10 Best Hiking Trails in North Carolina

10 Best Hiking Trails in North Carolina
Table of Contents

North Carolina is home to some of the best hiking trails in the country, offering breathtaking views and diverse landscapes. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just starting out, there’s something for everyone in this beautiful state. From cascading waterfalls to panoramic mountain views, North Carolina’s trails will leave you in awe.

Key Takeaways:

  • North Carolina boasts some of the top hiking trails in the United States.
  • These trails offer stunning natural beauty and a range of difficulty levels.
  • From waterfalls to mountain peaks, there’s something for every hiker’s preference.
  • Take a moment to appreciate the breathtaking landscapes North Carolina has to offer.
  • Don’t forget to pack your hiking boots and sense of adventure!

Exploring the Appalachian Mountains

The Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina are a hiker’s paradise, with trails that wind through the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains and explore the beauty of nature in places like Pisgah National Forest and Stone Mountain State Park. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or just starting out, these trails offer something for everyone.

One must-visit trail is the Stone Mountain Loop, which features a breathtaking rock face, stunning waterfalls, and the remnants of an old homestead. It’s a moderate trail that rewards hikers with panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

If you’re looking for a more moderate hike, the Boone Fork Trail is a great choice. This trail takes you through picturesque mountain creeks and enchanting rhododendron forests, offering a peaceful escape into nature.

Hiking Trail Difficulty Highlights
Profile Trail to Calloway Peak Strenuous Cascades, rock formations, incredible views
Stone Mountain Loop Moderate Rock face, waterfalls, old homestead
Boone Fork Trail Moderate Mountain creeks, rhododendron forests
Bass Lake Loop Trail Easy Mountain lake, views of Blue Ridge Mountains

These are just a few examples of the incredible hiking trails that await you in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. So lace up your boots, pack your backpack, and get ready to explore the scenic wonders that this region has to offer.

Discovering the Grandeur of Grandfather Mountain

North Carolina’s Grandfather Mountain offers awe-inspiring views and remarkable hiking opportunities, including the challenging Cox Mountain Trail. As part of the Blue Ridge Parkway and located within Grandfather Mountain State Park, this majestic peak attracts outdoor enthusiasts from all over. With its rugged terrain and diverse ecosystems, Grandfather Mountain is a must-visit destination for hikers looking for a thrilling adventure.

The Cox Mountain Trail, one of the park’s most popular trails, takes hikers through lush forests, across bubbling streams, and up steep inclines. This moderately difficult trail rewards those who conquer it with breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes. It’s a true test of endurance and offers a sense of accomplishment for anyone who completes the hike.

While exploring Grandfather Mountain, visitors can also enjoy other scenic trails, such as the Profile Trail and the nearby Nuwati and Daniel Boone Scout trails. These trails showcase the mountain’s natural beauty, offering glimpses of cascading waterfalls, vibrant wildflowers, and striking rock formations.

The Grandfather Mountain experience: Features:
Cox Mountain Trail Challenging hike with panoramic views
Profile Trail Waterfalls, rock formations, and scenic vistas
Nuwati and Daniel Boone Scout trails Exploration of diverse ecosystems and natural wonders

Summing Up

If you’re an adventure seeker or a nature enthusiast, a visit to Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina is an absolute must. With its awe-inspiring views, remarkable hiking trails, and diverse natural wonders, this destination promises an unforgettable experience. Take on the challenge of the Cox Mountain Trail and explore the other trails that showcase the mountain’s beauty and charm. Whatever your skill level, Grandfather Mountain has something to offer for everyone who appreciates the great outdoors.

Exploring the Great Smoky Mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina are a treasure trove for hikers, with trails like the Sea Trail and Moore’s Wall Loop Trail offering breathtaking beauty and natural wonders. The Sea Trail is a moderate hike that takes you through lush forests, across streams, and offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. Along the way, you’ll be treated to picturesque waterfalls and abundant wildlife. The Moore’s Wall Loop Trail, on the other hand, is a challenging hike that rewards you with breathtaking vistas and unique rock formations. This trail is known for its steep ascents and descents, offering a thrilling adventure for experienced hikers.

