10 Best Hiking Trails in Western North Carolina

Posted by Katie Egan on Thursday, September 26th, 2019 at 11:36am

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People come to the mountains for a variety of reasons and one of them is that we have some of the best hiking trails in Western North Carolina. People who visit the area want to enjoy the gorgeous views of the mountains. There is no better way to enjoy the mountains than to be right in the middle of them: hiking. 

Each mountain trail offers its own unique beauty to those who are traveling through the area. Here are the top 10 best hikes in Western North Carolina:

  1. Black Balsam Knob

  2. Max Patch Mountain

  3. Frying Pan Tower

  4. Looking Glass Rock Trail

  5. Whiteside Mountain Trail

  6. Secret Falls Trail

  7. Yellow Mountain

  8. Panthertown Valley

  9. Wayah Bald Tower

  1. Black Balsam Knob (Blue Ridge Parkway)

The views at the end of Black Balsam Knob are the ultimate payoff for such a short distance.  Located off the Blue Ridge Parkway, the trail is just 1.4 miles round-trip. The sunsets here are indescribably beautiful. Bring a tent and the family dog and you can even camp under the stars for the night. This hike is quite popular on the weekends, so going on a weekday might be ideal for those who want to avoid the crowds. This is easily one of the best hiking trails in Western North Carolina. 

black balsam knob blue ridge parkway 10 best hiking trails in western north carolina landmark realty group

  1. Max Patch Mountain (Blue Ridge Parkway)

Not far from Black Balsam Knob on the Blue Ridge Parkway is Max Patch Mountain. This is one of the most popular hikes on the Parkway and it’s stationed right on the Appalachian Trail. This hike offers options: You can hike 1.5 miles and get the gorgeous, 360-degree views of the mountains from the top or, if you are feeling adventurous, you can hike the full 10.5 miles. This hike is popular because it has something for hikers of all skill levels, which makes it one of the best hiking trails in Western North Carolina, and definitely one of the best hikes near Asheville. If you choose to camp there, make sure you take out all of the trash you accumulate while you are there to preserve the natural beauty of the forest.

  1. Frying Pan Tower (Blue Ridge Parkway) 

This hike is absolutely worth the trip. Frying Pan Tower hiking trail is in the heart of the Pisgah National Forest. The hike is only 1.5 miles roundtrip with a steady climb all the way to the top, and the views are worth the climb. The majority of this trail is made up of gravel road and maintains an incline throughout, but levels out for the last half-mile. Hikers aren’t allowed access to the very top of the tower, but are allowed to climb up to several different viewing spots. This hike is not as popular as other hikes along the Blue Ridge Parkway, so you would have all the privacy that nature provides.

  1. Looking Glass Rock Trail (Brevard) 

At 6.5 miles round-trip, this hike is a bit more strenuous. Looking Glass Rock Trail is nestled in the Pisgah National Forest, about 45 minutes away from downtown Asheville, which could take about four or five hours for the average person. There is a lot of natural beauty to take in on this loop trail, and it makes for a truly perfect day hike. In fact, it’s one of the best day hikes in North Carolina. Definitely pack plenty of water and snacks or a picnic to make sure you have fuel for the hike. You may even spot a rock climber or two as you make your way to the summit, where there are multiple stops to stop and admire the beautiful Appalachian mountains.  

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  1. Whiteside Mountain Trail (Highlands)

Whiteside Mountain is a local favorite in Jackson County. If you’ve ever made the drive from Highlands to Cashiers, as you cross the county line into Jackson, you can see the panoramic views of Whiteside to your right. The scenery is phenomenal, making this one of the best places to hike in Western North Carolina. To get up close and personal to this trail, the road to the parking lot is on the right, before you cross into Jackson County. Countless people come to buy property in the mountains on the premise that they can view Whiteside from their summer home. It’s one of the greatest views and best hiking trails in Western North Carolina.

Whiteside Mountain is a 1.9-mile loop. While it isn’t very long, a lot of the terrain on this hike is a bit rough. The rugged rock that covers parts of the trail can be slippery or intimidating for someone who isn’t sure-footed, or who isn’t wearing the right shoes. All in all, this is a beautiful hike. 

