10 Top Hikes Near Asheville

Rate this story:

Scenic vistas, stunning waterfalls, dramatic peaks, rolling hills and spring wildflowers are a few of the highlights visitors can expect when hiking near Asheville. From easy-going hikes along streams to awe-inspiring summits to challenging backpacking adventures, Asheville has something for everyone. A wide variety of day hikes and backpacking trips can be found in the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains, Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Pisgah National Forest—all located within a 90-minute drive from downtown Asheville. Known locally as the Land of Waterfalls, Asheville's location and verdant landscape make it a picturesque hiking destination. Check out the following highly rated hikes suggested by REI's Hiking Project community.

DuPont State Forest Triple Falls Loop

  • Location: Brevard, NC in DuPont State Forest, 37 miles south of Asheville
  • Length: 3.1-mile round-trip loop
  • Difficulty Rating: Easy
  • Best For: Families 
  • Dogs: Leashed

This 3-mile hike at DuPont State Forest is a well-rounded introductory hike in the Land of Waterfalls for the entire family to enjoy. In the course of the outing, you'll encounter three waterfalls connected by a pleasant and well-maintained trail. The journey starts out 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 along 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.


Glassy Mountain

  • Location: Flat Rock, NC at the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, 30 miles south of Asheville
  • Length: 3.3-mile round-trip out-and-back
  • Difficulty Rating: Easy
  • Best For: Families, beginners, Fido and poetry aficionados
  • Dogs: Leashed

A trip to the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site wouldn't be complete without a trek to the top of Glassy Mountain. On this popular out-and-back hike, you can also wander the grounds of Connemara, the former home of Carl Sandburg, a 20th-century Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and biographer. During the hike, you can stop off to explore the grounds of the historic site including its trout pond and scenic woods. Once you've done a bit of sightseeing, continue up to Glassy Mountain. The wooded trail is easy to follow with some steep, yet manageable sections. Along the way, a few strategically placed benches provide an opportunity to stop and catch your breath. Eventually, you will come to the top of Glassy Mountain, an exposed granite slab. The views are pleasant with the rolling hills and forested plains stretching out before you. On a clear day, you can spot Mount Pisgah in the distance.


Max Patch Short Loop

  • Location: Marshall, NC, 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: Leashed

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.


Rattlesnake Lodge Loop

  • Location: Weaverville, NC, 22 miles northeast of Asheville
  • Length: 4-mile round-trip lollipop loop
  • Difficulty Rating: Easy/intermediate
  • Best For: Hikers who love history and scenic ridgelines
  • Dogs: Leashed

This family-friendly lollipop loop trail ambles along a ridgeline on the Mountains to Sea Trail, providing glimpses of the Blue Ridge Mountains through the trees. The first two miles are uphill, with one slightly steeper section at the 1.5-mile mark. While the climb is gentle, there are several rocky sections where you will want to watch your footing. At 1.5 miles, you will reach what remains of Rattlesnake Lodge, an early 1900s summer retreat owned by former Asheville physician and conservationist Dr. Chase P. Ambler. Among the ruins, you will spot the location of the swimming pool, tennis courts, toolshed and a still-standing stone chimney. Nature is slowly reclaiming the remnants of the lodge, but you can enjoy imagining how the retreat might have appeared in its heyday. Once you are done exploring the ruins, retrace your steps down the Mountains to Sea Trail to round out the hike.


John Rock Loop

  • Location: Brevard, NC in Pisgah National Forest, 37 miles southwest of Asheville
  • Length: 6-mile round-trip loop
  • Difficulty Rating: Intermediate
  • Best For: Newer hikers eager to graduate to a slightly longer route
  • Dogs: Leashed

This 6-mile loop offers a taste of hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains. With its manageable length, gentle grade and less than 1,000 feet of climbing, the accessible loop is an ideal day hike for families with older children and newer hikers looking to expand their repertoire. Regardless of your level of experience, the views from John Rock are worth the trip. The hike starts out with a gradual climb on the Cat Gap Loop Trail before turning northwest toward John Rock. This section of the hike winds through a cove that grows dense with mountain laurel and rhododendrons in early summer.

