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The Best Backpacking in North Carolina

Looking for the best backpacking in North Carolina? We've got you covered with the top trails, trips, hiking, backpacking, camping and more around North Carolina. The detailed guides, photos, and reviews are all submitted by the Outbound community.

Top backpacking spots in and near North Carolina

  • Canton, North Carolina

    Sam Knob and Flat Laurel Creek Loop

    4.8
    3.84 mi / 807 ft gain
    This is one of my favorite quick "getaway" loops in the Pisgah Ranger District. Turn onto Black Balsam Knob Road (Mile Marker 420 on the Blue Ridge Parkway) go until you reach a dead end and park at the parking lot. You'll see the Sam Knob trail to the right of the public bathrooms. From there, i...
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  • Bakersville, North Carolina

    Grassy Ridge Bald in the Roan Highlands

    5.0
    4.84 mi / 932 ft gain
    Once you've parked at Carver's Gap (5500'), the trailhead is pretty easy to find. Simply cross the highway and jump onto the Appalachian Trail, right on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee. Head north on the AT as you head through the Roan Mountain Balds. In the very beginning of the hike,...
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  • Canton, North Carolina

    Green Knob via MST

    4.0
    9.08 mi / 1368 ft gain
    Although not as popular as neighboring Shining Rock Wilderness, the Middle Prong Wilderness is equally as beautiful and typically half as crowded. This hike, mostly along the Mountain to Sea trail, leads through forests of oak, birch, spruce and fir trees, along a babbling brook, past waterfalls,...
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  • Brevard, North Carolina

    Art Loeb Trail

    4.8
    30.07 mi / 7467 ft gain
    Start at The Davidson River Campground just outside of Brevard, NC (276 Pisgah Ranger District). Have a shuttle car or a friend waiting at the Daniel Boone Boy Scout camp for the finish line. Hop on the 30.1 mile long Art Loeb Trail at the trailhead in the Davidson River Campground. Pull into th...
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  • Brevard, North Carolina

    Looking Glass Rock

    4.5
    5.43 mi / 1572 ft gain
    This is a really nice, moderately difficult hike along a cascading creek, up switchbacks, and through wildflower fields. A couple miles in, you'll reach a helipad that is used for rescuing injured rock climbers - Looking Glass Rock is a popular destination for world class climbing. There is a sma...
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  • Linville, North Carolina

    Shortoff Mountain Summit

    4.8
    4.64 mi / 1178 ft gain
    Start your hike from the Shortoff Mountain Trail off of Wolf Pit Road at the base of Lake James. From the summit there is a small grassy area off a side trail that provided awesome cliff side views of the Gorge and Linville River! You can setup after making the hour and a half trek (maybe just in...
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  • Morganton, North Carolina

    Hawksbill Mountain Trail

    4.9
    1.87 mi / 633 ft gain
    Hidden far above the beautiful Linville Gorge stands Hawksbill Mountain, among many other fantastic hikes. The roughly 1.7 mile hike from the dusty gravel parking lot is steep but worth every step. It took me about an hour to conquer with a few water bottle-guzzling stops. At the top, you are al...
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  • Franklin, North Carolina

    Wesser Bald Fire Tower

    4.7
    2.36 mi / 807 ft gain
    The road leading to the trailhead is rough the last mile, but doable in any car. Just make sure to take it easy going up and be careful, especially if there has been any rain or snow. You will have reached the parking area for the hike once you see a large green Appalachian trail sign and a few...
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  • Bakersville, North Carolina

    Roan Highlands: Carvers Gap to US 19E via Appalachian Trail

    5.0
    15.47 mi / 2598 ft gain
    The Roan highlands, possibly one of the best sections of the Appalachian Trail, is a section of grassy balds that range from 5000-6000 feet following the A.T. Start at Carvers Gap ( Highway 261 NC / Highway 143 TN) on the TN/NC border. You can either leave a car at Highway 19E or arrange for a s...
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  • Canton, North Carolina

    Shining Rock via Shining Creek Trail

    4.3
    8.69 mi / 2569 ft gain
    There are several ways to access the Shining Rock Wilderness Area, but go for the main trail head off of Hwy 276. The trail is split by the Pigeon River, providing a seemingly infinite combinations of trails and routes, keeping in mind that this area intersects often with the well known Art Lobe ...
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  • Canton, North Carolina

    Skinny Dip Falls

    4.8
    1.03 mi / 148 ft gain
    Park at the Looking Glass Rock Overlook. After enjoying the view of Looking Glass Rock, gear up and head to the right side of the parking area (right side if your back is to the overlook). On the opposite side of the road you'll see a mile marker and a little trail to the left of the marker. Foll...
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  • Canton, North Carolina

    Graveyard Fields-Black Balsam Knob Circuit

    4.4
    9.83 mi / 1522 ft gain
    When the weather is in your favor, these treeless mountain tops will have your jaw on the floor with layers upon layers of Blue Ridge Mountains. This hike can be done in one day, but with panoramic views at multiple points, you'll want to take your time along this link of trails. This ~10-mile l...
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  • Lake Santeetlah, North Carolina

    Huckleberry Knob

    4.8
    1.77 mi / 295 ft gain
    Huckleberry Knob is the highest point in the Cheoah Ranger District at 5,560 feet, and it offers expansive views of the surrounding Cherokee and Natahala National Forest. The hike is 2.4 miles roundtrip and begins at the parking lot between mile 8 and 9 up an old dirt road. You will go up the di...
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  • Marion, North Carolina

    Camp in the Linville Gorge via the Pinch In Trail

    1.5 mi
    We are pretty notorious for passing up a good campsite but we are learning our lessons. We got a late but interesting start on Pinch-In trail. We climbed down a steep 600+ feet after passing this ledge only to climb right back to it a third of a mile in. If we come up to an awesome spot, we somet...
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  • Morganton, North Carolina

    Camp on Shortoff Mountain in the Linville Gorge

    5.0
    The Linville Gorge Wilderness Area, also known as the Grand Canyon of the East, is one of the wildest, most rugged gorges in the eastern United States. It's also an outdoor paradise for hikers and backpackers. Camping here is always a treat and you are sure to enjoy your time spent in the gorge.D...
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  • Franklin, North Carolina

    Nantahala National Forest via the Appalachian Trail

    27.11 mi / 5420 ft gain
    Winding Stair Gap on Highway 64 is the starting point for this spectacular backpacking trip through the Nantahala National Forest. It's right outside the hiker friendly town of Franklin, NC, so the town is your last chance for a hot meal and any last minute supplies. There is a parking lot at the...
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