Posted on: August 8, 2023 Posted by: Sarah Giavedoni Comments: 0
Learn more about NC Year of the Trail and unexpected ways to enjoy trails near you

Last Updated on August 8, 2023

Western North Carolina’s mountains and valleys are filled with paths perfect for traversing by foot. But that’s not the only way we choose to take advantage of the natural wonders around us!

Allen Tate/Beverly-Hanks is an Official Sponsor of NC Year of the Trail, a year-long initiative promoting trails throughout our state. And it would be a shame to go the whole year without exploring the many different—and often unexpected—ways that people enjoy the trails that criss-cross our region. 

WNC trails are for more than just hiking. Looking for a fresh adventure? Maybe it’s time you explored trails near you in unexpected ways. Take the proverbial path less traveled by learning more about NC Year of the Trail and unexpected ways to enjoy trails near you—like by horse, paddleboard, and more!

Skip ahead! Find unexpected trails near you:

6 Unexpected trails near Asheville, NC

Bikepacking: Eastern Divide Trail (Blue Ghost leg)

Bikepacking combines the best things about all-terrain cycling and backpacking. Pack your gear and your off-road-capable bike, and get ready for an overnight or multi-day adventure. Segment 6 of the Eastern Divide Trail, called the Blue Ghost leg, runs 600 miles from Damascus, Virginia, to Mulberry Gap in North Georgia. You’ll traverse challenging mixed-terrain as you cross the Eastern Continental Divide several times. Plan 12 days to complete the full leg, or subdivide it to explore your corner of the Blue Ridge. Click for more info.

Length: 590 miles

Also good for: Mountain biking | Sections of the trail may be good for other sports/activities.

Bird watching: Richmond Hill Park

You don’t have to leave town limits to engage in one of the fastest growing outdoor activities: bird watching. This easy loop trail is a popular spot for locals to visit year round. From the parking lot, you’ll pass a picnic shelter and information board before entering the woods. By combining the red and yellow trails, you can create loops of different sizes, from 1.5–3 miles. Especially in the early mornings, when the park is quiet, you can encounter a variety of vibrant colored songbirds, including Indigo Bunting, Black-and-white Warbler, and Scarlet Tanager.

Click for more info.

Length: 1.5 miles

Also good for: Disc golf, Hiking, Mountain biking, Running/Walking

Fishing: Beaver Lake Perimeter Trail Loop

This private trail is maintained by the local community and open to the public. One of the easiest routes in the mountains, this flat trail is a popular  North Asheville spot for many activities year round, including fishing. Permits are required to use the lake, but are well worth it for a quiet day on the water. Managed by the Blue Ridge Audubon Society, the overlapping eight-acre Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary’s 0.4-mile boardwalk trail includes half uplands and half wetlands that attract a variety of birds. Click for more info.

Length: 1.9 miles

Also good for: Accessible adventures, Bird watching, Paddle sports, Running/Walking

Off-road driving: Bent Creek Gap OHV Road

The Blue Ridge Parkway offers beautifully scenic views from the comfort of your car. But for a heartier adventure, try something a little different! This 4.4-mile point-to-point trail near Candler is a great spot for off-road driving. The route takes you from the Powhatan Camping Area to the Blue Ridge Parkway via Bent Gap National Forest Road #479 (a dirt/gravel fire road). Only licensed and non-motorized vehicles are allowed on this trail. Click for more info.

Length: 4.4 miles

Also good for: OHV/Off-road driving | Nearby Bent Creek Trail is also good for Hiking, Mountain biking, Running/Walking

Paddle sports: French Broad Paddle Trail (Asheville section)

There are 38 official access points and 23 sets of rapids along the full 150-mile French Broad Paddle Trail that runs from Rosman, NC to Rankin Bridge near Baneberry, TN. The Asheville section starts at the public river access at Bent Creek Park near the NC Arboretum and ends at Pearson Bridge in North Asheville. Along the way, you’ll travel through the Biltmore Estate’s property before heading through Asheville’s River Arts District. A half dozen access points along the way allow you to jump out to enjoy breweries and other amenities. Click for more info.

Length: 11.7 miles

Also good for: Tubing

Rock climbing: Weaver Knob Boulders Loop

There are many rock climbing opportunities throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains. This one is located within Bald Mountain Creek Preserve, a 700-acre preserve conserved by Southeastern Trust for Parks and Land. Head out on this new, moderately challenging loop trail near Mars Hill, built by the Carolina Climbers Coalition in 2022. There are boulders along the trail that are perfect for climbing. Reward yourself with a picnic for your hard work; a shelter is available at the top of Weaver Knob. Click for more info.

Length: 2.3 miles

Also good for: Hiking, Running/Walking

4 Unexpected trails near Brevard, NC

Bikepacking: The Appalachian (Beer) Trail

Running roughly from Brevard to Black Mountain, this four-day bikepacking route traverses each of the four major trail networks in Buncombe and Transylvania counties, including the Pisgah Ranger District and DuPont State Forest. Along the way, there are plenty of opportunities to stop and sample some of the finest beer in the region! It’s easy to shorten this four-day route into a long weekend—either start in Asheville and cut out Pisgah Brewing and Kitsuma, or cut out the DuPont section. Click for more info.

Length: 132 miles

Also good for: Mountain biking | Sections of the trail may be good for other sports/activities.

Bike touring: Blue Ridge Parkway (Mt. Pisgah to Cherokee)

Bike touring blends bike riding and backpacking in a similar way to bikepacking. However, multi-day bike touring trips stick to paved roads for the majority of the route. If this sounds like your speed, the Blue Ridge Parkway is a great road to explore! Try the point-to-point route that takes you from near Canton to the Parkway’s terminus at the gateway of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This leg of the 469-mile Parkway is very popular, and may be the most scenic section, as well. Watch out for seasonal road closures. Click for more info.

