10 Asheville Hikes with Epic Mountain Views


While there are thousands of miles of hiking trails in the Blue Ridge Mountains thanks to our national and state parks and forests, here are our ten top mountaintop hikes with the best panoramic views near Asheville, North Carolina. And they are all free to enjoy! Take a picnic and allow time to enjoy the view.

Mt. Mitchell: After enjoying the 360-degree vistas from the observation deck atop the highest peak in eastern USA, hike the Deep Gap Trail to four more summits over 6,000 feet, including Mt. Craig just a mile away.

Craggy Pinnacle: A 1.5-mile roundtrip hike offers spectacular 360-degree panoramic views and a great spot for a picnic along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Max Patch: Hike the 2.4-mile loop around the grassy summit or continue further on the Appalachian Trail in Pisgah National Forest.

Black Balsam Knob: Hike across multiple mountain balds near the Blue Ridge Parkway. These treeless mountaintops in the Pisgah National Forest offer sweeping views all along the trail.

Looking Glass Rock: Hike this iconic rock face summit with a 1,700-foot elevation gain in the 6.5-mile roundtrip trail.

Whiteside Mountain: This two-mile hike in the Nantahala National Forest near Cashiers takes you on top of sheer 750-foot high cliffs with outstanding views.

Table Rock Mountain: Enjoy spectacular views of Linville Gorge from atop this distinctive summit. This 2.2-mile hike can be combined with a 1.5-mile trek to the top of nearby Hawksbill Mountain.

Roan Mountain: Hike through summer Catawba rhododendron and along a lofty, grassy ridge for five miles along the Appalachian Trail.

Mt. LeConte: The restored Alum Cave Trail is the most hiked in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You’ll see why with interesting geological features and stunning views along the 11-mile roundtrip hike that climbs 2,853 feet in elevation.

Cold Mountain: This strenuous 10.6-mile roundtrip hike takes you to the summit of the mountain made famous by the novel and movie, in the Shining Rock Wilderness Area of the Pisgah National Forest.

All of these hikes were selected by the readers of RomanticAsheville.com Travel Guide. For info on these and others, go to their Top 75 Hikes near Asheville.


RomanticAsheville.com Debuts New Website

RomanticAsheville.comOur travel guide RomanticAsheville.com celebrates its 12th anniversary this month with a fully re-designed Website, just in time for the busy July 4th weekend. What started as a hobby by us in 2003 has grown into one of the most popular travel websites in North Carolina with 4.5 million visits during the last 12 months (more than double the year before).

The new Website features a fully responsive design for optimal viewing on the wide range of devices used for internet access, including desktops, tablets and phones. Other new features include photo galleries, a trip planner and a “my favorites” tool to build a custom itinerary.

While the original focus was mostly Asheville, the guide gradually expanded to include most of the mountains of North Carolina.  For example, their Blue Ridge Parkway guide covers 193 miles from Cherokee to Grandfather Mountain. Plus, there are features on more than 25 small towns from Saluda to Beech Mountain to Bryson City, with plenty of things to do in between.

More than 2,000 photographs (by me, Mark File) showcase the beauty of the area. I visit every place I feature, and I’m always carrying my camera. I especially love the outdoors, so the hiking and waterfalls sections are the biggest – more than 100 pages.

Outdoor lovers will find guides to 60 waterfalls and 75 hikes near Asheville. Other information includes Biltmore, Great Smoky Mountains, restaurants, beer, lodging and much more.

The guide grows organically based on reader interests. The most popular feature each year is the fall color guide, highlighted with a week-by-week peak color forecast. All content is free for readers, since the Website is funded by advertising partners such as bed-and-breakfasts, hotels, cabin rentals and attractions.

What’s next? Every week I learn about something new in Western North Carolina. I’ll never run out of finding things to see and do that I can share with readers.

Go to www.RomanticAsheville.com to see the guide.

Celebrating Mount Mitchell State Park’s 100th

Mt Mitchell

One hundred years ago this month, a bill passed the state legislature to make Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River at 6,684 feet, the first state park in North Carolina. In 1835, Grandfather Mountain was thought to be the highest point in the region. However, Dr. Elisha Mitchell, professor at the University of North Carolina, performed measurements that convinced him that the Black Mountains were taller. Mitchell studied barometric pressure readings and used mathematical formulas to determine that the highest point in the range was 6,476 feet, which was taller than Grandfather Mountain. Dr. Mitchell returned to perform more measurements and calculations in 1838 and 1844 and determined the highest peak was 6,672 feet – only a 12 foot difference from modern measurements! The mountain was named after Dr. Mitchell in 1858, one year after he fell off a cliff above a 40-foot waterfall there and drowned in the river below. His body is buried at Mt. Mitchell, right beside the observation deck on the summit.

