5 More Summer Hikes in Asheville—A Local’s Perspective
Asheville’s got more places to hike than you can shake a stick at. Seriously, you can’t walk to your mailbox without tripping over a trail marker. There are so many places to hike, in fact, that its rumored the only people who’ve walked them all live solitary lives in the peaks of the Blue Ridge, contemplating their hiking boots until the end of time.
Am I exaggerating? Of course not. I’ve already written on this subject, and although the last selection is pretty good (if I do say so myself), there’s simply more to be said. So, without further ado, here’s five more summer hikes in Asheville.
I know what you’re thinking: who in their right mind would build a hotel for snakes? Worry not, gentle hiker. This trail takes you through the remains of a human (not reptile) habitation, specifically a mountain retreat built in the early 1900s. It burned down in 1926 and has been turned over to nature ever since.
With a little finagling, you can explore these ruins from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Leave your vehicle in the lot around milepost 375, just before Tanbark Ridge Tunnel, and pick up the trail near the stream. Eventually, you’ll find a side-trail on your left that takes you up some steps, and onwards to the lost lodge.
Although this isn’t a place for stunning mountain views, the dried-out pool, old reservoir, and stacked-stone foundations make for some impressive scenery in their own right—its highly worth working Rattlesnake Lodge into your schedule of summer hikes.
Time and Distance: Thirty minutes from downtown. 1.2 mile roundtrip.
Nothing says Western North Carolina like rhododendron and in Craggy Gardens they come by the truckload. What’s more, I hear they’re blooming. June marks the start of their season. Throw in some great mountain views and weather that’s ten-to-twenty degrees cooler than it is in Asheville proper, and you’ve got yourself a prime candidate for some gorgeous mountain hiking.
Speaking of the temperature-drop, I may or may not have seen snow at an elevation like Craggy Gardens’ in late spring. Point being, even if its hot enough in the valleys to boil tea, be sure to bring a jacket if you intend to go to higher elevations. Craggy Gardens has lots of broad, open areas, warmed by sunlight, so it may not get as chilly as other areas on this list. Still, better safe than frozen to a boulder—that’s my motto.
Time and Distance: Forty minutes from downtown. Walking the Craggy Pinnacle trail—which I suggest due to its views—is a 1.5 mile roundtrip.
Back in the vein of civilization-taken-over-by-nature, the trail which follows Big Laurel Creek was once a railroad. Its unnatural flatness gives it away. Follow the creek to where it meets the French Broad, and you’ll find the ruins of Runion, a deserted lumber town.
Now if that hasn’t hooked you—like it did me—then I’ll say this trail is especially suited to summer weather due to its shade. What’s more, the creek sometimes breaks into pools of deeper, calmer water, perfect for a mid-hike dip. Its got a lot going for it, this Big Laurel Creek, and although like Rattlesnake Lodge mountain views aren’t quite on the list, this hike can certaintly add some variety to your retinue.
Time and Distance: Forty-five minutes from downtown. At a whopping 7.2 mile round trip, I’d definitely suggest packing a picnic, and stopping halfway for a rest on the creek’s rocky bank.
No series of hikes near Asheville would be complete without at least one waterfall and Linville is one of the most spectacular in the area. I suggest taking the Erwin Views trail, starting at the visitor’s center. Although its riddled with steep, uphill sections—making it one of the most difficult hikes on this list—the Erwin Views trail will take you to no less than four overlooks, giving wide views of the falls and the gorge. They’re all sights worth seeing, regardless of the season, although the water-element here does tend to cool things down a bit (or at least humidify them).
Time and Distance: One hour away from downtown. 1.6 miles roundtrip.
Pop quiz: where is the highest peak east of Mississippi? Is it in the Alleghenies? Tennessee? West Virginia? Actually, it’s Mount Mitchell, located—like many important and pleasurable things—just outside Asheville. Now, despite this fact the hike to the top of Mount Mitchell is paved and what’s more, relatively easy—a perfect hike for families with children.
Like Craggy Gardens, the elevation here more or less guarantees weather ranging from fair to cool, meaning you won’t have to fight sweat bees on your way, and therefore will be free to admire the high-altitude forests, and boundless views. With a powerful enough magnifier, I imagine you’ll even be able to see the other summer hikes on this list from up there.
Time and Distance: One hour away from downtown. 1 mile roundtrip.