Grab your day pack, hit the trail, then stop for a local brew on one of these classic day hikes in Pisgah National Forest.
Asheville, North Carolina, is the must-visit outdoor destination in the Southeast, if not the entire East Coast. Whether you like to hike, bike, run, paddle, fish – whatever you’re into – you’re guaranteed to find something within an hour or two from town. Western North Carolina also happens to host an incredible amount of craft breweries, topping the list with other west coast destinations like Boulder, Colorado and Portland, Oregon. According to this article by Forbes published in 2016, Asheville placed third on a list ranking the number of breweries against the population. Later articles have even listed it as second – even first – on the list! Here are our top hiking picks and where to head for a drink afterward around five major hubs in Western North Carolina.
Closest to Asheville, Montreat is a hiking paradise full of steep trails, old railroad beds, epic views, and even waterfalls. If you’re up for a rugged 9-mile trek to the summit of Greybeard Mountain, this hike is for you. There’s also a shelter near the summit if you’d rather turn this day hike into an overnight trip. The views from the summit are incredibly rewarding, with Mount Mitchell clearly visible to the north. If you’re looking for something shorter, Lookout Mountain is a local favorite to another killer overlook. From an exposed rock outcropping, you can view the Seven Sisters across the valley—a long ridgeline with seven major peaks with Greybeard as the tallest. After your hike, head to Lookout Brewing in Black Mountain, aptly named after the hike you just completed.
About 30 minutes southwest from Asheville, you’ll find yourself in Brevard, the outdoor hub for the Pisgah Ranger District. The town is a world-class mountain biking destination, but there are plenty of hiking-only trails in the area too. The two must-do hikes are Looking Glass Rock and John Rock, both visiting stellar slickrock overlooks. If you’ve already crossed those off the list, a quick look at the map will reveal even more options in the area. Afterward, stop by Ecusta Brewing in Pisgah Forest. As you take US-276 back towards town, it’ll be in the first shopping center on your right just before the stoplight. The brewery is popular among outdoor outfitters, guides, and locals, but far less popular among mountain bikers—many of whom pedal across the street to The Hub & Pisgah Tavern.
Across the mountains and about an hour drive on US-276 from Brevard, you’ll find yourself in Waynesville. The town is far less of an outdoor destination, but the downtown is loaded with boutiques, restaurants, and Boojum Brewing. A local legend, “one might say the Boojum is similar to the Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas or the Wampas Cat in the swamps of Eastern North Carolina,” this source writes. “Boojum is best known by his two great loves: a fondness of pretty girls and his desire for the precious gemstones found throughout Western North Carolina,” the author continues. Though it could be considered the most challenging hike on this list, Cold Montain begins less than 30 minutes from town and summits one of the most elusive SB6K peaks. You’ll find some views near the summit, or you could wander around in search of a 1940’s plane crash, the remnants of which still lie 200’ below the peak.
Northwest of Asheville, Hot Springs is a small trail town and notable stop for Appalachian Trail thru-hikers each spring. Following the main street through town, the AT wanders up Lover’s Leap Rock then continues to the Mill Ridge Trail. This hike offers stellar views, many of which are best in the fall and winter. It’s entirely on former logging roads, so it’s also one of the easiest options to make the list. For a challenge, head over to Chimney Rocks instead. Though Hot Springs does not have a brewery of its own yet, Mad Co. Brewing is about 20 minutes away in Marshall. Their upper patio overlooks the French Broad River, and dogs are always welcome.
We’ve rounded out this list with a stop in the High Country, about two hours from Asheville. Located in Boone, Appalachian Mountain Brewing is a smaller, down-to-earth brewery with a large outdoor patio, small bar, and a rotating food truck. “Appalachian Mountain Brewery’s mission is to sustainably brew high-quality beer, support local non-profits, and help our community prosper,” they write boldly online. To pair a hike with AMB, check out the Boone Fork Trail. It’s less than 20-minutes from town and explores open meadows before wandering along a river lined with waterfalls and smaller cascades through boulder-strewn fields. White Dot Adventures, a regional hiking and running tour company, considers this 5-mile loop one of the best short hikes anywhere in Pisgah National Forest.