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Trails Near Asheville

There are many good trail books, maps, and websites out there. For this page, we decided to provide detailed descriptions of some better known and easily accessible trails near Asheville. These descriptions are based on our own treks.

Trail descriptions are grouped by difficulty. There is a separate section covering part of the the Mountains-to-the Sea Trail (MST). For more details on this extensive trail (all the way from the Smokies to the Carolina coast), visit their website at www.ncmst.org.

 Note: It's always a good idea to call the Parkway Info Line at 828-298-0398 for road closing details  - sections of the Parkway are often closed for variable periods of time, depending on the weather. Don't be disappointed - call first!

P = Parking

  EASY WALKS
Around the Folk Art Center
 

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The Folk Art Center is conveniently located on the Blue Ridge Parkway, where it intersects with route US 70 in east Asheville. If you are looking for an easy stroll through the woods, this is a good place to start. The Mountains-to Sea Trail crosses the parking lot  - you can head either north or south for some easy walking. Heading north, there is a bit of a hill after about 1/4 mile, but there's a resting bench at the top. After 1 mile the trail crosses the Parkway and heads into more moderately-difficult terrain. Heading south from the Folk Art Center, you can have an easy walk, closely following the Parkway to a bridge across the Swannanoa River. A "calveat" - the trail crosses a cow pasture at the river's edge. (Call the Folk Art Center at 828-298-7928 for general information about the center and the neighborhood trails.)
Botanical Gardens at Asheville

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Located at 151 Weaver Boulevard , close to UNCA in north Asheville - call 828-252-5190 for general information, or visit their site at www.ashevillebotanicalgardens.org. The Botanical Gardens are a wonderful place to take an easy AND educational walk. They have one of the finest collections of native wildflower gardens in Asheville. If you really want to learn about wildflowers, this is the place to be. The gardens are run mostly by volunteers, who would be glad to share their knowledge with you. They also have a very nice little gift shop with a good collection of guide books , some of the nicest t-shirts and greeting cards I've ever seen, and of course some plants for sale.
North Carolina Arboretum

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Call 828-665-2492 for general information, or visit their website at www.ncarboretum.org . This new arboretum is located on the south side of Asheville. The entrance is on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Here you can wander among the many planned gardens, each with a different  focus and renewed regularly, or take an easy woodland walk.  There are also more extensive trails here, if you feel like making a day of it. This is a very popular place for walking and running, though it's big enough to remain uncrowded.(The Arboretum has maps available.)
Craggy Gardens 

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The Craggy Gardens Visitor Center is on the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 364.6 . There is ample parking and an information center with facilities. The Craggy Gardens Trail leads up from the visitor center to the top of Craggy Flats. Here you will find a taste of Scotland, and maybe even a taste of blueberries if you arrive in September.There's a great view and even a place to sit at the top of the Flats. Look for the trailhead at the south end of the Visitor Center Parking Lot. Follow the trail roughly southwest from the parking area for about 1/2 mile until you reach the old Craggy Gardens Shelter. To your left, the trail continues mildly uphill, under Rhododendrons and across the "flats" to an overlook. Best time to go is in June when the Rhododendrons are in full bloom. Here you will see both the Catawba and the Rosebay Rhododendrons. Just north of the visitor center is another parking area on the left with yet another trail leading to the top of Craggy Pinnacle. This trail is slightly longer and steeper than the Gardens trail. If you don't feel like walking, just pull over at the Visitor Center  for great roadside views. 
Pink Beds 

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If you're in the mood for something easy but different, try the Pink Beds Loop Trail. The Pink  Beds is an area of naturally-formed mountain bog. As you walk the easy loop trail, you'll see patches of wet, boggy ground covered in mosses, ferns, and some unusual flowering plants. The far side of the loop is "temporarily" inaccessible due to a beaver dam that flooded the trail - but walk as far as you can, then turn back. There is a small section of the Mountains-to Sea trail that joins the two sides of the loop before you reach the flooded section, and you can use it to complete the loop. The trailhead is at the Pink Beds Picnic Area parking lot. From Asheville, take the Parkway south to the intersection with route 276 (milepost 412). Take 276 south for 4 miles and look for the picnic area entrance on the left - it is well marked. 
Graveyard Fields 

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Although the descent is steep, there's a paved pathway and the rest of the walking is easy. Park at the Graveyard Fields overlook on the Parkway, between mileposts 418 and 419. Take the paved path downhill. From there you have a few choices of loop trails. This is a heavily-visited area and there are a few misleading false paths  - read the trail sign at the overlook before you proceed. The trail to the lower falls is being rerouted and improved. The loop trail to the upper falls is worth the walk - it's mostly easy walking until you get near the falls, where the trail becomes somewhat steep and very rocky. Graveyard Fields is also an excellent place to find Rhododendrons and Mountain Laurel in bloom. 

