Kephart Prong Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Kephart Prong is one of the many water drainages that give the Smokies its character and provide refreshing nourishment for all the flora and fauna. Named for Horace Kephart, an author who was very instrumental in helping the Great Smoky Mountains achieve national park status, this scenic mountain stream is especially inviting during the spring greening season....

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Sycamore Cove Trail, Pisgah National Forest

Essentially a loop trail (the two ends are about 200 yards apart on Hwy 276), Sycamore Cove is a great hike for the entire family. It’s relatively easy, with only about 600 feet of elevation change, and it’s a delightful four-season hike that is a great way to start your day. The trail initially follows picturesque Starnes Branch amidst large hemlock and...

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Forest Road Connector of Caney Bottom and Daniel Ridge Trails, Pisgah National Forest

The U.S. Forest Service is the greatest road builder in the world. Oft times, those forest service roads come in handy for hikers to get from one ridge to another, from one creek drainage to another, or simply from one trail to another. That’s the case with Forest Road 225 in Pisgah National Forest. FR225 tips the Caney Bottom and Cove Creek Trails on its eastern...

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Scout Camp Loop on Art Loeb Trail and Little East Fork Trail, Shining Rock Wilderness

Backcountry wilderness. If you really want to get a taste, then this hike is for you. Starting at the remote Camp Daniel Boone, the northern terminus of the Art Loeb Trail enters Shining Rock Wilderness immediately. As you begin the nearly 2,000′ ascent to Deep Gap, on the southern shoulder of Cold Mountain, you will cross numerous streams as you hike through...

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Ivestor Gap Trail to Little East Fork Trail, Shining Rock Wilderness

When the Blue Ridge Parkway reopens each year in early spring, it is great to get back into the high country at milepost 420. That means the Black Balsam area and Shining Rock Wilderness. An oft overlooked trail on the west side of the wilderness is Little East Fork, a twisty path that follows the Little East Fork of the Pigeon River from Shining Rock Gap to the Daniel...

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Buck Spring Trail to Pisgah Inn, Pisgah National Forest

There’s a trail from Scenic Hwy 276 that parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway as it winds around 10 ridges and makes 13 easy stream crossings on its way to the Pisgah Inn on the Parkway. Buck Spring Trail eventually ends up at the site of the former hunting lodge of George W. Vanderbilt II, the father of Pisgah National Forest. In the spring this trail is alive with...

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Green River Cove Trail, Green River Game Lands

From Saluda, NC the Green River Cove Road drops more than a thousand feet into the Green River Gorge to a meeting alongside the Green River. On the other side of the river is the Green River Cove Trail, at the southern boundary of the Green River Game Lands. The trail starts at Wilderness Cove and follows the river for 4.2 miles to the base of the Green River Narrows, a...

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The Pinnacle Trail at Pinnacle Park, Nantahala National Forest

Pinnacle Park is an 1,100 acre tract of land owned by the town of Sylva in Jackson County, NC that was previously used as the community watershed. In 1991 it was leased to the Pinnacle Park Foundation for developing hiking trails that pass by streams, waterfalls, and beautiful long distance vistas. The Pinnacle, where the park got its name, is a large rocky outcropping...

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Little Bradley Trail and Falls, Green River Game Lands

This hike is found in a remote corner of the Green River Game Lands near Saluda, NC that enables you to enjoy beautiful waterfalls. Little Bradley Trail follows Cove Creek along its path to an eventual meeting with Green River, but before it gets there, it tumbles over the three-tiered cascade at Little Bradley Falls. I happened to catch it a couple days after a...

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Reasonover Creek Trail to Lake Julia and Fawn Lake, DuPont State Forest

Down in the far southern section of DuPont State Forest is the Reasonover area, near the community of Cedar Mountain. Home to several trails and a couple of reservoirs, like most of DuPont, Reasonover is a great place to go hiking. Especially if you want to stay away from the high country during the winter season, Reasonover is less than 3,000 feet, so you’re a lot...