Mt Mitchell Hike

Deep Gap Trail

Mount Mitchell is located in the Black Mountain range, approximately 35 miles northeast of downtown Asheville. There are lots of fun activities at Mount Mitchell State Park, from hiking, camping and picnicking to birding and just enjoying the plantlife and views. Our favorite hiking trails are the Deep Gap Trail, Balsam Trail, and the Mount Mitchell Trail. Deep Gap and Balsam are relatively easy, and the Mount Mitchell trail is longer and more strenuous. The park is open year round, as long as there is no ice or snow on the roads. The museum, restaurant, and concession stand will reopen on May 1.

Our Tips for Visiting Mount Mitchell:

  • Bring a jacket or an extra layer of clothes. Temperatures are usually 10-30 degrees cooler than in Asheville. Weather conditions can change rapidly. Take rain gear along if you are hiking.
  • Eight out of ten days, the summit is covered in clouds and fog. Watch the weather, and try to visit when skies are very clear in Asheville.
  • Allow plenty of driving time to reach Mt. Mitchell (at least one hour from Asheville). The entrance is from the Blue Ridge Parkway and the traffic can be slow, especially on the weekends.
  • The park is open every day, year-round, however sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway close during much of the winter between Asheville and Mt. Mitchell. During most of the winter, the only route is taking the Parkway south from NC Highway 80. The restaurant, exhibit hall and gift shop are open May through October. Admission is free.
  • Call the Park office at 828-675-4611 to check winter road conditions.

Happy 100th birthday! Read more about Mount Mitchell State Park

Sliding Rock Insider Tips

Watch a video of the fun!

15 Tips for Visits to Sliding Rock, NC

Sliding RockThousands of people visit and slide down Sliding Rock every week each summer in Pisgah National Forest. A favorite for generations, it’s the most popular swimming hole in the North Carolina mountains. The 60-foot waterfall is about 35 miles from Asheville and about 10 miles from Brevard. Visitors of all ages patiently line up and wait their turn to slide and splash into an eight-foot deep pool. Here are some tips for your visit:

  • The chilly mountain water runs 50-60 degrees, so it’s definitely refreshing on a hot summer day!
  • Lifeguards are on duty through September 1, 10 AM-6 PM. Changing rooms and restrooms are open when lifeguards are working.
  • Cost is $2/person when lifeguards are on duty. Children 6 and under are free.
  • The parking area fills up and closes periodically on summer weekends. Avoid peak visiting hours of 11 AM-3 PM on Saturday and Sundays. The parking area also fills up on some July weekdays.
  • Do not slide during high water or thunderstorms.
  • Even if you are not getting into the water, it’s fun to watch from the observation decks.
  • The pool at the bottom of the falls is eight feet deep. So know how to swim!
  • Children under seven years must slide with an adult.
  • Lifejackets are the only flotation device allowed.
  • Blue jean or thick shorts and water shoes are recommended for sliding on the rock slope.
  • Slide in sitting position only.
  • No alcohol is permitted.
  • Pets are allowed at Sliding Rock, but they must be on a leash and cannot slide down the rock.
  • To avoid parking lot congestion, no picnicking here. You’ll see lots of picnic tables roadside and nearby Coontree picnic area.
  • The nearest food service is the café at Cradle of Forestry near Pink Beds (four miles west) or at the edge of Brevard (7.5 miles east).

Directions: Don’t count on GPS. From Asheville take I-26 East to Exit 40 for Highway 280 (Asheville Airport). Take a right onto Highway 280 West and go 16 miles toward Brevard. As you enter Brevard, you will see a big shopping center on the right with Wal-Mart. Just past the center, turn right onto US Highway 276 North (Forest Heritage Scenic Byway) and go  7.6 miles to a parking area on the left. From the Blue Ridge Parkway, take US 276 South about 7.5 miles.

For more info, go to http://www.romanticasheville.com/sliding_rock_north_carolina.htm.

Asheville Fall Color & Parkway Update

Current Fall Color on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Current Fall Color on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Great news for fall color seekers in the North Carolina mountains near Asheville. The entire stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina is open. While its visitor centers, campgrounds, picnic areas and other facilities are closed, places like the Folk Art Center and Pisgah Inn & Restaurant has reopened. The small section of the Parkway in Asheville that was recently closed due to erosion has been repaired. To plan a drive, go to our Blue Ridge Parkway guide at http://www.romanticasheville.com/BlueRidgeParkway.htm.

