I say “ten of the best hikes” instead of “the ten best hikes” for two reasons: there are so many great hiking trails near Asheville that even if James and I closed our Asheville Bed & Breakfast for a month we couldn’t complete them all, and what makes a hike the best? Scenery, diversity, waterfalls, seclusion, berry-picking, difficulty (or ease), location, history, there are hikes with all of these aspects and what makes one good for today might make it not right for tomorrow. Hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains or Western North Carolina provides a menu of choices to fit to your desires and skill.
Therefore in no particular order, James and I have put together this list of Ten of the Best Hikes Near Asheville, North Carolina, with the rider that these are all hikes which we have done and we invite you to send us the particulars of hikes you have loved so we can try them too!
- John Rock (5 mile loop, moderate to somewhat difficult) James and I have hiked to John Rock more than once, which says a lot because we like to try new hikes before repeating old ones. The hike itself is just a short 30 minute drive from the Carolina Bed & Breakfast. It’s a varied hike with some nice mountain streams, a detour to a waterfall, and forest glades which ends up on a large pluton monolith which overlooks another, better known, pluton monolith, Looking Glass Rock. But we like to think our monolith is the better one! John Rock is larger and has a gentler incline than Looking Glass Rock with the result that your picnic on the rock will at least feel safer. In addition, it is less well-known than Looking Glass which means you get to sit in relative seculsion and look over at the crowds on the other side. You can read about our hike here or get a map and more information here
- Rattlesnake Lodge (2.6 mile out and back, moderate) The hike to Rattlesnake Lodge is perfect if you don’t have a lot of time or aren’t really interested in a long hike. At the top of the hike you will find the remains of what was once Rattlesnake Lodge, a private hunting lodge which was built in the early 1900’s and burned down in 1926. All of the materials to build the lodge were brought up by hand, there was never a road, but the lodge was large and comfortable. You can learn more about it from informational plaques at the top. Read about the Rattlesnake Lodge hike here
- Max Patch (1.4 mile short loop, 2.4 mile long loop, easy) Max Patch combines a spectacular drive through the mountains and valleys of Western North Carolina with a short hike across an open “bald” which is covered with wild flowers in spring and summer, and provides excellent views of the fall foliage in Autumn. If you like you can continue on to Cataloochee and watch the elk! You can read about our hike to Max Patch here and get hike information here.
- Dupont Forest (0.6 to 6 miles, easy to moderate). If you are looking for waterfalls in Western North Carolina this is the hike for you. Three of the most spectacular hikes in the area, Hooker Falls, Triple Falls and High Falls, are all within an easy 2 mile hike of the car park. If you want to continue on up the trail to Grassy Creek and Bridal Veil Falls you can. This is where the first Hunger Games was filmed so you may recognize the falls. There is swimming and wading at the base of the falls if you are so inclined and, if you do go on to the end of the hike, Lake Dense is a crystal clear swimming hole with some picnic spots beside it. Here are the hiking directions to the falls.
- Graveyard Fields (3.2 mile loop, easy to moderate) I am including this on the list because it is a great hike, encompassing waterfalls, views and blueberries to pick (in season). But Graveyard Fields is also one of the most popular hikes off the Blue Ridge Parkway. So popular that in 2014 the parking lot was expanded and rest rooms added. On weekends and especially in October you will share this hike with many others. If you are okay with that then definitely consider doing this hike. A short 30 minute drive from the Carolina Bed & Breakfast on the Blue Ridge Parkway (worth doing anyway) brings you to the previously mentioned parking lot. You will go through tunnels formed by Rhododendrons, through grassy fields with great views and see three separate waterfalls. Instructions are here and you can read some history about Graveyard Fields here
- Old Mt. Mitchell and Camp Alice Hike (4 mile loop, moderate to difficult) You could do what most people do and drive to the summit of Mt. Mitchell or you could take the Old Mitchell Trail which will pop you out at the top (where you can feel superior to those who drove) and then loop you back down by way of an old logging trail with beautiful unobstructed views and few people. The hike is varied and includes some big steps up so it is definitely not for those looking for an pleasant stroll. Don’t miss the spur to Camp Alice, it is well worth it. And for those who don’t feel up to the summit hike, it is possible to just do the Camp Alice spur which is short and pretty easy. You can read about our experience and some of the history of Mt. Mitchell as well as Camp Alice here and hiking directions are here.
- Shortoff Mountain (4.5 mile out and back, moderate to difficult). Shortoff Mountain overlooks the Linville Gorge and Lake James which would be reason enough to do this hike. But to make it even better two large natural forest fires in 2000 and 2007 have opened up most of the hike so that you have unobstructed views all the way up and back down. After a somewhat strenous ascent in the first mile you will proceed along the ridge soaking in the views (and sunlight) all the way. Because of the lack of shade, I would not recommend doing this hike on a hot summer day but in spring and fall it is glorious. History and instructions for the Shortoff Mountain Hike here
- Hot Springs and The Appalachian Trail (various, moderate to difficult). James and I originally did this hike as what was supposed to be a ten mile loop along parts of the Appalachian Trail. You can read about our hike here. And if you do read about it, you will also read about our difficulties following the trail. I revisited the site we used for the trail information and found that it has been changed and the site no longer includes a trail map or good directions. So why am I including it on this list? Because there are a lot of hikes around Hot Springs, with lots of variety and different degrees of difficulty so it is worth going to, especially if you can end up in one of the hot springs at the end. So here is a link to a good site with lots of suggested hikes and perhaps we will see you there!
- Greybeard Trail (9.5 mile loop, difficult) The base of Greybeard Trail is located in Montreat, home of Billy Graham and Montreat College, and just a short distance from Black Mountain. Even if you don’t take a hike, either of these locations are worth a visit. This hike is a serious and lengthy climb which should only be attempted if you are in good shape and have enough time to make it up and down before dark. As a reward, you will have spectacular views especially as you hike along the Seven Sisters Ridge. Enjoy a picnic near the summit and reward yourself with pizza and beer in the town of Black Mountain before heading home again! Here are some good directions for the Greybeard Trail Hike and here is the story of our hike from the Carolina Bed & Breakfast to Greybeard Mountain
- Okay, I admit it, I am cheating! There are so many wonderful hikes around Asheville, in the Blue Ridge Mountains and in the wilderness areas near here, that I know the tenth best one is still waiting to be discovered. So we will keep hiking and keep sharing the stories of our hikes and we look forward to you visiting us at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast, our Asheville Inn, and sharing your knowledge with us!