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The 25 Best Hikes in North Carolina

Catch a sunset in the Smokies.

By: The Outbound Collective + Save to a List

North Carolina is home to some of the tallest mountains east of the Mississippi and while they may be half the size of some of the peaks out west, they're just as much fun to hike. What North Carolina lacks in massive, rocky peaks it more than makes up for in rolling hills, waterfalls, and unbeatable sunsets. If you haven't already, it's time you added North Carolina to your adventure bucket list. Check out some of our favorite hikes across the state and get ready to hit the trail!

1. Summit Calloway Peak in Grandfather Mountain SP

Photo: Justin Costner

6.31-mile out-and-back with approximately 1991 feet of elevation gain 

Challenge yourself to summit one of the highest peaks in the Blue Ridge Mountains! It’s no surprise that the view at the top makes it all worth it. Day permits are required for this hike.

2. Hike Looking Glass Rock

Photo: Justin Costner

5.43-mile out-and-back with about 1572 feet of elevation gain 

This adventure will reward you with supreme views of the Appalachian Mountains in all seasons. Along the way, expect to see pretty wildflower fields and a cascading creek. Looking Glass Rock is also a popular spot for world class climbing.

3. Catch a Sunset on Green Knob

Photo: Steve Yocom

9.08-mile out-and-back with roughly 1368 feet of elevation gain

Soak in views of the Middle Prong Wilderness and Mount Hardy on this beautiful section of the Mountain to Sea Trail. This adventure features forests, babbling brooks, waterfalls, and wide open meadows.

4. Hike Deep Gap Trail at Mt. Mitchell State Park

Photo: Kelley Dodge

8.24-mile out-and-back with approximately 2310 feet of elevation gain

This adventure guarantees spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and some of the tallest peaks in the Appalachian Range. Wear layers and sturdy hiking boots should you choose to climb to several different summits– they can be both windy and colder at the top.

5. Hike the Sam Knob Loop

Photo: Steve Yocom

3.84-mile loop with about 807 feet of elevation gain

This adventure in the Pisgah Ranger District features waterfalls, swimming holes, and great fishing opportunities for brook trout. With two summits facing both east and west, plan a trip to watch a beautiful sunrise or sunset from up top!

6. Hike to Linville Falls

Photo: Elyse Clark

0.98-mile out-and-back with roughly 177 feet of elevation gain 

For minimal effort, this is an awesome opportunity to view an impressive waterfall among a beautiful forest landscape. Easily accessible from the Blue Ridge Parkway, this is the perfect quick retreat into nature without all the time and strain of a more extensive hike.

7. Hike the Craggy Pinnacle Trail

Photo: Michael Sommers

1.03-mile out-and-back with approximately 285 feet of elevation gain 

This adventure is only about 30 minutes from downtown Asheville. Escape the city for some time in the mountains where you can enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding terrain.

8. Hike to Paradise Falls

Photo: Rob Giersch

1.5-mile out-and-back with roughly 220 feet of elevation gain

This spot is a hidden treasure deep within a narrow ravine below Wolf Creek Lake. Though it’s pretty under the radar, especially since it’s not the easiest to find, it’s a stunning oasis that features a swimming hole and cliff jumping opportunities. It makes for the perfect afternoon in what might feel like your own personal paradise.

9. Hike to Catawba Falls

Photo: Justin Costner

2.19-mile out-and-back with approximately 394 feet of elevation gain

Get going on this adventure to an impressive 100-foot waterfall near Asheville. If you want to extend your stay, check the availability at the Catawba Falls Campground. After getting your steps in, crack open a cold one at the nearby Pisgah Brewing Co.

10. Hike to Grassy Ridge Bald in the Roan Highlands

Photo: Steve Yocom

4.84-mile out-and-back with about 932 feet of elevation gain

Experience rocky, forest, and hilly terrain on this adventure while soaking in views of rolling hills that seem like they extend forever. Wear sturdy hiking boots to more comfortably and safely trek through the rocky areas.

11. Hike to Clingman’s Dome

Photo: Spenser Reid

1.23-mile out-and-back with roughly 330 feet of elevation gain

Challenge yourself to hike to the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains and be rewarded with stunning panoramic views of the Smokies. And not only is the hike itself beautiful, but the drive to the trail is along a route of scenic vistas– ridges and valleys galore!

12. Hike the Art Loeb Trail

Photo: Steve Yocom

30.07-mile point-to-point with approximately 7457 feet of elevation gain

On this scenic adventure, summit the iconic Cold Mountain and climb Shining Rock Mountain’s beautiful quartz towers.