  1. Secret Falls Trail (Highlands)

Another awesome hike in Highlands, NC, this is one of the best hiking trails in Western North Carolina if you’d like a shorter hike with more solitude than the more popular trails. If you are looking for day hiking trails in NC with waterfalls, this is a must-see. The beauty and tranquility of Secret Falls is unparalleled, due in part to the fact that there aren’t as many tourists  visiting this spot. This trail is .7 miles in, 1.4 miles roundtrip, making it a relatively shorter hike. At the bottom of this trail, you meet a gorgeous waterfall, complete with a swimming hole that makes you feel like you’ve found your own slice of paradise. You could hang out here for hours and you may not see another person, which makes the name “Secret” Falls appropriate. 

  1. Yellow Mountain (Highlands/Franklin)

The views from the fire tower are out of this world, and the flora and fauna you see along the way are stunning, but you work hard for it! This is not a hike for beginners. Yellow Mountain is a lightly-trafficked trail that is roughly 12 miles roundtrip, and has rather strenuous inclines and terrain. If you enjoy the solitude of nature, you’ll likely not run into anyone here, save maybe one or two people. Given the length and intensity, you should be prepared to camp overnight. This hike is going to be for a more experienced hiker, and maybe a very energetic hiking dog. Bring plenty of water for you, or a furry friend who may join you.

  1. Panthertown Valley (Cashiers) 

Panthertown offers some of the best hiking trails in Western North Carolina because it offers a little bit of everything you may want from a day hike. Choose from a variety of shorter or longer trails and there are eight waterfalls you can choose to see along the way. There are trails that take you to elevated mountain overlooks, and there are trails that take you to swimming holes where you can hang out for the day. You could spend your whole vacation in Cashiers exploring the trails of Panthertown, if hiking is your thing. Trails here range from very short, at less than a half-mile long, to several miles long, so these trails provide many options for every hiking skill level. It’s safe to say that Panthertown is the ultimate hiking destination for Cashiers, NC. 

  1. Wayah Bald Tower (Franklin)

This trail is interesting. You can either hike all the way up or drive your car to the parking lot at the summit and walk a short distance on a paved path to the top. At an elevation of more than 5,000 feet, Wayah Bald Observation Tower is on the Appalachian Trail and remains one of the most popular places in Western North Carolina for incredible views. After the 2016 forest fires that plagued the Nantahala National Forest, the tower lost its original roof and much of the surrounding forest was charred. The roof has since been restored, but the surrounding forest still bears the scars of the devastation. A trip to Wayah Bald Tower is a reminder of the damage that forest fires can do, and how important it is to take care of our national forests. 

  1. The Appalachian Trail

This is one may seem obvious. However, you can hike as much or as little of this as you want. Franklin, NC is a major trail town. From March through the end of May, Appalachian Trail thru-hikers flood in from all parts of the country, and even the world, as they make the trek along the trail from Maine to Georgia. There are multiple points throughout Franklin where you can hop on and off the trail. Some people do day hikes of a mile or so, some do several miles, some do the whole Franklin portion, and others do multiple days all the way to the Nantahala Outdoor Center in Bryson City. If you are an avid backpacker, you probably came to the Plateau knowing that the Appalachian Trail weaves through the mountains of Western North Carolina. If you love backpacking, you have to visit and hike at least some portion of the Appalachian Trail during your visit.

the Appalachian trail 10 best hiking trails in western north carolina landmark realty group

Top 10 Hiking Trails in Western North Carolina Near Landmark Homes for Sale

Whether you are staying a day, a week, or a lifetime here in the mountains, there are great hikes on this list of the 10 best hiking trails in Western North Carolina that will satisfy your urge for adventure. At Landmark, many of our agents are avid hikers and can point out the best spots to go, wherever you are traveling in the area. Get in touch with us and let us help you plan your next outdoor adventure. 

If you love the area so much and are thinking about putting down roots or purchasing a second home on the Plateau, Landmark Realty Group can help you with all of your real estate needs. Whether you’re thinking about purchasing a gorgeous mountain home near some of the best hiking trails in Western North Carolina or you’d like to sell your current property and get closer to the beautiful mountain vistas the area has to offer, we are here to assist you. We’re passionate about making sure you find the perfect home as well as helping you get the maximum return on your investment. Give us a call today and let us know how we can help! 

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