Discover the Best Hiking Trails in the Blue Ridge Mountains
The Blue Ridge Mountains are majestic. The way they embody the rich blue tones for which they are named is truly a sight to behold in every season. One of the best ways to discover the Blue Ridge Mountains is by walking along the miles of undisturbed hiking trails in the area. Whether you’re looking for a relaxingly easy hike, or a more strenuous challenge, the Blue Ridge has hiking trails for all skill levels — many of which are easily accessible from the Blue Ridge Parkway.
1. Mount Pisgah Hiking Trail
Located south of Asheville, Mount Pisgah hiking trail is one of the favorites in the area. Once you are at the top of the mountain, you will understand exactly why. Starting from milepost 407.6 along the Blue Ridge Parkway, this short, 2.3-mile hike (round trip) is a rocky challenge for hikers as they make their way to the summit. At the top there is an observation deck where hikers can enjoy the panoramic vistas, making the difficult hike all worthwhile.
2. Crabtree Falls Hiking Trail
Crabtree Falls is a moderately strenuous hike that takes about two hours to complete. Here, hikers will make their way through the forest and up a steep, rocky terrain to reach the base of the 60-foot waterfall. Once at the main attraction, you will be surrounded by wild plants, such as ferns and wildflowers, that flourish from the mist of the falls. This hike is about three miles long roundtrip. To make your way back, there are two options: retracing your steps, or hiking a longer, more gradual trail which offers a second view of the falls.
3. Linville Falls
Located at milepost 316.4, Linville Falls is one of the most iconic waterfalls in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Both hiking trails begin at the visitors center and each provide unique views of the falls.
The first trail, Erwins View Trail, is 1.6 miles round trip with a gradual incline, allowing for various viewpoints along the way. First, hikers will reach Upper Falls offering a view of the large pool below them. Further up the trail is Chimney View, where hikers can see the falls in their entirety. The last stop on the trail is Erwin’s View Overlook, which provides two viewpoints to admire the falls with a bird’s eye view, at an elevation of 3,330 feet.
The Linville Gorge hiking trail is a bit more challenging, but allows you to get close to the base of the falls. Here, you can relax on the boulders while taking in the views. You can even bring a picnic to enjoy along the river.
4. Craggy Pinnacle and Gardens Hiking Trails
Craggy Pinnacle is a hiking trail that meanders its way up to a near 360-degree view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In the early summer, you can enjoy the soft scent of wildflowers, mountain laurel, and wild blueberries. While it is a shorter hike of only 1.4 miles roundtrip, it’s a preferable starting point for novice hikers.
After enjoying the views from Craggy Pinnacle, you can walk to the Craggy Gardens trail for additional time on the trails. This trail is also short, and only 1.6 miles roundtrip. Here, hikers can enjoy bird watching, the colorful wildflowers, and scenic vistas. At the top, there are covered patios and benches to sit and enjoy the grand beauty that is the Blue Ridge Mountains.
5. Graveyard Fields Hiking Trail
Located about an hour south of Asheville at milepost 418.8 is the Graveyard Fields hiking loop. Despite the eerie name, this three-mile trail is a magnificent spot to enjoy flowing rivers, streams, and waterfalls in the area. This hiking trail includes views of Upper Falls and Second Falls, as well as multi-tiered falls with boulders at the base. Both are great spots for a snack or picnic before you make your way back onto the trail.
As you walk through the flat valley, you will see mountain laurel and rhododendron along the hiking trail, as well as various berries in the summer months, such as blackberries, blueberries and gooseberries.
6. Boone Fork Trail
The Boone Fork Trail is a longer, 5.5-mile loop located in the Boone and Blowing Rock area, two of the best towns to visit in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The trail starts at milepost 296.4 from the Julian Price Park Picnic Area. It leads you to the 25-foot Boone Fork Falls, which has large boulders decorating the base of the waterfall. The Boone Fork hike is best for experienced hikers and has a moderate to strenuous trail rating.
Along the way, you will walk along the Boone Fork river. The river is known for giving hikers a distinct feel each time you see it along the trail. In some areas the river is calm and gentle, while in others, the roaring sound of the rushing water fills the mountain air.