Sea Trail

Table: Trail Information

Difficulty Distance Elevation Gain Highlights
Moderate 7 miles 1,500 feet Waterfalls, panoramic views

The Sea Trail offers a captivating journey through the diverse ecosystems of the Great Smoky Mountains. As you traverse the trail, you’ll encounter towering trees, vibrant wildflowers, and the soothing sound of rushing water. The highlight of this hike is undoubtedly the breathtaking panoramic views that await you at the summit. On a clear day, you’ll be able to see for miles, taking in the beauty of the surrounding mountains and valleys. So lace up your hiking boots, pack some snacks, and get ready to explore the majestic Great Smoky Mountains on the Sea Trail.

Moore’s Wall Loop Trail

Table: Trail Information

Difficulty Distance Elevation Gain Highlights
Challenging 4.5 miles 2,000 feet Breathtaking vistas, rock formations

The Moore’s Wall Loop Trail is not for the faint of heart. This challenging hike will put your endurance and hiking skills to the test. The trail takes you through dense forests, across rocky terrain, and up steep inclines. But the effort is well worth it, as you’ll be rewarded with awe-inspiring vistas and unique rock formations. The trail offers various lookout points where you can pause, catch your breath, and take in the breathtaking beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains. Just make sure to bring plenty of water, snacks, and sturdy footwear for this exhilarating adventure.

Biking and Hiking Trails in North Carolina

North Carolina offers a variety of trails for outdoor enthusiasts, including the popular Boone Fork Trail, Morrow Mountain State Park, and the picturesque Triple Falls Trail. Whether you’re an avid hiker or a casual biker, there’s something for everyone in the beautiful landscapes of North Carolina.

Boone Fork Trail

Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Boone Fork Trail is a moderate trail that meanders through mountain creeks and enchanting rhododendron forests. It’s perfect for nature lovers who want to immerse themselves in the serene beauty of North Carolina’s wilderness. With its stunning vistas and tranquil atmosphere, Boone Fork Trail is a must-visit destination for hikers of all skill levels.

Morrow Mountain State Park

For those looking for a more immersive outdoor experience, Morrow Mountain State Park in Albemarle is a hidden gem. This state park showcases the true essence of North Carolina’s natural beauty, with its diverse ecosystems and breathtaking views. Explore the park’s extensive trail system and discover the wonders of the Uwharrie Mountains. From leisurely strolls to challenging hikes, Morrow Mountain State Park offers something for everyone.

Triple Falls Trail

If you’re seeking a trail that combines both adventure and tranquility, the Triple Falls Trail in Dupont State Forest is the perfect choice. This moderate hike will lead you through lush forests and captivating landscapes, with several waterfalls along the way. Triple Falls, in particular, is a stunning sight to behold, with its cascading waters and picturesque surroundings. It’s a trail that will leave you in awe of North Carolina’s natural wonders.

Trail Difficulty Features
Boone Fork Trail Moderate Mountain creeks, rhododendron forests
Morrow Mountain State Park Varies Diverse ecosystems, panoramic views
Triple Falls Trail Moderate Waterfalls, captivating landscapes

Exploring North Carolina’s State Parks and Forests

North Carolina’s state parks and forests offer a wealth of hiking opportunities, from the renowned Appalachian Trail to hidden gems like Indian Creek Falls and the Six Hiking Trails in Hanging Rock State Park. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or just starting out, these natural treasures provide a diverse range of trails to explore.

One of the most famous hiking trails in North Carolina is the Appalachian Trail. Stretching over 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine, this iconic trail offers breathtaking views and a chance to immerse yourself in the beauty of nature. Along the way, you’ll encounter picturesque landscapes, challenging terrains, and unique wildlife.

