North Carolina is a state of diversity, from the rugged coast all the way to the mountains that dominate the western portion of the state. These beautiful mountains have garnered the fond name as North Carolina’s “High Country”, by the locals, but it would seem the nickname is rather apt. With remote mountains and serene meadows, there are a lot of secrets to discover up there in the High Country on its fantastic hikes.
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Pink Beds Loops
Located in the Pisgah National Forest outside of Brevard (otherwise known as the “Land of Waterfalls”) is the Pink Beds Loop. This is the trail for any visiting flower lovers in North Carolina. You see, the Pink beds gets its name from the wide variety of beautiful blooms that happen in the meadows along the trail. In the spring, the grassy fields are dominated by mountain laurel, azalea, and rhododendron. Although it is located up in the High Lands, the Pink Beds trail offers very little elevation change or challenge across the five mile loop, making it perfect for hikers of any age as well as trail runners that are interested in scenery that is just a little more stunning than your average forested trail.
The Devil’s Courthouse Trail
Just off of the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway is the short, but strenuous Devil’s Courthouse Trail. This challenging trail climbs half a mile to the eponymous peak that offers the sweeping views over the Blue Ridge Mountains that have made the Blue Ridge Parkway a must-drive byway in North Carolina.
While the trail starts off paved, when people describe the hike as “climbing,” they mean climbing. The last leg of the trail gains elevation quickly, but hikers shouldn’t forget to look out for a number of rare high altitude plants that grow in this protected area including Gnome Lichen and Spreading Avens. From the overlook at the top you are treated to sweeping views that stretch into the states surround North Carolina including South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee.
The Profile Trail
Grandfather Mountain is one of North Carolina’s most beloved monuments and the highlight of the Banner Elk area. The Profile Trail is actually the trail that shows you the reason the mountain is named the way it is, taking you up into the hills to show you the profile of Grandfather Mountain that looks like the profile of an old man’s face. However, while this is one of the best hikes in the High Country, it is also one of the most challenging.
Starting at the creek bed just past the trailhead, the Profile Trail leads up ever-upwards on a series of increasingly shorter switchbacks where the dirt trail turns to rock scramble. While the trail not only shows off the profile and refreshing fir forest that surrounds it, you also have options to summit Grandfather Mountain itself, making for an even more difficult, but rewarding hike.
Skinny Dip Falls Trail
Just to the east of one of the most popular stops along the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Graveyard Fields waterfalls, is perhaps one of the best gems you will find along the scenic byway – Looking Glass Rock Overlook. While this overlook is popular for the sights it shows, it is not the sole reason to stop here. The short one mile spur trail leading to Skinny Dip Falls, however, is. While this short and easy trail is sure not to give any sort of challenge, it does lead down to one of the top swimming holes in North Carolina. People come here not only to view this magnificent waterfall, but to take a quick dip in the mountain stream-fueled pool.
While there is no better way to cool off on a hot and humid summer day in North Carolina, despite the name, please keep at least some of your clothes on.
Mount Pisgah Trail
If you are a tried and true view hunter, then North Carolina is the perfect country to fulfill your need for scenic summits. The perfect way to cap off your adventure in North Carolina’s High Lands is a hike up Mount Pisgah. Unlike some other mountain trails, the trek up Mount Pisgah isn’t excessively long, or even very difficult, but it does offer a panoramic vista from the bare summit that towers over all the other rolling hills and mountains that surround it. Even more stunning is doing this hike in the fall when the leaves change since the mountain is surrounded by lush hardwood forest.
As it is so close to downtown Ashville, you can both see the easily recognized summit from the town and see the town from the summit. Needless to say, the view over the town from the top of the world is much more worthwhile.