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15 of the Best Trails for Hiking in North Carolina

North Carolina is filled to the brim with natural beauty, and while most people might immediately think of the Atlantic coast as North Carolina’s best natural feature, there’s actually a myriad of options to explore here—including hiking trails! With a host of mountains, forests, and waterfalls to explore, North Carolina is a paradise for the hiking enthusiast. Read on to discover 15 of the best trails for hiking in North Carolina!

Best Easy Trails for Hiking in North Carolina

For those who are hoping to plan a whole-family hike or for those who are just getting started, it’s best to choose easier trails that won’t demand too much from younger or senior members of the family who may want to come along. Here are five easy trails to start out your North Carolina hiking journey!

1. Hickory Nut Falls Trail, Chimney Rock

Hickory Nut Falls
Hickory Nut Falls

If you’ve ever seen the movie “The Last of the Mohicans”, you’ll recognize the gorgeous waterfall at the end of this family-friendly trail! There are benches and other rest areas scattered along Hickory Nut Falls Trail as you go, providing ample opportunity for you and your family to take a breather if needed. The hike is about 1.4 miles all told, so as long as you pace yourselves and enjoy the trip, you shouldn’t have any trouble crossing this trail off your North Carolina hiking bucket list!

2. Moor’s Wall Loop Trail, Hanging Rock State Park

Hanging Rock State Park
Hanging Rock State Park

Moor’s Wall Loop Trail is another great option if you’re looking for some easier hiking in North Carolina but want to start working your way up to more moderate hikes. While not a particularly difficult loop to hike, it is about 4.7 miles long, so this is going to be a longer walk. However, it’s worth it just to get a glimpse of the Hanging Rock this state park is named for!

3. Crabtree Falls Loop Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway

Crabtree Falls, Hiking in North Carolina
Crabtree Falls

If you’re not quite ready to take on Moor’s Wall but still want to challenge yourself a bit, Crabtree Falls is a perfect choice! At 2.5 miles long, the Crabtree Falls Loop Trail is sort of the happy medium between Hickory Nut Falls and Moor’s Wall—it’s longer than Hickory Nut, and it gets steep in places, but it still offers a stunning view of some truly magnificent falls, and it’s considerably shorter than Moor’s Wall.

4. Erwin’s View, Linville Falls

Linville Falls
Linville Falls

Erwin’s View skews back toward the relaxing side of the easy scale. At only 1.7 miles, it’s a better choice for those who are still building up their hiking stamina, and it provides a lot of bang for its buck—you’ll get to stop and see Linville Falls from four different overlooks! Erwin’s View Trail will lead you past Upper Falls, Chimney View, Gorge View, and of course, Erwin’s View. You won’t miss a single angle of this waterfall on this North Carolina hiking trail!

5. Toms Creek Falls

Toms Creek Falls
Toms Creek Falls

Coming in at only 1 mile round-trip, Toms Creek Falls Trail is the easiest of our easy hikes! This is perfect for brand-new hikers, hikers with small children, or adults who may not be able to travel longer distances or scale steeper hills. They’ve even built an observation deck, which makes viewing the falls easier and safer for everyone!

Best Moderate Trails for Hiking in North Carolina

Have you conquered the easier trails and are now looking to move up on the difficulty scale? We’ve got five moderate-difficulty trails all lined up for you!

1. Devil’s Courthouse, Blue Ridge Parkway

Devil's Courthouse
Devil’s Courthouse

Though the Devil’s Courthouse hike is only a mile long, it’s considered a moderate hike because the trail is made up entirely of steep incline. Because of this give-and-take, this is a good hike to take as your first step up from easy to moderate. But be warned! According to Cherokee legend, a giant named Judaculla makes his home in this part of the mountains.

(Keep in mind that Devil’s Courthouse is also a place where endangered peregrine falcons tend to nest. Climbing over the wall of the overlook is strictly forbidden, as it can cause these falcons to flee their nests. Stay on the proper trail so as not to disturb these beautiful birds!)

2. Glen Falls Trail

Glen Falls, North Carolina Hiking
Glen Falls

At just under two miles, Glen Falls Trail is another short North Carolina hiking trail, but it makes up for this lack of length with incline. It’s a steep trip down to the falls and all uphill on the way back, so come prepared for some intense climbing! But as with all North Carolina falls, the views you’ll get to experience on this trail are worth the more strenuous trip.