If you’re looking for a more secluded adventure, consider visiting Indian Creek Falls in the Nantahala National Forest. This hidden gem features a picturesque waterfall nestled among lush greenery. The hike to the falls is relatively easy and takes you through a peaceful forest, allowing you to connect with nature and enjoy the tranquility of the surroundings.

For those seeking a combination of natural beauty and outdoor activities, Hanging Rock State Park is a must-visit. The park offers six hiking trails that cater to different skill levels and preferences. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely stroll or a challenging hike, you’ll find a trail that suits your needs. From panoramic views at Hanging Rock to the serene beauty of Hidden Falls, these trails showcase the diversity of North Carolina’s landscape.

Trail Name Difficulty Highlights
Appalachian Trail Challenging Breathtaking views, unique wildlife
Indian Creek Falls Easy Picturesque waterfall, peaceful forest
Six Hiking Trails in Hanging Rock State Park Varies Panoramic views, serene beauty

Whether you’re exploring the Appalachian Trail, discovering the beauty of Indian Creek Falls, or venturing into Hanging Rock State Park, North Carolina’s state parks and forests never fail to captivate outdoor enthusiasts. These natural wonders provide a rich tapestry of scenic landscapes, diverse ecosystems, and unforgettable experiences for hikers of all levels. So lace up your hiking boots, pack your backpack, and embark on an adventure through the breathtaking trails of North Carolina.

Hiking in the Coastal Region

While North Carolina is known for its mountain peaks, the coastal region also offers unique hiking experiences, such as exploring Carolina Beach State Park and reaching the highest peak on the East Coast. This region not only showcases stunning natural beauty but also provides opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to immerse themselves in diverse ecosystems and breathtaking coastal landscapes.

Carolina Beach State Park, located near Wilmington, offers a variety of trails that wind through maritime forests, salt marshes, and scenic riverfronts. One of the highlights is the Flytrap Trail, where visitors can spot the endangered Venus flytrap plant in its natural habitat. The park also features camping facilities and access to the Cape Fear River for kayaking and fishing.

For those seeking a challenge, a hike to the highest peak on the East Coast is a must. Mount Mitchell State Park, located in the Black Mountains, offers a strenuous yet rewarding trail that leads to the summit of Mount Mitchell. Standing at an impressive 6,684 feet, this peak provides panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, making it a hiker’s paradise.

Carolina Beach State Park

Trail Difficulty Distance
Flytrap Trail Easy 0.8 miles
Bay Trail Easy 1 mile
Sugarloaf Trail Moderate 3 miles
Swamp Trail Moderate 1.3 miles

Highest Peak on the East Coast – Mount Mitchell

Trail Difficulty Distance
Mount Mitchell Trail Strenuous 5.6 miles
Old Mitchell Trail Moderate 2.2 miles
Deep Gap Trail Moderate 3 miles

Whether you prefer a leisurely hike through the unique coastal ecosystem or a challenging ascent to the highest peak, the coastal region of North Carolina offers an array of hiking trails to suit all preferences. So pack your hiking boots, embrace the coastal breeze, and embark on an unforgettable adventure along the picturesque trails of North Carolina’s coastal region.

Exploring Western North Carolina

Western North Carolina is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, with a variety of trails to discover, including the iconic Mile High Swinging Bridge and the thrilling Grandfather Trail. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced hiker, the trails in this region offer breathtaking scenic views and opportunities to connect with nature.

One must-visit trail is the Mile High Swinging Bridge, located in Grandfather Mountain State Park. This iconic landmark offers a unique perspective as you walk across the suspension bridge, suspended a mile above sea level. The views from the bridge are truly awe-inspiring, allowing you to take in the beauty of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains.

If you’re up for a challenge, the Grandfather Trail is an exhilarating option. This rugged trail takes you along the mountain’s rocky ridgeline, offering panoramic views and a sense of adventure. It’s considered one of the most difficult trails in the Southeast, but the reward is well worth the effort.