7. Green Knob Trail
Also located in Julian Price Park, the Green Knob Trail starts at Sim’s Pond Parking Area, at milepost 295.9. This shorter, 2.3-mile loop follows the path of Sim’s Creek through the dense forest. At the top, hikers will be able to see Price Lake as well as Grandfather Mountain. While this trail doesn’t offer panoramic views like some of the others, its serene isolation is ideal for those looking to escape the crowds the Blue Ridge Mountains can attract. Given its level terrain, trail runners will particularly enjoy this trail.
8. The Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail in North Carolina passes through the heart of the Southern Appalachians, offering breathtaking views and diverse landscapes. Hikers will experience the rolling hills and lush forests of the Great Smoky Mountains, as well as the rugged terrain of the Nantahala National Forest. Along the way, hikers will encounter numerous waterfalls, scenic overlooks, and unique wildlife. The section of the trail is approximately 100 miles in length and is a challenging yet rewarding experience for experienced hikers.
9. Old Rag Mountain Loop
Old Rag Mountain is a popular hiking destination located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. It is known for its challenging trails and stunning views, including scenic vistas of the surrounding wilderness and the Shenandoah Valley. The summit of Old Rag is reached after a strenuous hike that involves climbing over rocks and boulders, and the nine-mile loop is considered one of the most difficult trails in the state. Despite the difficulty, Old Rag is a popular destination for hikers, rock climbers, and outdoor enthusiasts due to its natural beauty and scenic vistas.
10. Grayson Highlands Trails
Known for its beautiful hiking trails, stunning vistas, and diverse wildlife, Grayson Highlands State Park, located in Grayson County, Virginia, is home to a number of trails that wind through scenic forests, open meadows, and rocky ridges, offering spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The park is also famous for its wild ponies, which roam freely in the open meadows and along the trails, adding to the unique and picturesque experience.
Popular trails in the park include the Wilson Creek Trail, which leads to a scenic waterfall, and the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, which offers views of the highest peak in Virginia. Hikers can explore the park on their own or take guided tours, which offer a chance to learn about the history, geology, and wildlife of the area. The park also features a scenic drive, picnic areas, and a campground for those who want to extend their stay and enjoy the natural beauty of Grayson Highlands.
11. Black Balsam Knob Trails
Black Balsam Knob is a popular hiking destination located in the Pisgah National Forest. It is known for its rolling bald peaks and breathtaking views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains. Hikers can choose from a variety of trails that range from easy to strenuous, offering opportunities for a leisurely stroll or a challenging hike. The Art Loeb Trail and the Mountains-to-Sea Trail are two of the most well-known trails that lead to the summit of Black Balsam Knob, where hikers can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.
Hiking Tips for the Blue Ridge Mountains
Regardless of which trail you choose, it is important to come prepared. Here are some tips for hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains:
- Wear proper footwear: Good hiking shoes or boots with good grip are essential to staying safe on the trail.
- Pack essentials: Bring plenty of water, snacks, a map and a compass, a first-aid kit, and a headlamp or flashlight.
- Stay on the trail: Avoid shortcuts and stay on designated paths to minimize the impact on the environment and avoid getting lost.
- Respect wildlife: Keep a safe distance from wildlife and do not feed any animals you may encounter on your hike..
- Leave no trace: Pack out all trash and dispose of waste properly.
- Stay aware of your surroundings: Pay attention to changes in the trail, weather conditions, and your physical abilities.
- Know your limits: Hiking can be physically demanding, so it is important to pace yourself and turn back if necessary.
Tell someone your plans: Let someone know your hiking plans, including the trail you will be on and when you expect to return.
Hiking at The Cliffs
At The Cliffs, we know that the natural beauty of the Carolina mountains are calling you –– so, why not live in a place where these trails are just outside your front door? With seven communities in the Blue Ridge Mountains to choose from, at The Cliffs, you are just minutes away from acres of state parks and forests, with endless miles of hiking trails to explore.
Each community is home to a hiking club that offers a great way to connect with other members and the great outdoors. Additionally, The Cliffs Outdoor Pursuits Team offers members a variety of group hikes, both within our communities and outside the gates. Accompanied by our expert nature guides, we explore trails in the region, while learning about native plants and animals along the way.
If you’re ready to start your adventure in the Carolina mountains, we invite you to explore some of our available homesites and homes at The Cliffs. And, if you have any questions during your search, feel free to contact us for more information.
This piece was originally written in July 2020 and refreshed in March 2023.