Hike North Carolina Travel

Top 10 Hiking Trails in Western North Carolina

Do you love the Appalachian Mountains? What about the Great Smokies? Do you love to stand near gorgeous mist-shrouded falls or hike trails offering gorgeous sceneries in the end? Well, you’ve come to the right place.

Here are my personal, favorite hiking trails that I highly recommend when you’re around Western North Carolina, between Murphy and Asheville.

 1. Wesser Bald Firetower

Imagine standing on top of an abandoned firetower, overlooking the Appalachian mountains, Fontana Lake and the Nantahala National Forest in 360 degree panoramic views.

Wesser Bald Firetower is the PERFECT place for outdoor enthusiasts or families to stargaze or watch the sunrise/sunset!

2. Maxpatch

One of the most popular hikes in the Appalachian trails, the most gorgeous wildflowers surrounds this grassy bald mountain. Once you reach the top, feel free to take a “ZZZZ” as this hike is a great way to rejuvenate your soul during the most tiresome days.

3. Soco Falls

Soco Falls is a perfect hike to cool down during the hot summer blues. This hike starts at a pretty steep downhill slope. You can grab onto the ropes since it prevents you from slipping off the cliff. Once you are all the way down, you are then greeted by huge two-sided waterfalls to your left and front.

4. Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest

Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest is an old-growth forest about 3,800 acres dedicated to Joyce Kilmer, a poet (“Trees”) and soldier killed in World War I, that has not been cut down during the Great Depression.

What I love about this forest is that everywhere you turn to look around, there is something magical about this place. It’s almost like you’re in Jurassic Park.

Plus,this place is perfect for tree-hugging <3

5. Road to Nowhere

Road to Nowhere” once named “Lakeview Drive” was never completed since the road was used to create Fontana Dam. Residents and families moved, cemeteries were cut off and the former road was buried beneath the waters of the lake. The federal government made an agreement with the Swain County to build a new road, but environmental issues stopped the construction of the road. Now, this “Road to Nowhere” stands as a dead-end to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

6. Cheoah Bald

Personally, this was one of the most challenging hikes, but also one of my favorite. Known as “the grandstand of the Appalachians”, this hike is home to the endemic Cheoah bald salamander.

The most interesting part about this trail is you pass along a firefighter’s memorial. This firefighter died protecting the forest from a deadly wildfire. Most AT thru-hikers leave a piece of their belongings on his memorial as a tradition.

Once you’re at the summit of Cheoah Bald, you are rewarded with amazing views of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains.

7. Catawba Falls

Lower Catawba Falls

Located in Old Fort, NC, this hike takes you up to both the lower and upper falls.

The hike to the lower falls is easy and I highly recommend this over the upper falls, unless you’re an experienced hiker. The upper falls, however, requires grabbing the rope as you climb up the steep trail.

But no matter what falls you choose, you’ll be rewarded with a nice, relaxing dip into the cool waters.

Upper Catawba Falls

8. Rainbow Falls/Turtle Rock Falls

Rainbow Falls

Honestly, I loved both falls so I decided to include both as one of my personal favorites. Rainbow Falls, one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, stands at over 100 ft. I don’t recommend getting close to the falls as the rocks are very slippery. Plus, it’s dangerous and many people died getting close to the falls.

If you hike a few miles past Rainbow Falls, you reach Turtleback Falls. This popular swimming hole takes you up a huge rock on top of the falls for a thrilling slide over the 20-foot drop of the curved rock face (aka “turtle shell”).

Turtleback Falls

9. Clingman’s Dome

Photo Credit: Amanda Lutz

If you thought Clingman’s Dome is some kind of dome-shaped mountain…well hate to break it to ya but it ain’t. This hike is actually an observatory and the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains.

What’s more fascinating about this hike is its Cherokee legend. According to the legend, there’s a sacred, healing lake called Ataga’hi which was believed to be a healing water. When wounded bears swam into the lake, they came out miraculously healed. The only catch is nobody knows the exact location.

10. Ledbetters

Ledbetters is one of those hidden gems that not many know about. Located in Nantahala National Forest, this hike takes you up to a beautiful creek in a pretty remote location so it’s the perfect place to watch the “firefly light show” phenomenon or watch the leaves change color.


Have you hiked to any of these places? What are your favorite hiking spots in Western North Carolina? Let me know by commenting down below.

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