Hiking North Carolina  by Randy Johnson

Hiking North Carolina Guide Book

by Randy Johnson (Falcon Guides)
Hiking North Carolina  by Randy Johnson
With full color photographs and maps, this thoroughly updated and revised 2016 third edition is a guide to more than 500 hiking trails in all regions of the state, from the Great Smokies and the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Piedmont and the Outer Banks.

© 2016 Randy Johnson/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Hiking North Carolina" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 51.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 51.

Each spring, hundreds of people hoist heavy packs onto their backs and strain down a misty trail, intent on accomplishing the most difficult task of their lives: going the length of the Appalachian Mountains. The footpath links a tree-covered mountaintop in Georgia and a rock-capped summit in central Maine. The trail winds for 300 miles across western North Carolina, home to some of its highest elevations and most spectacular scenery. Nearly 70 years old, the Appalachian Trail (AT) was the first organized recreational avenue to wilderness. Today there are many long-distance trails, but none equals the AT.
Elk Park, NC - Hiking - Trail Length: Up to 324 miles
Any hiker in North Carolina, especially a mountain-lover, eventually gets to hip, happenin’ Asheville. More Blue Ridge Parkway visitors enter and exit the road in Asheville than at any other place. The biggest attraction is the must-see Biltmore House and Gardens, George W. Vanderbilt’s 250-room summer place that is the United States’ largest home. Beyond breathtaking gardens, interiors, and artwork, the estate has hiking, mountain biking, and kayaking. The fancy Inn on Biltmore Estate and the estate’s new Village Hotel, near Antler Hill Village and winery, are the perfect platforms for sampling Biltmore-raised foods, wines, hiking, biking and paddling.
Asheville, NC - Hiking,Mountain Biking,Trail Running - Trail Length: 1.7-3.4 miles
Environmentalists balk at being too positive about upscale private islands, but Bald Head is a rarity. The exclusive resort is flanked by an extensive, well-preserved virgin forest of trees up to 300 years old, the state’s best example of mature maritime forest where live oaks spread their massive, wind-gnarled crowns. The public can spend the night here—many of the island’s homes and condos can be rented—which gives guests temporary access to Bald Head Island Club amenities (golf course, tennis, swimming pool, marina, a fine dining room). You can also spend the day on the island—just for the cost of a ferry ride. There are no cars on Bald Head Island, so an electric shuttle meets the ferry.
Southport, NC - Birding,Hiking - Trail Length: 0.4-0.6 mile
The Glen Burney Trail makes it easy to wander away from your lodging on quaint village streets to virgin timber and tumbling waterfalls. This trail has been in use since the earliest days of human habitation in the North Carolina mountains. The scenic waterfall area that the trail explores was donated to the town in the early part of the century. The venerable old Glen Burney Trail leaves the landscaped parking area, crosses New Years Creek, and follows the stream amid towering beech and hemlock on a level, road- width path. Dipping left from the grade, the path descends a series of switchbacks into the gorge below.
Blowing Rock, NC - Hiking,Trail Running - Trail Length: 3
North Carolina’s Outer Banks are among the top island destinations in the East. Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the first such seaside park in the nation, makes up the bulk of this 80-mile island chain, which arcs 35 miles out into the ocean. NC 12 is the two-lane road that bisects these narrow, often less than 1-mile-wide islands. The drive is embraced by oceanside dunes and marshes that mesh with the watery horizon of Pamlico Sound on the west and the Atlantic Ocean on the east.
Nags Head, NC - Birding,Hiking - Trail Length: 0.3-5 miles
Established in 1966, Cape Lookout National Seashore protects the southern Outer Banks, one of the few remaining natural barrier- island ecosystems in the world. The park comprises three major islands that run 56 miles southeast from Beaufort Inlet to Cape Lookout and northeast to Ocracoke Inlet (the start of Cape Hatteras National Seashore). Portsmouth has become increasingly popular in recent years. The Salter House visitor center is open seasonally, June through September (check with the park for hours and the possible availability of interpretive activities). Or create your own tour. Pick up interpretive brochures from the visitor center or website and wander the village.
Portsmouth, NC - Fishing,Hiking - Trail Length: 1.5-3.4 miles
The Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation Department boasts a diverse system of trails, with 37 miles of greenways and nature preserves with singletrack trails. This award-winning county program helps protect local resources, such as a piece of the Piedmont Prairie at McDowell Nature Preserve. And it has just reclaimed a major urban stream corridor in downtown, the heart of a greenway expected to be 19 miles long and reach all the way to the South Carolina state line.Descriptions of the following trails are included: McAlpine Creek and James Boyce Parks; Little Sugar Creek Greenway and Freedom Park; McDowell Nature Preserve.
