Guidelight’s Guide to Local NC Hiking

Over the years I often heard about, from others, the amazing hiking trails we have here in Western NC. Lately, I started to experience them myself with my family, as often as possible. Some trails offer great challenges for beginners, moderates, and advanced hikers. The scenery in this part of the country is unrivaled. You’ll be glad you chose adventure rather than staying indoors or in the city. Nothing is wrong with the city, but if you seek a chance for truly life-changing experiences, head out to one of these trails or find your own.

I thought I would highlight some of them for folks looking to get out and experience something new in the area using commentary from hikenc.info. To make it easy, I’ve broken it down to guide you through 3 different levels of hiking difficulty. Here we go!

EASY 

Tom Creek Falls Hike 0.8 mi round-trip

“This easy hike is excellent for families and children, with a reward at the end that everyone will look forward to. It’s short enough that adults who have to carry tired kids won’t be too worn out at the end to enjoy it themselves. The waterfall isn’t the only thing to enjoy on this trail, however. You’ll see a lush cove hardwood forest with smaller streams, a bridge, huge boulders, and flakes of shiny mica. Kids will love the small pool at the base of the 60-foot falls which is perfect for wading. During the spring, there are a wide variety of wildflowers to see and photograph.

When you’re finished exploring the falls and mine, return to your vehicle on the same path.”

Tom Creek Falls Hike

MODERATE

Mount Pisgah Hike– 3 mi round-trip

“A classic Blue Ridge Parkway hike, this trail continues onto National Forest land to climb to the summit of one of the area’s most well-known peaks, which lends its name to numerous other things throughout the region. Mount Pisgah is part of the original tract of land sold by the Vanderbilts to the federal government to establish Pisgah National Forest. Easily visible from most of downtown Asheville, Mount Pisgah’s 5721 ft summit supports the transmission tower for WLOS-TV, channel 13. The trail itself is a rocky, steep climb through Northern hardwood forests, and rhododendron and mountain laurel tunnels, to the summit where 360-degree views await!

This stretch of trail offers wintertime views of Mt. Pisgah itself. In the summer, the cool, high-elevation woods offer a nice respite from the heat even if you don’t hike all the way to the top.

You will reach the crest of the ridge between Little Pisgah Mountain and Mount Pisgah itself, and begin the more difficult part of the climb. This is where many turn back. The trail ahead travels up the ridgeline for a while where it becomes moderately steep. Then, you’ll slip off the south side of the ridge onto on a very steep section of trail. There are some difficult step-ups and off-camber rocky sections. This is the steepest part of the climb. At the summit, you’ll find the transmission tower for WLOS-TV, channel 13, and an observation deck. This kind of ruins any feeling of being in the wilderness, but the view is spectacular. On a clear day, you can see the parking area, the Campground & Pisgah Inn to the east; the Shining Rock Wilderness Area to your west (with Cold Mountain at its northern end); the Great Smoky Mountains farther to the west; and to the north, the city of Asheville, Craggy Mountains, and Mount Mitchell. When you’re finished soaking up the views, return to your vehicle on the same path.”

Mount Pisgah Hike

ADVANCED

Grandfather’s Profile Hike– 7.6 mi round-trip

“Ascending Grandfather Mountain’s Profile Trail, this hike takes you past some of the features that inspired its name. You’ll ascend from the middle elevation creeks and streams, past a variety of features including views and rock outcroppings, and onto the summit ridge where a rare spruce-fir forest grows. Bring your camera, because a nearly endless supply of scenery awaits, and the trek is strenuous enough that you’ll want to rest periodically anyway. The hike ends at the top of Calloway Peak, which at 5964′ is the highest mountain in the Blue Ridge range.

Start the hike by filling out a (free) permit at the front of the building. All hikers are required to carry a permit, so keep a copy with you on the trail. There are some informational signs you might want to read before hitting the trail. Once you’re registered, take the trail from the back of the building, which winds 0.75 mi to join the old trail.

The trail was built by Kinny Baughman and Jim Morton using nothing more than hand tools – iron rods, shovels, pulleys, and winches. According to rangers I’ve spoken with on the mountain, it was built between 1985 and 1989 in order to replace the soon-to-be-obliterated Shanty Trail and preserve hiking access to the west side of Grandfather Mountain. Baughman is quoted as referring to the Profile Trail as his “lasting legacy”, and with that I’d agree – the course of this walkway, defined in stone, looks like it could easily be here for centuries, and it is a true pleasure to hike.

Despite being over 20 years old, the trail up to this point has been in great condition, without erosion, drop-offs, haphazardly strewn rocks, or undercut roots – having been purpose-built by experts. From here to the ridge, however, that changes drastically. All of those ankle-twisting things become common. The “trail” you are following is simply the shortest historical route to the spring from the summit – which means it goes directly down the slope. It’s also a lot older, and therefore more eroded. The end result is that you’ll be walking straight up the mountain on a pile of boulders, stones, and bedrock, intermixed with hanging roots, through a very wet spruce-fir forest. It’s never quite hand-over-hand difficult, but it makes for some slow going. Luckily, it’s not very far up to the ridge line from Shanty Spring at only 3/10 of a mile.

Finally, the ridgeline starts to level out and you’ll see the summit of Calloway Peak up to your right. The trail wraps around the rocks at the very top and climbs up onto them, making a steep right turn. The peak is marked by some blazes spray painted on the rocks for the Grandfather and Daniel Boone Scout trails, which both end here. There is a sweeping, cliff-top view across the tops of the evergreen trees to the south and east. Thankfully, less development can be seen from here than back at Watauga View. You’ll see the Blue Ridge Parkway, part of the Linn Cove Viaduct, the Blue Ridge escarpment dropping away below that, MacRae and Attic Window Peaks back down the ridgeline, and mountains stretching in all directions.

When you’re finished soaking up the scenery, return to your vehicle on the same path to complete the hike.”

Grandfather’s Profile Hike

Have you experienced any of these hikes? Comment below with what you thought, your favorite hiking trail, or if you want another guide with more options!

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Jason Trent
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