The 12 Best Hikes in Asheville, North Carolina

Last Updated on March 04, 2023 by Nikki Jain

Asheville, North Carolina, is truly a marvel of a destination for outdoor lovers of all levels.

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains and with hundreds of trails to explore, everyone can find something that fits their adventurous spirit and fitness level.

From leisurely strolls coming in at just a mile to heart-pumping climbs with intense elevation gain, let's uncover the best hiking trails Asheville has to offer and learn what makes each trail truly unique.

The Best Asheville Hiking Trails

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1: Mount Mitchell Trail

Mount Mitchell Trail
Dreamstime/Alex Grichenko

The Mount Mitchell Trail is your ticket to the breathtaking mountaintop views and a newfound appreciation for the East Coast's highest peak.

A more challenging hike with an elevation gain of 3,600 feet, Mount Mitchell is a 5.6-mile hike up steep and rocky terrain.

The trail starts at the Black Mountain Campground and follows the ridgeline up to the top of Mount Mitchell.

Once you reach the rocky summit, you'll be rewarded with panoramic vistas of the famous Blue Ridge Mountains.

The summit also offers an observation deck, a museum, and a restaurant where hikers can take a break, enjoy a meal, and take in the views.

The trail is well-maintained and clearly marked, but it is a challenging hike that requires a good level of physical fitness and hiking experience.

Hikers should be prepared for steep climbs, rocky terrain, and variable weather conditions, including sudden temperature drops and strong winds.

The hike can take anywhere from 4 to 6 hours to complete, depending on your pace and fitness level.

However, the views at the rocky summit are truly worth every step!

  • Difficulty – Difficult
  • Distance – 5.6 miles
  • Elevation gain – 3,600 ft
  • Duration – Approx 3 hours 

2: Craggy Gardens Trail

Craggy Gardens Trail

A moderate hike, Craggy Gardens Trail is a 1.9-mile loop trail that is perfect for hikers of all skill levels.

The trail winds through a beautiful, high-elevation forest and offers stunning views of the surrounding North Carolina mountains.

During the summer months, the trail is lined with blooming rhododendrons, making it one of the most popular hikes in the area.

If you're looking for a shorter hike with beautiful scenery, this Asheville hiking trail is a must-visit.

The trail begins at the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center and leads hikers through a variety of forest ecosystems, including oak-hickory forests, mountain balds, and rhododendron fields.

Once you reach the Craggy Pinnacle, you'll enjoy panoramic views of the rolling mountains and valleys.

The trail is well-marked and maintained, making it a popular destination for all hikers, especially if you're short on time.

  • Difficulty – Easy to Moderate
  • Distance – 1.9 miles
  • Elevation gain – 575 ft
  • Duration – Approx 1 hour 

3: Looking Glass Rock Trail

Looking Glass Rock Trail
Dreamstime/Bryan Pollard

The Looking Glass Rock Trail is a challenging (but incredibly rewarding!) 6.5-mile hiking trail located in the Pisgah National Forest, which is right outside of Asheville in Brevard, NC.

The trail is aptly named after the beautiful natural feature at the end of the trail, Looking Glass Rock, which offers unrivaled views of the rolling Blue Ridge mountains.

This trail is steep and rocky, with an elevation gain of over 1,700 feet.

However, the views from the top are absolutely incredible and worth it.

While the trail is well marked and maintained, its difficulty makes it best suited for hikers with good physical fitness and hiking experience.

In addition, you should also be prepared for rocky terrain and sudden drops in temperature on this often cold mountain hike.

The hike is best done during the fall when the leaves are changing, and the views are even more spectacular.

The trail starts at the Looking Glass Rock Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway and takes you on a journey through some of the most beautiful scenery in the Asheville region.

Along the way, you'll pass through dense forests, creeks, and streams, as well as incredible views of the surrounding mountainscape.

While more difficult, this hike is a must-visit destination for anyone who loves hiking, nature, and adventure.

