The Best Hiking in Asheville and Surrounding Areas
Asheville is known for its proximity to great trails and hiking adventures. This handy guide will share with you some of the best hiking in Asheville and the surrounding areas, in our opinion.
We love the outdoors. And we’re lucky to call this amazing mountain town home, where it seems like right out the backdoor – or just a short drive away – is great mountain biking, great kayaking and rafting, great climbing and yes, great hiking.
Best Hiking in Asheville: Mountains to Sea Trail (MTS)
For many of us, we have easy access to some of the best hiking in Asheville along the Mountains to Sea trail that follows the Blue Ridge Parkway. The MTS offers easy sections with gentle climbs and some tough, challenging sections, and the trail can be accessed from numerous trailheads right along the in-town section of the parkway.
Unless you’re hiking from Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains to Manteo on the coast, you’ll be doing an out-and-back hike. And the beautiful thing about the MTS trail is that it is accessible year-round and offers something interesting to see in each season. Some of our favorite in-town sections of the MTS include:
- Rattlesnake Ridge
- Lane Pinnacle
- Craven Gap
- Biltmore Forest
- Folk Art Center
- Shut-In Ridge
Best Hiking in Asheville: All Four Seasons on the MTS
In the spring when the fiddlehead ferns unfurl and the trees’ leaf canopy fills in, wildflowers line the trail’s edges, and it’s easy to see why the MTS trail is some of the best hiking in Asheville. In some areas, hikers will find an abundance of wild iris, show orchids, violets galore, and on the north-facing slopes, trillium. If you’re lucky, you might even spot the endangered Lady Slippers. There are areas along the trail where pink and yellow Lady Slippers grow. When in bloom, the trails may be a bit crowded as hikers trek to see these rare plants. Trail etiquette is always important, but even more so during times of heavy use.
In the summertime, the forest offers shade from the sun and summertime heat. Early morning hikes offer a respite from the heat of the day, and if you’re lucky (and careful), you might spot a bear grazing for food. Cooling afternoon rain showers are common, yet they can be heavy at times, so be prepared. Springs and creeks cross the trail in many places, offering a welcomed spot to cool off on a hot summer day. And, since heat and humidity reign in July, some of the flora will sag and look a bit tired.
Asheville in the fall is glorious. Leaves change, and the temperatures fall. Spectacular fall colors blanket the mountains, making overlooks and rock outcrops a welcome break from the hike to marvel at nature’s beauty. The understory begins to fall back; wildlife is actively preparing for winter. And leaves fall. Trails can be crowded, especially trails near overlooks and parking areas.
Winter hiking typically offers the most solitude on the trials, which can be muddy from winter rain and snow. Expansive views are abundant in many areas because there are no leaves on the trees. And, if trail hiking isn’t your thing in the winter, many locals will stroll on the Blue Ridge Parkway when it’s closed to cars.
Best Hiking in Asheville: Surrounding Areas
While there’s great hiking in Asheville, there are some spectacular trails within an hour’s drive of town.
- Bent Creek Experimental Forest is located about 20 minutes south of Asheville, and it offers a large system of trails and fire roads for hikers and mountain bikers.
- The Appalachian Trail stretches north of town and can be accessed from Hot Springs, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Sam’s Gap, and the incredible Roan Mountain.
- The Roan Mountain State Park is located at the North Carolina/Tennessee state line and features a beautiful, easy hike through rhododendron gardens. It’s a popular trail when the rhodos are blooming in June.
- Shining Rock Wilderness features rugged trails, hidden swimming holes and breathtaking views. The trails are primitive, and in many areas, the trails have been overused. It’s a beautiful area to explore and even plan a short backpacking trip. Be sure to get a map; wilderness areas are generally unmarked and require some navigation skills.
- Graveyard Fields is a popular area with locals and tourists, and sometimes it can get crowded in the summer because of the swimming holes. If you hike a short way past the crowds (most people don’t go that far from the parking area to explore), you’ll find some less crowded areas. The area also attracts crowds when the blackberries ripen in late July and blueberries ripen in August. Again, hike past the crowds and take the MTS up the flank of the mountain to find berry patches and great hiking. Just be watchful of bears. They like berry snacks, too.
Wherever you decide to explore trails, make sure you have plenty of water and snacks. The weather can change at any time in the mountains, so be prepared for sudden storms and temperature drops. Most trails require your dog to be leashed. Wear sturdy shoes and appropriate clothes. Bring a camera, enjoy the fresh air and have fun.