So often people think of the west as a hiking mecca. When really, some of the best hiking in the country is located in North Carolina. With four national forests (Nantahala, Pisgah, Uwharrie, Croatan) the Great Smokey Mountains (the most popular national park in the USA) and the Appalachian Trail running through it, it is hard to beat. North Carolina has Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak on the East Coast, and the Linville Gorge which is often referred to as the Grand Canyon of the East. If you are just a beginning hiker or an experienced one, North Carolina has something for you.
Yes, everyone has done the hanging rock hike, it is a short there and back hike normally crowded with people. However, the hike I am talking about is called Moore’s Wall Knob. It is a nice 4.4-mile loop hike that can be done in all seasons. If you are looking for more of a challenge then start the loop going counter-clockwise. Going this way you will encounter a steep and quick incline with a lot of stairs. If you are looking for an easier route then start the trail going clockwise. If you choose this way you will still get warm going up the mountain. When you reach the top you will see a sign for an observation tower. From the tower, you will be able to see neighboring Pilot Mountain and the Piedmont.
This trail is a great 1.66-mile there and back trail. Even though this trail is only .8 miles one direction it is all uphill until you reach the top. This trail is great because when you reach the top you will have spectacular views of Linville Gorge. This hike it is still accessible by other roads besides the Blue Ridge Parkway (often closed in any sort of wintry weather). I like day hiking with my backpacking stove so I can make hot cocoa at the top and enjoy the view. There are many other great hikes right around the area if you are looking to hike more than just 1.66 miles.
This hike is a great easy/moderate hike. It is a 5.2-mile hike one-way road to road, or a 10.4 mile there and back. If 10.4 miles seems daunting for a day hike, then cut it short, you will still have a lot of amazing sights to see. Though the scenery is beautiful in the park, this trail is really cool because of the number of historical sites along the path. Little Cataloochee was an offshoot of Big Cataloochee, a community settled in the early 1800’s. Neither community is inhabited anymore. You will see restored homesteads, graveyards and chapels. I highly recommend walking in and around all of them. After you have finished this hike, you should head on down to the valley, depending on when you visit you have a good chance of seeing the elk.
If you wish you can just hike up to Black Balsam Knob. It is just one mile up the trail. However, my favorite day hike was 9 miles. We started on the 101 at the parking area heading North for 4.5 miles to shining rock gap. We then took a right and headed back south on the Art Loeb Trail for 4.5 miles back to the parking area. On this hike you will hike in well-covered areas as well as a beautiful grassy bald ridge. If you are hiking in any season besides summer, definitely bring layers because the temperature changes dramatically in different areas of this hike.
There are many different trails that can be connected to make a loop hike here. There are also many different parking areas with access to different trailheads. To access the loop I did you need to park on Breedlove Road. I did a nice 7.6-mile hike starting on Panthertown Valley Trail-Macs Gap - Little Green-Devil’s Elbow- Riding Ford-Black Rock. This hike has it all! Along Blackrock Trail you will have an amazing overlook that is a great spot to sit and have lunch or just take a break. When you are on Little Green you will come to School House Falls- a beautiful Waterfall that cascades into a great swimming hole! If you are hiking in the summer, it is a great place to take a dip to cool off! Keep walking and you will come to another great overlook with the largest granite face in the Valley- Tranquility Point. This is rightfully named, as it is a very peaceful place to stop and enjoy what Mother Nature has to offer.
CloudLine ambassadors Justin and Patrice Lavigne live a life less ordinary. They are constantly doing what they love and that involves adventures like thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2011, living in their van for months at a time, spending the summer guiding kids on outdoor adventures at summer camps, writing for Backpacker's Magazine, and in 2015 they thru-hiked New Zealand's long trail, Te Araroa.
Beginning May 1st, 2017 the Lavigne's will be hitting the road in their camper van to speak about their thru-hike of Te Araroa at 31 events across the country.