With its stunning views, challenging terrain, and the unique Looking Glass Rock at the end, it truly is a bucket list experience and one of the best hikes near Asheville.

  • Difficulty – Difficult
  • Distance – 6.5 miles
  • Elevation gain – 1749 ft
  • Duration – Approx 4-5 hours 

4: Black Balsam Knob Trail

Black Balsam Knob Trail
Dreamstime/Anthony Heflin

Want a hike that gives you both those famously beautiful Asheville views and a bit of a challenge on the way up? If so, then Black Balsam Knob Trail is a surefire choice.

The Black Balsam hike, a moderate 1.5-mile trek to the top, is a local and visitor favorite for outdoor enthusiasts that takes you to the top of the Balsam nature trail.

From the summit, you can enjoy some unreal 360-degree views of the mountains.

Hopefully, you bring your camera because it's the perfect spot to stop and snap a pic.

Many folks also like to catch the sunrise and/or sunset here.

If you're looking for a shorter but no less scenic hike, Black Balsam Knob Trail is one of the best hiking trails to boot.

It's my personal favorite when visiting Asheville.

  • Difficulty – Moderate
  • Distance – 1.5 miles
  • Elevation gain – 425 ft
  • Duration – Approx 1 hour 

5: Max Patch Trail

Max Patch Trail

Located in the scenic Western North Carolina region, Max Patch Trail offers views of the Appalachian Mountains and is easily one of the most popular hikes near Asheville.

As a shorter trail clocking in at just 1.5 miles, you won't have to work too hard to reach the top.

This moderate difficulty makes it a great hike for beginners and seasoned hikers alike.

The trailhead for Max Patch Trail is located on the Tennessee border, which is a quick hour's drive from Asheville.

The trail starts with a gentle and gradual climb through the woods, eventually opening to rolling hills and grassy meadows.

Along the way, you'll find the trail spotted with a variety of wildflowers and wildlife, making it also a hot spot for nature enthusiasts and photographers.

Arguably, the best feature of Max Patch Trail is the summit, which is a grassy bald that sits at a whopping elevation of 4,629 feet.

Once you reach the top, you're instantly greeted with an unrivaled panoramic view of the Appalachian Mountains.

The combination of the fantastic panoramic views, exciting wildlife, and moderate difficulty make Max Patch Trail one of the best hikes near Asheville.

  • Difficulty – Easy to Moderate
  • Distance – 1.5 miles
  • Elevation gain – 430 feet
  • Duration – Approx 1 hour 

Planning a trip to North Carolina? You might also like to check the top Asheville attractions and Charlotte attractions.

6: Rattlesnake Lodge Trail

Rattlesnake Lodge Trail
Dreamstime/Alexey Stiop

If you're a history buff, this hike is the perfect option that just so happens to be right down the street (figuratively) from Asheville.

The Rattlesnake Lodge Trail is a moderate 3.6-mile hike that takes you to the ruins of the historic Rattlesnake Lodge.

It's rated moderate in difficulty, making it a sure bet for hikers of most skill levels.

The trailhead for Rattlesnake Lodge Trail can be found near the nearby town of Weaverville and begins with a gradual climb through a lush forest.

Once you reach the top of the trail, you'll be able to soak in those Instagram-worthy views of both the Blue Ridge Mountains and the French Broad River Valley.

Be sure to bring your camera with you to snap some pics!

As the name implies, this hiking trail is also home to the historic Rattlesnake Lodge, an abandoned vacation home built in the early 1900s.

Although the lodge is no longer standing due to a fire in the 1940s, you're still able to check out the ruins and learn about the rich history of the area that spans back hundreds of years.

The trail offers a glimpse into the area's history and is an enjoyable hike for all skill levels, making it a great choice for hikers interested in both nature and local history.

  • Difficulty – Moderate
  • Distance – 3.6 miles
  • Elevation gain – 883 ft
  • Duration – Approx 2 hours 

7: Catawba Falls Trail

Catawba Falls Trail
Dreamstime/Cynthia Mccrary

The infamous lyrics "don't go chasing waterfalls" don't apply when talking about Catawba Falls.

