HikeWNC Trails

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

Twisted Rhododendron
Because, of course, our trails are what makes hiking possible!
Pilot Rock Trail
The smooth start to the Pilot Rock trail belies what's ahead - a steep, rocky descent. This lonely red spruce is detatched from the larger population on the northwest slope of Little Bald Mountain.

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

This is different from a hike in that hikes may involve only parts of or more than one trail, as well as connecting roads.

Find a Trail

Trails by Location

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

Search for a Trail

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

All Trails

You can also browse a list of all trails.

The Best Hikes

Sticking to an individual trail doesn't always make for the best hike. These trail listings are most useful for piecing together your own day hike or overnight loop out of the trail network.

For guides that split and combine trails into what we consider to be the best in the region, go to the Best Hikes section.


About Our Trail Listings

Straight Section of the Mountains to Sea Trail
Trail
Starens Branch Trail Sign
A typical Forest Service trail sign.

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.


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.