Trail Difficulty Level Highlights
Mile High Swinging Bridge Easy Iconic suspension bridge, panoramic mountain views
Grandfather Trail Difficult Panoramic views, rocky ridgeline

Other trails worth exploring in Western North Carolina include the picturesque Tanawha Trail, which winds through rhododendron tunnels, and the challenging Linville Gorge Trail, known for its stunning vistas and rugged terrain. The region’s diverse landscapes offer something for every hiker, from cascading waterfalls to dense forests.

So, grab your hiking boots and head to Western North Carolina to experience the natural wonders and thrilling trails that this region has to offer. Whether you’re seeking a leisurely hike or a heart-pounding adventure, you’re sure to find it here.

Nature’s Wonders in North Carolina

North Carolina is blessed with a myriad of natural wonders, from marked trails along the Cape Fear River to the enchanting beauty of Sliding Rock Falls, the mighty Mississippi River, and the scenic Moore Cove Falls. These awe-inspiring destinations offer outdoor enthusiasts an opportunity to immerse themselves in the state’s diverse ecosystems while exploring its breathtaking landscapes.

One of the must-visit spots is the Cape Fear River trail, where hikers can meander along a well-marked path that winds through the magnificent Cape Fear River basin. As you trek through lush forests and encounter wildlife along the way, the serenity of the river’s gentle flow creates a peaceful ambiance that is both soothing and invigorating.

For those seeking a refreshing adventure, Sliding Rock Falls provides an exhilarating experience. Located in the heart of Pisgah National Forest, this natural waterslide invites visitors to slide down its smooth rock face and plunge into the sparkling pool below. It’s an ideal place to beat the summer heat and create long-lasting memories with family and friends.

In addition to these wonders, the Mississippi River, known as the “mightiest river in North America,” boasts impressive natural beauty and historical significance. Its serene and majestic presence draws visitors to witness its grandeur as it meanders through the state, offering breathtaking views and a sense of awe-inspiring power.

Discover Moore Cove Falls

Another gem is Moore Cove Falls, nestled in the Pisgah National Forest near Brevard. This picturesque waterfall captivates hikers with its 50-foot drop, gracefully cascading over a rock ledge into a tranquil pool below. The trail leading to the falls is a scenic trail through the forest, making it an excellent choice for nature lovers and photography enthusiasts alike.

Trail Name Location Difficulty Level
Cape Fear River Trail Cape Fear River Basin Easy
Sliding Rock Falls Pisgah National Forest Moderate
Mississippi River Various locations in North Carolina N/A
Moore Cove Falls Pisgah National Forest Easy

Whether you’re an avid hiker or simply looking to connect with nature, North Carolina’s remarkable trails and natural wonders offer a multitude of opportunities for exploration and adventure. From the serene Cape Fear River to the invigorating Sliding Rock Falls, the state’s diverse landscapes never fail to leave a lasting impression.

Exploring National Forests and Parks

North Carolina’s national forests and parks offer incredible hiking opportunities, from the rugged Uwharrie National Forest to the serene Cedar Mountain, and the pristine beauty of Nantahala National Forest, the Outer Banks, and Rock State Park. These enchanting destinations provide a variety of terrains and landscapes for outdoor enthusiasts to explore.

Uwharrie National Forest

Uwharrie National Forest is a haven for hikers seeking a wilderness escape. With over 50 miles of trails, adventurers can embark on scenic hikes through the dense forests, past sparkling lakes, and up breathtaking peaks. The Uwharrie Trail, a 20-mile trek, offers a challenging but rewarding experience for experienced hikers.

Cedar Mountain

Located in the beautiful Dupont State Recreational Forest, Cedar Mountain offers a peaceful retreat away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Hikers can wander through enchanting forests, discover hidden waterfalls, and enjoy panoramic views from the top of Cedar Rock Mountain. The extensive trail system provides options for hikers of all levels.