Finally, you will step out into the open at John Rock. The panoramic viewpoint is a wonderful spot to take a break or indulge in a snack while soaking up sights of Looking Glass Rock across the valley. If you visit between January and August, keep an eye out for peregrine falcons soaring overhead, as the birds of prey nest on the north face of Looking Glass Rock. After taking in the view, continue along the loop. Near the end of the trail, you'll come to an open meadow at Picklesimer Fields before ending back at the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education where you started.


Mt. Sterling Loop

  • Location: Cove Creek, NC in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 55 miles northwest of Asheville
  • Length: 17.7-mile round-trip loop
  • Difficulty Rating: Intermediate/difficult
  • Best For: Backpackers on the hunt for a moderate multiday adventure 
  • Dogs: No dogs

This stunning jaunt is best experienced as a three-day backpacking trip. Highlights include lush greenery, cascading waterfalls and sublime views from the top of Mt. Sterling. The first leg of your journey gradually climbs the Big Creek Trail as it winds alongside its namesake creek. The trail passes Midnight Hole Falls and Mouse Creek Falls, two impressive cascades. (If you don't have time to backpack the full loop, a 4.5-mile round-trip out-and-back to these two tumbling falls makes for a great day hike.)

Continuing on past the falls, you'll reach your first campsite, a serene spot along Big Creek at Walnut Bottom with easy access to water and a few sites to choose from. Reservations and permits are required for all overnight stays in the backcountry and should be made in advance through the national park website.

Day two of your journey is the most strenuous, but also the most rewarding—you'll hike to the summit of Mt. Sterling, a 5.5-mile journey with approximately 2,800 feet of elevation gain. At the top, an old fire tower and your second campsite await. On the final day, you'll continue on from Mt. Sterling in a long, steady descent along the Baxter Creek Trail, which winds through dense woods filled with mountain laurel and umbrella magnolia. After a little more than six miles, you'll finish back at the trailhead where you set out two days prior.


Mt. Cammerer

  • Location: Newport, TN in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 65 miles northwest of Asheville
  • Length: 10.8-mile round-trip out-and-back
  • Difficulty Rating: Intermediate/difficult
  • Best For: Ambitious hikers who want to explore two states and the Appalachian Trail in a single outing 
  • Dogs: No dogs

This is a strenuous yet rewarding out-and-back that climbs 3,000 feet to the summit of Mt. Cammerer, where you'll discover an octagonal fire tower built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Head north across the North Carolina state line and into Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee to find the trailhead. After lacing up your hiking boots, you'll be greeted by the steepest section of the hike in the first 2.5 miles along the Low Gap Trail. Once you join the Appalachian Trail, the climb follows the North Carolina-Tennessee state line and mellows out for a gradual ascent to the summit. This section is mostly wooded, though you can catch glimpses of the mountains through the trees.

The final push to the top of Mt. Cammerer involves several short, rocky sections that require some scrambling. Eventually, you'll reach a rocky outcropping overlooking the Pigeon River Gorge. On a clear day, the panoramic views from the Mt. Cammerer Lookout Tower are outstanding. On a cloudy day, you may find you have climbed high enough to see above the clouds.


Art Loeb Trail

  • Location: Clyde, NC 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: Leashed

The Art Loeb Trail is one of North Carolina's iconic hikes. The lengthy point-to-point trail traverses 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 trail.

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 eight 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 trail traverses rugged yet lovely terrain, 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 journey.


Linville Gorge Wilderness Loop

  • Location: Glen Alpine, NC 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: Leashed

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, and 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 the course of 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 highlighted by 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 a number of 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.


Mount Mitchell - Black Mountain Crest Trail

    • Location: Burnsville, NC in the Pisgah National Forest, 40 miles northeast of Asheville
    • Length: 12.1-mile point-to-point one-way
    • Difficulty Rating: Difficult
    • Best For: Seasoned hikers in search of a challenge
    • Dogs: Leashed

The Black Mountain Crest Trail is a difficult 12-mile one-way hike that summits six peaks, each higher than 6,000 feet. The hike ends at Mount Mitchell, the highest summit east of the Mississippi River. The trail can be completed as a long day hike (the forest service recommends allotting ten hours), or you can plan to spend the night at the trail's single campsite at Deep Gap in order to segment the trip into a two-day trek.

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 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.


View more Asheville hiking trails

Hiking Project is a community-built resource with more miles of trail being added every day by members just like you! Sign up to join our ever-growing community and to find your next hike, comment on and rate other trails and share your own hiking adventures.

No Comments
No more articles