Appalachian Trail in North Carolina: our favorite hikes near Asheville

Appalachian Trail in North Carolina: our favorite hikes near Asheville

Hike the Appalachian Trail in western North Carolina, climbing to sun-drenched ridges and angular peaks, meandering rivers, wildflower-covered mountain balds and view-packed historic fire towers.

Stretching more than 2,000 miles from Georgia’s Springer Mountain to Mount Katahdin in Maine, the AT explores mountain summits, river valleys, and some of the most beautiful vistas on the East Coast. The trail is blazed throughout its length with a white, rectangular trail blaze. And the epic-length trail is a haven for thru-hikers, a dedicated group who travel the trail’s entire length, overnighting in tents and primitive shelters during their long-distance hike that spans many months and many unforgettable memories.

After the Appalachian Trail racks up 78.6 miles in Georgia, the trail crosses into North Carolina at Bly Gap near a gnarled, iconic old oak tree. The trail travels 95 miles in NC, and another 224 along the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, summiting the fire-tower-capped peaks near Franklin before crossing Fontana Dam and entering Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Beyond the Smokies, the AT climbs Roan Mountain, exploring the mossy forest filled with balsam fir at Roan High Knob and the rolling, grassy balds on the Roan Highlands.

Appalachian Trail in North Carolina: our favorite hikes near Asheville

Appalachian Trail near Asheville, NC: our favorite hikes

Our favorite hikes on the AT’s North Carolina stretch make for a great day hike or trail run – or an even better backpacking adventure under the stars. Not sure what to pack? Check out our day hiking gear list and backpacking gear list for some packing inspiration.

Max Patch on the Appalachian Trail

The hike: 2.4 miles
Max Patch on the Appalachian Trail

Hike over a rolling, grassy mountaintop under abundant blue skies, exploring seemingly endless fields of wildflowers and wild berries on this sun-drenched summit. It’s a simply idyllic hike, and one of our hands-down favorites on the AT in North Carolina. This two mile loop catches stunning 360-degree panoramas and ample sunshine on the Max Patch summit. It’s a great destination at sunrise, sunset, or for a mid-day picnic, and stargazing from the summit is simply unforgettable.
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Roan Highlands: Appalachian Trail to the Overmountain Shelter at Yellow Mountain Gap

The hike: 10.9 miles
Roan Highlands: Carvers Gap to the Overmountain Shelter

Hands down, it’s one of the most scenic, view-packed hikes on the AT in western North Carolina. Hike the Appalachian Trail through the rolling, grassy, wildflower-covered Roan Highlands, climbing to Round Bald and Jane Bald from the Carvers Gap trailhead and scoring view after gorgeous view. The hike catches stunning panoramas from the mid-elevations of Grassy Ridge Bald before leaving the Roan Highlands, dipping into a scenic hardwood forest to visit the Low Gap AT shelter. The hike’s midpoint is a historic red barn, the Overmountain Shelter, that’s perfect for a mid-hike rest with a stunning, green valley vista below.
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Hot Springs to Lovers Leap

The hike: 2 miles
Hot Springs to Lovers Leap

Hike the AT through the quaint mountain town of Hot Springs, following the Appalachian Trail’s iconic white blazes through town. The AT follows the French Broad upriver, spotting a wide, whitewater-filled waterfall before climbing a nearby ridge. This two-miler summits to beautiful views at Lovers Leap, a rocky precipice that, legend holds, was the site of a fateful fall of a heartbroken Cherokee princess.
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Roan Mountain: Carvers Gap to Roan High Knob

The hike: 4.5 miles
Roan Mountain: Carvers Gap to Roan High Knob

Climb from Carvers Gap on the AT, meandering through a lush forest filled with balsam fir, fern and moss. The hike climbs to Roan High Knob, visiting the Roan High Knob AT shelter, before catching stunning summit views from a nearby overlook.
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Deep Gap to Standing Indian Mountain

The hike: 5 miles
Deep Gap to Standing Indian Mountain

Hike the AT from Deep Gap near Franklin, NC to beautiful views at the Standing Indian Mountain summit. The hike climbs ascends through a leafy forest, visiting the Standing Indian AT shelter and diving through dense rhododendron tunnels before summiting Standing Indian, catching views of the Tallulah River’s headwaters and Lake Burton.
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Roan Mountain: Carvers Gap to Grassy Ridge Bald in the Roan Highlands

The hike: 4.7 miles
Roan Mountain: Carvers Gap to Grassy Ridge Bald

Hike the Appalachian Trail across three grassy, sun-drenched mountains, catching exceptional views for nearly the entire hike. Climbing from Carvers Gap, the AT explores the Roan Highlands, rolling elevation through fields of grasses and wildflowers, summiting Round Bald, Jane Bald and Grassy Ridge Bald.
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Tellico Gap to the Wesser Bald fire tower

The hike: 2.8 miles
Tellico Gap to the Wesser Bald fire tower

Hike the AT from Tellico Gap to Wesser Bald, catching gorgeous 360-degree panoramic views from a historic fire lookout tower at the mountain’s summit. It’s one of our favorite hikes near Franklin, NC – and especially beautiful in fall, when the forest is painted in the colorful color of autumn.
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Wayah Gap to Siler Bald on the Appalachian Trail

The hike: 3.6 miles
Wayah Gap to Siler Bald

Hike the Appalachian Trail from Wayah Gap, climbing through a scenic forest to the grassy summit of Siler Bald. At the summit, generous views extend in all directions, with Wayah Bald on the near horizon and Albert Mountain in the far distance. It’s a great spot for a summit picnic with an exceptional, view-packed backdrop.
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Albert Mountain fire tower to Mooney Gap

The hike: 4 miles
Albert Mountain fire tower to Mooney Gap

Hike a spur trail to the AT before climbing Albert Mountain, catching exceptional views from a historic steel fire tower on the mountain’s summit. The hike descends Albert through a rocky landscape, catching off-trail views along the Big Butt Ridge before descending to the shady Mooney Gap. It’s a tough four miler, but the hike’s stunning views and scenic forest make the workout worthwhile.
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Winter hike: Carvers Gap to the Roan Highlands

The hike: 4.7 miles
Winter hike: Carvers Gap to the Roan Highlands

It’s a stunning hike throughout the year. But the Roan Highlands are exceptionally beautiful in winter, when their golden grasses and sporadic balsam fir are crusted in wind-blown snow and ice. Hike the AT from Carvers Gap to Grassy Ridge Bald in the winter, catching the day’s colorful first rays at sunrise. The wintertime views are plentiful throughout the hike, and the snowy landscape reflects dawn’s golden hues, making for an especially scenic cold-weather hike.
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Eric Champlin is a writer and photographer who loves to hike, run, backpack, kayak and cycle the southeast. He’s the editor and founder of Atlanta Trails and Asheville Trails, online magazines that cover the South’s best outdoor adventures. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.

Eric is also a freelance writer, photographer and creative director.