Top Hiking Trails of North Carolina

Discovering Best NC Hiking Locations

North Carolina is a hiker’s paradise, there are mountain trails and coastal treks offering peace and a chance to stretch the legs and clear the mind. Come take a NC hike.

When it comes to hiking, there is nothing quite like the view from the peak of a high hill. And, whether it’s the Cumberland Mountains, the wooded peaks of the Smokies, or the winding Appalachian trails, hiking up a mountain path often allows as impressive a view when looking to where one has been as it does when facing forward. As Winston Churchill stated, “The farther backward one can look, the farther forward one will see.”

Nature Trails in Charlotte

I was amazed to find how abundant trails and greenways are in Charlotte.  We are in the middle of the city, but you could actually walk a different trail/greenway every day for a month and still have more to go.  That is incredible! Depending on which you choose you to have the potential to see ponds, creeks, historic sites, and an array of wildlife.  Each of the three nature centers in Mecklenburg provides miles of hiking trails, as well as do many of our parks.  Mecklenburg County is also part of the Central Carolina’s Biodiversity Trail which maps out sites in 14 counties that provide the chance to witness nature’s diversity, whether it be in the form of wildlife or plant life.  There are just too many opportunities in Charlotte alone to get our kids outside hiking and discovering nature to not take advantage. Unfortunately, I have not been able to locate an all-inclusive list of hiking trails in Charlotte, but I am on the lookout!

Blue Ridge Parkway Hiking Trails of North Carolina

The Blue Ridge Parkway has been called by many, “The most scenic highway in America”. The Blue Ridge spans from the southern end of Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. Consisting of 500 miles of traversable landscape, hikers will find an assortment of trails ranging from those perfect for the beginning hiker to numerous hikes for those looking for a strenuous hiking challenge.

The Blue Ridge Parkway, while a favorite hiking location year-round, is especially popular for both motorists and foot travelers during the fall when the splendor of nature is at its colorful peak. Be sure to plan ahead if the hiking trip is to include an overnight stay, to ensure a place to make camp. The Blue Ridge Parkway has an assortment of accommodations, but planning ahead is always best.

The Cumberland Knob Recreation Area located along the Blue Ridge Parkway is a great region for day hikers. With a peak of 2,860 feet, Cumberland Knob may not be the highest of the North Carolina Mountains, but the countryside is lush with grassy knolls, many waterfalls, rhododendron, hardwoods, and other delights of nature.

North Carolina’s Appalachian Trails

The Appalachian Trail stretches 2,175 miles from Georgia to Mount Katahdin, Maine. AT is one of the most well-known and loved trails in America. Each year, more than 1,500 hikers don their hiking apparel and backpacks then set out to explore and experience some or the entire beautiful American trail.

Hikers find sensational sylvan sights, quiet streams, and sheltered camping areas all along this famed trail. As hikers make their way along with the AT sites such as Bradley Gap, Hump Mountain, Elk Park, Carvers Gap, and Roan Mountain as favorite photo and camping locations. There are many interesting places to visit as well as friendly people along the way to meet and share the AT hiking experience with.

Trails of the Great Smoky Mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of North Carolina’s busiest hiking areas and is America’s most popular national park. Consequently, it is not somewhere to decide to hike or camp in without planning ahead. In addition, there are specific requirements concerning camping permits and campsite etiquette. These requirements ensure that hikers can enjoy hiking the Smokies to the fullest.

Some of the more renowned hikes in the Smoky Mountain region are the Boogerman Trail, Rough Fork Trail, The Swag, Mount Sterling Ridge Trail, Swallow Falls Trail, and Picnic Knob. These trails range in difficulty, so hikers need to pay attention to the signs at the trailhead. While hiking in the Smokies, hikers can expect to see an assortment of wildlife such as bear and dear.

Other great hikes in North Carolina are found in Linville Gorge Wilderness, Pilot Mountain, Hanging Rock State Park, Uwharrie National Forest, Croatan National Forest, and the Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve. North Carolina hikers have many opportunities to “look farther forward and backward”. From the mountains to the sea trails abound. There is much beauty to behold along the way, so come enjoy the delights of nature.

Tips for Taking a Family Day Hike

Getting outside on a beautiful day is a great way to spend time as a family. A day hike or even a short local nature walk in the fresh air is also an inexpensive family trip. Prepare in advance by finding a local trail or park, gathering necessary supplies, and remembering the needs of the kids.

Preparing to Hike With Kids

Deciding where to go could be an adventure in itself. Natural parks and hiking trails are not readily available everywhere, but there are many places where nature walks can be found. Check with local community web sites and tourist information centers for suggestions and locations for hiking and nature walks that are family-friendly.

The age of the children and their regular level of exercise also matters. Children who do not often walk far may not be ready for more than a one-hour nature walk. Older kids, or ones who are active in sports, may be able to handle more. Expect to take frequent breaks, even if it is to look at a pretty rock or guess how tall a tree might be.

Pack a light backpack or satchel with snacks and water. Water bottles for each person are a necessary item when taking even a short nature hike; avoid sugary drinks and sodas since they are dehydrating. Carrying snacks is a good idea for kids and adults for short breaks, and consider packing sandwiches for a brief meal if the hike will be a day in length.

Enjoying a Nature Walk as a Family

One thing to remember when taking a long walk or hike as a family is to relax. Look around and enjoy the scenery. Stop and show kids an insect or small animal. Peek behind rocks and try to spy something off the path. Sit down and look for shapes in the clouds or the pattern of the sun on the ground.

An activity that can be included is to look for unique rocks, twigs, leaves, or flowers. Unless it is prohibited by the supporters of the hiking path, collect a few for a family artwork. Take a picture of the children, or ask another hiker to take a picture of the family. When home, use the nature items collected to create a picture frame and place the picture from the nature walk in it.

Taking a nature walk or day hike is an inexpensive way to relax and spend time as a family. Prepare in advance by finding someplace local for the hike and pack water and snacks for the trip. Take the walk slowly, enjoy the scenery and the time together as a family.


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