If you are an outdoorsman and love to hike, there’s several options for you in the Boone area. Some hikes are challenging, some not so much, but most offer scenery and options for photographers in the spring, summer, fall or winter.
The trails listed below are just a handful but please do your research before you decide to hike. Flip-flops are not what you want to wear on a hike.
Blue Ridge Parkway Trails
Trails located along the Blue Ridge Parkway offer hikers just about any level of trekking their hearts might desire. Some of the trails are long and challenging, others are short loops leading to waterfalls or scenic vistas. For more information, phone (828) 295-7591 or (828) 295-3782.
• Mountains to the Sea Trail: The trail is broken down into sections. The sections closest to Boone is sections 13-17: Blue Ridge Parkway North Beacon Heights to Devil’s Garden Overlooks. It covers 88-miles and crosses several main roadways. It actually begins at the rugged base of Grandfather Mountain. For more information visit the website: www.ncmst.org.
• Doughton Park Trails: Doughton Park, located in Ashe County near Laurel Springs, has over 30 miles of hiking trails ranging from modest strolls to day-long outings. Some examples include: Bluff Mountain Trail: 7.5 miles, moderate; Cedar Ridge Trail: 4.4 miles, strenuous; Grassy Gap Fire Road: 6.5 miles, easy (horses allowed); Basin Creek Trail: 6.6 miles, moderate; Fodder Stack Trail: 2 miles, moderate. Milepost 241. Call (336) 372-8568 for trail maps.
• The Cascades Trail: One of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s most scenic trails—and one of its easiest—this 0.5 mile turn-around leads to the scenic Cascades waterfalls. It begins at the Cascades parking lot, about three miles north of Deep Gap, Milepost 271.9.
• Moses Cone Carriage Trails: Easy to moderate. The Moses Cone Park includes 25 miles of gently sloping carriage trails of varying lengths, available to hikers, joggers, horseback riders and cross-country skiers. Most trails begin near the Moses Cone Manor, Milepost 294.0.
• Green Knob Trail: Starting at Sims Pond (Milepost 295), this moderate 2.4 mile trail winds along a stream through rhododendron forest, then changes scenery to climb up along a ridgeline.
• Boone Fork Trail: A moderate/strenuous loop leading through deep woods and along a cascading river of 4.9 miles in length. The trailhead is located in the Price Park Picnic Area, Milepost 296.5.
• Price Lake Trail: An easy trail leading around scenic Price Lake for 2.7 miles. If you are lucky the beavers will be working. Trailhead is at Price Lake parking area, Milepost 297.0.
• Tanawha Trail: This trail, 13 miles in length, can be started at either the Price Park Campground, in Blowing Rock, or at the Linn Cove Viaduct’s parking lot, at Grandfather Mountain (Milepost 305.5). Check with Grandfather Mountain for a map of the trail.
• Linn Cove Viaduct Access Trail: The world-famous Linn Cove Viaduct, an engineering masterpiece, can best be seen from this trail, which begins at the Linn Cove Visitor Center, Milepost 304.4. The trail actually travels underneath the bridge, giving hikers an unparalleled view of this unique construction project. The trail is handicapped accessible for part of the way, and is a relatively easy stroll, but does link up with the Mountains to the SeaTrail, Nuwati, Boone Fork and the Tanawha Trail.
• Beacon Heights: A short hike gives you access to great views of Grandfather, the Linville Falls area, Hawksbill, and Table Rock. A nice place to hang out in the sun. Milepost 305.2.
• Linville Falls Trails: Several trails begin at the Linville Falls Visitor Center, in Linville Falls. All less than a mile in length, some lead to the top of the falls while two lead to the bottom of Linville Falls. All are recommended, although the lower falls trails can be a bit strenuous but give the better images from below. Milepost 316.4.
• Linville River Bridge Trail: This very short trail takes you down to the Linville River underneath one of the oldest old arched stone bridges on the Parkway. Picnic tables, restrooms, and water are all available. Going North on the Parkway, take a left towards the Linville picnic area and another left just before entering the picnic area. Milepost 316.5.
