Looking for a new, fun, or challenging hike to take? It’s no secret that Western North Carolina and the Great Smoky Mountains boast miles of gorgeous trails, and we have asked folks in the NOC community to contribute their favorites. Here’s what they have to say:
Near Hot Springs, NC | Submitted by NOC Marketing Director Kristin K. | Easy to Moderate
Why you’ll love it: Max Patch is a bald along the Appalachian Trail that has amazing long range mountain views, complete with majestic sunrises.
Near Waynesville, NC | Submitted by NOC Guide Nick J. | Moderate
Why you’ll love it: Aside from incredible views of Maggie Valley, hikers can find remnants of an abandoned plane crash from the 1980’s at the trailhead.
Linville Gorge Loop
Near Nebo, NC | Submitted by NOC Guide Larry M. | Difficult
Why you’ll love it: If you love a challenge, the terrain on this trail will certainly provide one. If you can stick it out, your reward comes in stunning views for miles.
Looking Glass Falls
Why you’ll love it: If you are looking for a challenging hike in Pisgah National Forest – this 6.5 mile hike will do the trick. But keep moving forward – breathtaking views are waiting!
Rainbow Falls Trail
Why you’ll love it: If you’re looking for waterfalls, Rainbow Falls is a moderate 3 to 4 mile out and back hike located in Gorges State Park. Hike about 3 miles to see Rainbow Falls and about 4 miles to see Turtleback Falls.
Why you’ll love it: This is a great family-friendly hike leading to a gorgeous 90-foot waterfall. The trail is short, well-maintained, and great for families, kids, and older adults.
Wesser Bald Fire Tower
Near Nantahala Outdoor Center | Submitted by NOC Graphic Designer Sara S. | Moderate
Why you’ll love it: This short hike is perfect if you’re visiting NOC’s main campus – the starting point is a quick drive through the Gorge (and passes beautiful waterfalls along the way). The one mile hike is short but moderate – stick with it and you’ll be greeted with stunning 360-degree views of Nantahala National Forest.
Bonus: Hike the Appalachian Trail from NOC
The Appalachian Trail is 2,190 miles and the longest hiking-only footpath in the entire world – and it runs directly through the heart of NOC! Hop on the trail heading North and quite literally hike as far as you’d like – the end of the trail is in Maine. Or, head South and hike right into Georgia. You’ll find scenic surprises around every turn – from flora and fauna to astonishing long-range mountain views. Next time you’re on campus, strike up a conversation with one of the thru-hikers passing by. You never know just what you’ll be inspired to do!
While picking the perfect hiking spot is certainly a top priority, always remember the most important rule: Leave No Trace and Pack It In, Pack It Out. Make sure to bring an appropriate amount of water and any gear or snacks necessary for your trip, and bring all all recyclables, trash, and leftovers with you to properly dispose of when you get home. Let’s make sure these natural wonders are kept pristine for the enjoyment of future generations!