3. Rainbow Falls, Pisgah National Forest

Rainbow Falls
Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls is a 3-mile hike, and it’s considered moderate because of its steeper path and somewhat rough terrain. The trail is mostly unpaved, so make sure you come equipped with the right footwear for this trek. Once you arrive at your destination, thanks to a viewing area by the falls, you can enjoy this incredible 150-foot waterfall from all angles! If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the rainbows that gave this waterfall its name if the sun hits the spray just right.

4. Graveyard Fields, Blue Ridge Parkway

Graveyard Fields
Graveyard Fields

Another Blue Ridge Parkway gem, Graveyard Fields is a hike of about 3 miles, and it will bring you through gorgeous fields of wildflowers, Blue Ridge Mountains views, and even a couple waterfalls. Though considered moderate, the trail is paved and there are restrooms along the path, so this may be a good first step into moderate hiking territory if you’ve previously stuck to easier trails!

5. Mount Pisgah, Pisgah National Forest

Pisgah National Forest
Pisgah National Forest

Last on our list of trails for moderate hiking in North Carolina, Mount Pisgah Trail is a short but strenuous hike; the steep ascension to the peak doesn’t let up, and it’s composed of fairly difficult and rocky terrain. However, the views from the summit are absolutely unbeatable, giving you an incomparable view of the National Forest below.

Best Advanced Trails for Hiking in North Carolina

Ready to really prove your mettle as a hiker? Read on if you’re ready to take on the most challenging trails available for hiking in North Carolina!

1. Looking Glass Rock, Pisgah National Forest

Looking Glass Rock
Looking Glass Rock

First up on our list of advanced trails for hiking in North Carolina is Looking Glass Rock Trail in Pisgah National Forest! At 6.5 miles round-trip, this is not a hike for the faint of heart, but the trail is clearly marked and the beauty of the trip is worth the work. When you reach the Upper Looking Glass Cliffs, you’ll be met with a sprawling view of the mountainous forest beneath. Just be sure not to get too close to the edge; it can be slippery!

2. Doughton Park, Blue Ridge Parkway

Doughton Park
Doughton Park

Next up is Doughton Park! Doughton Park actually consists of seven different trails, the most strenuous of which being the Cedar Ridge and Bluff Ridge trails. Bluff Ridge is the steepest, but Cedar Ridge is longer. Either trip offers scenic forest views, but Cedar Ridge leads to Grassy Gap Fire Road, and Bluff Ridge leads to Basin Cove.

3. Shining Rock, Pisgah National Forest

Shining Rock Mountain
Shining Rock Mountain

Our next difficult trail for hiking in North Carolina is Shining Rock! Climbing along the Shining Rock Creek will take you up 4.5 miles of trail until you reach the summit. Shining Rock itself earns its name, and you won’t be disappointed with the splendor of this part of the Pisgah National Forest.

4. Grandfather Mountain, Blue Ridge Mountain Range

Grandfather Mountain
Grandfather Mountain

Next up on our list is Grandfather Mountain! The Grandfather Trail is only 2.4 miles long, but much of that is incredibly difficult terrain to scale, involving more equipment and caution. If you’re an experienced hiker comfortable with a riskier challenge, this is a great place to test your grit!

5. Harper Creek Falls, Pisgah National Forest

Harper Creek Falls
Harper Creek Falls

Last but not least on our list of best trails for hiking in North Carolina is Harper Creek Falls. As with all the other North Carolina waterfalls on this list, the beauty is well worth the strain. At 8.5 miles, this is the longest hike on our list, and it’s not an easy ascent. But you won’t be disappointed by the destination, and no matter what, being able to brag that you completed nearly ten miles of a difficult trail is quite the accomplishment!

Equipment to Bring

· Proper boots

No matter what level of North Carolina hiking you choose to partake in, you’ll need to make sure you bring along the proper footwear! Even simple hikes can result in twisted ankles or scraped knees if you take a fall, and many of these trails lead to waterfalls, where the paths can get even more slippery.

· Water

North Carolina hiking can get humid and hot, so make sure you bring along plenty of water! Staying fully hydrated is key when hiking, especially at higher elevations where you could be more prone to becoming lightheaded.

· First Aid

Always bring along a first aid kit on your hiking excursions! The last thing you want is to suffer an injury miles into a forest or up a mountain and have no way to treat it.

Wrapping Up Best Hiking in North Carolina

Which trail will you be heading to first? Did we miss any of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!

Ready for more North Carolina expeditions? Check out our recommendations below!