Asheville Glamping's guests often call or email to ask what our favorite hikes are in the Asheville area. We have finally sat down to make a list of our top 5 favorite hikes around Asheville NC- with directions! It was hard to choose just five, so we picked the places we end up visiting over and over again. We hope you enjoy these hikes as much as we do!
1.) CRAB TREE FALLS-
This popular, short 4.14 mile loop descends on a moderate path to a gorgeous 70 ft waterfall, one of the most photographed waterfalls in our area. You'll climb up a steep section for a short distance, then hike a wide, easy trail beside the stream. The hike starts in a Blue Ridge Parkway campground so you'll enjoy a beautiful drive on the way to the falls. You'll share this trail with many others during the summer, but if it's winter (and especially if the gate is closed), you'll likely have it all to yourself.
From Asheville, follow the Blue Ridge Parkway north for 41 miles to the Crabtree Meadows area. Turn left and head into the former visitor center parking area. The signed trail starts at the northeast side of the parking area.
Formerly, you could park closer to the campground, but the small parking lot there was insufficient for the number of people who visit the falls and has been closed. So parking at the much larger visitor center is now required, along with hiking a short extension trail out to the old parking area and start of the trail. Fortunately, it's a nice addition to the trail which adds to the hike overall.
2.) CRAGGY GARDENS-
When folks ask me what the closest hike to Asheville is with amazing views, this is where we send them. Located at mile marker 364.1 off the Blue Ridge Parkway, Craggy gardens is just a half hour drive from downtown Asheville. It's also a short easy hike at just 1.4 miles and a loop trail. You have the option of extending your hike by picking up the Mountains to Sea trail from the same parking lot. Though a little steep in some places we'd consider this doable for families with kids. The short climb is worth the amazing 360 degree views from the clearing at the top and is even better in the late spring when the rhododendron is blooming!
Located on the Blue Ridge Parkway only about 30 minutes from downtown Asheville, the Craggy Gardens Trail starts at the Craggy Pinnacle parking lot at milemarker 364.1 (just beyond the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center at 364.6).
3.) MAX PATCH:
Speaking of 360 degree views- Max Patch has the absolute best views in Appalachia (just our opinion of course!). Though a bit more of a drive than some of the closer areas, the trek is well worth it and we recommend spending a good day here. The famous Appalachian trail crosses the top of Max patch and many thru-hikers consider this to be their favorite part of the 2,170 mile hike from Georgia to Maine...the owner of Asheville Glamping included among them! (if you didn't know, Joanna Cahill thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2006). The Summit is only a quick hike from the parking area (15 minutes or so) but you can extend your hike north or south on the Appalachian trail. Whatever you do, you'll want to make sure to spend a good amount of time just laying up on top of the bald and soaking up this incredible view!
Directions: (you will be taking some dirt roads, so make sure you're car can handle it before picking this hike) Take I-40 West about 40 miles to exit 7 (Harmon's Den). Take a right on Cold Springs Road, and the road almost immediately becomes gravel. This usually well-graded road climbs steadily but never steeply 6.2 miles to SR-1182 (Max Patch Road). 4WD recommended in winter and wet weather. Turn left and drive 1.5 miles to the Max Patch parking area on the right. Allow an hour to drive.
4.) Mt. Mitchell:
If you didn't know, Mount Mitchell is the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi River at 6,684 ft. You have two options for this hike. You can hike all the way up from the bottom and make this a 12 mile, strenuous, day hike...or you can drive all the way up to the summit and hike around as far and long as you wish. The 12 mile option starts from the Black Mountain Campground and as you ascend you'll notice a slow change in the vegetation around you as the elevation increases. Make sure to pack warm clothes, even on a hot summer day, because the summit can be 20 degrees cooler than the land below.
Directions: The best way to get to Mt. Mitchell's peak from Asheville is via the Blue Ridge Parkway (Milepost 355.4). From the Parkway's Folk Center, just outside of Asheville, it's a 27-mile beautiful drive (mostly up!). Allow one hour to drive, since traffic can be slow and you'll want to stop at overlooks along the way. This section of the Parkway is closed much of the winter. The alternate route is to take I-40 East from Asheville to Exit 86 (Marion). Follow U.S. 221 North about 10 miles to U.S. 70 West. Go about two miles to NC Highway 80 and go north to the Parkway. Drive south on the Parkway to the entrance of Mt. Mitchell State Park. Also see: Mount Mitchell Scenic Byway.
If you choose to hike all the way from the bottom, get directions to The Black Mountain Campground here.
5.) LOOKING GLASS ROCK:
We like to call it "The half Dome of the South", while we might be exaggerating a little, Looking Glass is still an impressive site and a great hike with big view rewards. Just 45 minutes from Asheville, the drive is well worth it. It's 6 miles round trip and will take about 3 hours to complete. Just make sure to not get too close to the edge- and be especially vigilant of children.
Directions: from Downtown Asheville (about 36 miles): Take I-240 West / I-26 East. Continue on I-26 East to Exit 40 for Highway 280 (and the Asheville Airport). Take a right onto Highway 280 West and go 16 miles toward Brevard. As you enter the Brevard area, you will see a big shopping center on the right (with Wal-Mart). Just past the center, turn right onto US Highway 276 North (Forest Heritage Scenic Byway) to enter the Pisgah National Forest. Go 5.3 miles and turn left at the sign for Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education and the State Fish Hatchery. Go 4/10 of a mile and look for the parking area on the right for Looking Glass Rock Trail Head. For more information about the many hiking trails in Pisgah National Forest, stop at their Visitors Center on US 276 on the way to the trailhead.
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