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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

The Old North State is home to some of the tallest mountains east of the Mississippi, plus rolling hills, waterfalls, and unbeatable sunsets. Get to know the beautiful area by adding these North Carolina hikes to your adventure bucket list! Check out these 25 North Carolina hikes.

1. Summit Calloway Peak in Grandfather Mountain State Park

A pink and purple sunrise or sunset over a green mountain during a North Carolina hike.
Photo: Justin Costner

Distance: 6.31 miles
Elevation: 1991 feet
Type: Out-and-back

Challenge yourself to summit one of the highest peaks in the Blue Ridge Mountains at 5,964 feet! This moderately strenuous hike includes a series of cables and ladders in steep spots. It’s no surprise the view at the top makes it all worth it. Day permits are required for this hike, and you may need to follow timed entry guidelines, so check with Grandfather Mountain State Park before you go.

2. Hike Looking Glass Rock

Rolling green hills reach out into the distance.
Photo: Justin Costner

Distance: 5.43 miles
Elevation: 1572 feet
Type: Out-and-back

This adventure near Pisgah Forest will reward you with supreme views of the Appalachian Mountains in all seasons. Expect to see pretty wildflower fields and a cascading creek along the way. Looking Glass Rock is also a popular spot for world class climbing and trail running. Dogs are welcome, but keep them leashed and pick up after them!

3. Catch a Sunset on Green Knob

A person uses a camera on a tripod. Their back is to the photographer and they're looking out at tall peaks as the sun rises or sets. The ground is shades of black and dark green and the sky is yellow turning into orange.
Photo: Steve Yocom

Distance: 9.08 miles
Elevation: 1368 feet
Type: Out-and-back

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

Note: The Mountain to Sea Trail, aka MST, is North Carolina's state trail, running around 1,200 miles from Clingman's Dome in the Great Smokey Mountains to Jockey's Ridge on the Outer Banks. 

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

The view from a rocky area on a mountain with rolling mountains in the distance.
Photo: Kelley Dodge

Distance: 8.24 miles
Elevation: 2310 feet
Type: Out-and-back

This adventure guarantees spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and some of the tallest peaks in the Appalachian Range. Visitors often backpack, camp, and hike here!  Wear layers and sturdy hiking boots should you climb to several summits – it's windy and coldest at the top. You will need to do some rock scrambling and use fixed ropes for safety in steeper areas. Dogs are allowed on this hike if they are on a leash. 

5. Hike the Sam Knob Loop

Looking out from a rocky area onto a series of sloping mountain peaks. The sun is peaking out behind clouds to the left, creating brilliant sunbeams that flow across the valley.
Photo: Steve Yocom

Distance: 3.84 miles
Elevation: 807 feet
Type: Loop

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

A waterfall cascades down tiered rocks in a pine forest on a North Carolina hike.
Photo: Elyse Clark

Distance: 0.98 miles
Elevation: 177 feet
Type: Out-and-back

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 North Carolina hike is the perfect quick retreat into nature without all the time and strain of a more extensive hike.

7. Hike the Craggy Pinnacle Trail

Rounded mountains covered in trees are surrounded by fog.
Photo: Michael Sommers

Distance: 1.03 miles
Elevation: 285 feet
Type: Out-and-back

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

A teal lake is surrounded by towering rock walls and a few evergreen trees. A fallen log sits at the waters edge and fallen leaves dot the shore.
Photo: Rob Giersch

Distance: 1.5 miles
Elevation: 220 feet
Type: Out-and-back

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

A person in a green jacket and blue pants is standing on mossy rocks under a series of sprawling waterfalls.
Photo: Justin Costner

Distance: 2.19 miles
Elevation: 394 feet
Type: Out-and-back

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

Two people sit on a large, flat boulder with a large white dog. They're looking out over clouds floating above dark mountains. The sun is rising or setting and the sky is blue fading into orange and yellow.
Photo: Steve Yocom

Distance: 1.84 miles
Elevation: 932 feet
Type: Out-and-back

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 during this North Carolina hike. Also check out nearby trails such as the Round Bald via Carver's Gap, for a beautiful, endless view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

11. Hike to Clingman’s Dome

Softly rounded mountains covered with trees loom in the background on this North Carolina hike.
Photo: Spenser Reid

Distance: 1.23 miles
Elevation: 330 feet
Type: Out-and-back

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

Looking along a ridgeline while the sun rises or sets. The sky is blue fading into orange and yellow.
Photo: Steve Yocom

Distance: 30.07 miles
Elevation: 7,457 feet
Type: Point-to-point

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

There's a rocky outcropping covered in moss. Across the valley are more tall, round mountains. The sky is purple with pink clouds.
Photo: Justin Costner

Distance: 4.64 miles
Elevation: 1,178 feet
Type: Out-and-back

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 surise or sunset for a breathtaking display.