13. Hike to the Summit of Shortoff Mountain

Photo: Justin Costner

4.64-mile out-and-back with about 1178 feet of elevation gain

This hike features gorgeous views of the Linville Gorge and surrounding peaks. It's also a rock climber’s dream as it has some of the largest walls in the south. Plan to reach the summit at sunset for a breathtaking display.

14. Hike Rough Ridge

Photo: McKenzie Roers

0.5-mile out-and-back with roughly 92 feet of elevation gain

Though a quick little hike, this adventure boasts stunning views of the valley. It’s a family and dog friendly trail and is ideal for watching the sunrise or sunset.

15. Hike Charlie’s Bunion

Photo: Tiffany Edmiston

4.32-mile out-and-back with approximately 1640 feet of elevation gain

Charlies Bunion is a beautiful rock outcropping amidst the Smoky Mountains. The views are marvelous and there’s also an opportunity to hop on the Appalachian Trail.

16. Hike Andrews Bald

Photo: Nathan Szwarc

3.55-mile out-and-back with about 1200 feet of elevation gain

This adventure features wide open grassy fields, incredible views of the southern Smokies, and Fontana Lake. This is a rather popular trail, so it would be best to set foot early to avoid large crowds.

17. Hike to Rainbow Falls in Gorges SP

Photo: Edward Day

3.91-mile out-and-back with roughly 778 feet of elevation gain

This is a beautiful waterfall adventure along a river in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Aside from Rainbow and Turtleback Falls, there are other trails and waterfalls to explore so keep a lookout.

18. Hike to the Wesser Bald Fire Tower

Photo: Nathan Szwarc

2.36-mile out-and-back with about 807 feet of elevation gain

This adventure leads you to a 30-foot fire tower. At the top, you’ll get to take in the beauty of 360 degree unobstructed views of the Nantahala National Forest, Fontana Lake, and the Little Tennessee River Valley. This is an incredible spot for night photography– it’s the perfect place for capturing stars against the dark night sky.

19. Hike to Lower Cascade Falls

Photo: Melissa Willard

0.75-mile out-and-back with approximately 105 feet of elevation gain

Enjoy the day exploring Hanging Rock State Park’s beautiful 35-foot waterfall. The trail winds through both pine and hardwood forests, but also features steps made of wood and stone. Bring a bathing suit to hop in the swimming hole at the bottom of the falls during the warmer months.

20. Hike to Janes Bald

Photo: Tommy White

2.64-mile out-and-back with about 581 feet of elevation gain

Hike along the Appalachian Trail and traverse across grassy balds. The views are fantastic and the journey features grasslands, pine forests, and stunning rhododendrons.

21. Hike to Pinnacle in Pinnacle Park

Photo: Steve Yocom

5.98-mile out-and-back with roughly 2142 feet of elevation gain

Breathe in the fresh air and reward yourself with incredible vistas at the highest point in Pinnacle Park! The mountainous/hilly terrain seems like it goes on forever at the top.

22. Hike to Huckleberry Knob

Photo: Nathan Szwarc

1.77-mile out-and-back with about 295 feet of elevation gain.

This adventure is located on the Scenic Cherohala Skyway. It crosses two beautiful balds and offers panoramic views of the surrounding Cerokee and Nantahala National Forests. Bring a jacket for when you get to the top as it can be a few degrees cooler.

23. Hike to Hemphill Bald

Photo: Steve Yocom

16.12-mile out-and-back with approximately 3481 feet of elevation gain

This extensive trail features beautiful wildflowers and sweeping views along the way. It can be accessed year-round and is a great spot for hikers and backpackers alike. It’s sure to make you break a sweat!

24. Day Hike Tennent Mountain

Photo: Steve Yocom

3-mile out-and-back with roughly 285 feet of elevation gain

This is a great hike to do if you want to catch the sunrise! Afterwards, head over to the nearby Pisgah Inn to treat yourself to a delicious breakfast post hike. There’s nothing better than feasting after your morning activity!

25. Hike to Black Balsam Knob via Art Loeb Trail

Photo: Alyssa Ramirez

1.56-mile out-and-back with about 305 feet of elevation gain

This is a gorgeous adventure through meadows featuring fantastic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Note that there isn’t much tree coverage so you’ll be exposed to the elements. Wear sunscreen and check the weather! Bring a blanket and some food for an idyllic picnic.

Cover photo: Steve Yocom

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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