Located in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is comfortably situated within a valley with rolling hills rising from all sides. As such, Asheville is close to some of the best hiking on the east coast. Just 35 miles from Asheville is the highest peak on the east coast, Mt. Mitchell. This is but one of the many areas where hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains abound. What’s nice about Asheville is that it offers the excitement of a metropolis, yet with outdoor activities within a short distance. Many of the Asheville area’s best hikes are even much closer than Mt. Mitchell, which can take up to an hour and a half to drive to depending on traffic, since the road winds through the Blue Ridge Mountains at 45 MPH.
There are quite a few hikes around the Mt. Mitchell area, despite the fact that many visitors to the landmark just do the scenic overlook. One of the most popular Mt. Mitchell hikes, takes explorers from the highest peak on the east coast, Mt. Mitchell, to the second highest peak at Mt. Craig. It’s more for intermediate hikers, because though it’s only a two-mile round trip, it involves some climbing, though not strenuous. More experienced hikers will enjoy the trail from Black Mountain Campground, a 5.5 mile hike, which climbs over 3,500 feet.
Probably the most well-known hiking trail in the Asheville area is the Mountain to Sea Trail. It can be accessed in as little as 15 minutes from Asheville. It offers many different access points, as the trail runs 17 miles long. Many hikers access it at the Folk Art Center, which is just a few miles outside of Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It accommodates all skill levels.
25 miles from downtown Asheville is one of the most scenic trails on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Craggy Gardens. There’s a visitor center and a couple different scenic overlooks that offer 360-degree views across the mountains. There are several different hikes in the vicinity of Craggy Gardens that range in difficulty.
[Photo courtesy of Carolyn N. Connor]