We’re addicted, and we admit it: we can’t get enough of Western NC’s epic sunrise and sunset views. There’s no better way to greet a new day than with a chilly early morning hike to catch the first rays of light. And watching the sun slowly sink behind the horizon from a lofty summit perch is one of the absolute best, most relaxing ways to end the day
Be sure to pack hiking essentials (check out our hiking gear list for our trail-tested favorites) like water, extra layers, and a flashlight or headlamp to help navigate the trail in low pre-dawn and pre-dusk light.
Our favorite sunrise and sunset hikes near Asheville, NC
Our top 10 favorite trails explore some of the most beautiful mountain summits near Asheville and make the perfect spot to catch a colorful celestial show.
Max Patch Mountain
1.5 MILES (ROUND TRIP)
It’s one of the most popular destinations on the Appalachian Trail in the South, and for good reason. Climb to the rolling, grassy, wildflower-filled summit of Max Patch Mountain and grab amazing 360-degree views. It’s one of our favorite places to lay out a picnic and lazily watch the sun sink behind the Blue Ridge Mountains.
For a dose of serenity and a little more mileage, hike the alternate route to Max Patch from Lemon Gap. This lesser traveled stretch of the Appalachian Trail offers the opportunity for a bit more solitude and makes for a great overnight backpacking adventure.
4.7 MILES (ROUND TRIP)
We’re absolutely in love with Roan Mountain’s outstanding views. Its high-elevation expanses of rolling, golden grass in summer, and windswept frozen beauty in winter top our list for catching sunrise or sunset in any season. Hike this ultra-scenic section of the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina through grassy fields filled with wildflowers and wild blueberries to some of the most spectacular panoramic views in Western North Carolina.
1 MILE (ROUND TRIP)
It’s the highest elevation summit on the East Coast and offers unparalleled, far-flung views of the Southern Appalachians in every direction. Follow Mitchell’s family-friendly Summit and Balsam Trail to stunning views from the large observation platform at the summit, and then dive through a lush spruce-fire forest with rocky terrain and high-altitude flora. It’s an excellent summertime adventure: temperatures on Mt Mitchell can be 10-20 degrees lower than the surrounding valleys and nearby Asheville.
Black Balsam Knob
1.4 MILES (ROUND TRIP)
Hike the Art Loeb Trail to the summit of Black Balsam Knob just off the Blue Ridge Parkway for outstanding sunset views over the rolling mountains. Black Balsam Knob offers plenty of rocky perches to sit and enjoy the sky slowly painted in hues of pink, purple, orange, and red.
Extend this relatively short hike by continuing on the Art Loeb Trail from Black Balsam Knob to Tennent Mountain, or for an epic day hike make the gorgeous trek to Shining Rock Mountain and its brilliant white quartz outcrops.
1.2 MILES (ROUND TRIP)
Climb the rocky, rugged Tanawha Trail to angular overlooks at the Rough Ridge summit and outstanding sunrise vistas. Catch stunning see-forever views over Grandfather Mountain and the Linn Cove Viaduct, and plan to spend a while soaking up the sunshine and the early morning beauty.
12 MILES (ROUND TRIP)
Score amazing views from the third tallest peak in the Smoky Mountains. The Alum Cave Trail to Mt LeConte makes for an amazing overnight adventure, catching both sunrise and sunset from the open, expansive summit. This hike explores some of the park’s most scenic terrain including Inspiration Point, the Alum Cave Bluffs, Arch Rock, and Gracie’s Pulpit.
2.2 MILES (ROUND TRIP)
Hawksbill Mountain has long been one our top favorite adventures, with top-of-the-world views in every direction. The rocky, rugged summit offers 360-degree, panoramic views and makes the ultimate spot to catch sunrise when exploring Linville Gorge.
.9 MILE (ROUND TRIP)
It may have an ominous sounding name, but the views are simply sublime and serene. On a clear day, far-flung views of three states can be seen from the mountain’s summit. The short (but steep) Devil’s Courthouse Trail is one the most popular on the Blue Ridge Parkway, offering outstanding sunset views from its rocky precipice.
WHAT TO PACK?
Hiking gear list: our favorite, trail-tested gearReady to hit the trail, but wondering what to pack? Our hiking gear list features our favorite, trail-tested hiking gear for day hikes on local trails and in the North Carolina wilderness. We print and stitch our Asheville Trails shirts and hats locally in Asheville and Atlanta, and they’re our favorite for trail adventures all over the South. And no matter what you pack in, pack it all back out. Please leave no trace and help preserve the beauty of Western NC.
OUR HIKING GEAR LIST
Always leave no trace, pack out everything you pack in, and if you see trash, pick it up and pack it out.
Stay on the marked trail, tell someone where you're going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, and don't rely on a mobile phone to find your way. Please always practice good trail etiquette. And before you go, always check the trailhead kiosk, official maps, and the park or ranger office for notices of changed routes, trail closures, safety information, and restrictions.