Pickens Nose Trail
Hike through a dense, beautiful rhododendron forest to exceptional views from the rocky summit of Pickens Nose near Franklin, NC.
Rising high from the surrounding valleys in the Standing Indian Basin, Pickens Nose juts its rocky summit outcrops skyward, like an angular bird beak. The mountain’s multiple overlooks offer outstanding, sweeping views of the surrounding Southern Nantahala Wilderness – and a great place to soak up some sun.
The Pickens Nose Trail summits its namesake peak after departing from a trailhead near the Appalachian Trail at Mooney Gap. The hike is a moderate one, spanning .75 mile each way. It’s a scenic trail, too, hiking through dense thickets of rhododendron to multiple view-packed overlooks along the rising, rocky summit. The overlooks drop off steeply and sharply, demanding some caution, so we enjoyed the views from a cautious distance. But the views are simply stunning.
With stunning scenery, fantastic views, and a moderately short distance, the Pickens Nose Trail is easily one of our favorite hikes near Franklin, NC.
Pickens Nose Trail: the hike
The hike departs from the Pickens Nose trailhead along the gravel-paved Forest Road 83 (view maps and driving directions), southeast of where the Appalachian Trail crosses FR83 at Mooney Gap. The Pickens Nose Trail hikes southbound, climbing through a hardwood forest filled with gnarly-branched rhododendron and mountain laurel. It’s a moderate, but nearly unrelenting, climb to the mountain’s summit.
The trail meanders through a wide switchback, reaching the first of several spur trails at .25 miles. The hike turns left, following the side trail to a wide rock outcrop with sweeping eastbound views.
Returning to the main trail, the hike continues its climb. A pungent scent fills the air as galax, an evergreen groundcover with a signature onion-like scent, begins to carpet the sunlight-dappled forest floor.
The hike reaches its highest elevations at .4 miles before beginning a shallow descent, rolling elevation near the Pickens Nose summit. The hike passes a small campsite at .6 mile, turning right on a side spur to hike to a second overlook.
After retracing to the main trail, the hike climbs southbound, reaching a third overlook spur at .67 mile. The side trail descends to a rocky overlook with exceptional views of the surrounding mountain ridges, valleys and forest. An angular outcrop juts skyward, almost nose-like in its appearance.
Retracing to the main trail, the hike makes its final trek to the southernmost precipice on Pickens Nose. So, what’s with the bizarre-sounding name? Legend holds that the sharp, nose-like summit was named after General Andrew Pickens, a Revolutionary War veteran who was reportedly a menace to local Native American tribes, and who was known for his angular, long nose.
Whatever the origin of the peak’s odd name, the summit’s views are simply incredible.
The mountain’s sun-drenched summit just begs for a pause. Views of Ridgepole Mountain open to the southwest. Southward, views extend into Georgia, with Georgia’s Black Rock Mountain far on the horizon.
After catching some summit solitude and soaking in the views, the hike turns to retrace its steps to the trailhead, hiking the outbound hike in reverse. The hike completes at 1.5 miles, reaching the Pickens Nose trailhead.
Nearby can’t-miss hikes near Franklin, NC
In the area with daylight and energy to burn? Hike the Appalachian Trail stunning views at the Albert Mountain summit, catching incredible 360-degree panoramas from the mountain’s historic fire tower. Chase waterfalls in a lush creek valley at the headwaters of the Nantahala River on the Big Laurel Falls Trail. Or hike the Appalachian Trail to Standing Indian Mountain from Deep Gap, climbing through a lush forest to summit views of the headwaters of the Tallulah River, and Lake Burton on the far horizon.
Pickens Nose Trail: Directions & Details
Free parking is available at the trailhead. Before you go, check for seasonal trail and road closures on the USFS Nantahala National Forest site.
35.030399, -83.461823 // N35 01.825 W83 27.710