• Chestoa View Loop Trail: A little over a half a mile long, this trail gives you a great view of Table Rock. Milepost 320.8.
• Crabtree Falls Trail: A strenuous 2.6 mile loop which leads to both the bottom and top of Crabtree Falls. This trail begins and ends in the Crabtree Falls Campground’s parking area, near Little Switzerland, Milepost 339.5.
• Other Trails: Several small trails of varying difficulty dot the Parkway south past the Linn Cove Viaduct. For a listing of mileposts and trail lengths, call the Gillespie Gap ranger office at (828) 765-6082.
Elk Knob State Park and Summit Trail
• Elk Knob State Park: A hidden state park with a primary trail is called the Summit trail. This 1.9 mile trail climbs from the trailhead parking area to the summit, winding through many swithchbacks along the way. It features one of the highest peaks in North Carolina’s high country at 5,520 feet.
Grandfather Mountain Trails
Grandfather Mountain, one of the tallest and most rugged in the Eastern United States, is crisscrossed with well maintained trails, most of them for experienced hikers. Some lead into Grandfather’s deep woods, but most scale cliffs that can sometimes be dizzying in height. Always carry water, food and a trail map and wear sturdy boots.
Permits are required for trail access, and hikers are strongly advised to exercise caution in case of thunderstorms or other adverse weather conditions. For further information phone (828) 733-2013 or (828) 737-0833, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or look online at www.grandfather.com.
Park Side Trails
• The Bridge Trail: Grandfather’s newest trail begins at the Black Rock Parking Area and meanders through forested areas, eventually traveling underneath the Mile High Swinging Bridge. An easy 30 minute walk.
• Black Rock Nature Trail: This self-guided nature trail begins in the parking lot just below Grandfather’s Swinging Bridge and is good for beginning hikers. It’s a 1.0 mile turn-around through the forests of this majestic mountain. Offers an excellent view.
• Grandfather Trail: This is the big one! It begins at Grandfather Mountain’s Mile High Swinging Bridge and eventually hits all of Grandfather’s three highest peaks. This 2.4 mile trail requires approximately 5 hours of hiking time to travel the entire length. It’s extremely rugged, with only wooden ladders making some sheer cliff faces accessible. It intersects with several other trails at its northern terminus.
• Underwood Trail: 0.5 mile bypass around McRae Peak that lets hikers avoid most of the ladders, ropes and/or severe weather on the peak. There is one ladder. Strenuous and rocky.
West Side Trails
• Profile Trail: 3.3 miles. The lower part of the trail is an easy out-and-back leg stretcher, but the upper section is fairly strenuous. Links with Calloway Trail. The trailhead is located near the Shoppes of Tynecastle on Highway 105 in Banner Elk.
• Calloway Trail: 0.3 mile strenuous trail that links the Profile Trail (at Shanty Spring) and the Grandfather Trail (at Calloway Gap)
• Bottom-to-Top Linked Trail Outing: Profile Trail (3.3 miles) to Calloway Peak (.3 miles) Very strenuous – an all day outing for serious hikers only.
East Side Trails
• Daniel Boone Scout Trail: Strenuous. Ascends 2,000 feet in just 2.6 miles (allow 4.5 hours for round trip). Recommended access is from the Boone Fork Parking Area via the Tanawha Trail. Strenuous and steep trail to Calloway Peak, the highest point in the Blue Ridge.
• Nuwati Trail: 1.2 miles, easy but rocky. Located 0.4 miles on Tanawha Trail from Boone Fork Parking Area.
• Cragway Trail: Rocky and strenuous trail that links Nuwati and Daniel Boone Scout Trails. Beautiful views from this trail. 1.0 mile.
• Asutsi Trail: 0.4 mile. An easy connecting trail from Hwy 221 at Serenity Farm to Boone Fork Footbridge. Provides winter access to the East Side Trails.
Permits are required for hiking all Grandfather Mountain trails and are available at the following locations:
Grandfather Mountain Main Entrance, U.S. 221, Linville. Trailhead entrances at the Nuwati and Profile Trail provide a free permit into the park.
