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 Waterfalls 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. Blue Ridge Parkway 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, 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. 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 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
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 through rhododendron that bloom in June. Blue Ridge Parkway 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. Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 355
Mt Mitchell Balsam Trail (3/4 mile loop, easy) Take a loop hike through the dense aromatic fir forest on the summit of Mt. Mitchell. Great place for a cool walk on a hot summer's day.
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. Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 350
Setrock Creek & 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). Near Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 344 See our guides to Setrock Creek Falls & Roaring Fork Falls.
Crabtree Falls: (3 miles roundtrip, moderate) Hike to a beautiful 70-foot waterfall with wildflowers along the way. Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 340
Linville Falls: (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
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! Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 305
Grandfather Mountain: (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 hike is the Grandfather Trail from the Swinging Bridge area and returning along Underwood Trail. The popular Profile Trail, a 7-mile roundtrip strenuous trek up to the highest peak, starts on NC Highway 105. Near Blue Ridge Parkway 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. Blue Ridge Parkway Milespost 304
Rough Ridge: (1.5 to 8 miles roundtrip, moderate to strenuous) This unique hike offers plenty of breathtaking viewpoints and a wooden boardwalk over fragile vegetation. This section of 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). Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 303
Julian Price Park: (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
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, easy to moderate). This state park with a beautiful lake has seven hiking trails (easy to moderate) and a beach for relaxing afterwards.
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 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 DuPont waterfall hike.
DuPont Forest Cedar Rock Mountain: (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.
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.
DuPont Forest Wintergreen Falls: (3 miles roundtrip, moderate) This 20-foot tall waterfall is a beautiful setting on the quieter side of the park. The mostly wooded trail takes you gradually downhill to the falls, so it's uphill coming back.
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 walk past the falls.
Hikes along Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway
(US 276 between Blue Ridge Parkway and NC 280 in Brevard - Map & More Info)
Forest Discovery Center at the Cradle of Forestry: (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.
Pink Beds: (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.
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. You'll hike the "backside" of the mountain, gaining 1,700 feet in elevation and a gradual climb almost the entire way.
John Rock: (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.
Moore Cove Falls is near the popular Looking Glass Falls. An easy 1.5-mile roundtrip hike takes you to and behind a 50-foot tall waterfall. While the water flow is not impressive, it's a beautiful setting.
Daniel Ridge Falls: (4 miles loop, moderate) Hike a woodland loop (near Looking Glass Rock & John Rock hikes) with an impressive 150-foot waterfall.
Log Hollow Falls: (2.5 miles roundtrip, easy) Talk a woodland hike on an old logging road to two beautiful waterfalls deep in Pisgah National Forest.
Cove Creek Falls: (2 or 4.2 miles 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 miles loop, strenuous) Hike Avery Creek and Buckhorn Gap trails (also near Looking Glass) to matching waterfalls in Pisgah National Forest.
Panthertown Valley: (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.
Whiteside Mountain: (2 miles 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.
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.
Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest: (2 miles 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. 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.
Clingmans Dome: (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.
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. 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.
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.