14. Hike Rough Ridge

A person sits on a rocky outcropping overlooking a valley full of rounded mountains. The colors are muted pastels and fluffy clouds form a line from the top right corner to the left side.
Photo: McKenzie Roers

Distance: 0.5 miles
Elevation: 92 feet
Type: Out-and-back

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

A person wearing a grey sweater and black pants is standing on a rocky outcropping. They're facing the camera but looking backward toward green mountains and blue sky.
Photo: Tiffany Edmiston

Distance: 4.32 miles
Elevation: 1,640 feet
Type: Out-and-back

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 during this North Carolina hike.

16. Hike Andrews Bald

The sun shines through tall evergreen trees on a North Carolina hike. There is a dirt path leading from the center of the bottom to the middle toward the sun.
Photo: Nathan Szwarc

Distance: 3.55 miles
Elevation: 1,200 feet
Type: Out-and-back

This North Carolina hike 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

A wide, thin waterfall cascades over a rock face. Boulders and a rocky flat area cover the right corner. Autumnal trees grow on the top of the waterfall rock and above the boulders.
Photo: Edward Day

Distance: 3.91 miles
Elevation: 778 feet
Type: Out-and-back

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

Looking up at the night sky filled with many stars and the underside of a fire tower that is illuminated from below.
Photo: Nathan Szwarc

Distance: 2.36 miles
Elevation: 807 feet
Type: Out-and-back

This adventure leads you to a 30-foot fire tower. At the top, you’ll have 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 sky.

19. Hike to Lower Cascade Falls

A short waterfall cascades over rocks that have striations that look as if they've been stacked on top of each other. The falls run into a pool that is brown and green. Small evergreen trees grow on the sides of the falls.
Photo: Melissa Willard

Distance: 0.75 miles
Elevation: 105 feet
Type: Out-and-back

Enjoy the day exploring Hanging Rock State Park’s beautiful 35-foot waterfall. The North Carolina hike 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 Jane Bald

The view from atop a grassy mountain. There is a flat rocky surface toward the foreground and pink flowers cover the mountainside.
Photo: Tommy White

Distance: 2.64 miles
Elevation: 581 feet
Type: Out-and-back

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

A person in light pants, boots, and a plaid shirt is lying on a rocky mountain peak. They're leaning on a red backpack and holding a metallic flask. There are mountains in the distance and the rising or setting sun has turned the sky orange and yellow.
Photo: Steve Yocom

Distance: 5.98 miles
Elevation: 2,142 feet
Type: Out-and-back

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

A flat grassy area covers half the image while mountains fill the horizon and fluffy clouds cover the sky.
Photo: Nathan Szwarc

Distance: 1.77 miles
Elevation: 295 feet
Type: Out-and-back

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

A person wearing a large capacity backpack holds trekking poles and looks at the camera. A white dog sits in front of them. They are in a grassy area with yellow wildflowers. In the distance there are many mountains.
Photo: Steve Yocom

Distance: 16.12 miles
Elevation: 3,481 feet
Type: Out-and-back

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

Mountains layer the image with a rising or setting sun in the back left. The sky is orange and yellow and the mountains appear shades of purple with the darkest closest to the camera.
Photo: Steve Yocom

Distance: 3 miles
Elevation: 285 feet
Type: Out-and-back

This is a great North Carolina 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

A dirt trail winds through a grassy area with wildflowers. The sky is bright blue with occasional puffy white clouds. There are mountains in the distance.
Photo: Alyssa Ramirez

Distance: 1.56 miles
Elevation: 305 feet
Type: Out-and-back

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.

For more NC stories, check out:

Our guide to outdoor adventure near Asheville, North Carolina
10 Amazing waterfall hikes in North Carolina
Pedaling through North Carolina's scenic Yadkin's Valley

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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