Max Patch on Appalachian Trail: (1.4 or 2.4 miles, easy) Hike a section of the famous Appalachian National Scenic Trail (or A.T.) near Hot Springs. What a picnic spot with 360-degree mountain views! The 1.4-mile short loop crosses the summit. The 2.4-mile loop circles the mountain for outstanding views from all the sides.
Lover's Leap: (3.2 mile loop, moderate) Hike from downtown Hot Springs via the Appalachian Trail and as it climbs to a rock outcropping for beautiful views of the river and town. It's a romantic spot, but don't leap!
Beech Mountain: (1 to 20 miles, easy to strenuous) The town of Beech Mountain, the highest town in eastern America, has 20 miles of maintained trails atop their mountain. A great place to keep cool since their summer temperatures seldom go above 75 degrees!
Roan Mountain: (1 to 7 miles, moderate) Famous for its spectacular natural gardens of Catawba rhododendrons, Roan Mountain shelters a rich diversity of life, from spruce-fir forests to vast grassy balds. It not one mountain, but a high ridge about five miles long, the highest point being 6,286 feet. Hike the ridge on the Appalachian Trail for sweeping views all along the way. We love to take a snowy winter hike on Roan Mountain.
Point Lookout Trail: (7.2 miles roundtrip, moderate) The best paved greenway near Asheville is a blast for biking or hiking. This paved path in Pisgah National Forest was formerly part of Old US Highway 70, winding through the woods with views of the mountains, railroad and forest. While the trail is only 3.6 miles one way, it climbs 900 feet in elevation from Old Fort to Ridgecrest.
Catawba Falls: (3 miles roundtrip, easy) Also near Old Fort is the hike to the beautiful Catawba Falls, a 100-foot waterfall with several smaller waterfalls along the trail.
South Mountains: (2.7 mile roundtrip, moderate) This state park near Morganton has 40 miles of hiking trails. Our favorite is High Shoals Falls Loop Trail to a beautiful 60-foot waterfall.
Hikes & Urban Walks in the City of Asheville
Click on the links for much more info!
North Carolina Arboretum: (Many options, easy to moderate) Located just 10 miles south of downtown, the Arboretum has several easy to moderate walking trails. Our pick is the Natural Garden Trail, a one-mile loop starting from the Plants of Promise Garden to the Core Area Gardens. It is a gently graded, naturally surfaced trail that overlooks Bent Creek and the National Native Azalea Repository.
Urban Trail: (1.7 miles roundtrip, easy) In downtown Asheville is a walking tour with 30 sculptures that depict the history of downtown.
Biltmore Estate: (Many options, easy to moderate) There are many well-maintained trails to explore for all fitness levels. You can walk several miles around the gardens near the house, including a beautiful stroll around the Bass Pond (1/2 mile from the conservatory in the Walled Garden and 1/2 mile around the pond). Our favorite hike at Biltmore is the Deer Park Trail, offering great views of the house.
Botanical Gardens at Asheville: (Half mile loop, easy) Perfect for an after-dinner stroll with a half-mile loop across streams, through meadows, and over a woodland ridge to a wildflower cove with an authentic log cabin. All of this is in the middle of town, just three miles north of downtown beside the University of North Carolina at Asheville.
Riverside Cemetery: Stroll through 87 acres of rolling hills with interesting tombstones and plenty of history.
Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary: Stroll along 3/8-mile boardwalk through a wetland area in north Asheville with nice lake views and great bird watching.
ADA Hiking Trails
Several area trails are designated as accessible according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). One is a 1/4-mile trail at the Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Also, Mt. Mitchell has a ADA 1/4-mile paved trail from the parking area to the observation tower, although it's uphill.
Click on the links for much more info!
Pisgah National Forest: The half million acres of the Pisgah National Forest surrounding Asheville in western North Carolina features hundreds of hiking trails through some of the most beautiful and rugged mountain scenery in eastern North America.
Nantahala National Forest: The largest national forest in North Carolina features hundreds of miles of hiking trails. It's a great place to enjoy the peace and wonder of nature, whatever your hiking ability.
Appalachian Trail: The Appalachian National Scenic Trail is a 2,174-mile footpath along the ridgecrests and across the major valleys of the Appalachian Mountains from Maine to Georgia. See our Appalachian Trail Guide for dayhikes near Asheville.
Mountains to Sea Trail: Hike parts of this 193-mile section that follows the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Winter Hikes: From November through March, hiking in the higher North Carolina mountain elevations can mean negotiating blustery winds and snow. In Asheville, the North Carolina Arboretum and the Mountain-to-Sea trail at the Folk Art Center are convenient options. Read our full list of favorite winter hikes.
Camp: See our Asheville Camping Guide for many options.
Bear Safety Tips: In the slim chance that you see a bear!
NOC Wilderness Survival School: Learn to survive in the outdoors of the North Carolina mountains!
Asheville Hiking Clubs & Group Hikes
The Carolina Mountain Club, now over 80 years old and the oldest Hiking and Trail Maintaining Club in Western NC, fosters the enjoyment of the mountains of Western North Carolina and adjoining regions. They lead 175 hikes per year, maintain 400 miles of trail, build new trails, and promote the conservation of the trails and natural scenery. Join them on a guided hike.
Friends of the Smokies organize a guided hike on the third Tuesday of each month in the Great Smoky Mountains. Read more.
The Swannanoa Valley Museum in Black Mountain offers two guided hike series on the first and third Saturday each month.
Read more about Guided Group Hikes.
Western North Carolina Mountains Hiking Tips
1. Tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return.
2. Go early to avoid crowds and heat.
3. Take extra clothes and rain gear, in case of a quick weather change. With the exception of the Chimney Rock hike, expect much cooler conditions on the trails we recommend. Wear layers.
4. Stay on marked trails. Do not disturb any wildlife or plantlife.
5. Take plenty of drinking water. Although it may be tempting, don't drink from the streams.
6. Take a cell phone in case of emergency. Coverage is surprising good on some mountaintops, although it is spotty in some valleys. But have it turned off so it won't ring while you are trying to "get away from it all!"
7. Take hiking maps and snacks, especially if you are going on a longer trail.
8. If you have an emergency along the Parkway, call 1-800-ParkWatch. Otherwise, call 911.
9. Trail lengths can be misleading if the trail has a big elevation gain. We do have the highest mountains in the eastern USA.
10. Dogs are allowed on most hiking trails (on a leash), except in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Pet Friendly Asheville
11. Research ahead of time.
12. Follow principles of Leave No Trace.