Amazingly, there are 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. We feature hikes for all skill levels. When selecting hikes and walks, we use the following criteria:
- The hike trailhead is easy to find.
- The trail is safe, marked, and maintained.
- It does not require any special equipment, technical skills or shoes.
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.
You can also narrow your search by region:
- East (Black Mountain , Chimney Rock, Morganton)
- North (Burnsville, Hot Springs, Madison City, Mt Mitchell)
- South (Brevard, Hendersonville, Saluda, Tryon)
- West (Bryson City, Cherokee, Highlands, Sylva, Waynesville)
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park (includes more options for West)
- Blue Ridge Parkway (includes more options for North and West)
(1 to 7 miles roundtrip, easy to moderate) This state forest has many 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 a 7-mile waterfall hike.
(3 miles roundtrip, moderate) This powerful 150-foot waterfall in the Nantahala National Forest can be reached via a hiking trail from Gorges State Park. Enjoy the falls safely on boulder at its base or at the top. A little upstream is Turtleback Falls, a cool summer swimming hole.
(3 miles roundtrip, moderate) This gorgeous 70-foot waterfall along the Blue Ridge Parkway (Milepost 339), near Linville Falls, is accessed by a loop woodland hiking 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. Some of the best scenery on the AT is near Asheville. See our Top 5 AT Day Hikes.
This popular hiking area on the Blue Ridge Parkway has two waterfalls. Second Falls (in pic) is just 1/3 mile walk from the Parkway. Upper Falls is on a four-mile loop trail in the mile-high meadow.
(1 to 4 miles roundtrip, moderate) 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. Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 316
(Many options, easy to moderate) Located just 10 miles south of downtown, the Arboretum has 10 miles of easy to moderate walking and biking 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.
(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!
(2 miles roundtrip, easy) Located adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway in Little Switzerland (near Milepost 334), a gentle hiking trail takes you to a beautiful collection of cascades. (There is also a Grassy Creek Falls in DuPont State Forest near Bridal Veil Falls.)
(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!
(2-40 miles, easy, moderate, strenuous) This state park near Morganton has 40 miles of hiking trails. Our favorite is High Shoals Falls 2.7-mile loop trail to a beautiful 60-foot waterfall. Combine several trails for a much longer hike.
(5 miles 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.
(6.5 mile loop, strenuous) This twin waterfall near Looking Glass Falls features two 100-foot cascades in view of each other, reached via a beautiful 4.5-mile roundtrip or 6.5-mile loop hike on the Buckhorn Gap Trail. It's near the Pisgah Forest Horse Stables, and they offer guided horseback rides to the falls.
(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 across DuPont State Forest.
(1.5-mile loop, easy) Hike the top of the highest summit along the Blue Ridge Parkway in the cool forest. Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 431.
This beautiful waterfall setting is an easy hike in Pisgah National Forest. It's located in a lush cove off NC Highway 215, about 10 miles north of Highway 64 and 6.7 miles south of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
(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.
(4.4 miles roundtrip hike, moderate) This beautiful waterfall can be enjoyed from many angles. You can even walk behind the top section! Take a picnic since there are many spots by the waterfall to relax and enjoy the view. You can also mountain bike to it.
(1.5 miles roundtrip, moderate) Avoid the crowds at neighboring Mt. Pisgah and get better views with this hike to the historic fire tower. Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 409.6.
(2.8 miles 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. Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 375.
(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. Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 407.6.
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(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. Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 419.
(1 mile roundtrip, moderate) 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.
Located near Looking Glass Falls, this waterfall is often missed since it's off the beaten path. But it's an easy 1-mile hike to enjoy this and the impressive nearby "Kissing Falls."
(Many options, easy to moderate) There are 23 miles of trails to explore for all fitness levels at Biltmore. You can walk several miles around the gardens near the house, including a half-mile stroll around the Bass Pond. Our favorite hike at Biltmore is the 1.3-mile Deer Park Trail, offering great views of the house.
Hike to two waterfalls, Upper and Lower Dill Falls, with easy walks from the end of a forest service road deep in Nantahala National Forest.
(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. You'll hike the "backside" of the mountain, gaining 1,700 feet in elevation and a gradual climb almost the entire way.
(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.
(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! Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 305.
(5 miles 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.
(.5 to 3.5 miles, easy to moderate). This state park with a beautiful lake has seven hiking trails (easy to moderate) and a beach for relaxing afterwards.
(1 mile roundtrip, moderate) Get a close up view of the historic fire lookout tower visible from the Blue Ridge Parkway near Mt. Mitchell. Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 350.
(1.4 or 2.4 miles, easy) Hike a section of the famous Appalachian National Scenic Trail (or AT) 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. Or extend your walk on the AT in either direction.
(11 miles roundtrip, strenuous) The Alum Cave Trail is the most hiked in the Great Smoky Mountains. 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), you'll climb 2,853 feet in elevation in 5.5 miles.
Also known as Cullowhee Falls, this 150-foot waterfall at Lake Glenville near Cashiers becomes the most powerful waterfall a few days of the year when extra water is released from the dam for kayakers. A new hiking trail takes you to the base for a great view.
(2 miles loop, easy) Walk paved accessible trails to see restored buildings from the early 1900s and learn about how forestry begin in the United States.
(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.
(2.5 mile roundtrip hike, easy) The cascade in Panthertown Valley in Nantahala National Forest is small, but really big on beauty with a great pool for a splash.
(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.
(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. Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 420.
