We’ve talked about camping and backpacking trips before, but what if you’re only in town for the weekend, or you’d like to catch some of the gorgeous views off the mountains surrounding Asheville, but don’t want to disappear into the forest for days? Well, we’ve got your solution: day hikes! The following 8 hikes are all less than 7 miles round trip, and can be completed in a day or even just a few hours, leaving you plenty of time to explore downtown Asheville during the rest of your weekend. We’ve included a few different difficulty levels too, just in case you wanted to get a workout in with the view.
This is a great option if you don’t know how far you want to hike, or if you’re planning on bringing a picnic. Since it’s only about a half-mile hike to get to the first bald, you can stop there, have lunch, and turn right back around if you brought the kids. Otherwise, you might opt for the popular five mile loop which gives you the choice of taking a flat trail back to the car, or choosing the more strenuous Ivestor Gap Trail Connector. If five miles seems too short, that’s fine, you can go as far as you want! The trail you take to get to the balds hooks up with the Art Loeb Trail, which is 30 miles of relatively strenuous hiking. Short, mid, or long distance hikes are all possible from this starting point, and either way you go, you’re sure to get a great view of North Carolina’s famous balds.
Probably the closest option to Asheville, Craggy Gardens offers some of the most spectacular long range views in the area. You’ll be able to see the Black Mountains without obstruction, and it’s a very accessible day hike. Your hike time will probably be around 30 minutes, so feel free to bring the kids! It’s good to know that because of the beautiful view, and the relative ease of the hike, you probably won’t be alone, especially during the summer of fall.
Just 45 minutes from downtown Asheville, this iconic hike is located in the Pisgah National Forest. While professional climbers are often spotted climbing the face of Looking Glass Rock, which can be fairly intimidating, you don’t have to go that way to be able to take in the views. Around the backside of Looking Glass Rock is a very popular hiking trail that will get you right up the trail without having to do anything too dangerous. The trail, aptly named Looking Glass Rock Trail, is about 6.5 miles round-trip, and we’d put it in the moderate to strenuous category. There’s a lot of switchbacks and a decent incline which make your trip a little bit longer, so if you’re not an avid hiker, plan on 4-5 hours total. Along they way you’ll see all kinds of small falls, and the views at the top are unparalleled. Just make sure not to get too close to the edge of the cliffs when you get up there.
A much shorter hike, Rough Ridge is a great spot to take in early fall color! With the summit of Rough Ridge at less than a mile from the parking area, this is another good hike to take a picnic, but if you’re looking to go farther, you still have plenty of options from here. The Rough Ridge hike, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, is part of the 13 mile Tanawha Trail, so you can always take two cars and hike to Beacon Heights or another destination along the way.
Just a short half-hour drive from downtown Asheville, the actual Montreat Conference Center is private, but the many trails surrounding the center are open to everyone. One of those trails, Lookout Trail, is a steep half mile to the summit, but once you make it, you won’t be sorry. From the top you’ll get the best views of the Black Mountains, most markedly the famous Seven Sisters, and there’s an optional 45 minute loop from the summit as well, so make sure you catch as much trail time as possible! If the Lookout Trail doesn’t sound perfect, you can check out one of Montreat’s other 19 trails, each with their own unique views of the mountains.
About 20 miles out of Hot Springs lies one of the most popular balds near Asheville: Max Patch. The perfect spot for a scenic picnic, the one mile round trip hike is easy, and you’ll get stunning 360º views. If you’re a super-hiker, this is also a good spot to catch up with the Appalachian trail. There’s plenty of space for kids to play, and it’s a fairly safe area, so you won’t have to worry too much about anyone falling.
This moderate 1.5 mile hike sports a spectacular view, and is short enough that you could fit in another hike the same day if you wanted! From the top of the trail you’ll catch wide panoramic views of Linville Gorge and the Linville River thousands of feet beneath you. Though the hike is short, it is very steep, climbing about 700 feet in just the three quarters of a mile it takes to reach the summit, so make sure you’re prepared, and give yourself plenty of time for the uphill portion. From the top of the hike you’ll be able to see some of the more famous North Carolina mountains, like Grandfather Mountain, Table Rock, and Shortoff Mountain. It’s also good to note that you can camp on the top of the trail, if that’s something that interests you.
This three-mile hike will take you through the DuPont State Recreational Forest to three of the area’s most popular waterfalls. Since this is one of the most visited hiking spots in the area, the trails are well marked, and you’ll have a few options as you make your trek to Hooker Falls, Triple Falls, and High Falls. When you reach High Falls you can turn around and go back the way you came, or you can extend your hike. Maps and trail signs are easily accessible, so don’t worry too much about getting lost. Just stay on the trails and you should be good to go. This is a fairly easy walk, so you won’t have to tangle with steep or rocky hikes.