Nantahala National Forest, Outer Banks, and Rock State Park

Nestled in the breathtaking Appalachian Mountains, Nantahala National Forest offers a diverse range of hiking trails. From the challenging Appalachian Trail to the picturesque Bartram Trail, hikers can immerse themselves in the beauty of nature.

The Outer Banks, a string of barrier islands, allows visitors to combine hiking with stunning coastal views. The Cape Hatteras National Seashore offers miles of pristine beaches and maritime forests to explore.

Rock State Park, located in the heart of the Piedmont region, is known for its stunning rock formations and picturesque waterfalls. Hikers can traverse the trails, marvel at the towering cliffs, and experience the natural wonders of this hidden gem.

Trail Difficulty Highlights
Uwharrie Trail Challenging Scenic forests, sparkling lakes
Cedar Mountain Trail Moderate Waterfalls, panoramic views
Appalachian Trail Challenging Mountain vistas, diverse ecosystems
Bartram Trail Moderate Waterfalls, wildflowers
Cape Hatteras National Seashore Easy Pristine beaches, maritime forests
Rock State Park Moderate Rock formations, waterfalls

With the abundance of national forests and parks, North Carolina offers a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you’re seeking rugged mountains, serene forests, or coastal beauty, there’s a hiking trail for every adventurer in this diverse and awe-inspiring state.

Captivating Landscapes and Scenic Views

North Carolina is a haven for nature lovers, with captivating landscapes like Looking Glass Rock, breathtaking waterfalls such as High Falls, and the opportunity to reach the highest peak in the state. These natural wonders offer a unique and awe-inspiring experience for hikers and adventurers.

Looking Glass Rock is a prominent feature of North Carolina’s landscape, offering stunning panoramic views from its rocky summit. Located in the Pisgah National Forest, this granite dome stands tall at over 3,900 feet and is a popular destination for hikers seeking a challenge and a rewarding vista. The hike to the top is steep and strenuous, but the view of the surrounding mountains and forests is well worth the effort.

High Falls is another must-visit destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Located in DuPont State Recreational Forest, this majestic waterfall cascades down a 120-foot drop, creating a mesmerizing sight and a soothing soundtrack of rushing water. The hike to High Falls is relatively easy and is suitable for all skill levels, making it a popular spot for families and casual hikers.

For those seeking an even higher adventure, North Carolina offers the opportunity to reach the state’s highest peak – Mount Mitchell. Standing at an impressive elevation of 6,684 feet, this summit is located in Mount Mitchell State Park and provides an unparalleled view of the surrounding Appalachian Mountains. The hike to the top is challenging but rewarding, allowing hikers to immerse themselves in the beauty of the state’s highest reaches.

Trail Name Location Difficulty
Looking Glass Rock Pisgah National Forest Strenuous
High Falls DuPont State Recreational Forest Easy
Mount Mitchell Mount Mitchell State Park Challenging

North Carolina’s captivating landscapes, breathtaking waterfalls, and the opportunity to reach new heights make it a must-visit destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you’re seeking panoramic views, serene waterfalls, or a challenging hike, the state offers something for everyone. So, grab your hiking boots, pack your sense of adventure, and explore the natural wonders that North Carolina has to offer.

What Are Some Similarities and Differences Between Hiking Trails in Virginia and North Carolina?

When it comes to the best hiking trails virginia and North Carolina offer, there are a few similarities and differences to consider. Both states boast picturesque landscapes and trails that cater to various difficulty levels. However, Virginia’s trails often take hikers through lush forests and stunning mountain vistas, while North Carolina’s trails lead to breathtaking waterfalls and scenic riversides. Whether you’re seeking challenging hikes or serene paths, both states have something unique to offer outdoor enthusiasts.


North Carolina truly is a paradise for hikers, with its top 10 hiking trails showcasing the state’s stunning landscapes and offering unforgettable experiences in the great outdoors.

