Since the Appalachian Trail goes through the middle of Hot Springs, start from the center of downtown for this fun 1.6-mile loop hike to Lover's Leap. It only takes 45 minutes to 1.5 hours depending on how much time you take to enjoy the views and scenery. Individuals in moderate physical condition can enjoy this hike. Be sure to wear walking/running shoes or hiking boots. Don't forget water! Stop at Bluff Mountain Outfitters in the middle of town for questions or supplies. Take some snacks for a picnic. On warm, sunny days, hike in the morning since the afternoon sun really heats up this side of the mountain. Download and print a map.
There is plenty of two-hour parking in town. From town walk north on Bridge Street (and Appalachian Trail) to cross the bridge over the French Broad River. Stay on the right side of the bridge.
Immediately after crossing the river, there will be a guardrail with a path to the street below. Follow that street up river about 50 yards until you cross a wooden bridge. Continue along the river and you will see white blazes marking the Appalachian Trail every 100 ft. or so. After a few hundred yards, just beyond Surprise Falls, a beautiful rapid on the river, the trail goes away from the river with several switch-backs upward. The trail is well-marked and well-established.
There are three large rock promontories along the way with great views of the river, valley and town. Lover's Leap is the second rock outcropping (be careful walking out the edge!). After the third outcropping, take a left from the Appalachian Trail (you will see a white arrow on a rock showing the Appalachian Trail going uphill). To loop back to the parking lot, keep walking downhill on the trail that branches to left. This will take you back to the Appalachian Trail and you just retrace your steps to town.
For a longer hike, continue on the Appalachian Trail to Tanyard Gap (where the trail crosses US Highways 25 and 70 east about 3 miles by car). It's a challenging uphill hike of 5.9 miles. If you have two cars, leave one in Hot Springs and drive to Tanyard Gap and hike downhill for 5.9 miles.
For an extra treat, soak in the hot mineral springs after your hike!