Western North Carolina Trails

This section includes details about all the individual named trails on this site.

A trail is distinguished from a hike in that hikes may use more than one trail, only part of a trail, or connections along roads between different trails.

Each trail listing has its own bookmarkable page to make it easy to find later, with all of its stats, photos, and a map (where available).

Twisted Rhododendron
Because, of course, our trails are what makes hiking possible!

Featured Trails

Andy Cove Nature Trail

Easy
  • This is a National Recreation Trail and a Kids In Parks TRACK trail. It was constructed by the Youth Conservation Corps. The trail has several interpretive signs along the way which point out common plants, trees and animals which can be found in the...
  • 0.7mi, Few Hills, Some Obstacles

Big Lost Cove Cliffs Trail

More Difficult
  • Ascends moderately through mixed hardwoods and then runs slightly downhill along the crest of the ridge on an old logging road. It descends steeply for a brief stretch into the flats right above the cliffs, in an open oak forest. There are a couple...
  • 1.2mi, Hilly, Some Obstacles

Find a Trail

For a Hike

Sticking to an individual named trail doesn't always make for the most enjoyable hike, so first, we'll suggest an alternative to doing extensive trail research: for full and complete guides to the best hikes in the region that stitch these trails together, see our Best Hikes section.

The listings below are most useful for researching raw information to make your own day hikes or overnight loops out of the trail network.

By Location

To find trails by location, visit the Trailheads section of the site. Each Trailhead has a listing of all the trails in the network near that location.

By Search

You can also search for a trail if you know its name.

List of All Trails

You can also browse a list of all trails.


About Our Trail Listings

Laurel River Trail

Moderate
  • This trail follows Big Laurel Creek through a scenic gorge to its junction with the French Broad river at the old logging ghost town of Runion. This trail is especially nice in early spring when there are many wildflowers blooming along the path and...
  • 3.6mi, Climbs Gently, Some Obstacles

Trails are listed by their official name given by the managing land agency. We list, where available, the steepness, tread condition, and overall difficulty of the trail, as well as its length and overall elevation change.

Length

Trail length is one-way. If you are hiking a single trail out-and-back, then double the length. While some guides show the round-trip length by default, many people's hikes combine trails or use only portions of trails, so the most accurate thing for us to do is just list a trail's actual length.

Difficulty Ratings

The US Forest Service, among others, separates trails into just three difficulty levels. We think that's a bit condensed given the variety of trails we have in our region. Even ski slopes usually have at least 4 difficulty ratings!

So, we have devised four difficulty levels for all of the trail and hike listings on this site. Here's a description of typical conditions you might find on hikes with a given difficulty level.

North Slope Trail

Moderate
  • Loop starts and ends in the Davidson River campground. Described CCW. Follows Davidson River, then steepens & follows smaller stream up through cove. Hemlock groves near lower end. Levels at top; becomes sidehill; dips into coves & out around ridges....
  • 3.7mi, Hilly, Some Obstacles

Easy
Gentle climbs and descents with a relatively smooth surface, sometimes on pavement or other trail structures. No tricky water crossings or exposed cliffs. Some trails may be wheelchair and stroller accessible. Family-friendly meaning almost anyone including smaller children should be able to complete these.

Moderate
Some climbs and descents with a few obstacles on the trail surface. May contain water crossing that are not overly difficult and occasional exposure to drop-offs beside the trail that aren't too risky. Most people with some experience hiking including older children should be able to complete these.

More Difficult
Significant climbs and descents with considerable elevation change, but short of the hardest trails in the region. A trail surface that can be somewhat rough in places, but short of dangerous climbing or rock scrambling. May contain tricky water crossings and some exposure to cliffs and drop-offs beside the trail. Experienced day hikers in good shape should be able to complete these.

Most Difficult
Large climbs and descents with high elevation change. A trail surface that can be very rough in places, including possibly dangerous exposure to cliffs and drop-offs, and rock scrambling. May contain very tricky water crossings. Only experienced day hikers and backpackers in excellent shape should attempt to complete these.

Steepness

This does not take in to effect the overall elevation change on the trail (which is listed separately), but factors in more the way in which the elevation is achieved. Very short sections of the trail that are out-of-character for the rest don't affect this rating, but will be mentioned in the description.

Level No appreciable sustained climbs. The trail may not be completely flat, but it is atypically so for the mountain region.
Climbs Gently A general slope from one end of the trail to the other. No sections are considered steep.
Climbs Moderately A general slope from one end of the trail to the other. Some sections may be moderately steep, but the trail is not extremely so overall.
Climbs Steeply A general trend from one end of the trail to the other. Some sections may be extremely steep, and the trail may be very steep overall.
Few Hills No general trend from one end to the other, but contains gentle to moderate climbs and descents along its length.
Hilly No general trend from one end to the other, but contains moderate to steep climbs and descents along its length.

Tread Condition

This characterizes the general condition of the worst parts of the trail surface. Very short sections of trail that are out of character for the rest don't change this rating, but will be mentioned in the description.

Paved A smooth, pavement surface.
Graveled A smooth, improved gravel or bonded surface.
Few Obstacles A natural surface with only occasional small obstacles such as roots, rocks, and eroded areas.
Some Obstacles A natural surface with sustained small or occasional medium-sized obstacles such as roots, rocks, and eroded areas.
Moderately Rough A natural surface with sustained medium-sized or occasional large obstacles such as roots, rocks, boulders, and eroded areas.
Very Rough A natural surface with sustained large obstacles. May involve tricky footing over very deeply eroded gullies and light rock scrambling.

These descriptors include typical conditions which may vary with weather, erosion, trail maintenance, and season. They may overlap within the difficulty levels somewhat. Determinations are subjective.