 

  EASY TO MODERATE
Shining Rock Wilderness

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Hungering for wide open spaces? For a relatively easy hike, you can do a short section of the Art Loeb Trail in the Shining Rock Wilderness. It is somewhat steep, somewhat rocky but short, and I can't think of a better place to fly a kite. Take the Parkway south (west) of Asheville and go 1 mile past Graveyard Fields (at milepost 418). On the right, look for Forest Service Road #816 - it's paved but inconspicuous. Follow FS 816 about 1/2 mile and look for where the Mountains-To-Sea Trail crosses it - most likely you will see a number of other cars parked along the shoulder of the road here. Park on the shoulder. Follow the trailhead on the right-hand (east) side of the road. After rising slightly through a spruce grove, the Art Loeb Trail and the MST part ways. Follow the Art Loeb Trail, which is the left fork. It will take you up to the top of Black Balsam Knob in less than a mile. Fantastic views, open space and clear skies in spring and fall.
Pisgah Inn 

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The Pisgah Inn is a popular stopping place for day and overnight travelers alike. Perched atop the ridge at Parkway milepost 407.6, there is plenty of parking, facilities and a really nice restaurant. (Call the Inn at 828-235-8228 for info.) For easy walking, just wander around the Inn. You can follow 1.1 miles of the Buck Springs Trail to a Parkway overlook with great views. Look for the trail sign at the northeast corner of the Inn parking lot, and head northeast. (Note for info: the MST is also following this trail, and continues on the north side of the overlook as the Shut-In Trail.)
Craven Gap to Bull Gap 

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A 2 mile (approx) section of the MST. 
From south to north: Park at Craven Gap at milepost 377.4 and follow the white blazes north. The trail heads generally uphill but not steeply, tending to wander up and down following the contour of the ridge. After about 3/4 mile you can see the Tanbark Ridge Parkway Overlook downhill to your right. There is a short access trail from the overlook. A little farther on you reach a rocky outcrop with fine winter view of Tanbark Ridge. This outcrop bears a large patch of Prickly Pear cactus - this tells you that the slope here is dry, warm, and facing south/southeast. Most of this stretch of trail is on the sunny, warm and dry side of the ridge, making for a pleasant early spring walk. Continue about another mile, crossing a couple of coves along the way - here's where the steeper parts of the trail are, but not too steep and not for very long. Reach Bull Gap at the end of the two miles, where Ox Creek Road crosses the BRP at milepost 375.7 .

 

  MODERATE
Mt. Pisgah 

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For a more strenuous walk in the Inn's neighborhood, (see previous section), stop at the Mt. Pisgah Parking Area which is 0.2 miles north of the Inn parking lot. Follow the Mt. Pisgah Trail north to an obervation deck at 1.2 miles. There is a steep section to this trail, but it is short (1/2 mile).  On this trail in late summer, the air is perfumed with Angelica. Fantastic views .

 

   STRENUOUS
MST-Art Loeb  Loop This is a moderate-to-strenuous loop in Shining Rock Wilderness, about 6 miles long. the trail can be steep and very rocky in places. Shining Rock is riddled with trails and trail crossings - there are many ways to make a loop , and just as many ways to get lost. When hiking Shining Rock, follow trail descriptions and/or bring a map with you.For this hike, take the Parkway south (west) to Forest Service Road 816, on the right approx at milepost 420. Drive about 1/2 mile on FS816 to the point where MST crosses the road, and part on the shoulder. Follow the trail on the right-hand (east) side of the road. After climbing through a spruce grove, the MST and Art Loeb separate. (At ths point, you can follow my directions or follow them in reverse - either way there will be a climb at the end.) Follow the MST which is the right fork. It gradually descends then follows a level path around the side of Black Balsam Knob, then rises sharply on a staircase up & over a shoulder of the knob. After that, it descends to an unnamed gap where you will find a wooden signpost and a three-way trail crossing. Take the leftmost fork, the Graveyard Ridge Trail towards Ivestor Gap. (Go straight to take the MST to Graveyard Fields, or the right which is the other section of the Graveyard Ridge Trail also towards Graveyard Fields.) From here it's an easy gradual climb to Ivestor Gap in about 1.5 miles. At Ivestor Gap, many trails intersect. Take the Art Loeb, which rises gradually through a broad Laurel thicket, to the top of Tennent Mountain (this is the toughest section of the trail, covers about 1 mile). Continue on the Art Loeb, up & over a ridge, finally reaching the top of Black Balsam Mountain in about another 1.5 miles. Follow the Art Loeb down Black Balsam to your starting point. 
Big Butt 

