Shortoff Mountain Trail, Linville Gorge Wilderness

Most of the attention in Linville Gorge is focused on the northern features. There are more trails, higher peaks, and family recreation areas. But the south gorge is every bit as compelling and beautiful, with spectacular panoramic views up the gorge and westward to Pisgah National Forest and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Shortoff Mountain is a thousand feet lower than its...

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Greybeard Trail, West Ridge Trail, and Big Piney Ridge Trail, Montreat

Montreat is a small community just north of Black Mountain, NC with a world renowned conference center, a college, and best for us, 20 miles of hiking trails that rival those in nearby Pisgah National Forest for quality and scenery. In particular, the Greybeard Trail is an exceptional workout that climbs more than 2300 feet to the summit of Greybeard Mountain on the Blue...

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Low Gap and Appalachian Trails to Mt. Cammerer, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

You don’t have to climb to 6000 feet to get spectacular views of the Smoky Mountains. In fact, Mt. Cammerer has some of the best views in the national park, yet doesn’t even reach 5000 feet. You can see Snowbird Mountain and the Pigeon River Gorge to the east, and Mt. Sterling south, and the full expanse of the national park to the west. Mt. Cammerer was...

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Snowball Trail at Craggy Gardens, Blue Ridge Parkway

Kind of an unusual name for the mountain this trail is named after, but it is at 5,200 feet, so the snow comes earlier in the season, and more frequently than in the valleys below. North of Asheville, NC on the Blue Ridge Parkway, this hike is in the Craggy Gardens area. There are splendid views of the Great Craggy Mountains and the Black Mountains from the three summits...

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Flat Laurel Creek Trail, Pisgah National Forest

Flat Laurel Creek is in the area just north of the Pisgah Ridge and in between the Shining Rock and Middle Prong Wildernesses. It drains from Sam Knob and Little Sam Knob and runs to the West Fork of the Pigeon River. The trail that bears its name starts at the headwater and travels 3.7 miles around the west side of Little Sam until it meets Hwy. 215 and joins the...

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Old Butt Knob and Shining Creek Trails Loop, Shining Rock Wilderness

Perhaps it seems I’ve been spending quite a bit of time hiking in the eastern section of Shining Rock Wilderness in recent months. I can’t help myself. The terrain is wild, the forests ever-changing, the views exhilarating, and the exercise invigorating. The elevation changes dramatically — more than two thousand feet. The air is cool and refreshing...

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Auger Hole Trail, Foothills Trail, and Canebrake Trail, Gorges State Park

Gorges State Park was developed as a unique partnership of industry, the environmental community and the state of North Carolina. In 1999 more than 10,000 acres of the Jocassee Gorges in Transylvania County were purchased by the state from Duke Energy Corporation. The transaction created a 2,900-acre Gameland managed by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, as well as...

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Big Green Trail, Panthertown, Nantahala National Forest

This is an extension of the trail report about the Panthertown Trail System in Nantahala National Forest from a previous post. When we explored Panthertown last November, we knew very little about it and kind of fumbled our way along the myriad of trails. Since, we have studied the trail system map and had a plan that included going to the top of Big Green Mountain, a...

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Greasy Cove Trail, Shining Rock Wilderness

Looking at a trail map or topographic map, the area of this hike within Shining Rock Wilderness can be somewhat confusing. There is the Greasy Cove Prong, a creek that runs off of the Grassy Cove Ridge. The trail is called Greasy Cove, but it starts/ends at Grassy Cove Top. I think the guys who named the area may have had a touch too much huckleberry wine. Regardless of...

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Ivestor Gap and Art Loeb Trails to The Narrows, Shining Rock Wilderness

This a continuation beyond the hike described in the Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain trail report. The Art Loeb Trail continues down the north side of Tennent Mountain to Grassy Cove. There it meets the Ivestor Gap Trail for a lengthy hike into Shining Rock Wilderness. The area was named by the Cherokee for the large deposits of quartz found along what has become...

