Are you looking to hit the trails and explore nature in the Old North State? Check out our hand-picked list of the best hikes in North Carolina. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just starting out, these trails will provide a fun and rewarding experience. So get ready to add some incredible destinations to your bucket list and hit the trails for your next adventure-filled hiking journey.
Best Hikes in North Carolina
This state offers some of the best hikes in the Southeast, allowing adventurers to explore the majestic beauty and pristine wilderness that North Carolina is renowned for. From a moderately challenging trail in the Pisgah National Forest to an easy route through the enchanting DuPont State Recreational Forest, there’s something for everyone on this list. Whether you’re seeking a thrilling ascent or a leisurely stroll, these hiking trails will captivate and inspire nature lovers of all levels.
1. Clingmans Dome Observation Tower Trail
Clingmans Dome Trailhead parking, Clingmans Dome Trail, Bryson City, NC 28713, USA
Location: Bryson City Mileage: 1.3-mile out-and-back trail Difficulty: Moderate FYI: This trail is popular for runners and walkers - so you will encounter others. It is wheelchair, kid-friendly, and stroller friendly, but no furry friends. There's no entrance fee, but if you're parking for longer than 15 minutes, you'll need a paid parking tag which can be purchased online or at the visitors center. And don't forget to pack a jacket, as the weather can get chilly at the highest peak.
Clingmans Dome Observation Tower Trail
, located within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is renowned for its popularity. Ascend to Tennessee's highest point and immerse yourself in breathtaking 360-degree views of the Smokies and the magnificent forest from Clingmans Dome.
This captivating 1.3-mile out-and-back trail is near Bryson City, North Carolina. It's a moderately challenging route that typically takes around 43 minutes to complete and is a favorite among runners and walkers alike. For an optimal experience, plan your visit between April and November.
2. Looking Glass Rock Trail
Looking Glass Rock Trailhead, Brevard, NC 28712, USA
Location: Brevard Mileage: 5.7-mile out-and-back trail Difficulty: Moderate FYI: Looking Glass Rock Trail is known to be a very popular area for hiking, so you're bound to come across other people while enjoying your trek. The trail is best explored during the months of March through November. If you're bringing your furry friend along, remember that dogs are welcome but must be kept on a leash at all times. Also, with the elevation gain and muddy terrain, hiking boots are highly recommended. Looking Glass Rock Trail
is one of the most popular choices in the Pisgah National Forest due to its awe-inspiring panoramic vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The name of this hike stems from the enormous, reflective rock walls that are simply breathtaking.
To start your journey to the top, you'll head to the trailhead on Fish Hatchery Road. The hike is a gradual ascent that winds along switchbacks and is adorned with vibrant rhododendron and mountain laurels if you're hiking in the spring.
Once you reach the summit, take some time to relax and enjoy the views. The top of Looking Glass Rock is a large, curved surface that is ideal for soaking up some sun before beginning your descent back to the parking lot.
3. Triple Falls Trail
Triple Falls Trail, North Carolina, USA
Location: near Hendersonville Mileage: 2.9-mile loop trail Difficulty: Easy FYI: If you're hiking along this kid-friendly trail, be prepared to run into other hikers, it's a popular spot. Triple Falls Trail is at its best between March and October, so keep that in mind when planning your trip. If you bring your dog, they're welcome to join as long as they're on a leash.
Are you looking for a scenic and easy hike near Hendersonville, North Carolina? Check out the
2.9-mile loop trail
that takes about one hour and 17 minutes to complete and leads you to three gorgeous waterfalls. Start by crossing the bridge at the parking lot and follow the trail upstream along the river's edge. After about one-third of a mile, you'll see the stunning Triple Falls.
Keep following the river and, at around the one-mile mark, take the left trail that leads to the base of High Falls. Cross the falls and head up the route to the overlook for some great views.
Then, head west and turn left on the gravel road that crosses the top of the falls under a covered bridge. After a bit, turn left and follow the trail north through a wooded area until you reach a large parking area. Cross the highway and take the Holly Trail to Hooker Falls.
Best Short & Easy Hikes in North Carolina
North Carolina offers a variety of delightful short and easy hikes, catering to hikers of all levels. Discover the picturesque trails of Linville Falls, where you can enjoy the calming sounds of waterfalls amidst lush forests. Into bird watching? Explore the scenic paths of Dry Falls Trail. These accessible hikes showcase North Carolina’s natural beauty and are perfect for an outdoor adventure if you’re short on time.
