Hike the Appalachian Trail at Hot Springs, North Carolina, climbing to beautiful views from Lovers Leap and exploring the wide, whitewater-filled French Broad River.

georgia hiking trails: 2-4 miles 2 miles
(round trip)
? Your mileage may vary! Accuracy of your GPS device, weather conditions, and stops along your route will affect your own recorded distance.
georgia hiking trails: moderaterelatively
moderate
?Our difficulty estimate, based on distance, terrain, elevation change, & ease of wayfinding. May vary daily due to weather, trail reroutes, downed trees, etc.
georgia hiking trails: dog-friendly Dog-
friendly
?Leashed dogs are allowed on this trail. We’ve loved hiking this route with our trail-loving Labrador Retrievers! Check out more of our favorite dog-friendly trails near Asheville for a great hike with your pup.

LOCATION:on the Appalachian Trail in NC

GEAR & WEAR: our hiking gear list and our locally-made Asheville Trails shirts & hats

OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 782 Trails Illustrated Map

RATED: 4.5/5 (2 reviews)

While many stretches of the Appalachian Trail’s epic, 2000+ mile journey from Georgia to Maine adventure over remote mountaintops and tranquil river valleys, the famous trail makes the occasional departure through towns that call the mountains home.

North of Georgia’s Springer Mountain, the AT crosses through the first of its official trail towns at Hot Springs, North Carolina, a small mountain town nestled in a valley beside the scenic French Broad River. The town oozes small-town charm and scenic beauty, and outdoor outfitters, sandwich shops, and campgrounds pepper its sleepy streets. Routing down the town’s main thoroughfare, the Appalachian Trail’s iconic, white rectangular blazes follow Bridge Street, crossing the French Broad River before climbing a nearby summit at Lovers Leap.

Appalachian Trail: Hot Springs, NC to Lovers Leap

This two-miler follows the Appalachian Trail’s white blazes through town and hikes the banks of the placid French Broad to a wide, spilling waterfall. The hike veers northbound to climb to the summit of Lovers Leap, a rocky precipice that overlooks the town and offers some beautiful, lofty views. The town offers plenty of places for pre-hike gear shopping and post-hike refreshments. This is an ultra-scenic hike, and while it’s moderately challenging, it’s also relatively short. And the views make the workout well worth it.

Hike the Appalachian Trail at Hot Springs, North Carolina, climbing to beautiful views from Lovers Leap and exploring the wide, whitewater-filled French Broad River. #hiking #trailrunning #camping #backpacking #asheville #nc #northcarolina #travel #outdoors #adventure

Appalachian Trail in Hot Springs, NC: the hike

The hike departs from downtown Hot Springs, following the Appalachian Trail’s white blazes eastbound along Bridge Street (view maps and driving directions). The trail crosses a wide bridge over the French Broad River, catching beautiful upstream views of the river in the shadow of the towering Lovers Leap summit directly ahead.

Appalachian Trail: Hot Springs, NC to Lovers Leap

The hike reaches the river’s east bank and descends stairs, continuing to follow the AT’s white blazes. The trail follows Silver Mine Road for a short stretch, crosses a wide wooden bridge over Silver Mine Creek, and trails the French Broad upriver. The hike passes the angular, towering outcrops at the base of Lovers Leap, trekking over rocky terrain on the river’s banks.

The hike passes several large campsites nestled beside the river, shaded by the pine and leafy deciduous canopy overhead. The trail reaches a tumbling, wide, whitewater-filled waterfall at .35 mile.

Appalachian Trail: Hot Springs, NC to Lovers Leap

The AT continues its southbound trek alongside the river, gently rolling elevation on the river’s banks. The trail veers southeast at .6 mile, following the trail’s white blazes as the trail climbs sharply through a switchback. The trail curves northbound, beginning a 400-foot climb to Lovers Leap over the next .3 mile. The terrain quickly becomes rocky and rugged.

The trail carves through several sharp switchbacks, reaching the first of three overlooks at .85 mile. A second overlook offers sweeping views at .9 mile, the site from which, Cherokee Legend holds, a broken-hearted princess leaped to her death. The Lovers Leap outcrops drop off sharply, and the mountain’s footing is unstable in places, thanks to loose rock – so tread carefully. The hike reaches the third overlook at 1 mile after carving through tight switchbacks near the summit. Views extend west to the town of Hot Springs, and north along the wide, gentle meanders of the French Broad River. The summit’s rock outcrops make a great spot for a sunny mid-hike snack.



The hike departs the summit overlook and retraces its outbound steps on the AT, descending to the banks of the French Broad and hiking downriver to return to the trailhead. Crossing the bridge spanning the river, the hike finishes the adventure at just over 2 miles.

Nearby adventures on the Appalachian Trail

In the area with daylight (and energy) left to burn? Hike the Appalachian Trail at Max Patch Mountain, one of our favorite, can’t-miss hikes in North Carolina. It’s a scenic drive west from Hot Springs, and a moderately short adventure to a grassy bald that’s drenched in sunshine and covered in wildflowers. Or for a longer, scenic route to the mountain bald, hike the Appalachian Trail from Lemon Gap to Max Patch, enjoying a great workout (and some solitude) on a lesser-traveled route to the popular summit.


Appalachian Trail: Hot Springs NC to Lovers Leap Map, Directions & Details

Trails and routes may change – so please refer to official trail maps for the latest route.

Trail Rating

RATED: 4.5/5 (2 reviews)

Love the trail?

This trail is maintained thanks to the hard work of countless volunteers and donations from supporters of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Please support them by making a donation or joining a volunteer day. Let's work together to keep these fantastic trails maintained and open for use!

Updates

Did you have trouble accessing the trail, or notice some recent trail updates or storm damage? We'd love to know! Contact us here, and thanks for helping us keep this site updated!

Driving Directions



Parking

Parking is available in designated lots in the town of Hot Springs.


GPS Coordinates

35.893668, -82.823819     //     N35 53.618 W82 49.433

Elevation Profile

Lovers Leap on the Appalachian Trail: elevation profile
 
 
Leave No Trace: Atlanta Trails, Asheville Trails and Trailful are official Leave No Trace partners

Please Remember

Always leave no trace, tell someone where you're going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, don't rely on a mobile phone to find your way, and follow these trail etiquette tips.

Eric Champlin
Author

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, Asheville Trails, and Trailful, digital magazines that highlight the South’s best outdoor adventures and top Southern-worthy outdoor gear. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.