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Best Hiking Near Asheville – REI Co-op Journal


Known locally as the “Land of Waterfalls,” Asheville’s picturesque location makes it a popular and rewarding hiking destination.  

Nestled just 40 minutes east of the Great Smoky Mountains, Asheville, North Carolina, is an area full of lush trails, stunning views, epic waterfalls and abundant wildflowers. It’s an outdoor lover’s paradise, and this guide breaks down the best trails, so you can plan the most epic hiking trip to enjoy all of it. 

Editor’s Note: Remember that outdoor recreation has inherent risks; don’t attempt activities beyond your experience and skill level. Remain mindful of the summer heat and humidity; always stay hydrated on your hikes. Follow local guidelines, and check access to local, state and national parks before you visit. For some of these trails, you’ll need a pass from the U.S. Forest Service. Go to the USFS website for more information.

  • Location: Burnsville, 40 miles northeast of Asheville 
  • Length: 12 miles round trip 
  • Difficulty Rating: Difficult 
  • Best For: Seasoned hikers in search of a challenge 
  • Dogs: Allowed on-leash 

Let’s start off with the highest peak east of the Mississippi River—Mount Mitchell. It is not for the faint of heart and is best for experienced hikers due to the length and 3,600 ft total elevation gain. It will put you to the test but leads to the most rewarding viewpoint. 

The trail starts off at Watershed Road, where the sign for “Entering Pisgah National Forest” is located. Black Mountain Crest Trail is a difficult 12-mile, one-way hike that summits six peaks, each higher than 6,000 feet. Complete the trail as a long day hike (the forest service recommends allotting 10 hours) or plan to spend the night at the trail’s single campsite at Deep Gap in order to make it a two-day trek. Be sure to reserve an advance spot to ensure you will have a place to stay.  

When hiking north to south, the first four miles are the most challenging, with a 3,000-foot climb to the ridgeline from Bowlens Creek to Celo Knob. The following four miles level out and trace the ridgeline, allowing you to catch your breath and soak up the sights. You will reach Deep Gap at mile eight; be sure to refill your water there as it is the only water source along the entire route (you’ll find the spring just over 300 feet down the Colbert Ridge Trail). 

The final four miles continue upward, passing through leafy ferns and black fir forests as you summit four peaks—Potato Hill, Cattail Peak, Balsam Cone and Mount Crag. Near the end of the hike, you will pop out at a parking area and visitor center—an ideal location to leave a car or arrange a pickup. Here, you will join other hikers for the final out-and-back summit of Mount Mitchell, which stands at a whopping 6,684 feet. It’s a fitting end to your peak-bagging day on the trails.

  • Location: Grandfather Mountain, 73 miles northeast of Asheville 
  • Length: 6.5 miles roundtrip 
  • Difficulty Rating: Hard 
  • Best For: Hikers looking for adventure 
  • Dogs: Allowed on-leash 

Calling all adventure seekers, because this trail is perfect for you! From rock scrambles, sprawling views, ladder climbing and potential wildlife sightings, the Profile Trail will keep you entertained. This trail starts at the Profile Trail parking area near Grandfather Mountain State Park. It is an unrelenting upward path that takes you to the summit of Calloway Peak. The path itself is well-maintained and well-marked. Toward the second half of the trail, you will climb several ladders that will add some fun to the hike. The last two miles are very steep, and you will climb many stairs to get through that last stretch. Take your time on your way back to the trailhead—the steep descent can be tough on your knees. 

Please note: Permits are free and required for this hike; you must get them from the trailhead’s shelter.

  • Location: Clyde, in the Pisgah National Forest, 33 miles southwest of Asheville 
  • Length: 31.1-mile point-to-point one-way 
  • Difficulty Rating: Difficult 
  • Best For: Backpackers hungry for ridgeline views 
  • Dogs: Allowed on-leash 

The Art Loeb Trail is one of North Carolina’s iconic hikes. The lengthy point-to-point trail covers noteworthy peaks like Black Balsam Knob, Tennant Mountain and Pilot Knob. Multiple climbs — from ridgeline to summit and back again — contribute to the trail’s challenging nature. You can hike the trail in either direction, and most hikers choose to tackle the route in three or four days, camping at designated backcountry sites along the path. 