4. Linville Falls Trail
Linville Falls - Trail and Waterfall, Newland, NC 28657, USA
Location: Newland Mileage: 0.9-mile out-and-back trail Difficulty: Easy FYI: Before embarking on your hike, we advise you to visit the visitor center's restroom for your convenience. The trail is wheelchair, kid, leashed pets, and stroller-friendly, allowing everyone to enjoy the experience. Keep in mind that this area tends to be popular, so expect to encounter other hikers and walkers during your exploration. To make the most of your adventure, plan your visit between April and November for the best conditions.
We highly recommend checking out the
0.9-mile out-and-back trail
that leads to the Upper Linville Falls observation area - a true gem along the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 316. This relatively easy route typically takes around 21 minutes to complete, allowing you to experience the trail leisurely and at your own pace.
The falls themselves are a true wonder of nature and mark the start of the Linville Gorge. The waterfalls are sourced from the Linville River and cascade down the mountain, eventually flowing into Lake James near Marion, North Carolina. It's a must-see destination for anyone visiting the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina.
Finding the trailhead is a breeze, as it is well-marked and easy to locate. While the trail is generally accessible, it's worth noting that individuals using wheelchairs, mobility equipment, or strollers may require some assistance in the steeper and rockier sections.
5. Hooker Falls Trail
Hooker Falls, North Carolina 28768, USA
Location: near Hendersonville Mileage: 0.8-mile out-and-back trail Difficulty: Easy FYI: This fantastic location is a haven for birding, hiking, and running enthusiasts. As a popular area, it's common to encounter other visitors while exploring the trails. The best part is that Hooker Falls Trail remains open year-round, and if you're bringing your four-legged companion, remember to keep them on a leash for everyone's safety and enjoyment. Moreover, the trail is wheelchair and stroller-accessible, ensuring everyone can enjoy the great outdoors together.
Are you familiar with Hooker Falls in North Carolina? DuPont State Forest is a captivating destination with a network of trails and stunning waterfalls, making it a popular choice for hiking in the Tar Heel State.
One trail to explore is the pleasant
0.8-mile out-and-back trail
near Hendersonville, North Carolina. It's an easy route, taking an average of 22 minutes to complete. This family-friendly trail offers beautiful Hooker Falls views and a slight elevation gain, providing a delightful outdoor inclusive experience.
The trail consists primarily of gravel or other natural surfaces, with a bridge that features pavement and railings. The trail's estimated grade is generally gentle - however, it's important to note that there are small steep to very steep sections.
6. Dry Falls Trail
Dry Falls, North Carolina 28741, USA
Location: Highlands Mileage: 0.4-mile out-and-back trail Difficulty: Easy FYI: This area is widely known for birding and walking, so it's common to encounter other people during your exploration. The trail remains open year-round and offers scenic beauty regardless of the season. Dogs are welcome but must be kept on a leash. Additionally, the trail is wheelchair-friendly, kid-friendly, and suitable for strollers. There is a small parking fee, and restroom facilities are available for your convenience.
Discover this fun
0.4-mile out-and-back trail
located near Highlands, North Carolina. Considered a route with low difficulty, it typically takes approximately 11 minutes to complete.
As you follow the main trail, you'll find yourself venturing behind the breathtaking Dry Falls waterfall. This enjoyable walk offers a gratifying reward in the form of a stunning waterfall that plunges over an overhanging bluff, inviting you to venture underneath and witness the rush of the cascading water. Embrace the immersive experience and be prepared to get wet.
The trail is predominantly paved and features handrails and numerous stairs. However, it's important to exercise caution, as the presence of water and fallen leaves may make certain areas slippery.
Hardest Hikes in North Carolina
North Carolina boasts some of the toughest hikes in the region. These trails offer an impressive challenge, requiring endurance and resilience. From the rugged terrain of the Appalachian Trail to the steep slopes of Mount Mitchell, these hikes will push you to your limits. Take on these challenging trails in North Carolina for a thrilling and rewarding experience.
7. Appalachian Trail: Hot Springs to Max Patch
Max Patch, North Carolina 28743, USA
Location: near Hot Springs Mileage: 19.2-mile point-to-point trail Difficulty: Hard FYI: This trail is frequented by backpackers, campers, and hikers, yet there are opportunities to find tranquility during quieter periods of the day. For a more serene experience, consider visiting during off-peak times. The trail is particularly enjoyable from March through November. Dogs are permitted on the trail as long as they are kept on a leash.
