Guidebook

Half-day Hikes on the Blue Ridge Parkway Near Asheville

Drive the western half of the Blue Ridge Parkway and stop for a day hike along the way

Description

The Blue Ridge Parkway is considered by many to be America’s most scenic drive. 469-miles in length, the country’s longest linear park connects the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. At times, the 1,200-mile Mountains to Sea Trail and the iconic 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail even follow the same corridor. Day hikes are a popular reason to visit the Blue Ridge Parkway around Asheville, and this guidebook showcases some of the best.

To the west, this guidebook begins with the Sam Knob/Black Balsam Loop. This figure-eight hike is often split in two, though a phenomenal day trip for anyone able to conquer all 10 miles. The hike starts along a paved Forest Service road off the Blue Ridge Parkway and offers incredible 360-degree views from high in the mountains. Just a short drive away, you can go for an easier day hike around Graveyard Fields and visit one (or both) of its pristine waterfalls.

Heading up the parkway, Fryingpan Mountain and Mount Pisgah are two shorter hikes that pair well as a day trip for many Asheville visitors. These high peaks along the crest of the Pisgah ridge offer stellar vistas of both Pink Beds Valley and Hominy Valley. Both hold deep roots in the ancient logging efforts of the first American settlers.

Heading northeast of Asheville, the Snowball Mountain Trail and Big Butt Trail both offer incredible ridgeline traverses with epic views from their high peaks. The Big Butt Trail also offers some of the best unadulterated views of the Black Mountains – especially Mount Mitchell to the east. The ridge of the Black Mountains also hosts one of the most challenging hikes in the east, the Black Mountain Crest Trail. Known a graduation level run to hikers and trail runners alike, this is an airy traverse that tests even the strongest of hikers. While many shuttle the route, shorter out-and-back hikes are popular as well.

If you find yourself near Grandfather Mountain, the Daniel Boone Scout Trail is one of the better ways to experience the diverse ecosystems atop Grandfather Mountain. While mostly following a ridge, the steeper sections are often navigated by switchbacks. Camping is abundant along the route and reservations can be made through the state park. Even better, this run offers the opportunity to drive the Linn Cove Viaduct – a engineering marvel that was the last section of the entire 469-mile roadway to be completed.

Furthest away from Asheville, the Boone Fork Trail Loop may just be the best hike on the entire list. Under 5 miles, the route reveals a high-country meadow, dark forests, and rugged singletrack that parallels a series of beautiful waterfalls. The nearby city of Boone is also home to phenomenal food, drinks, and plenty of activities – should you find the time.

Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without North Carolina’s premier thru-hiking trail, the Mountains to Sea Trail (MST). Connecting Clingmans Dome to the Outer Banks, the 1,200 mile-long trail follows the Blue Ridge Parkway through most of Western North Carolina and offers countless day hikes from many of its overlooks.

Sam's Knob and Black Balsam Knob
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Sam's Knob and Black Balsam Knob

4 - 5 hrs
21.9 km
670 m
670 m
A beautiful hike with two iconic summits, plenty of overnight camping, and year-round access.
Difficult
Private
Mountains to Sea Trail: Clingmans Dome to Oconaluftee Visitor Center
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Mountains to Sea Trail: Clingmans Dome to Oconaluftee Visitor Center

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
1 day +
43.6 km
1,197 m
2,502 m
The western terminus for North Carolina's Mountains to Sea Trail.
Difficult
Private
Mountains to Sea Trail: Oconaluftee Visitor Center to Balsam Gap
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Mountains to Sea Trail: Oconaluftee Visitor Center to Balsam Gap

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
1 day +
45.5 km
1,817 m
1,423 m
A segment of the MST known for its views near Waterrock Knob.
Difficult
Private
Mountains to Sea Trail: Balsam Gap to Pisgah Inn
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Mountains to Sea Trail: Balsam Gap to Pisgah Inn

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
1 day +
80.7 km
3,313 m
2,825 m
An epic traverse through the Great Balsam Mountains and Middle Prong Wilderness.
Severe
Private
Mountains To Sea Trail: Pisgah Inn to Mount Mitchell State Park
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Mountains To Sea Trail: Pisgah Inn to Mount Mitchell State Park

Brevard
1 day +
97.6 km
3,980 m
3,447 m
A historic and iconic route connecting Mount Pisgah to Mount Mitchell.
Difficult
Private
Mountains to Sea Trail: Mitchell to NC-181
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Mountains to Sea Trail: Mitchell to NC-181

Asheville
1 day +
95.2 km
3,774 m
4,923 m
A segment of the Mountains to Sea Trail best known for its traverse through Linville Gorge.
Difficult
Private
Mountains to Sea Trail: NC-181 to Blowing Rock
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Mountains to Sea Trail: NC-181 to Blowing Rock

1 day +
76.3 km
2,519 m
2,339 m
The Mountains to Sea Trail as it passes Grandfather Mountain
Difficult
Private
Mountains to Sea Trail: Blowing Rock to Basin Cove Overlook
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Mountains to Sea Trail: Blowing Rock to Basin Cove Overlook

1 day +
80.9 km
2,202 m
2,249 m
The MST as it passes through North Carolina's high country.
Moderate
Private
Graveyard Fields Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Graveyard Fields Loop

Brevard
1 - 2 hrs
5.0 km
115 m
115 m
A classic waterfall hike along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Moderate
Private
Fryingpan Mountain
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Fryingpan Mountain

Brevard
0 - 1 hrs
2.5 km
110 m
110 m
A short hike to a historic fire tower with breathtaking panoramic views.
Easy
Private
Mount Pisgah
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Mount Pisgah

Asheville
1 - 2 hrs
3.8 km
215 m
215 m
A popular hike providing spectacular views from the summit of Mount Pisgah.
Difficult
Private
Snowball Mountain Trail
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Snowball Mountain Trail

Asheville
3 - 4 hrs
11.2 km
720 m
720 m
A beautiful route across Snowball Mountain, Hawkbill Rock, and the site of a former fire tower.
Severe
Private
Big Butt Trail

Big Butt Trail

Asheville
4 - 5 hrs
18.9 km
1,038 m
1,038 m
An epic ridgetop traverse connecting the Blue Ridge Parkway to NC-197.
Difficult
Private
Mount Mitchell High Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Mount Mitchell High Loop

Asheville
1 - 2 hrs
6.4 km
356 m
356 m
A classic hike to the summit of Mount Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi River.
Difficult
Private
Black Mountain Crest Trail
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Black Mountain Crest Trail

Asheville
5 - 6 hrs
17.7 km
1,619 m
558 m
The single most epic ridgeline traverse in the Appalachian Mountains.
Severe
Private
Calloway Peak via Daniel Boone Scout Trail
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Calloway Peak via Daniel Boone Scout Trail

2 - 3 hrs
9.8 km
622 m
622 m
A challenging hike to Calloway Peak in Grandfather Mountain State Park.
Difficult
Private