When hiked north to south, the trail features approximately 6,500 feet of climbing and 7,700 feet of descending. The Art Loeb Trail’s northern point is located at Gloucester Gap in the Shining Rock Wilderness (overnight parking is not recommended at the trailhead). 

From Gloucester Gap, the trail heads south, entering the Pisgah National Forest after 8 miles. Shortly after reaching the national forest, the trail crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is an ideal spot to arrange to have a shuttle intercept you if you’re out for a day hike. 

From there, the terrain becomes rugged yet lovely, ranging from open stretches to densely wooded regions where, from mid-May to late June, azaleas and rhododendrons are in full bloom. The trail ends at the Davidson River Campground where you can arrange to be picked up at the end of your multi-day journey.

  • Location: Brevard, North Carolina in DuPont State Forest, 37 miles south of Asheville 
  • Length: 3.1-mile round-trip loop 
  • Difficulty Rating: Easy 
  • Best For: Families with dogs 
  • Dogs: Allowed on-leash 

This 3-mile hike at DuPont State Forest is a well-rounded introductory hike in the Land of Waterfalls that the entire family to enjoy. During the outing, you’ll encounter three waterfalls connected by a charming and well-maintained trail. The journey starts with a quick trip to Hooker Falls, a short cascade that spans the width of the Little River. From there, you’ll backtrack to the trailhead and head out along the Triple Falls Trail to view the trail’s namesake Triple Falls, a series of three large cascades that can be seen from a marked vantage point along the trail. The third waterfall on the hike is High Falls, a wide cascade that can be admired from the High Falls Trail. After this, the hike finishes with an easy meander back past Triple Falls to the trailhead.

  • Location: Pisgah National Forest, 27 miles east of Asheville 
  • Length: 2.7 miles round trip 
  • Difficulty Rating: Moderate 
  • Best For: Families that love to take scenic photos 
  • Dogs: Allowed on-leash

Please note: Trail is temporarily closed until Spring 2023 for trail maintenance and updates.   

Catawba Falls is a popular waterfall near Asheville that is a local favorite. Since it is widely known, it can become very overcrowded on weekends, so arrive early if you’d like a bit more solitude. The trail runs alongside the creek, and you will hear the peaceful sound of running water as you walk. The path is wide and mostly smooth to fit multiple hikers at one time, which makes it perfect to bring your family or friends along.  

There is moderate elevation gain on the way to the falls with a few parts of the trail getting rocky toward the end. Once you reach the waterfall, there is a lot of space to sit along the rocks and take in the view—the pictures don’t do this place justice.

  • Location: Marshall, North Carolina, 47 miles northwest of Asheville 
  • Length: 1.5-mile, round-trip loop 
  • Difficulty Rating: Easy/Intermediate 
  • Best For: Families and those who love panoramic views 
  • Dogs: Allowed on-leash 

Located near the North Carolina-Tennessee state line, Max Patch is an easily accessible ridgetop that boasts some of the best views in the Bald Mountains. From the top of this 4,629-foot summit, which was cleared in the 1800s for use as a pasture, you will be treated to views of the Unaka Range to the north, the Great Smoky Mountains to the south and the Great Balsam and Black Mountains to the southeast. During the warmer months, you can glimpse wildflowers and blackberry bushes, and birders will enjoy spotting warblers, finches, grosbeaks and tanagers. The loop trail around the grassy meadow of Max Patch is a fairly easy traverse with only 250 feet of climbing, making this hike doable for the entire family. Be sure to stay on the marked trail to prevent erosion. Pack a picnic to enjoy at the top or, for a unique experience, climb Max Patch on a clear night for some memorable stargazing.

  • Location: Carter County, Tennessee, 72 miles north of Asheville 
  • Length: 5 miles round trip 
  • Difficulty Rating: Moderate 
  • Best For: Intermediate hikers in love with sunsets 
  • Dogs: Allowed on-leash 

Roan Mountain is a picture-perfect hike if you crave expansive views of the mountains and breathtaking sunsets. It is located along the Appalachian Trail and is considered by many to have some of the best views that the AT has to offer. It’s a popular spot for backpackers as well because once you reach the top, there are sprawling fields with plenty of space for campers.   