Charlotte, NC - Birding,Hiking - Trail Length: 1-8 miles
Like the bulk of Grandfather Mountain, Chimney Rock State Park is a once-privately owned commercial natural area that has become a state park. The park’s historic “tourist attraction” area is operated as a concession under state management, and a fee is still charged. The core of the tourist facilities are still much as they were before state ownership (with key recent improvements to meet state guidelines). Among those changes are the current closure of much of the summit Skyline Trail and the entire Cliff Trail (the latter one of the state’s most exciting hikes, where the cliff scenes in The Last of the Mohicans were filmed). You can still reach Exclamation Point, and the state’s master plan includes extending the Skyline Trail to additional viewpoints. Try one of these spectacular—and safe—circuit hikes through the stunningly vertical world of Hickory Nut Gorge and 404-foot Hickory Nut Falls.
Asheville, NC - Hiking - Trail Length: 0.7-1.5 miles
This is one of western North Carolina’s best waterfall hikes—especially on a sunny spring day after significant rain. Though only 253 acres, Crabtree Meadows Recreation Area, flanking Parkway mile-post 339, is a small but compelling scenic enclave. There’s also a campground and picnic area (a small snack bar/gift shop has been closed in recent years. Some Parkway concessions elsewhere are also struggling, check the website for the latest).
Asheville, NC - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.5-3 miles
How can names like Craggy Gardens, Craggy Dome, and Craggy Pinnacle not inspire hikers? Visible from all over northwest North Carolina, these barren crests offer awesome views. As the Blue Ridge Parkway climbs from Asheville, the sun often disappears in a Craggies-caused microclimate. Summits and clouds coalesce, lending the area the feel of much higher mountains. Be prepared for a truly peak experience. This part of the Parkway possesses some of the high road’s most dramatic scenery. You’ll swear the treeless Craggies compare with Scotland. Craggy Gardens is one of the best places to savor the beauty of the seemingly alpine balds and the late-June rhododendron bloom. This guide includes Craggy Pinnacle Trail and Craggy Gardens Trail and Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
Asheville, NC - Hiking - Trail Length: 0.8-6 miles
Croatan’s 160,000 acres compose the only true coastal national forest east of the Mississippi River. This unique region is far more than a bog-filled piney woods baking at the back door of the popular Crystal Coast vacation area. This is one of North Carolina’s most scenic, distinctive natural areas, and great trails make it accessible. The forest’s summer regime is buggy, snaky, hot, and humid. Some people like that. But don’t sweat it if you don’t. The cooler months of the year (excepting hunting seasons) are an awesome time to discover the area. There’s lush greenery year-round, and the nearby shores of Emerald Isle and Atlantic Beach are often as attractive then as in summer. December and March are perfect if you want to get into the deeper woods (there is no hunting then).
New Bern, NC - Hiking - Trail Length: 0.6-6.6 miles
As the closest, most dramatic mountain park to Charlotte, “Crowders” lives up to its name. Park attendance has skyrocketed in recent years. Rangers increasingly warn of parking delays on nice weekends—so you might want to have a backup destination or consider visiting off-season or on weekdays. Great mountain scenery and easy access make Crowders worth the extra effort. A few years ago this park encompassed only two major peaks, but now it spans the entire Kings Mountain Range.Like other monadnock parks, Crowders is a great place for birding, especially in spring.
Kings Mountain, NC - Birding,Climbing,Hiking - Trail Length: 1-8 miles
Cumberland Knob is where construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway started on September 11, 1935. This is the high road’s first recreation area. At 2,860 feet, Cumberland Knob isn’t a spectacular peak, but the 1,000-acre enclave includes a nice day hike. The primary facilities are a large picnic area and a comfort station. The Gully Creek Trail explores a topographically intriguing watershed.
Lowgap, NC - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.5
The Blue Ridge Parkway’s Doughton Park rears up to bulging meadows and dramatic headlands. The ridge that carries the Parkway encircles Basin Cove, a watershed more than 2,000 feet deep. This isolated, 6,000-acre backcountry is one of only two places on the Parkway where backpacking is permitted. Descriptions of the following trails are included: Fodder Stack and Wildcat Rocks Trail, Bluff Mountain Trail, Basin Cove Circuit Hikes, and Caudill Cabin.