From the challenging Profile Trail to Calloway Peak, with its cascades, rock formations, and incredible views, to the scenic Bass Lake Loop Trail, where you can stroll around a mountain lake and enjoy breathtaking vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains, there is something for everyone in North Carolina.

For those seeking moderate hikes, the Boone Fork Trail and Craggy Gardens Trail provide beautiful mountain creeks, rhododendron forests, and stunning wildflower displays. And if you’re a waterfall enthusiast, the Moore Cove Falls Trail and DuPont State Forest Waterfalls Trail will not disappoint, with their quick and rewarding treks to picturesque cascades.

But the adventure doesn’t end there. North Carolina’s Hard Times Road Trail offers panoramic views of the Appalachian Mountains, while the Latta Nature Preserve Trail in Charlotte allows you to explore diverse ecosystems and encounter wildlife along the way. And for those looking for a paved trail, the American Tobacco Trail in the Raleigh-Durham area provides scenic views and is perfect for both walking and biking.

With its varied terrain and natural wonders, North Carolina truly is a hiker’s dream. Whether you’re an experienced trekker or just starting out, these top 10 hiking trails will leave you in awe of the state’s beauty. So lace up your boots, pack your backpack, and embark on an unforgettable hiking adventure in North Carolina.


Q: What are some of the best hiking trails in North Carolina?

A: The top 10 hiking trails in North Carolina are Profile Trail to Calloway Peak, Stone Mountain Loop, Boone Fork Trail, Bass Lake Loop Trail, Moore Cove Falls Trail, Craggy Gardens Trail, DuPont State Forest Waterfalls Trail, Hard Times Road Trail, Latta Nature Preserve Trail, and American Tobacco Trail.

Q: What level of difficulty can I expect on these hiking trails?

A: The difficulty levels vary from strenuous to easy, offering options for all hiking enthusiasts. Some trails are more challenging, like Profile Trail to Calloway Peak, while others are easier, like Bass Lake Loop Trail.

Q: Do these hiking trails offer scenic views?

A: Absolutely! These trails provide stunning views of mountains, waterfalls, cascades, and even panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. You won’t be disappointed!

Q: Are there any notable features on these hiking trails?

A: Yes, each trail offers unique features. For example, Stone Mountain Loop has a rock face and an old homestead, while the DuPont State Forest Waterfalls Trail takes you to several breathtaking waterfalls, including Triple Falls.

Q: Can I bring my family and children on these hikes?

A: Yes, some trails are family-friendly and suitable for children. The Bass Lake Loop Trail and Moore Cove Falls Trail are both easy hikes that offer rewarding experiences for the whole family.

Q: Are any of these hiking trails accessible for biking?

A: Yes, the American Tobacco Trail is a paved trail in the Raleigh-Durham area that is great for both walking and biking. It offers scenic views and a pleasant outdoor experience.

Q: Where can I find these hiking trails?

A: The hiking trails are located throughout North Carolina, with some in popular locations like Boone, Charlotte, and the Raleigh-Durham area. Each trail offers its own unique experience, showcasing the diverse natural beauty of the state.

Q: Are there any guided tours or hiking groups available for these trails?

A: Yes, some trails may have guided tours or hiking groups available. It’s always a good idea to check with local hiking organizations or visitor centers for more information and to ensure you have the best experience on the trails.

Q: Are pets allowed on these hiking trails?

A: Regulations regarding pets may vary by trail. It is recommended to check with the specific trail’s guidelines and regulations before bringing a pet.

Q: What should I bring with me on these hikes?

A: It is important to come prepared when hiking. Some essential items to bring include comfortable shoes, water, snacks, sunscreen, a map or GPS device, and appropriate clothing layers for changing weather conditions.

Q: Are there any entrance fees or parking fees for these hiking trails?

A: Some trails may have parking fees or entrance fees, especially if they are located within state parks or national forests. It is advisable to check the official websites or contact the trail management for information on fees and permits.

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