To best enjoy this stunning hike, plan to visit in mid to late June, so you can see rhododendrons bloom. Expect to see the trails awash in pink flowers. It is spectacular to see.   

To begin the Roan Mountain hike, park at Carver’s Gap. The trail is located across the street and through the opening of the wooden fence. The trail is well-maintained and marked with white rectangles. It is a steady upward march, and you will pass Round Bald and Jane Bald before finishing the hike at the top of Grassy Ridge Bald. From here the view is incredible and makes it worth the trek.

  • Location: Near Blue Ridge Parkway, 38 miles southwest of Asheville 
  • Length: 2.5 miles roundtrip 
  • Difficulty Rating: Moderate 
  • Best For: Hikers looking for dazzling mountain views 
  • Dogs: Allowed on-leash 

Located right off the Blue Ridge Parkway, Sam Knob Trail is not a hike to be missed. This short, 2.5-mile round-trip hike will wow you with its panoramic mountain views, beautiful boardwalk and blooming rhododendrons. The trail is located at the end of Black Balsam Knob Road parking lot. There is a gate labeled “Sam Knob Summit” to mark the start of the hike. From there, you will begin hiking on a gravel road, reaching the boardwalk after just a few minutes. Plan to visit in late June to see all the rhododendrons bloom along the boardwalk—it’s absolutely stunning.  

As you continue down the boardwalk, the trail will open, and you’ll be greeted by a massive field with the trail leading down the middle. Next, you will reach the point where the trail starts to gain elevation and go through multiple switchbacks to reach the top. At the summit, there are plenty of spots to picnic or relax to take in the view.

  • Location: Glen Alpine, in the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area, 60 miles northeast of Asheville 
  • Length: 21.9-mile round-trip loop 
  • Difficulty Rating: Difficult 
  • Best For: Hardy backpackers who want to practice their compass skills 
  • Dogs: Allowed on-leash  

This is a challenging loop that winds through the Linville Gorge and is best completed as a two- or three-night backpacking trip. The Linville Gorge is formed on the east side by Jonas Ridge and on the west by Linville Mountain—the Linville River runs nearly 2,000 feet below both ridgelines. The thigh-burning hike involves more than 4,700 feet of elevation change during its 21.9 miles.  

Along the way, you will have the opportunity to hike from the rim of the gorge to the banks of the Linville River. The eastern side of the loop presents a strenuous challenge but rewards its hikers with outstanding views at the Big Flat Rock Overlook and Table Rock Mountain. There are various backcountry campsites along the way; just be sure you’ve secured the necessary permit before pitching your tent.  

The western side of the loop traces the banks of the Linville River with gradual grades, but you’ll want a map and compass for this section of the trail, as poor trail markings and several fallen trees make the going tough. After navigating your way south along the Linville Gorge Trail, the final two miles consist of a stiff climb back up to the trailhead to finish the loop.

  • Location: Blue Ridge Parkway, 38 miles southwest of Asheville   
  • Length: 0.9 miles roundtrip 
  • Difficulty Rating: Moderate 
  • Best For: Families with children 
  • Dogs: Allowed on-leash

Lore has it that there’s a cave deep within the mountain where the Devil holds court—hence this trail’s name. 

Looking for a short hike with rewarding mountain views? Devil’s Courthouse doesn’t disappoint with sweeping scenes of the surrounding mountains of Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina in the far distance. The overlook faces west, so it’s a picturesque spot for watching sunsets.   

The hike is paved for the first 0.2 miles, then becomes a rocky dirt path. The last 0.1 mile is all stairs. It is a constant uphill climb, but there are plenty of benches along the path to rest if needed. The area is home to rare species of plants, so it’s imperative visitors protect the flora and fauna by staying on the trail.

Are you a new hiker excited to learn or someone more experienced looking to connect with fellow hikers? Check out our local hiking events and go on an adventure with REI.


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