The Catawba Falls Trail, just a quick drive east of Asheville, is a moderate 2.5-mile hike that takes you to the base of the beautiful Catawba Falls.

This hike is rated as moderate in difficulty, making it a fun challenge whether you're a long-time trekker or a novice to the hiking world.

Catawba Falls is located near the town of Old Fort, NC, and begins with an easy and gradual walk along the Catawba River.

As you trek deeper into the woods, the incline becomes a bit steeper yet bearable for most.

The highlight of this trail is, you guessed it, the Catawba Falls.

At 100 feet tall, this waterfall is a breathtaking sight to behold, making it the perfect backdrop as you continue along with your hike.

The sound of the cascading water and the refreshing mist in the air creates an immersive and rejuvenating experience for hikers.

It's the perfect getaway from busy city living, which fits the bill of what Asheville is all about.

  • Difficulty – Moderate
  • Distance – 2.5 miles
  • Elevation gain – 341 ft
  • Duration – Approx 1-2 hours 

Also Read: The Most Beautiful Waterfalls in North Carolina

8: Graybeard Trail

Graybeard Trail

Graybeard Trail is one of North Carolina's hidden gems, waiting to be explored by hikers of all skill levels.

The trail is a scenic and rewarding escape into the mountains spanning approximately 4.5 miles of lush forest, rocky terrain, and stunning vistas.

The trail is moderate-to-difficult in difficulty rating, which means you'll get a good workout, but also ample opportunity to catch your breath and soak in the views.

As you hike up along the trail, the beautiful sights and sounds of nature surround you, with rare plant species and small critters dotting the path.

As the name implies, of course, the true highlight of this trail is the majestic Graybeard Falls, standing tall at 75 feet and surrounded by mist and the thundering sound of cascading water.

If you're up for a refreshing dip, the pool at the base of the falls is perfect for a quick swim.

Just be sure to pack a fresh change of clothes to change into!

All in all, this hike is a well-rounded hike that's perfect for hikers, photographers, or those simply chasing beautiful waterfall hikes.

  • Difficulty – Difficult
  • Distance – 4.5 miles
  • Elevation gain – 2400 ft
  • Duration – Approx 5-6 hours 

9: Mount Pisgah Trail

Mount Pisgah Trail
Dreamstime/Bryan Pollard

Tucked away right on the outskirts of the town of Canton, Mount Pisgah Trail is one of the more challenging yet rewarding hikes you can find near Asheville.

The trail runs roughly 2.6 miles and is rated as difficult, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding mountainscape on the hard climb up to the top.

As you'd guess based on the difficulty rating, you're bound to stumble across some harder areas, from steep and rocky sections to gentle forest walks, as you navigate your way up.

However, once you reach the summit of Mount Pisgah, which towers over 5,700 feet, you'll have a birdseye view of the mountains nearby and the Pisgah National Forest.

The view from up there is ridiculously amazing.

Luckily the trail is a lesser-frequented hiking option, which gives hikers a chance to see a variety of plant and animal species, including wildflowers, bears, and rare bird species.

This makes it a go-to hike for nature lovers.

So, regardless of whether you're a veteran hiker looking for a challenge or a beginner with little experience, Mount Pisgah Trail is a perfect choice.

  • Difficulty – Difficult
  • Distance – 2.6 miles
  • Elevation gain – 750 ft
  • Duration – Approx 2-3 hours 

10: Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower Trail

Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower Trail
Flickr/Niemand fur Polyphemus

This trail is truly a hidden gem tucked away in the heart of Western North Carolina.

As a roughly 1.5-mile out-and-back trail, Fryingpan is a fairly easy hike that can be tackled by hikers of all skills levels.

The trailhead for Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower Trail can be found near the nearby town of Hot Springs, North Carolina, and starts with a fairly easy climb through the woods.

At the summit of the hike is a historic fire lookout tower, which is a great pit stop to soak in the otherworldly view of the Appalachian Mountains and Pisgah National Forest all at once.

