Carolina Outdoors Guide – Parks & ForestsCampingHikingAdventures

North Carolina Hiking

Parks and recreation areas across North Carolina offer hiking opportunities that range from leg-stretching nature walks to backpacking routes that run from border to border.  North Carolina is home to several national recreation trails, including portions of the Appalachian Trail and the Bartram Trail, and the entire Uwharrie National Recreation Trail, plus its own Mountains-to Sea Trail.

Our hiking pages mostly list trails of 5 miles or more in various parks and forests. Trail names, lengths (one-way) and difficulty levels may differ among publications. Check at park offices or ranger stations for maps and guides.

For the definitive guide to hiking in North Carolina, we recommend “North Carolina Hiking Trails” by Allen de Hart, which is a source for some of the information below.

Also, Joe Miller, the former outdoors/fitness reporter for The News & Observer in Raleigh, has published “100 Classic Hikes in North Carolina” and “Backpacking North Carolina.”

Continue below for hiking opportunities in national parks in North Carolina and at right for information about trails in national forests (including wilderness areas) state parks, state forests, and the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

National Parks Hiking Links …

Note: National Parks websites change frequently. If a link below doesn’t work, it should lead to a Park Service page with a search tool. Try a search; the feature we linked to probably still exists.

Appalachian National Scenic Trail
NPS Park Office
Harpers Ferry Center
Harpers Ferry, WV 25425
(304) 535-6278

Appalachian Trail Conservancy
799 Washington Street
Harpers Ferry, WV 25425-0807
(304) 535-6331
(Interactive Map)

The 2,181-mile Appalachian Trail runs from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. There are about 300 miles of the trail in North Carolina or along the North Carolina/Tennessee border between Bly Gap in Clay County (8.6 miles north of U.S. 76 in Georgia) and Elk Park on U.S. 19E in Avery County. With more than 500 access points, the entire trail covers six units of the National Park Service, eight national forests and 60 state parks and forests. The AT allows primitive camping and has three-sided shelters located at varying intervals along the trail.

Check the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Web site for detailed information about the whole AT, including sources for pocket-size guidebooks and trail maps.

Blue Ridge Parkway

There are more than 70 trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, from leg stretchers of as little as one tenth of a mile to hikes of several miles.
Parkway Map

Doughton Park Area
– Bluff Mountain Trail. Milepost 238.5 to MP 244.7 parallel to Parkway. Moderate, 7.5 miles.
– Grassy Gap Fire Road. MP 243.7 Moderate, 6.5 miles.
– Flat Rock Ridge Trail. MP 244.7 Moderate/strenuous, 5 miles.

Julian Price Park/Grandfather Mountain Area
– Boone Fork Trail. Milepost 297, in Julian Price Memorial Park. Moderate, 5 miles. 
– Tanawha Trail. MP 297 to 305.5 parallel to Parkway. Moderate/strenuous, 13.5 miles.

Moses Cone Park/Grandfather Mountain Area
Cone Park (Milepost 294) offers 25 miles of gently sloping carriage roads.

Linville Falls Area
– Woods Mountain Trail. MP 344.1 Moderate/strenuous, 10.6 miles.
– Big Butt Trail. MP 359.8 Strenuous, 6.2 miles (mostly on National Forest land).

Craggy Gardens Area
– Douglas Falls Trails. MP 363.4 Strenuous, 8 miles (round trip).
– Mountains-to-Sea Trail, Segment 3. Crosses the park from MP 382 (Folk Art Center) to MP 359.8 (Balsam Gap (North)). Moderate/strenuous, 22.7 miles in Craggy Gardens area.
– Snowball Mountain Trail. MP 367.6 Moderate to strenuous, 8 miles.

Mount Pisgah Area
– Laurel Mountain Trail. MP 408 Moderate, 7.2 miles. Spur off the Buck Spring Trail (Mountains-to-Sea Trail).
– Shut-In Trail. MP 408 Moderate to strenuous, 16.3 miles.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

– Cape Hatteras Beach Trail. Whalebone Junction in Nags Head (U.S.64/264/158/N.C.12) to Town of Ocracoke. Moderate/strenuous, 75.8 miles. This “trail,” as identified by de Hart and the Mountains-to-Sea Trail project includes the line of the shore, the shoulder of N.C. 12 and the Hatteras Ferry, in addition to portions that are marked. de Hart rates the trail as moderate, but points out that conditions include open stretches of sand with wind and unrelenting sun.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has more than 850 miles of trail on more than 500,000 acres of land in North Carolina and Tennessee.
Information below is drawn from this trail map.