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Greenland Creek Trail at Panthertown, Nantahala National Forest

Panthertown Valley in Nantahala National Forest is known for its stunning mountaintop vistas, but also for a numerous and varied assortment of waterfalls that run the gamut from slides, to cascades, to ledge and plunge. Six of those falls are along Greenland Creek, including the feature cascade Greenland Creek Falls. Beyond this tall waterfall, the Greenland Creek Trail...

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Cataloochee Divide Trail to Hemphill Bald, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Cataloochee Divide Trail follows the eastern national park boundary for 6.4 miles from Cove Creek Gap to a junction with Hemphill Bald Trail. It is then another half-mile climb to the 5,520′ summit of Hemphill Bald. We shaved 4+ miles off the round trip by starting at Purchase Knob rather than Cove Creek Gap. You will pass fabulous views to the east and south...

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Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center at Purchase Knob, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Purchase Knob is found on the far eastern flank of Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the Cataloochee Divide, north of Maggie Valley, NC. Near the summit and located at 4,850 feet, the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center is part of a network of what will be 32 centers supporting research and education about science in our national parks. The Purchase Knob...

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High Windy Trail, YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly

Nestled in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains near Asheville, North Carolina, YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly is a full-service conference center situated on 1,200 acres of woodland beautified by mountain streams, wildflowers, ridges, valleys and spectacular views. What is little known about the property is the extensive hiking trail system. Primary among these is the High...

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Big Glassy Mountain Trail, Carl Sandburg’s Connemara

Carl Sandburg’s wife Lilian discovered the mountain farm named Connemara in the community of Flat Rock, south of Asheville, NC. From 1945, until his death in 1967, the famous American poet, biographer, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author lived and worked on the 264-acre estate. The family then sold the property and donated the contents to the National Park Service...

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Forney Creek Cascade and Andrews Bald, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Most people who head out Clingmans Dome Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are there to climb the half mile to the summit of the 2nd highest mountain in the East. But here at Meanderthals, we aren’t most people. Below Clingmans Dome are trails that explore the ridges and drainage on the south face. Included among those are Forney Creek Cascade, a classic...

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Graveyard Fields Waterfalls, Blue Ridge Parkway

Graveyard Fields is an anomaly — a high mountain meadow and bog surrounded by 6,000 foot mountain peaks. The wide-open spaces found at Graveyard Fields are a rarity, an exception in the otherwise lush and densely forested slopes of Pisgah National Forest and Shining Rock Wilderness. Popular with locals and tourists alike, no trip to the high country of Western...

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Big Bald Mountain on Appalachian Trail, Cherokee National Forest

Northeast of Mars Hill, NC, the Big Bald Range straddles the Tennesssee/North Carolina border and marks the boundary between Pisgah and Cherokee National Forests. The Appalachian Trail (AT) follows the state line, as it does for nearly all its length between these two states. The destination for this hike is 5,516 foot Big Bald Mountain, another of the grassy balds that...

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Pink Beds Loop, Pisgah National Forest

Peaceful. If I were to think of a single word to describe the Pink Beds Loop Trail, that would be it. Peaceful. Located in a high valley in the Cradle of Forestry, Pink Beds is surrounded by the tall mountains and lush woodlands of Pisgah National Forest. Home to rare mountain bogs, unique vegetation, and unusual wildlife, this area is ideal for those who like to explore...

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Moore Cove Trail and Falls, Pisgah National Forest

This short hike is family friendly, including even toddlers. The Moore Cove Trail leads you 0.7 mile to Moore Cove Falls, a 50-foot free-fall over a cave-like outcropping. As long as you’re careful, you can get in behind this waterfall and peer at the forest through the cascade. Hey, on a hot day it makes a great refreshing shower. In season, you may discover a...

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Big Creek Trail on Little Pisgah Ridge, Pisgah National Forest

Looking to do some ridge hiking down, down, down from the Blue Ridge Parkway into Pisgah National Forest? Overlooking North Mills River, the Little Pisgah Ridge starts at 4,800′, then drops down into the Big Creek drainage some 2,100 feet below. Catch your views of the mountains on the Parkway before you start because this is a heavily forested hike that instead...