19.2-mile point-to-point trail
near Hot Springs, North Carolina, is known for its challenging nature and typically takes about 10 hours and change to complete.
Embark on this section of the Appalachian Trail, starting from the town of Hot Springs and leading to the renowned Max Patch Bald. On clear days, you'll be rewarded with breathtaking views of Mt. Mitchell and vast Smoky Mountain vistas, making it a true gem along the Appalachian Trail.
At the pinnacle, Max Patch awaits an open grassy summit referred to as a 'bald' in the Southern Appalachian dialect, as it lacks trees due to 19th-century clearing for grazing purposes. Despite its man-made origin, Max Patch offers an idyllic getaway surrounded by natural beauty.
Hot Springs, NC, stands as a unique starting point, as the Appalachian Trail passes directly through the town center. This location provides convenience for thru-hikers with various resupply options and sets the stage for an unforgettable journey amidst a network of hiking trails.
8. Shining Creek Path to Little East Fork Trail
Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina 28714, USA
Location: near Pisgah Forest Mileage: 17.1-mile out-and-back trail Difficulty: Hard FYI: Dog-friendly trail and may roam unleashed in certain areas.
Set off on a thrilling adventure along this
17.1-mile out-and-back trail
near Pisgah Forest, North Carolina. This challenging trail offers enchanting forest views, vibrant wildflowers, abundant wildlife, and exciting scrambles.
While popular among backpackers, bird lovers, and hikers, you can still find moments of solitude and serenity during quieter periods of the day. Whether you prefer a bustling trail or a tranquil experience, this trail caters to both preferences. With the route being open year-round, you can immerse yourself in the spectacular beauty of the trail's surroundings at any time of the year.
9. Black Crest Trail, Deep Gap Trail, and Mount Mitchell Trail
Burnsville, NC 28714, USA
Location: near Burnsville Mileage: 16.5-mile point-to-point trail Difficulty: Hard FYI: The trail is most enjoyable from March to November. Dogs are allowed, but they must be kept on a leash.
Kick off and explore this
16.5-mile point-to-point route
near Burnsville, North Carolina. This 10-hour trail offers breathtaking forest views and the opportunity to spot wildlife. You'll begin a journey along a series of different trails, starting at Black Crest Trail, following Deep Gap Trail, ascending through Mount Mitchell Trail, and concluding at Black Mountain Campground. So lace up your hiking boots and prepare for an unforgettable adventure amidst nature's beauty.
Please note there are a couple of parking options for this hike; a parking lot on Water Shed Road and a gravel driveway named Stanley Trail (there is a $5 parking fee charged by a private landowner for this option).
Best Waterfront Hikes in North Carolina
The Tar Heel State offers a plethora of stunning waterfront hikes, providing hikers with unforgettable experiences. One standout is the Moores Knob Trail in Hanging Rock State Park, and another must-visit is the Shortoff Mountain trail, both offering a challenging yet rewarding adventure. Whether seeking panoramic views from mountain peaks or serenity along gorges and creeks, North Carolina’s best waterfront hikes promise water views for nature lovers of all levels.
10. Shortoff Mountain
Shortoff Mountain, North Carolina 28655, USA
Location: near Nebo Mileage: 5.5-mile out-and-back trail Difficulty: Moderate FYI: Due to its popularity, expect to come across fellow hikers. Please keep your dogs on a leash at all times. Be aware that certain sections of the trail may be overgrown and have rocky terrain, requiring careful navigation. Additionally, please note that the gravel lot in the vicinity is unattended.
Discover the wonders of this two-hour and 49-minute
5.5-mile out-and-back trail
near Nebo, North Carolina.
This trail takes you through an unmarked portion of the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area, offering a wilderness hiking experience. Prepare to be captivated by the gorgeous views of the Gorge along the way.
If you plan ahead and consult a topographic map, you can discover ample spaces for camping, both primitive and backcountry. We recommend locating several water sources in advance to ensure a convenient supply during your hike. Although there are no trailblazes, the path itself is well-defined.
