Enjoy a Blue Ridge sunrise or sunset on one of these 8 classic hikes within 90 minutes of Asheville, North Carolina.
If you've ever enjoyed a sunrise or sunset in the Blue Ridge Mountains, there is no doubt it was an experience you will not soon forget. Southern Appalachia is riddled with craggy rock outcroppings, bald mountain peaks, and even fire towers that offer expansive views from high in the mountains. Many of these vaulted views are spectacular at dusk or dawn, and this guidebook showcases some of the best options to take in the view within 90 minutes of Asheville, NC.
If you're not sure where to start, the Pisgah Region of the Blue Ridge Parkway offers access to many of these hikes, with countless other roadside vistas along the way. Between Bent Creek and Mount Pisgah, consider visiting Beaver Dam Overlook or Mills River Valley overlook for an early morning sunrise – or head even further up and hike Mount Pisgah or Fryingpan Mountain for epic 360-degree views of the Pisgah Ranger District. Neither are too challenging, and their summits offer impeccable views of the sunrise year-round.
Heading further up the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Great Balsam Mountains offer an array of cliffside views and bald mountains, many the result of the expansive logging that occurred over the last 100+ years. Black Balsam Knob is a bucket list hike for anyone visiting western North Carolina, its summit offering sweeping 360-degree views from nearly 6,000 feet A quick one-mile out-and-back is a popular option from Black Balsam Road, but this five-mile circuit offers endless views along the Art Loeb Trail then returns via an old logging path. The entire circuit is well worth the effort, should you have the time and energy for it.
Nearby, the hike to Green Knob and Mount Hardy explores remote stretches of the Middle Prong Wilderness, though it is incredibly difficult to navigate due to a lack of markings. Wilderness areas in North Carolina generally are void of trail markings, a policy that helps to maintain their wild and remote feel. Should you be able to find Green Knob, though, it is an excellent opportunity for a quiet overnight trip deep in the wilderness. During the solar eclipse of 2017, many locals sought out this mountaintop clearing for some peace and quiet and to enjoy the view. This is also an excellent option to view any meteor showers or other celestial events, since there is virtually no light or noise pollution this high up.
Should that route be a longer commitment than you're prepared for, consider nearby Devil's Courthouse. It is a short—yet steep—hike to a stone observation area overlooking Courthouse Valley. Placards denote distant mountain peaks across North Carolina, South Carolina, and even Georgia – and there are plenty of opportunities to stop and catch your breath on your way up!
Heading west and about halfway between Sylva and Waynesville, Waterrock Knob is an all-time favorite of local guiding company White Dot Adventures. A large parking lot offers views to both the east and west, or you can make your way up a short trail for an even better view from above the parking lot! A seasonal Visitor Center offers information on the area, plus a small selection of food, beverage, and souvenirs. There is no drinking water, but vault toilets are available.
Another short hike and iconic destination on the Appalachian Trail, Max Patch is easily one of the most recognized sunrise/sunset spots anywhere in southern Appalachia. Its popularity, however, may make it difficult to find solitude on the bald summit. If you're willing to brave the cold of winter or early spring, that would be your best opportunity to enjoy some peace and quiet canvased by a spectacular view of the surrounding Blue Ridge.
Last to make this list, but definitely not least, is a stop at Craggy Pinnacle northeast of Asheville. This short hike wanders through dense rhododendron and mountain laurel, which bloom throughout the spring and early summer. From a rocky overlook, you can see both the sunrise and sunset throughout most of the year – though access in the winter can be more difficult. The Blue Ridge Parkway frequently closes throughout the winter, and this particular section is one of the first to be gated off due to ice and snow. Before you head out, check the road conditions here for the most up-to-date information.