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Top 10 Hikes Through North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains

North Carolina is famous for its stacked, rolling Blue Ridge Mountains, heavily-laden with a huge diversity of flora interspersed with dominating rhododendron and colorful wildflowers. Whether you are looking for a short, maintained hike at constant elevation or a grueling, high altitude trail across rocky peaks and boulders, these mountains have spectacular views to offer every step of the way. Go on an adventure through one of the most beautiful ranges on the East Coast, embrace the cool, crisp air and take in the magnificent sunsets against the flower-spattered landscape of its breathless blue peaks.

Hawksbill Mountain Hawksbill Mountain
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Hawksbill Mountain

Hidden away deep in the Pisgah, this 4,000ft peak towers above the valley of the biggest gorge east of the Mississippi, known as Linville Gorge. Hawksbills offers a complete view of the landscape all the way down to the stream that divides the valley floor. The scenic hike itself involves a difficult 700-feet elevation gain but if you can push through to the top, the summit offers an unsurpassed view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Rough Ridge Hike Rough Ridge Hike
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Rough Ridge Hike

A hiking gem of the Pisgah National Forest and easily accessible from the Blue Ridge Parkway, this moderate trail offers a unique form of travel across boardwalks that protect the vegetation of a fragile ecosystem. This hike is part of the Tanawha Trail and the Mountains to Sea Trail with views of historic Grandfather Mountain, famous Vinn Cove Viaduct, and extending as far as Piedmont to the east. Enjoy the plentiful wildlife against the backdrop of the ocean of blue that unfurls to the horizon.

Lover’s Leap Lover’s Leap
Credit: Lover’s Leap by wikimedia.org

Lover’s Leap

A famous portion of the Appalachian Trail, this 1.6-mile loop starts in the captivating town of Hot Springs, making for easy public access. A hike for those in moderate physical form, Lover’s Leap is a well-maintained trail that offers unbelievable sights of the French Broad River and the valley below. Enjoy the tough but rewarding stroll and epic waterfront views.

Art Loeb Trail- From Shining Rock to Cold Mountain Shining Rock Wilderness
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Art Loeb Trail- From Shining Rock to Cold Mountain

Arguably the most sought-after trail in North Carolina, the Art Loeb trail can be condensed into a shorter route containing some of the best scenery in Appalachia. Start at Shining Rock and follow the undulating balds all the way to Cold Mountain, from which you can take a separate trail to the summit. The high elevation presents formidable, overlooking views of nearby peaks and valleys, and promises a cool, alpine feel.

John’s Rock John’s Rock
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John’s Rock

This strenuous, five-mile adventure offers a 1,000 ft gain in altitude, steep, rocky rises, and cliff-top views of John’s Rock. It also provides an incredible presentation of Cedar Rock Falls. Enjoy the wayward refreshment of the water reflecting off smooth, riverbed rocks. The summit brings you to 3,320 feet in elevation. This hike is a glorious mixture of sweat, splashes, and scenery.

Pink Beds Trail Pink Beds Trail
Credit: Pink Beds Trail by daveynin

Pink Beds Trail

A classic hike that will appeal to all ages and abilities! This Pisgah offering involves a flat, five-mile loop through looming pine trees and a wooden platform that takes you across a thick blanket of teeming plant life. Enjoy the endless mountain laurel and rhododendron accompanied with easy water crossings and many pink blossoms to be seen.

Max Patch, Appalachian Trail Max Patch, Appalachian Trail
Credit: Max Patch, Appalachian Trail by bigstock.com

Max Patch, Appalachian Trail

This is one of the most visually appealing sections of the Appalachian Trail complimented with an expansive grassy field allowing for panoramic views stretching all the way to the Smoky Mountains in the south. Max Patch peaks at 4,600ft and the wide open area is perfect for lounging, picnicking, or simply enjoying the clear blue Carolina sky.

Graveyard Fields You can take in the beauty of a field full of wildflowers at Graveyard Fields.
Credit: You can take in the beauty of a field full of wildflowers at Graveyard Fields. by Joshua Owen Rice/www.shutterstock.com

Graveyard Fields

Enter a forest in recovery from an old logging burn right off the Blue Ridge Parkway, equipped with enticing waterfall and swimming hole attractions. It is an extremely popular and well-maintained trail that offers stunning colorful views in autumn. Often prone to overcrowding, visit early or late in the season. With this mindset, dress accordingly as it can get very cold in the early spring and late fall.

Black Balsam Knob Black Balsam Knob
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Black Balsam Knob

The five-mile loop circles an alpine-like wilderness bereft of trees. The rocky, grassy open-air trail provides a 6,000ft view of neighboring knobs and hollows. It can be incorporated into the Art Loeb trail but also stands alone as a scenic hiking peak.

Craggy Gardens Craggy Gardens
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Craggy Gardens

Tread carefully through this delicate habitat dubbed a National Heritage Area. This 3,000ft peak is immersed in the popular Appalachian rhododendron alongside rare, endangered plant life. From forested area to rocky bald summit, this hike is accompanied with plentiful wild berries and flowers, making for a lively, diverse view of your surroundings.

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