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 Total 6 miles one-way. From the Parkway: park at milepost  359.8 (Balsam Gap). Follow the trail north through spruce-fir to Point Misery, Little Butt, and finally around Big Butt to Cane River Gap and NC197. Along the way there are two outcrops with excellent views. The first view, of the Cane River valley and the Black Mountains from Celo Knob to Potato Knob, is at the crest of  Little Butt. The view is unspoiled except for the road and towers on Mt. Mitchell. The second view is from a knife edge just south of where  the trail skirts the east side of Big Butt. From this vantage, one can see south and west as well as east. At about the 5 mile mark, the trail begins a steep descent-supposedly 26 switchbacks but we keep losing count! At 6 miles the trail reaches an intersection of dirt roads, one of which is NC197. 

 

                THE MOUNTAINS TO SEA TRAIL
SECTION I: FOLK ART CENTER TO BALSAM GAP
Mileage   Description
0.0 P The Mountains-to-the Sea Trail crosses the entrance road to the Folk Art Center. Heading north from the entrance road, the MST follows the Blue Ridge Parkway closely at first, then bears left to climb a small ridge before crossing the Parkway at mile 1.0
1.0 P The trail ascends gradually.
2.3 There is a rock outcrop on the left, with view of the Haw Creek Valley.
2.8 Climbing to the crest of a knob at 2.8 miles, the trail descends, bears left, and levels out as it skirts the mountainside below the Parkway.
5.2 P The MST crosses the Parkway at Craven Gap and ascends the ridge above the Parkway.
5.9 P Pass side trail on right that leads the the Parkway at the Tanbark Ridge Overlook.
7.0 P Cross Ox Creek Road.
7.6 Descend to Bull Gap. To the left is Ox Creek Rd. Ascend to shoulder of Bull Mt. by easy switchbacks. Ascend gradually on southeast slope of Bull Mt. Pass viewpoint above Bull Creek. Continue gradual ascent through area of rocky ruins.
9.2 P Reach Rattlesnake Lodge site (ruins) and junction with Rattlesnake Lodge trail on right, which descends 0.4 miles to the Parkway at the south end of the Tanbark Ridge Tunnel. From the Lodge site, continue ahead on old road. Cross small stream. Ascend through Mountain Laurel thicket. Switchback left. Cross stream. Leave Laurels and continue ascent along western slopes and rocky coves of Bull Mountain.
10.6 Arrive in gap. Ascend steeply and cross east side of Rocky Knob. Cross Rich Knob and Wolfden Knob.
13.0 Ascend steeply to Lane Pinnacle (5230 ft.) and a view to the southeast. The MST turns left. Descend from Lane Pinnacle and follow ridge crest, passing outcrops with fine view of Great Craggy Mountains on right (east). Woodfin watershed is on left. Pass through gap. Ascend briefly to ridge top, and descend to Potato Field Gap and the Parkway.
14.5 Enter woods again on left (west) side of Parkway. Continue ascent.
15.0 P Reach road to Craggy Gardens Picnic Area, Forest Service Road #63, and junction with Snowball Trail. The MST continues straight ahead across road.
16.4 P Pass side trail on left to Craggy Gardens Picnic Area. Turn right, joining trail from picnic area to Craggy Gardens Shelter.
16.9 Enter bald, and arrive at Craggy Gardens Shelter (5640 ft.). To the north is Craggy Pinnacle. Beyond shelter, side trail on right leads uphill 100 yards or so to a southerly overlook. MST continues straight ahead.
17.2 P MST makes a sharp turn left and downhill. (If you continue straight ahead, you reach the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center on the Parkway, with great roadside views.) The MST descends, skirting Craggy Pinnacle to reach junction with Douglas Falls Trail  on the left at milepoint 18.2.
18.2 Douglas Falls Trail junction.
19.4 P MST crosses Parkway near Greybeard Mountain Overlook (5606 ft.). Pass through stands of spruce on south side of Bullhead Mountain. Skirt west side of Bullhead Mt.
20.2 Arrive at bald with views of Big Butt, the Black Mountains and many more. Descend through stand of spruce. Follow ridge with little change in elevation.
22.0 P Descend to Glassmine Falls Overlook at Parkway milepost 361.2. Trail closely follows Parkway, climbing over Walker Knob.
24.0 P Reach Balsam Gap (5320 ft.) at Parkway milepost 359.8.
 
fdudley@weaversites.com

Fiona Dudley
Weaversites
986 Reems Creek Road
Weaverville NC 28787

828-231-1501


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