Take Hike – Explore NC State Parks and Get Lost in the Mountains
Perhaps right now you have a bit more time on your hands, or you’re feeling cooped up and in need of fresh air. We are so grateful, for now, to still be able to get outdoors (while safely practicing distance, too). The foothills and mountains of North Carolina are a must, and these are our ten favorite hikes, waterfalls, overlooks, and adventures in the state.
The towering rock juts out of the eastern rim of the Linville Gorge. At the peak, hikers are afforded views of both the Linville River far below and the sprawling foothills. Activities abound here, from top rope climbing at the Chimneys to multi-pitch climbs of Table Rock to hiking, bird watching, camping and more. Many say from here, and at Hawksbill, Table Rock’s neighbor, the mystical Brown Mountain lights can be seen.
West of Banner Elk, just east of the Tennessee border lies Elk Falls, the largest of a series of imposing waterfalls, pours into a massive plunge pool perfect for cooling off in the summer. However, crowds tend to flock to this location because of the many other cascades that surround Elk, including the also popular Twisted Falls. In the fall, the crowds dissipate leaving most visitors in total solitude to enjoy the peacefulness and sound of water boiling over.
The popular mountain nestled between Valle Crucis and Linville is a massive spectacle offering beautiful views from several of its peaks, as well as all kinds of fun activities. For the family, simply take the Parkway to the south side and drive straight to the top where you can enjoy the small zoo and swinging bridge. For the more adventurous, the Profile Trail on Hwy. 105 is an exhilarating hike that passes Shanty Springs, en route to Calloway Peak. Ladders on the ridge of the mountain help hikers traverse massive boulders all the way to seemingly endless views of the foothills below.
Just off the Parkway, Rough Ridge is the perfect hike for beginners. Parts of the trail have been built out with wooden walkways and hand rails. Its ease does not change the fact that once hikers reach the pinnacle of Rough Ridge, some of the best views on the entire Blue Ridge are available.
The casual hike eventually turns vigorous but after fifteen minutes or so you should reach the ridge of Crowders where, as far as the eye can see, views of the woodlands of the Piedmont make it worth the short trip from Charlotte.
One of the most wild places on the east coast, Hazel Creek is only accessible two ways. One, by a sixteen mile hike on an old logging road, or two, a journey by boat from Fontana Lake. Because of this, there are no crowds, ever. For those looking for solitude this is the place. Not to mention, it is one of the premier fly fishing locales in the state, teeming with brook, rainbow, and trophy browns.
Looking Glass Falls
A waterfall perfect for the family. Not exactly off the beaten path, but by this time of the year, the crowds have dwindled slightly, allowing you to park just a tad bit closer than usual to Looking Glass, and take in what many believe to be one of the most beautiful falls in the state. The gin clear water of Looking Glass, framed by yellow, orange, and red is a sight to behold.
Wilson’s Creek Gorge
Just thirty minutes north of the small foothills town of Morganton lies the Wilson’s Creek Gorge, an awe inspiring area in Pisgah offering an abundance of outdoor experiences, from kayaking to fly fishing. A trip to Wilson’s Creek can be as relaxing or extraneous as you wish from lounging on a riverside boulder enjoying the views of the winding river to hiking the many intense trails, most that end with true reward: an impressive view or stunning waterfall. Harper’s Creek is another great site to see when visiting the gorge.
Drive the opposite direction of most of these destinations, east to Uwharrie near Albemarle to experience the beauty of Morrow. When all the leaves have turned and dropped from the trees of Appalachia, Morrow’s colors are still vibrant. It is the perfect hiking and camping adventure for the outdoor novice.
Hunt Fish Falls
The pull off for the Hunt Fish Falls trail is deep in Pisgah. This hike is an easy mile hike down. but back up is a different story altogether. It is worth it though, when you are down near the river. It’s two cascades and massive plunge pool are a reminder of the true beauty of nature; a perfect place to swim in the summer, and camp and hike year round, with miles and miles of trails.
Find more NC State Parks, hikes to take, and explore the mountains of North Carolina : nps.gov