Length: 61.7 miles

Also good for: Bird watching, Road biking, Scenic driving

Fishing: Davidson River Exercise Trail

This easy loop trail near Pisgah Forest is popular among hikers and runners year round, as it only gains 32 feet in elevation. The scenic path follows the Davidson River before crossing Highway 276 to pass through the Davidson River Campground—a popular destination that can be very busy with campers in the summer season. There are many fishing spots and resting areas along the river side, offering opportunities to catch a variety of trophy game fish, including trout and smallmouth bass. Click for more info.

Editor’s Note: Anglers should be in compliance with all North Carolina fishing regulations.

Length: 1.5 miles

Also good for: Hiking, Running/Walking

Horse riding: Twin Falls and Clawhammer Cove Loop via Buckhorn Gap

There are a number of trails through Pisgah National Forest that are great for horses. This lovely loop trail is considered moderately challenging for humans, but is popular among horseback riders. The mostly shaded trail travels through a beautiful forest, traversing several log bridge crossings, and offers waterfall views. The trail includes a variety of terrain, including rocky outcroppings and switchbacks. Dogs are also allowed on leash. Click for more info.

Length: 6.6 miles

Also good for: Hiking, Mountain biking, Running/Walking

3 Unexpected trails near Hendersonville, NC

Bird watching: Oklawaha Greenway

There are many trailhead options for connecting to this easy out-and-back trail in Hendersonville. Most start in Jackson Park, just outside of downtown, and follow the trail north along Mud Creek, ending at Berkeley Mills Park. The trail is paved most of the way, making it largely accessible. Catch sight of many birds at two birding “hotspots” along the route (as designated by eBird). For a bonus experience, stop by Oklawaha Brewing in downtown Hendersonville after your hike. Click for more info.

Length: 6.6 miles

Also good for: Accessible adventures, Road biking, Running/Walking

Horse riding: Lake Imaging Trail

Located just off Staton Road, this loop trail takes you through the heart of DuPost State Recreational Forest. The trail gains only 741 feet over the course of 6+ miles, making it a relatively easy route. Lake Imaging Trail is open year round, and because of its popularity, you may want to plan to visit during quieter times of the day if you’re looking for solitude. A short spur will take you to scenic Grassy Creek Falls. Click for more info.

Length: 6.1 miles

Also good for: Hiking, Mountain biking

Rock climbing: Pulliam Creek Trail to Green River Cove Trail

Located near Saluda, NC, this challenging out-and-back trail will fill up at least half a day. Start at the trailhead off Big Hungry Road, and follow the trail downhill along Pulliam Creek to the Green River. The trail then climbs back uphill until you reach Green River Cove Road near Wilderness Cove Campground. Enjoy views of Fishtop Falls on the Green River. Click for more info.

Length: 9.8 miles

Also good for: Backpacking, Bird watching, Camping, Fishing, Hiking, Running/Walking

3 Unexpected trails near Waynesville, NC

Horse riding: Ferguson Cabin Trail Loop

There are as many as 75 great horseback riding trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and this is one. This popular 3.5-mile loop trail is open year round, making it a great trail to visit throughout the year. Located along the trail, Ferguson Cabin is noted for being the highest elevation historic cabin in the Smoky Mountains. The back end of the trail intersects with McKee Branch Trail and Cataloochee Divide Trail, offering further exploration. A paid parking tag is required within GSMNP. Click for more info.

Length: 3.5 miles

Also good for: Hiking, Walking

Paddle sports: Tuckasegee River Paddle Route (Tuckasegee to Dillsboro)

Paddle your way through gorgeous scenery along this point-to-point river trail. “The Tuck” runs through one of the oldest, most bio-diverse mountain ranges in the temperate world. Class II rapids along the route are gentle enough for young kayakers and paddlers. Enjoy the full route from Tuckasegee to Dillsboro, or divide your trip into two fairly-easy 10-mile segments. The greater Tuckasegee River Blue Trail continues past Bryson City to the west end of Lake Fontana. Click for more info.

Length: 19.0 miles

Also good for: Fishing, Tubing

Snowshoeing: Caldwell Fork Loop

Enjoy a variety of challenges throughout the year along the Caldwell Fork Loop! This is a popular trail, especially during summer months. But winter may be the perfect time to enjoy this route. The trailhead is located on Cataloochee Entrance Road near the campground. From there, enjoy an easy climb for the first three miles as you travel along the creek. The highest points are along the south end of the loop as you approach The Swag and connect to the Cataloochee Divide Trail. For a shorter loop, swing onto Boogerman Trail after 2.6 miles. A paid parking tag is required within GSMNP. Click for more info.

Length: 16.4 miles

Also good for: Backpacking, Camping, Hiking, Horseback riding, Running/Walking

What is NC Year of the Trail?

Allen Tate/Beverly-Hanks is proud to be an Official Sponsor of NC Year of the Trail! This year-long endeavor celebrates our state’s vast network of trails, greenways, and blueways—and is the largest statewide celebration of trails and outdoor recreation in North Carolina history!

According to their site:

North Carolina is the Great Trails State, where each of North Carolina’s 100 counties should be able to enjoy the proven benefits of trails, including health, safety, economic development, tourism, transportation, and environment. Trails are the backbone of our state’s growing $28 billion outdoor recreation economy. 

No matter your age, background, or abilities, there is a trail out there for you! We hope you’re inspired by today’s post on unexpected trails across our Western North Carolina communities. Check back as the year progresses; we’ll be covering more topics related to NC Year of the Trail, including:

What are your favorite ways to enjoy WNC trails? Let us know in the comments:

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