Trails often connect and cross each other, offering extended hikes and looping routes. Horseback riding is allowed on many trails, including those listed below.

Each area identified below is anchored by a campground for which general directions are given, except for the North Shore Area and the Twentymile Creek Area. The North Shore Area represents the northern shore of Fontana Lake and is accessible by a road at either end. There is a ranger station at Twentymile Creek. The trailhead for each trail listed is at or near the campground, ranger station or the road at either end of Fontana Lake.

Here is the park’s maps page. The maps below are campground maps or Google maps.

Balsam Mountain Area (Caldwell County, on Heintooga Ridge Road off the Blue Ridge Parkway at MP 458.2) (Map)
– Balsam Mountain Trail. Moderate/Strenuous, 10.1 miles.
– Rough Fork Trail. Strenuous, 6.4 miles. Other end of trail is in Cataloochee Area.
– Hemphill Bald Trail. Strenuous, 8.5 miles.

Big Creek Area (Haywood County, near Waterville, off I-40 at exit 451 in Tennessee) (Map).
– Big Creek Trail. Moderate, 5.3 miles.
– Baxter Creek Trail. Strenuous, 6.2 miles.

Cataloochee Area (Haywood County, near Cove Creek Gap, off I-40 at exit 20)
– Pretty Hollow Gap Trail. Strenuous, 5.6 miles.
– Cataloochee Divide Trail. Moderate, 6.4 miles.
– Caldwell Fork Trail. Moderate, 6.3 miles.
– Little Cattalooche Trail. Moderate, 5.1 miles.
– Rough Fork Trail. Strenuous, 6.4 miles. Other end of trail is in Balsom Mountain Area.

Smokemont Area (Swain County, on U.S. 441, approximately 7 miles north of Cherokee) (Map)
– Mountains to Sea Trail. The MST begins at Clingmans Dome with a 68.9-mile segment to Waterrock Knob and an alternative route of 49.5 miles through the river valley to Waterrock Knob. Strenuous.

Deep Creek Area (Swain County, north of Bryson City) (Map)
– Deep Creek Trail. Strenuous, 10.9 miles. Including 2-mile Deep Creek Horse Trail.
– Thomas Divide Trail. Strenuous, 13.3. Horseback riding allowed on portion of trail.
– Noland Divide Trail. Strenuous, 11.5.

North Shore Area (Swain County, north of Fontana Lake, accessible via Lakeview Drive from Bryson City (Locator Map) or off N.C. 28 at Fontana Dam (Locator Map)

– Hazel Creek Trail. Strenuous, 14.7 miles. (Off of Lakeshore Trail in Fontana Dam area)
– Jenkins Ridge Trail. Strenuous, 8.9 miles. (Off of Hazel Creek Trail)
– Noland Creek Trail. Strenuous, 10.2 miles. (Lakeview Drive)
– Lakeshore Trail. Easy to Strenuous, 33.5 miles. (Lakeview Drive to Fontana Dam area)
– Eagle Creek Trail. Strenuous, 8.7 miles. (Fontana Dam area)

Twentymile Creek Area (Swain County, on N.C. 28 about 6 miles west of Fontana Village) (Locator Map)
– Twentymile Trail. Strenuous, 5 miles.
– Wolf Ridge Trail. Strenuous, 6.3 miles.

Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail
2635 Park Road
Blacksburg, SC 29702
(864) 936-3477
The Overmountain Victory Trail commemorates the campaign leading to the Revolutionary War battle of Kings Mountain by following the route of Patriot militia men from Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina to the battle site at Kings Mountain National Military Park, South Carolina. The 330-mile length of the trail is under development with more than 50 miles now accessible.

– Overmountain Victory NHT, Elkin. 3.75 miles.
– Yadkin River Greenway, Wilkesboro. 4.25 miles.
– Overmountain Victory NHT, W. Kerr Scott Dam and Reservoir, Wilkesboro. 11 miles.
– Gillespie Gap, Blue Ridge Parkway, Spruce Pine. 5.75 miles.
– Trail No. 308 & Road No. 1238, Pisgah National Forest. 4.1 miles.
– Overmountain Victory NHT, Lake James State Park, Nebo. 1.5 miles.
– Catawba River Greenway, Morganton. 5 miles.
– Overmountain Victory NHT, Rutherfordton. 3 miles.

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Choose A NC Hiking Adventure…

Hiking in National Parks in NC

Hiking in North Carolina State Parks

Hiking in National Forests in NC

Hiking NC’s Mountains-to-Sea Trail

Hiking in NC State Forests