11. Company Mill Loop
Company Mill Trail, Raleigh, NC, USA
Location: near Raleigh Mileage: 5.9-mile loop trail Difficulty: Moderate FYI: The trail is accessible throughout the year, and leashed dogs are permitted. You can park at the North Harrison Avenue entrance off I-40. There, you'll find a spacious paved parking area along with shelters, picnic tables, restrooms, a water fountain, and various amenities such as camping facilities, boat rentals, cabins, and a visitor center.
Embark on this
5.9-mile loop trail
near Raleigh, North Carolina. It is generally considered a moderately challenging route that takes around two hours and 21 minutes to complete. As a popular area for backpacking, birding, and camping, you can expect to encounter other people during your exploration.
Despite its proximity to the bustling capital city, the Company Mill Trail offers surprising tranquility. Around 25 minutes into the hike, you'll come across Crabtree Creek, where the Company Mill site once stood in the early 1800s. You can still see remnants of the old dam on both sides.
This loop trail will take you along the creek, across some bridges, and to historical points of interest. Be cautious during the back half of the loop, as it can become muddy and slippery after rainfall.
12. Moores Knob Trail
Moore's Knob, North Carolina 27052, USA
Location: near Danbury Mileage: 4.5-mile loop trail Difficulty: Moderate FYI: Ample parking is available at two main parking areas, even during busy times, excluding the campground. Restrooms can be found at the visitor's center, and a bathhouse is available at the lake with a small fee. The lake area offers a campground, picnic shelters, and various activities, including swimming.
Moores Knob Trail
in Hanging Rock State Park is a 4.2-mile loop that takes you to the top of Moore's Knob and takes a little over two hours to complete. From the summit of Moores Knob, you'll enjoy stunning 360-degree views, including Hanging Rock, Sauratown Mountain, and Pilot Mountain. The loop begins near the lake and campground area, connecting with other trails such as Tory's Den. At the summit, there are two options to choose from. The 1.6-mile option features wide and well-traveled stair steps, while the 2.6-mile option offers a narrow single-track trail with rocky terrain.
Best Winter Hikes in North Carolina
Embrace the beauty of winter in North Carolina by embarking on some of the best winter hikes in the state. Cliffs of the Neuse State Park offers a beautiful winter landscape with its majestic cliffs overlooking the Neuse River. For a more challenging adventure, the Coon Tree Loop to Perry Cove Trail provides a scenic and invigorating experience, traversing through mountains and showcasing the natural splendor of the region.
Additionally, Norman Wilder Forest offers a serene and peaceful winter hike surrounded by hardwoods and evergreens. These three destinations promise unique winter hiking experiences that allow you to connect with nature and appreciate the tranquility of North Carolina’s winter season.
13. Cliffs of the Neuse Longleaf Trail
Cliffs of the Neuse State Park, 240 Park Entrance Rd, Seven Springs, NC 28578, USA
Location: Seven Springs Mileage: 1.2-mile out-and-back trail1.2-mile out-and-back trail Difficulty: Easy FYI: Open year-round, the trail is dog-friendly and offers a tranquil and uncrowded experience. Reservable facilities at this park include picnic shelters, an auditorium, and a classroom.
For centuries, Cliffs of the Neuse State Park has stood as a notable landmark, featuring stunning cliffs that overlook the Neuse River. The park offers five
(like the easy 1.2-mile out-and-back Longleaf Trail) that allow you to explore the riverside habitats and lush forests, leading to peaceful fishing spots along the waterway.
One of the park's highlights is the 11-acre swimming lake, cherished by the local communities, complete with a bathhouse, sandy beach, diving platform, and boat rentals. Don't miss the visitor center, where you can delve into the region's natural and cultural history through stellar exhibits and engaging interpretive programs.
14. Coon Tree Loop to Perry Cove Trail Location: near Brevard Mileage: 6.1-mile loop trail Difficulty: Moderate FYI: This dog-friendly trail is frequently used for hiking and mountain biking, but there are still opportunities to find solitude during less busy periods of the day. March through November is the recommended time to visit this trail for the best experience.
Experience the beauty of the mountains on this
6.1-mile loop trail
near Brevard, North Carolina, which combines the Coontree Loop Trail and Perry Cove Trail, offering marked paths through the wilderness with occasional intersections that can be navigated with the help of a map, providing a quiet hiking experience for those seeking solitude in the woods.