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Rock Jock and Conley Cove Trails, Linville Gorge Wilderness

I will probably always be comparing Linville Gorge west rim trails that go down to the river to the Babel Tower Trail because that is the first one I hiked. Conley Cove is not quite as difficult because, unlike the straight-line trail that is Babel Tower, Conley Cove is a long continuous series of switchbacks. But, it is still a stern test of strength and stamina. This...

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Chestnut Branch and Big Creek Trails, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Sitting right along the Tennessee/North Carolina border in the far northeast corner of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an enjoyable section of forest and creek side trails that navigate the Big Creek area of the park. The Appalachian Trail goes through the area, as does the Benton MacKaye Trail, named for the planner of the AT. There are mountains in the region as...

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Hawksbill and Tablerock Mountains, Linville Gorge Wilderness

Linville Gorge runs north to south and has two entirely different rims. Trails on the west rim start on top and go down into the gorge to Linville River. Trails on the east rim go to a series of mountains that offer views into the full length of the gorge, and of the North Carolina Piedmont to the east and the Black Mountains to the west. There are a couple downward...

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Babel Tower Trail, Linville Gorge Wilderness

Explorer William Linville and his sons were scalped by Indians in 1766 in what would eventually become known as Linville Gorge. I do believe I’d be fine with going through life not having anything named for me. The Linville Gorge Wilderness in Burke County, NC was one of the first protected areas in the country under the Wilderness Act of 1964. I’ve enjoyed...

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Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain, Blue Ridge Parkway

Frequently. That is how many times I have done this hike. So many, I’ve lost count. I love the western North Carolina high country, and this area along the Blue Ridge Parkway known as Black Balsam has nearly a dozen peaks over 5,800 feet elevation, with Black Balsam Knob being the highest at 6,214. This area has some of the highest hiking on the Parkway. Many of...

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Pilot Cove/Slate Rock Creek Trails, Pisgah National Forest

Hidden deep within the Mills River area of Pisgah National Forest, the Pilot Cove/Slate Rock Creek loop trail is primarily a water feature hike. There are two notable waterfalls and several cascades on Slate Rock Creek, and views of Slate Rock through the trees. We encountered several creek crossings (some wading, some with log bridges), and a relatively young forest....

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Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

One of the enduring pleasures in the Tennessee portion of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is scaling the 6,593 feet of beauty that is Mt. LeConte. It isn’t quite the highest mountain in the park, but it is by far the tallest hike from its base. The summit is so popular, there are five distinct trails to the top, varying in distance and difficulty. My...

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Jonas Ridge and Shortoff Trails, Linville Gorge Wilderness

Formal protection of the Linville Gorge began in 1952, when the land was purchased with funds donated by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. When the Wilderness Act was approved by Congress and signed into law by President Johnson in 1964, the Linville Gorge Wilderness became one of the first formally designated Wilderness areas of the new National Wilderness Preservation System....

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Panthertown Trail System, Nantahala National Forest

Panthertown Valley lies in Nantahala National Forest near Cashiers and Lake Toxaway, North Carolina. The Forest Service, along with the Friends of Panthertown, have created a trail system in combination with old logging roads that lead to waterfalls, cliffs, bogs, deep forest and spectacular overlooks of the surrounding valley. Panthertown has been designated a Blue...

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Buckeye Gap, Haywood Gap, Blue Ridge Parkway

The Middle Prong Wilderness is west of North Carolina Hwy. 215 and north of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is named after the Middle Prong of the Little Pigeon River that runs through the heart of the wilderness. This is remote territory in the high country near 6000 feet. Prepare yourself for heavy breathing — from exertion, and from natural beauty. Buckeye Gap Trail...

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Fryingpan Mountain, Blue Ridge Parkway

Between North Carolina Scenic Hwy. 276 and the Pisgah Inn is Fryingpan Mountain, one of a series of mountains along the north side of the Blue Ridge Parkway that help form the Pisgah Ridge. It sits at mile 410 on the parkway. A unique feature of Fryingpan is the 1940s era fire tower that affords spectacular views of the surrounding Blue Ridge. The tower is on the...

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