Drive to or hike the Appalachain Trail (5 miles roundtrip) to enjoy the panoramic mountain views from atop the historic tower.
There are many hiking trails in beautiful Cataloochee Valley, home to the elk. Boogerman Trail is a moderately challenging 7-mile loop trail. A quick favorite is to hike Rough Fork Trail for a mile along the cascading stream.
(1 to 7 miles, moderate hike) 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.
(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.
(1.5 miles roundtrip, easy) Walk behind this 50-foot waterfall located near the popular Looking Glass Falls. Beautiful hike along the way. While the water flow is not impressive, it's a beautiful setting that is overlooked by many since there are no signs.
(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.
(1 to 12 miles, easy to strenuous) More than 12 miles of hiking trails range in difficulty from easy nature walks to strenuous backcountry challenges. Our favorite is taking the Grandfather Trail from the Swinging Bridge area and returning along Underwood Trail. The popular Profile Trail is a 7-mile roundtrip strenuous trek up to the highest peak.
(1.7 mile loop, easy) This outdoors museum is a self-guided walking tour on the sidewalks of downtown Asheville to 30 sculptures that depict local history.
(2.7 miles and 2.3 miles, easy) Hike around a beautiful lake or to the top of Green Knob. Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 297.
(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.
Located near Daniel Ridge Falls is a waterfall on a beautiful two-mile hike that includes a second, smaller cascade. It's also located near the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education.
(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 through rhododendron that bloom in June. Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 364.
Located near Moore Cove Falls and Looking Glass Falls, this 150-foot cascade in Pisgah National Forest is also known as Tom's Spring Branch Falls. Accessed by an easy one-mile roundtrip hike.
(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.
(4 miles roundtrip, strenuous) One of the most popular and rewarding hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains. With an elevation of 4,800 feet, the rare rock summit is one of the park's most recognizable geological structures. Great views from the summit. It's all uphill with 1,700 feet in elevation with intimidating rock cliffs at the top.
(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. Blue Ridge Parkway Milespost 304.
(4.5 miles loop, moderate) This 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.
This cascade in Pisgah National Forest is about 1.5-mile roundtrip hike from a campsite along NC Highway 215 and less than a mile from the Blue Ridge Parkway. It's along the Flat Laurel Creek Trail that follows an old logging road and railroad grade.
A 2-mile roundtrip hike takes you to this waterfall in the Highlands area, deep in the Nantahala National Forest. You'll see two separate cascades, so you get two waterfalls for one.
(2 miles roundtrip, easy) Take two one-mile roundtrip waterfall hikes, just a few miles off the Blue Ridge Parkway (exit onto NC 80), near Mt Mitchell.
(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.
(2.4-mile roundtrip, strenuous) Hike to the summit (6,292 feet) of the 16th highest mountain in the Eastern United States. Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 451.
(3/4 mile loop, easy) Take a loop hike through the dense aromatic fir forest high atop on the summit of Mt. Mitchell. Great place for a cool walk on a hot summer's day.
(1.5 to 8 miles roundtrip, moderate to strenuous) This unique hike offers plenty of breathtaking viewpoints and a wooden boardwalk over fragile vegetation. The Tanawha Trail features many rock outcrops to enjoy the sweeping mountain views. Turn around at anytime or continue the trail to Beacon Heights (4 miles).
(Up to 9 miles roundtrip, moderate) Our favorite quick hike at Mount Mitchell is the Deep Gap Trail to Mt. Craig, a two-mile roundtrip hike. 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.
(7 miles roundtrip, strenuous) See three waterfalls on this hike in the DuPont State Forest: High Falls, Triple Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls. Or you can mountain bike most of it on old logging roads. Or extend the hike about 1.5 miles to see Hooker Falls too!
(7.5 miles roundtrip, moderate) Hike the Cataloochee Divide Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains along the ridge to Gooseberry Knob and Hemphill Bald for great mountain views.
See our favorite hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the North Carolina side.
(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!
(3 miles roundtrip, easy) This waterfall in the Pisgah National Forest is just three miles from I-40 in Old Fort. Hike to the lower falls, a 100-foot cascade. Experienced hikers and rock climbers continue on a challenging hike to the stunning Upper Catawba Falls in the photo.
(2.2 miles, moderate) Located next to the Black Balsam hike, this 6,045-foot peak provides panoramic views from the top. Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 420.
(5 miles 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.
(1 mile roundtrip, moderate) 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. Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 422.
(2 miles loop, easy) See an old growth cove hardwood forest with 400-year old towering poplar trees.
(3 miles roundtrip, easy) This 20-foot waterfall is tucked away in DuPont Forest in a beautiful setting. The hiking trail is gentle - and you can also mountain bike or horseback ride.
(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.
(3.2 miles, moderate) This loop hike in the Smokies includes a walk through a 1,200-foot tunnel at the end of Bryson City's Lakeview Drive, known locally as the "Road to Nowhere." Lakeshore Trail starts here too, a 35-mile long trek to Fontana Lake Dam.
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.
More Outdoor Adventures
After a hike, have some fun at the Adventure Center of Asheville, tucked away in a tree preserve just across the French Broad River, five minutes from downtown. Find five fun options: At Asheville Zipline Canopy Adventures, fly on 11 ziplines through old growth trees from towers with skyline and mountain views. Bring the kids for the one-of-a-kind KidZip. Play in the trees at Treetops Adventure Park. Climb trees at TreeQuest. Ride the trails at Kolo Bike Park. Read all about The Adventure Center of Asheville.