Linville Falls Trails
Duggers Creek Trail: Real short trail (.2) just before the Linville Falls information center. There is a waterfall, a small one, at the end as this flows down to the Linville River.
Plunge Basin Trail: This is a moderate hike with some rugged spots but by far the best vantage point to view the Linville Falls. There is a pool of water at the bottom that is home to river otters if you can catch them out fishing. Length is .72 with a great payoff.
Plunge Basin Overlook Trail: This is an easy section that is .5 in length. It will take you to the overlook of the waterfall and basin. Steps leading down can be slick at times and stay off the rock walls.
Linville Falls Trails (upper): This .97 mile trail takes you to a few different places to view Linville Falls and the gorge. The upper falls are your first stop and you can see where the river plunges down a water chute with significant power. Next views you can see the waterfall from the Chimney view, Erwin view and another view much further back. There are well traveled views with plenty of visitors. It is easy and wide to hike.
Linville Gorge Trails
Here is a list of some of the more popular and longer trails in the Gorge area. The Linville Gorge Wilderness is one of the most remote, rugged wilderness areas in the entire Eastern United States. Trails are marked at the trailhead, but are not signed or blazed once inside the wilderness. Make sure you know how to read a topographical map and use a compass. Be prepared!
Some trails include crossings of the Linville River–exercise extreme caution when crossing moving water. Hikers, campers, and rock climbers get lost within this wilderness area annually, and deaths are not uncommon. Contact the U.S. Forest Service office in Marion for maps, permits, information on other trails, and safety details. Permits are required for overnight outings. For more information, phone (828) 652-2144.
Center Gorge Trail
Linville Gorge Trail: 11.5 miles ranging from easy to strenuous, well-marked to poorly maintained. Not for beginners! Take your compass and topo map and enjoy riverside hiking through virgin forest in the bottom of the gorge.
West Rim Trails
• Sandy Flats Trail: A strenuous trail on the west rim of the Linville Gorge. 1.3 mile in length and rather poorly maintained – be careful!
• Pine Gap Trail: A short .73 hike to the river that is easy. There is a campsite at the end and it also merges with the Linville Gorge Trail.
• Babel Tower Trail: Located on the West rim, this trail has an elevation change of 1,000 feet within 1.3 miles but is well maintained. The end of this trail brings you to rock towers and campsites that are a nice place to stay overnight. It also hooks up with the Linville Gorge Trail. • Cabin Trail: A strenuous, very strenuous, 1-mile descent starting at Forest Service Road 1238 that connects with the Linville Gorge Trail. Poorly marked in some places but there are erosion issues on this trail which makes it tough to traverse, so take your map and compass and exercise extra caution.
• Cambric Branch Trail: Accessed from Shortoff Mountain Trail, this 1.2 mile trail descends along a ridgeline into the gorge. Your strenuous exercise is rewarded with good views but this trail has been taken off the travel maps.
• Conley Cove: This is a popular trail thanks to its more gradual descent into the gorge. It accesses Rock Jock Trail on the way to the gorge floor. A moderate 1.3 mile hike with good views along the way.
• Bynum Bluff Trail: One mile long, this west rim trail starts out easy but becomes strenuous. A short spur from the main trail leads to great views of the river and gorge.
• Rock Jock Trail: This is a rocky, well maintained trail that is 4 miles in length. You will see plenty of spur trails off of this one, especially from the Conley Cove access side, that give you plenty of views up and down the Gorge. There are some nice campsites on this route.
• Pinch In Trail: The southernmost access trail into the wilderness area, this very steep and rocky trail is a strenuous 1.4 miles that affords good views.This trail is a workout and not many switchbacks for a good rest.
• Overmountain Victory Trail: The Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, established by Congress in 1980, commemorates the campaign that led to the Battle of Kings Mountain. This section runs from Kistler Memorial Highway (1238) up to Road 1560 for about 3.5 miles. This trail is actually much longer at about 330 miles.
