Hike the Pickens Nose Trail through a beautiful rhododendron forest to exceptional views from a craggy summit near the Appalachian Trail and Franklin, NC.
LOCATION:in the Nantahala National Forest near Franklin, NC
OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 785 Trails Illustrated Map
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 perfect place to soak up some sun.
The 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 on the 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 just stunning.
With stunning scenery, fantastic views, and a moderately short distance, this trail is easily one of our favorite hikes near Franklin and the Georgia / North Carolina border.
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 trail wanders 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 broad rock outcrop with sweeping eastbound views.
The hike returns to the main trail and continues the climb. Galax, an evergreen groundcover with a signature onion-like scent, carpets the sunlight-dappled forest floor.
The trail reaches its highest elevations at .4 mile before starting a shallow descent, rolling elevation near the mountain’s summit. The hike passes a small campsite at .6 mile, turning right on a side spur trail to explore a second overlook.
After retracing to the main trail, the hike climbs southbound, reaching a third overlook spur trail 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.
The hike retraces to the main trail and makes its final trek to the southernmost precipice on Pickens Nose. So, what’s with the bizarre-sounding name? Legend holds that locals Native Americans named the sharp, nose-like summit after General Andrew Pickens, a Revolutionary War veteran who was reportedly a menace to local Native American tribes. Pickens was also 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 adventure finishes 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.
Trails and routes may change – so please refer to official trail maps for the latest route.
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This trail is maintained thanks to the hard work of countless volunteers and donations from supporters of the National Forest Foundation. 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!
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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