It doesn't get much better than that.

Overall, the Fryingpan trail is an excellent hike near Asheville that's a perfect choice for those seeking a unique and memorable hike.

The combo of views from the lookout tower and its rich history makes this trail popular with hikers, history buffs, photographers, and everyone in between.

  • Difficulty – Easy
  • Distance – 1.5 miles
  • Elevation gain – 357 ft
  • Duration – Approx 1 hour 

11: Big Creek Trail

Big Creek Trail
Flickr/Nick Amoscato

Big Creek Trail is a picturesque hiking destination in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park of North Carolina.

The trailhead is located just a short drive from downtown Asheville and is a great choice for a day trip.

This moderate trail spans approximately 5.2 miles, following along the scenic Big Creek and offering a wide range of natural beauty.

Along the way, you can expect to enjoy waterfalls, old-growth forests, and stunning mountain views along the way.

It's also a popular hike for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts due to its most undisturbed natural setting.

The highlight of the trail is, without a doubt, the massive Mouse Creek Falls, a tall 45-foot waterfall that cascades down a rocky surface.

Especially if you're looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, the cool mist and rolling soundscape of the falls provide a refreshing break from the usual car horns and city noise.

Whether you're a seasoned hiker or a nature enthusiast looking for a new adventure, Big Creek Trail deserves to be on your itinerary as you enjoy your time in Asheville.

  • Difficulty – Moderate
  • Distance – 5.2 miles
  • Elevation gain – 605 ft
  • Duration – Approx 2-3 hours 

12: Art Loeb Trail

Art Loeb Trail
Dreamstime/Carrie Hanrahan

A relatively challenging hike, the Art Loeb Trail in western North Carolina is best reserved for more experienced hikers.

If you fit into this group, Art Loeb Trail should be at the top of your bucket list.

This famous trail, named after the trailblazer Art Loeb, is a very long hike that spans over 30 miles and winds through the timeless Appalachian Mountains.

As you make your way through the trail, you'll face diverse terrain, from rocky sections to easy forest paths to challenging and steep climbs.

You'll also be rewarded with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains, including the Great Balsam Mountains and Shining Rock Wilderness.

Make sure you pack a camera to capture the stunning scenery!

The trail is rated as difficult without a doubt, but the sense of accomplishment and the views from the top of Black Balsam Knob are well worth the effort (and wait).

Because of its length, this trail is also a popular destination for backpackers, offering several campsites along the way.

So, if you're up for a challenge and ready to take on the stunning wilderness of North Carolina's Appalachian Mountains, grab your hiking boots, a sense of adventure, and plenty of supplies and embark on a journey through the iconic Art Loeb Trail.

  • Difficulty – Difficult
  • Distance – 30.1 miles
  • Elevation gain – 9,000 ft
  • Duration – Approx 2-3 days 

Rounding up the Best Asheville Hikes

Asheville, NC, is a true hiker's paradise, with countless trails to explore in the surrounding areas.

From challenging mountain hikes to leisurely nature walks, there is something for everyone in this stunning city.

The 12 hikes listed below are the cream of the crop and represent the best hikes near Asheville and within:

  • Mount Mitchell Trail
  • Craggy Gardens Trail
  • Looking Glass Rock Trail
  • Black Balsam Knob Trail
  • Max Patch Trail
  • Rattlesnake Lodge Trail
  • Catawba Falls Trail
  • Graybeard Trail
  • Mount Pisgah Trail
  • Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower Trail
  • Big Creek Trail
  • Art Loeb Trail

Asheville is home to a wide variety of trails, from the quick-and-easy Craggy Gardens Trail to the intense Art Loeb trail.

No matter which one you choose, you're bound to have a great time hiking through the famed trails of Asheville and its surrounding areas.

Undoubtedly, hiking in Asheville is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that absolutely deserves to be a part of your itinerary.

So grab your hiking boots, pack your backpack, and hit the trails to discover the best hikes that Asheville has to offer! You won't regret it.

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