Fall color is picking up speed. The best color is still in the highest elevations – typically 4,000 feet elevation and above. During the next two weeks, color will progress to the lower elevations.

Second falls at Graveyard Fields on the Parkway

Second falls at Graveyard Fields on the Parkway

October 12-19: Color is increasing in elevations greater than 4,000 feet, including the Mount Pisgah, Black Balsam, Devil’s Courthouse and Waterrock Knob, southwest of Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It will also be peak color in the Highlands area, including Whiteside Mountain, with plenty of waterfalls to enjoy, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Current fall color at Mt. Pisgah from the Parkway

Current fall color at Mt. Pisgah from the Parkway

October 17-25: Many of the surrounding mountains around Asheville show plenty of color, especially in the 3,000-4,000 foot elevation range. A great hike in Pisgah National Forest would be Looking Glass Rock or Cradle of Forestry. North of Asheville, head to Linville Gorge with hikes to the top of Table Rock and Hawksbill Mountain.

October 22-30: The city of Asheville (2,000 feet elevation) shows the brightest colors, along with areas around Hendersonville and Brevard. This is the perfect time for a waterfall hike in DuPont State Forest or leisurely walk at the NC Arboretum. This is also the peak leaf color for Biltmore Estate.

October 25-November 4: The color show concludes in the Chimney Rock area (elevation of 1,300 feet). Ride to the top of Chimney Rock or take a boat tour on Lake Lure

There are many upcoming fall events and festivals – see a complete list, along with the latest fall color report at http://www.romanticasheville.com/fall.htm.


Fall Foliage Forecast and NC Mountain Color Guide

Fall Color on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville

Fall color this year in the North Carolina mountains is looking great! We’ve had good rains this summer, so the trees are very healthy. See our week-by-week fall foliage color forecast  to plan your trip to see the fall leaf color show in the Blue Ridge Mountains and Great Smoky Mountains near Asheville. There are many great fall events as well. Peak color in the higher elevations (like Mt. Mitchell and highest sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway) will be in early October. Most of the mountains will have peak color during the last two weeks of October. The color show ends in the lower elevations, including Biltmore Estate and Chimney Rock in late October and early November. See fall photos from last year!

The best way to enjoy nature’s color show is to take a hike in the mountains or visit one of the North Carolina waterfalls near Asheville. Or take a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway or through the Pisgah National Forest or Nantahala National Forest. Take a zip line canopy tour or raft down a river.

75th Anniversary of the Joyce Kilmer Forest

Massive Old Growth Trees at Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest

The 75th Anniversary of the Dedication of the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest in the Nantahala National Forest will be held July 30. This is the schedule for the events:

8:00 AM (At Avey Branch Boat Launch) – 5K Road Race, 10K Road Race and One Mile Fun Run.

9:00 AM Booths and Exhibitions at the Rattler Ford Group Camp.  Exhibitors include:
– Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards (SAWS)-Demonstrations of primitive forest tools and care for the land training.
– The Wilderness Society
– North Carolina Agricultural Extension Service
– American Chestnut Foundation
– US Department of Agriculture Forest Service
– Partners of the Joyce Kilmer Slickrock Wilderness
– Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians-Childrens activities and dances
– National Wild Turkey Federation-Jake’s Take Aim Target Range
– North Carolina Forest Service

10:00 AM-Homecoming for all present and former Cheoah Ranger District employees and volunteers throught the years!

10:00 AM-Bar-Be-Que Lunch Plates served by the Robbinsville Lions Club, with baked goods from the Volunteers of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library Initiative in Graham County.

1:00 PM-Formal Re-Dedication Ceremony of the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest.  Participation by the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and decendents of Joyce Kilmer.  Addresses by Congressman Heath Schuler, 11th Congressional District, Chief Michael Hicks, Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians,  Kevin Anton, Alcoa’s Chief Sustainability Officer, and the Keynote speech by John Covell, Author of “Joyce Kilmer : A Literary Biography”.

2:00 PM-Music by Robbinsville’s own “Britthaven Bunch”, noted Bluegrass musicians.

Throughout the day-Tours of the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest by members of the USDA Forest Service and others.

Parking will be facilitated by the Graham County Transit Buses, which will be running  throughout the day in the area.  Parking attendents will be on hand to help with parking.  Please bring your own lawn chair.

For more on Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest and its old growth cove hardwood forest, go to http://www.romanticasheville.com/joyce_kilmer_forest.htm.