East Rim Trails
• Brushy Ridge Trail: This trail head originates at the backend of Gingercake. It is considered a primitive trail but is flat for most of the hike until you start to descend to the river. Total length is 4.24 roundtrip. Great views of the river snaking through the Gorge with the cliffs visible for great photos.
• Devil’s Hole Trail: Tough and strenuous trail that is not well marked as you get down further. Considered primitive but a cool payoff when you get to the river. (1.5 miles)
• Jonas Ridge Trail: The Jonas Ridge Trail official begins in Gingercake Acres and takes you over Gingercake Mountain and ends at Sitting Bear Mountain but connects with Hawksbill Trail. It is an easy hike but a nice hike. (4.4 mile roundtrip)
• Little Table Rock Trail: This is a moderate trail that has about a 1.000 foot elevation gain. It is somewhat primitive in sports but does have some campsites as well as two water points. You can access this trail from the Table Rock Trail or from the Spence Ridge Trail (1.6 miles).
• Spence Ridge Trail: A moderate 1.7 mile descent from the east rim to the gorge floor, this is a well-used access point to the area. Cross the river to connect to the Linville Gorge Trail. The Little Table Rock Trail connects with this trail.
• Table Rock Summit Trail: 1.4 miles, moderate. This trail ascends from the Table Rock parking area to the towering, 4,000 foot summit on the rim of the gorge. Views are worth the hike. The Mountains to the Sea Trail uses/crosses over this trail.
• Shortoff Mountain Trail: A moderate 10 mile roundtrip starts at the Table Rock parking area. The 2.6 mile trail follows the dramatic edge of the Linville Gorge to Shortoff Mountain, with great views of the gorge, Lake James, and the NC Piedmont and ends at Wolfpit. It also is part of the Mountains to the Sea Trail system.
• Hawksbill Trail: This 1.5 mile moderate roundtrip starts on Forest Service road 210. The short steep hike goes to the top of Hawksbill Mountain. The top provides beautiful views of the gorge and back to Table Rock. This is a must see for photographers.
• Wolf Pit Trail: Wolf Pit Road is where the trailhead begins up to the Mountains to the Sea Trail and Shortoff Trail. Go to Shortoff Mountain and Table Rock or to the West Rim’s Pinnacle. Either way, the trip up, or down, is 1.1 in length and has some elevation gain.
Wilson Creek Proposed Wilderness Area
The Wilson Creek Proposed Wilderness area, National Forest Service land composed of Lost Cove Ridge and the Harper’s Creek Area, borders the Blue Ridge Parkway in Avery County. Twenty-five miles of primitive wilderness trails offer excellent hiking and backpacking opportunities for travelers in this little-known, out of the way (but only about 45 minutes from Boone!) wilderness area.
Call Pisgah National Forest at (828) 682-2144 for details. Maps available through the Pisgah office or area outfitters. The following are a few of the trails offered in this area:
• Huntfish Falls: Moderately strenuous, 1.4 mile roundtrip descends steeply to a big pool beneath a 10 ft. falls. Starts on forest service road 464.
• Lost Cove Trail: This moderate 6 mile roundtrip starts at Huntfish Falls and follows Lost Cove Creek for 3 miles.
• Big Lost Cove Cliffs Trail: Easy 3 mile roundtrip starts on forest service road (FSR) 464. Offers excellent view of Grandfather Mountain.
• Wilson Creek Trail/Wilson Creek Access/White Rocks Trail: These three trails combine to create an 8.8 mile, moderate to strenuous outing. Offers remote outdoors with fishing, abundant wildlife and rugged terrain.
• Harper Creek Trail: Strenuous 6.3 mile trail, connects to 9 other area trails, leading to gorgeous waterfalls, aspiring views, and excellent backpacking opportunities.
Mount Jefferson Park
Mount Jefferson State Park covers 541 acres and hikers can view North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. The abundance of plants and shrubs led to the area’s protection in 1975. For more info, phone (336) 246-9653.
• Rhododendron Trail: A moderate 1.1 mile trail that starts near the end of the summit trail. Self-guided booklets are available at the trailhead, providing information about points of interest at various stations along the trail. The trail is at its most beautiful in early June when the purple-flowered Catawba rhododendron is in bloom. Magnificent view of summit ridge and valley below.