Sparta, NC - Hiking - Trail Length: 0.3-13 miles
In the 1920s, Duke Forest was formed from farms and woods to buffer the developing campus of Duke University. Clarence F. Korstian led the establishment of the university’s School of Forestry in 1938, and today the tracts are an invaluable laboratory for students and scientists. The forest is open only from dawn to dusk. Managers ask that mountain bikers stay strictly on the area’s road-width fire trails, many built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Bushwhacking, cross-country hiking, or geocaching are prohibited to protect research plots throughout the forest. Enter only at the designated public access points, and do not block gates with vehicles. Dogs must be on-leash. Developed picnic facilities can be rented and are the only locations where open fires are permitted. Please read and heed the forest rules that are prominently posted at all access gates.
Durham, NC - Hiking,Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 1-5 miles
One of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s best self-guiding interpretive trails and a number of historic structures make E. B. Jeffress Park a truly worthwhile stop for hikers. One of the Parkway’s smallest roadside recreation areas (600 acres) memorializes E. B. Jeffress, the 1933 chairman of the North Carolina State Highway and Public Works Commission who helped route the Parkway through North Carolina rather than Tennessee. Descriptions of the following trails are included: Cascades Trail and Tompkins Knob Trail.
Purlear, NC - Hiking - Trail Length: 0.6-1 mile
Elk Knob is one of North Carolina’s newest state parks, saved from the prospect of second- home development by The Nature Conservancy and local residents. One of many high peaks north of Boone, Elk Knob is an amphibolite mountain, a unique geological composition of metamorphic rock that is rich in nutrients and supports many rare plants. This peak rises to more than 5,500 feet, the equal of more southerly Boone- area peaks like Beech Mountain, the East’s highest town and ski resort, and Hump Mountain, on the Roan Highlands part of the Appalachian Trail. The park’s “all-new” but “interim” facilities include an administrative office, a picnic area, and a 1.9-mile Summit Trail to 5,520-foot Elk Knob built with the help of hundreds of volunteers. The easy yellow diamond-blazed Beech Tree Trail, the park’s interpretive TRACK Trail, is a 1-mile loop around the picnic area. The red diamond-blazed Maple Run Trail (0.5 mile) is another easy loop. The 2-mile, orange diamond-blazed moderate to strenuous Backcountry Trail leads to pack-in campsites.
Todd, NC - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.9
This short waterfall hike is tucked into an isolated tract of Pisgah National Forest near Tennessee. Area trailheads have had vehicle break-ins, so don’t leave anything of value in your car. This yellow-blazed trail is a popular 0.5-mile round-trip saunter after church on Sunday for local families. The parking lot is lined with grills and picnic tables (no camping), and a scenic, fishable river flows by.
Elk Park, NC - Fishing,Hiking - Trail Length: 0.5
The rippling Eno River winds for 33 miles from its headwaters in Orange County to Falls Lake in Wake County. Two state parcels offer access. One, Eno River State Park, focuses on the river; the other, Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area, preserves an adjacent summit. Includes trail guides for: Western Eno River State Park; Eastern Eno River State Park; Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area. The historic town of Hillsborough amply illustrates that. Hillsborough lies between Occoneechee State Natural Area and Eno River State Park and its aggressive development of riverside parks and the 2-mile Riverwalk greenway (part of the Mountains-to- Sea Trail / MST) demonstrates the potential for preservation along this scenic stream. The MST is gradually linking adjacent state lands to many “trail towns” like Hillsborough where urban amenities, dining, lodging and history complement a hike across the state or just a weekend escape.
Durham, NC - Fishing,Hiking - Trail Length: 0.5-8 miles
Grandfather Mountain’s public image has evolved over the years. Once almost exclusively seen as a tourist attraction owned by noted North Carolinian Hugh Morton, Grandfather has become synonymous with its spectacular backcountry. The Mile-High Swinging Bridge is still a popular attraction reached by car, but there have been plenty of changes since Morton passed away in 2006. The bulk of the mountain became a North Carolina state park in 2008, and tourist development transitioned to a nonprofit stewardship foundation run by Morton’s heirs in 2009. The mountain’s now publicly owned highest peaks are laced with a wonderful network of trails that tower over the attraction. The once-ignored backcountry hiking network experienced a renaissance in the late 1970s, when a fee- based hiking program reclaimed the trails that had been closed after a hiker died of hypothermia. Over the years, the pay-for-use trail system became an innovative example of wilderness management, and hiking emerged as a part of the Grandfather Mountain experience. Descriptions of the following trails are included: Tanawha Trail and Daniel Boone Scout Trail to Calloway Peak; Grandfather Trail; Profile Trail.
Blowing Rock, NC - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.8-7 miles