Top 3 Appalachian Trail Hikes in North Carolina

The Appalachian Trail's length is an astonishing 2,198 miles long. Easily one of the most famous hiking paths in the world. The start of the Appalachian Trail begins at Springer Mountain in Georgia and ends at Mount Katahdin in Maine.

North Carolina is home to around 96 miles of the Appalachian Trail as it weaves across the Tennessee/North Carolina border for roughly 220 miles. This remote section of the Appalachian Trail features some of the most spectacular views and hikes in the region.

The Appalachian Trail is a necessary experience for any serious or even casual hiker. While few people are able to take seven months to hike the entire thing from Georgia to Maine, it's possible to see the best sections of the trail in North Carolina in a single weekend.

Our list of the top three Appalachian Trail Hikes in North Carolina are conveniently clustered together at Carver's Gap, just fifty miles away from us here at Blue Bear Mountain Camp. If you're looking for the best hiking in North Carolina, this list is for you.

Grassy Ridge Bald via Appalachian Trail 

  • Length: 5.0 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,079 feet
  • Route type: Out & Back
  • Difficulty: Moderate

A grassy bald is an open, empty meadow where, ecologically speaking, there should be trees. This phenomenon is unique to the southern portion of the Appalachian Mountains. Grassy Ridge is the longest stretch of grassy balds in the Appalachian Mountains.

The Grassy Ridge Bald via Appalachian Trail will take you to three of these balds, each one offering its own vantages and vistas of the surrounding area. The hike to Grassy Ridge begins with a series of wooden stairs on the Appalachian Trail that leads to the summit of Round Bald. The short summit and incredible views are instantly gratifying – a rare treat when it comes to hiking.

The summit of Round Bald can be crowded at times, but don't worry, as you continue along the trail, the crowds thin out and the best is yet to come. Just 0.7 miles from Round Bald is Jane Bald. Smaller and less magnificent than Round Bald, Jane Bald is surrounded by rhododendron trees that make you feel completely enveloped by the forest. It's easy to find quiet moments of absolute stillness here.

After a moment of quiet at Jane Bald, continue down the trail a short ways before the final climb to the summit of Grassy Ridge Bald. The climb to the summit is steep, but it's relatively short – just over half a mile. At the top, you'll be rewarded with one of the best views the Appalachian Mountains have to offer. On a clear day, you can see Grandfather, Beech, and Sugar Mountains to the east with Mount Mitchell and the Black Mountains to the south.
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Image may be subject to copyright

Carver's Gap to US 19E 

  • Length: 14.3
  • Elevation gain: 2,247
  • Route type: Point-to-Point
  • Difficulty: Hard

The 14.3-mile Carver's Gap to US 19E section of the Appalachian Trail offers hikers a glimpse of trail life, featuring sites like Yellow Mountain, a Revolutionary War battleground, and the summits of Little Hump and Hump Mountains. This part of the trail, often likened to the famous scenery of "The Sound of Music," extends naturally from the Grassy Ridge Bald hike.

Typically taking around 7 hours and 50 minutes, this trail can be completed in a day but is often split into two. Backpackers usually start early at Carver's Gap, explore Grassy Ridge Bald, then head to Little Hump or Hump Mountain to camp. The five miles are downhill, making the second day less strenuous.

Whether you split the hike over two days or tackle it all in one, keep in mind that this is a point-to-point trail. Either set up your own shuttle by leaving a car at each end of the trail, one at Carver's Gap and the other at the Cherokee National Forest Trailhead. The other option is Harbor Mountain Shuttle, which will pick you up or drop you off at either end of the trail.

Despite a bit of logistical coordination, this trail is well-worth your efforts. Of the entire 2,190+ miles of the Appalachian Trail, this 14 mile stretch between Carver's Gap and US 19E has some of the best views and concentrations of rare wildflowers. If you only get to experience the Appalachian Trail once in your life, you couldn't ask for a better section than this one.  

Roan High Knob 

  • Length: 3.1 miles
  • Elevation gain: 774
  • Route type: Out & Back
  • Difficulty: Moderate

The final hike on our list of the top 3 Appalachian Trail hikes in North Carolina is different from the other two. Starting from Carver's Gap, head west on the Appalachian Trail for a short and sweet hike up to Roan High Knob. What sets this hike apart is its relative lack of scenic views.

We know what you're thinking: "Why would I hike a mountain without any views?" We get it, but trust us. This is a trail that values the journey before destination. The Roan High Knob Trail keeps you below the treeline amidst towering firs and evergreens for the entire hike, fully submerging you in Pisgah National Forest. Often described as a "green tunnel," this kid-friendly trail is peaceful, still, beautiful and smells like Christmas trees. With mountain mist a common occurrence, this hike often feels ethereal and otherworldly.

About 1.4 miles into the hike, the trail splits from the Appalachian Trail, climbing to the top of Roan High Knob where you'll find a small log shelter often used by thru-hikers. The shelter and surrounding area makes a great place to stop and enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of the forest. We recommend bringing a hammock and a good book on this hike, then spending some quality time enveloped in Pisgah National Forest's calming embrace.

Once you've had your fill of the forest and you're still craving panoramic views, extend this to give you the best of both worlds. Simply head back down to the Appalachian Trail and continue west for a few miles. Eventually you'll reach Cloudland Mountain where you'll get glorious views of the Appalachians as they work their way towards Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
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Stay at Blue Bear Mountain Camp

At Blue Bear Mountain Camp, we offer the perfect retreat for hikers and adventurers exploring the North Carolina wilderness.

Whether you like to sleep under the stars or in a luxurious mattress with a roof over your head, we've got you covered. We offer everything from stargazer domes to a hand-crafted cabin to RV and tent sites. With over 150 acres of land in the pristine mountains, we've created an environment that perfectly balances adventure and relaxation.

Book your stay with us today!