Whether you’re looking for a simple hike with a breathtaking view, or are pursuing a multi-day adventure, the North Carolina mountains offer an array of amazing trails. Over the past few years I’ve spent most of my spare time exploring them, and here are my top 5 North Carolina hikes!
If you’re new to hiking, check out our guide to Essential Gear For Hiking.
5) Mount Mitchell Trail – 11.5 Miles, 3700 Feet Elevation
The longest day hike on the list, the Mount Mitchell Trail offers a challenging trek that rewards with an incredible 360-degree view along with the satisfaction of climbing the tallest peak (Mount Mitchell – 6,684’) east of the Mississippi. Make sure you pack a bottle of water and a snack, you’re gonna need it!
4) Grandfather Mountain Trail – 6 Miles, 1900 Feet Elevation
Easily the most entertaining hike on the list, Grandfather Mountain Trail requires climbing large rocks, countless ladders, and many other elaborate obstacles, many of which require getting down on both your hands and feet. Macrae Peak, Attic Window, and finally Calloway Peak (5,964’), the tallest of Grandfather Mountain, fill this trail with magnificent views and fantastic photo opportunities.
To get to the trailhead, you’ll have to pay the $22 park entrance fee. Although that may seem steep, Grandfather Mountain is also home to wildlife habitats, the Mile High Swinging Bridge, a nature museum, and plenty of other options to enjoy one of North Carolina’s best mountains. Check out Grandfather.com for more info!
3) Art Loeb Trail – 35 Miles, 8800 Feet Elevation
As one of the most difficult in North Carolina, this trail serves as a memorial to Carolina Mountain Club activist Art Loeb (1914 – 1968). Stretching 33.5 miles from the Davidson River Campground, across several significant peaks including Black Balsam Knob (6,214’), Tennent Mountain (6040’), and Pilot Mountain (5095’), this hike will test you both physically and mentally, as even when split up into 3 days, the Art Loeb requires hikers to start with a strenuous 16 mile, 5600 foot day that ends with a 2 mile, 1900 foot climb, a task that certainly test ones spirit.
Finishing this hike is tremendously gratifying and will leave one with an enormous feeling of accomplishment. This is why its #3 on my list.
2) Hawksbill Mountain – 1.8 Miles, 600 Feet Elevation
North Carolina’s Linville Gorge is probably one of the most underrated natural areas on the east coast. It’s steep canyon walls rise to prominent peaks with the beautiful white waters of the Linville River therapeutically flowing below. Hawksbill is not the Linville Gorge’s tallest mountain, but atop its 4009’ peak is a stunning view of this incredible landmark as well as the surrounding mountain ranges.
1) Grassy Ridge Bald – 5 Miles, 1000 Feet Elevation
Located directly on the North Carolina/Tennessee border lie the Roan Highlands. Known for its sun-drenched grassy balds, fantasy-like forests and famous natural Rhododendron gardens, the Roan Highlands hold some of the best views on the entire Appalachian Trail. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, the Grassy Ridge Bald of the Roan Highlands’ virtually treeless summit (6,165’) is one of the best seats in North Carolina for sublime sunrises and sunsets.
It’s an easy going and well-maintained trail that allows any family member, young or old, to reap the rewards of this great trail. There’s no doubt about it, Grassy Ridge Bald is one of the southeast’s crown jewel hikes and is easily #1 on my Top 5 Hikes of North Carolina!
- Crabtree Falls – 2.3 Miles, 600 Feet Elevation
- Hanging Rock – 2.4 Miles, 600 Feet Elevation
- Shuckstack Lookout via Twentymile – 11 Miles, 2600 Feet Elevation
About Brian Murphy
Brian Murphy is an outdoor enthusiast and when not on the trails, is a team member of Stewart Haas Racing. Brian’s traveling with Stewart Haas Racing has afforded him the opportunity to both travel to these destinations and explore their outdoor areas.
Loving those photos? Brian is an excellent photographer as well, follow Brian!