Appalachian Trail in North Carolina: top hikes

Appalachian Trail in North Carolina: our favorite hikes

Hike the Appalachian Trail in western NC, 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 epic-length trail is a haven for thru-hikers, a dedicated group who travel the trail’s entire length, following its iconic white blazes and overnighting in tents and primitive shelters on a hike that spans many months and makes 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 North Carolina, and another 224 miles along the border between NC 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 a mossy balsam fir forest at Roan High Knob and the rolling, grassy balds on the Roan Highlands.

Appalachian Trail in North Carolina: top day hikes and backpacking adventures

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. And please remember, wherever you hike: please pack out everything you pack in, and Leave No Trace, to help preserve the trail and its surrounding natural beauty.

Appalachian Trail in North Carolina: our favorite hikes

  • Hike the Appalachian Trail at Max Patch in NC, climbing to the view-packed summit of a grassy mountain bald

    Max Patch on the Appalachian Trail

    1.5 miles, round trip

    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 short 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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  • Appalachian Trail at Roan Mountain: hike to the Overmountain Shelter at Yellow Mountain Gap in western NC

    Roan Highlands: Carvers Gap to the Overmountain Shelter

    10.9 miles, round trip

    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 beautiful 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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  • Hike the Appalachian Trail in Hot Springs, NC, to stunning summit views from Lovers Leap and a wide waterfall on the French Broad River

    Hot Springs to Lovers Leap

    2 miles, round trip

    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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  • Hike the Appalachian Trail from Carvers Gap in NC to beautiful views at Roan High Knob

    Roan Mountain: Carvers Gap to Roan High Knob

    4.5 miles, round trip

    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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  • Hike the Appalachian Trail to Standing Indian Mountain in western NC, catching stunning summit views

    Deep Gap to Standing Indian Mountain

    5 miles, round trip

    Hike the AT from Deep Gap near Franklin, NC to beautiful views at the Standing Indian Mountain summit. The hike 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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  • Hike the Appalachian Trail in NC to Grassy Ridge Bald from Carvers Gap, exploring the view-packed Roan Highlands

    Roan Mountain: Carvers Gap to Grassy Ridge Bald

    4.7 miles, round trip

    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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  • Hike the Appalachian Trail to sublime summit views from the Wesser Bald fire tower near Franklin, NC

    Tellico Gap to the Wesser Bald fire tower

    2.8 miles, round trip

    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 colorful color of autumn paints the forest.
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  • Hike to stunning views from the grassy, wildflower-covered Siler Bald Mountain summit on the Appalachian Trail in NC

    Wayah Gap to Siler Bald Mountain

    3.6 miles, round trip

    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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  • Hike the Appalachian Trail to stunning views from the Albert Mountain fire tower near Franklin, NC

    Albert Mountain fire tower to Mooney Gap

    4 miles, round trip

    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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  • Hike the Appalachian Trail at Roan Mountain to beautiful winter views in western NC

    Winter hike: Carvers Gap to the Roan Highlands

    4.7 miles, round trip

    It’s a stunning hike throughout the year. But the Roan Highlands are exceptionally beautiful in winter, when wind-blown snow and rime ice crust the mountains’ golden grasses and sporadic balsam fir. 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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  • Hiking gear list: what to pack on day hikes, our favorite, trail-tested gear

    Hiking gear list: our favorite, trail-tested gear

    WHAT TO PACK?

    Ready to hit the trail, but wondering what to pack? Our hiking gear list details our favorite, trail-tested hiking gear that we’ve used – and loved – over thousands of miles on the trails throughout the South. From backpacks to safety gear (and a few extras thrown in for fun), our gear list offers the essentials to help inspire your own packing list.
    SEE OUR HIKING GEAR LIST

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