15. Norman Wilder Forest: Red Trail
Norman Wilder Forest, US-176, Tryon, NC 28782, USA
Location: near Tryon Mileage: 1.8-mile out-and-back trail Difficulty: Moderate FYI: This trail is ideal for hiking, offering a peaceful and secluded experience with minimal encounters with other hikers. Dogs are permitted on this trail, but it is important to keep them on a leash.
in Norman Wilder Forest offers a satisfying uphill hike with a scenic walk leading to a cliff-side trail. While there are no prominent views at the top, it provides a pleasant and peaceful experience with minimal foot traffic. This trail is ideal for those seeking a moderate challenge and a tranquil environment.
Best Hikes near Raleigh
Discover unique hiking experiences near Raleigh, North Carolina, including the scenic Neuse River Trail, the popular Lake Johnson, and the fun Company Mill Trail to Reedy Creek Trail Loop. Immerse yourself in the lush nature of the region and explore the picturesque landscapes that await.
16. Sycamore Trail Loop
William B. Umstead State Park, 8801 Glenwood Ave, Raleigh, NC 27617, USA
Location: Raleigh Mileage: 4.8-mile loop trail Difficulty: Moderate FYI: Due to its popularity among hikers and runners, it is common to come across fellow outdoor enthusiasts while exploring this area. The trail remains accessible throughout the year, and dogs are allowed but must be kept on a leash.
Experience a peaceful stroll through a serene forest surrounded by trees like ash, sycamore, and the occasional evergreen. The 4.8-mile
Sycamore Trail Loop
inside William B. Umstead State Park rises and falls, providing a pleasant walking experience over a surface covered with pine needles, roots, and rocks.
17. Company Mill Trail to Reedy Creek Trail Loop
Reedy Creek Trail, Raleigh, NC 27607, USA
Location: Raleigh Mileage: 6.0-mile loop trail Difficulty: Moderate FYI: Due to its popularity among hikers and runners, it is common to come across fellow outdoor enthusiasts while exploring this area. The trail remains accessible throughout the year, and dogs are allowed but must be kept on a leash.
Head out on a delightful
and savor an enchanting experience on this trail. The path is well-marked and offers serene solitude, particularly as you progress further along. Initially, you may encounter a higher concentration of fellow hikers, but the numbers dwindle as you venture deeper into the trail. The elevation gain is gradual, allowing for an easily navigable ascent.
We wholeheartedly recommend exploring this trail during the captivating seasons of fall and winter. It is worth noting that the presence of roots along the trail is characteristic of the region, and embracing their presence adds to the authenticity of the hiking experience.
18. Lake Johnson East Loop Trail Location: Raleigh Mileage: 2.8-mile loop trail Difficulty: Easy FYI: There are ample parking facilities and convenient access points to the trail and greenway. Additionally, visitors can enjoy various amenities such as restrooms, boat rentals, shelters for rent, fishing opportunities (a fishing license is required), and a range of other activities.
2.8-mile loop trail
at Lake Johnson near Raleigh, North Carolina. It is known for being an easy route, typically taking around an hour to complete. This area is highly popular for birding, fishing, and hiking, so expect to encounter fellow outdoor enthusiasts along the way. The trail guides you through wooded areas, along the picturesque lake, and across the dam.
For a more varied experience, the less frequented unpaved section takes you to the headwaters of the lake. If desired, you can even create a figure-eight route by crossing the boardwalk over the lake. With its mix of flat sections, hilly terrain, wooded stretches, and lakeside paths, this trail offers diverse landscapes to immerse yourself in nature right in Raleigh.
Have you enjoyed any of these trails? Think they are some of the best hiking Trails in North Carolina? What do you think are the best places to hike in North Carolina? Some of our favorite places to hike are in the city of Asheville in Western North Carolina and the Outer Banks. Let us know your favorites – we’d love to hear from you!
Whether you’re an experienced hiker looking for miles of trails and a strenuous hike or just starting out looking for a day hike in the North Carolina mountains,
this hub has everything you’ll need, and be sure to Try AllTrails+ For Free!
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More to Explore
Best Hikes in North Carolina
Does North Carolina have good hiking trails?
North Carolina's best hiking trails include:
What are the best months to hike in North Carolina?
The best months to hike in North Carolina are from early April to mid-June and from early September to early November, offering pleasant weather and opportunities to enjoy the state's natural beauty and outdoor activities.
Explore North Carolina