• Summit Trail: Beginning at the parking lot on Mount Jefferson, the summit trail passes through the picnic ground and ascends 0.3 miles to the highest point on Mount Jefferson. Moderate.
• Lost Province Trail: This is a 0.75 mile loop extending off the end of the Rhododendron loop, near Luther Rock, and is relatively easy.
Roan Mountain Trails
Roan Mountain and the Roan Mountain Highlands straddle the North Carolina/Tennessee border about a 45 minute drive from Boone. Several designated hiking trails, ranging up to four miles in length and varying in difficulty, meander through the park’s forests and stretches of Grassy Balds. For the experienced hiker, the famed Appalachian Trail crosses Roan Mountain at one of its most scenic junctures. The top of the mountain is open from April to October. For more information, phone (423) 772-3314.
• Cloudland Trail: A 3-mile intermediate trail, the Cloudland Trail follows the crest of Roan Mountain, with a trailhead at the top of the Roan.
• Gardens Trail: This trail, 1 mile in length, is paved and travels throughout Roan Mountain’s famed rhododendron gardens which usually bloom in June. This trail is handicapped accessible.
• Appalachian Trail: The Appalachian Trail crosses Roan Mountain, literally going “right over the top.” It’s difficult trekking in spots, but well worth the effort. The view is beautiful and if you are lucky the horses might be grazing in the field. Check the AT trail maps for shelters and springs if you plan on a trail trek.
Beech Mountain Trails – Emerald Outback
A series of nature trails in the Emerald crisscross Beech Mountain, all passing through gently sloping woodlands and passing over several of Beech’s main roadways. Main trail head is off of Oz Road. This trail system also allows for mountain bikers so share the trail and be on the lookout for each other. For more information, phone (828) 387-9283 or visit www.hikingbeechmtn.com.
• Oz Forest Run: Magnificent view of Roan Mountain. Easy 1 mile hike.
• Wizard’s Way: Complete a loop from Oz Forest Run back to the Emerald Outback Summit Lot. Makes easy access to Southern Ridge. Easy .28 hike.
• Jackalope’s: A 1.3 mile moderate to advanced trail. It crosses a small creek on a wooden bridge and Zig Zag falls.
• Southern Ridge: The most strenuous of the trails, 1.3 miles, in this system with some cool rock formations. Elk River Valley, Awesome Oz and Pride Rock overlooks are on this trail.
• Northview: An easy .7 mile trail. Mostly and easy connector trail.
• Chamberlin’s Loop: A moderate .8 mile loop. You can access this loop from the Southern Ridge or Northview trails. This trail takes you through hardwood forests and grassy open areas. If you are lucky you will spot some deer along the way.
• West Bowl Connector: A 1.2 mile moderate to advanced trail that has 27 switchbacks because of the descent. Follow signs for Smoketree or West Bowl Loop trails and have plenty of water and food because this trail is the furthest away from the lodge.
• Bailout Emergency: Bailout Gravel Road is roughly one mile running in one direction and trails can be accessed from this road.
Other Trails on Beech Mountain:
• Lake Coffey Course: This scenic 1/4 mile course wraps around the lake and is perfect for both walking and jogging.
• Pond Creek Trail: This easy to moderate 2 mile trail begins at Tamarack Road, following the creek past Lake Coffey to Locust Ridge Road. The lower end of the trail has a few small waterfalls. Park at Perry Park area.
• Grassy Creek Trail: This easy 1.2 mile trail follows the creek from Hawthorn Road and ends at Grassy Gap Creek Road.
• Cherry Gap Trail: An easy to moderate 1.6 mile walk up undeveloped Wild Iris Road. Start at Cherry Gap Road.
• Buckeye Gap Loop Trail: Moderate 8.4 miles.
• West Bowl Buckeye Creek Trail: Moderate 3.4 miles.
• Grassy Gap Creek Trail: Easy to moderate 2 miles.
• Smoketree Trail: Easy to moderate 2 mile loop.