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Appalachian Trail on Grassy Ridge, Roan Highlands

Located along the North Carolina/Tennessee state line, and where Pisgah and Cherokee National Forests merge, Grassy Ridge in the Roan Highlands is the longest stretch of grassy balds in the Appalachian Mountains. The Appalachian Trail navigates this stunning ridge, hopping from Carvers Gap to Round Bald to Jane Bald, and on to the 6,169 foot Grassy Ridge Bald. The...

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Foster Creek Conservation Easement, North Mills River

Sometimes even the most benign little trail can be filled with wondrous surprises. Nestled in a small valley between Bryson and Caney Mountains in North Mills River, North Carolina, and surrounded by Pisgah National Forest, the Foster Creek conservation easement and trail is just such a place. Barely a mile in length, and nearly flat, this four-season trail is ideal for...

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Appalachian Trail to Max Patch and Buckeye Ridge

Standing guard along the state line, Max Patch Mountain is a grassy bald with fabulous panoramic views of the surrounding North Carolina and Tennessee Great Smoky Mountains. Oh, and by the way, the celebrated Appalachian Trail crosses its 4,629 foot summit. So far as Southern Appalachian summits go, this one is moderately short and easy, but you can make a day of it by...

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Appalachian Trail to Charlies Bunion, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Appalachian Trail straddles the Tennessee/North Carolina state line in Great Smoky Mountains National Park for more than 70 miles. A particularly scenic day hike on the AT is the four mile stretch from Newfound Gap to Charlies Bunion, a remote and rugged outcropping that sits on the ridge between the states. Along this sharp ridge you will pass magnificent views of...

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Foothills Trail from Sassafras Mountain, SC to Gum Gap, NC

Hiking a state line offers interesting boundary markers and competing blaze markings. This hike on the Foothills Trail follows the boundary from the highest point in South Carolina — Sassafras Mountain — to a convenient end point at Gum Gap in North Carolina. Because of the length, for us this was a two vehicle hike, with one left at each end. Expect a roller...

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Mountains to Sea Trail to Fork Ridge, Middle Prong Wilderness

Back to Rough Butt Bald Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and another visit to the Mountains to Sea Trail. The MST follows, or remains close to the Parkway through much of Western North Carolina, so there are a number of easily accessible jumping off points that head into the backcountry. Middle Prong Wilderness was designated in 1984 and spans rugged high-elevation...

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Funneltop Mountain and Squirrel Gap to South Mills River, Pisgah National Forest

Southeast of the Cradle of Forestry National Historical Site is a remote area of Pisgah National Forest with trails that will take you along ridge lines with views of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Looking Glass Rock, then follow creeks and streams as they tumble down the mountains to the western end of South Mills River. You will encounter names like Squirrel Gap, Glady...

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Cat Gap Loop to Cedar Rock, Pisgah National Forest

Cedar Rock is one of several granite pluton monoliths found in the Davidson River area of Pisgah National Forest. More difficult to get to than its nearby brethren, Looking Glass and John Rock, Cedar Rock has outstanding long distance views from both the east and west sides of its summit. You will have to work to get there, climbing nearly 1,700 feet from the valley...

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Cat Gap Trail to Cedar Rock Falls and Long Branch, Pisgah National Forest

There is a series of waterfalls not far from the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education and State Fish Hatchery on Forest Road 475. Collectively known as Cedar Rock Falls, they carry Cedar Rock Creek on its plunge down the mountain to Davidson River. Access to these falls and the wetlands beyond is via the Cat Gap Trail, a jumping off connector trail for many of the...

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Rough Creek Watershed, Haywood County, North Carolina

The Rough Creek Watershed is 870 acres of protected mountain land north of Canton, North Carolina, in Haywood County. This is privately held land, so there are rules for hikers and mountain bikers, but it is open to the general public. The trail system is more than 10 miles, and incorporates historical road beds with well maintained single tracks for foot and bike...

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Pressley Cove and Maxwell Cove Trails, Pisgah National Forest

Perhaps you’re looking for a short hike that will really stretch your legs and get your heart pounding. Then you may want to consider the Pressley Cove/Maxwell Cove loop that is not too far from the Pisgah Ranger District headquarters. You’ll climb more than 1,400 feet in just a little over a mile through a beautiful poplar, oak and beech one-age forest....

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