North Carolina Hiking Trails

Hiking trails in North Carolina are famous for their beauty and for their sheer numbers; the Appalachian Trail which cuts through Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the jumping-off point for hundreds of miles of hiking trails throughout Appalachian Mountains. North Carolina hiking trails are great for families with children as well as serious trekkers; there are multiple hikes lasting just a few miles, as well as options throughout the Blue Ridge Mountain Range for hikes lasting multiple days. Information on some of the best hiking in North Carolina can be found below, although with more than 800 miles of hiking trails throughout the Great Smokey's, you'll be sure to find good options whichever direction you go.

Alum Cave Bluffs Trail

This is one of the longer North Carolina hiking trails, with a roundtrip distance of just over 11 miles. For most hikers, this is one of those hiking trails in North Carolina that will take you all day to complete. The elevation also increases quickly as you go along, and by the time you reach the top of the lookout you will have climbed up 2,800 feet in elevation. At this point in the climb, however, you will have a great view and will be at Mount LeConte, a great spot for pictures and the perfect time to sit and enjoy some lunch while you take in the beauty all around. No fees are required to enjoy this hike, and there is an ample parking lot at the base.

Ramsay Cascade Trail

This is another of the North Carolina hiking trails that might take up the better part of a day, with a roundtrip distance of 8 miles. This hike is less challenging in distance and elevation than the Alum Cave Bluffs Trail, however, and a good option for a moderate hike. The highlight of this beautiful hike is the Ramsay Cascades Waterfall, which falls from a height of over 100 feet and is actually the highest waterfall found in the region. The views along this trail are excellent, as you will see the valley below as you hike and be rewarded with sweeping views at the hike's highest point. The Ramsay Cascades Trail has a small parking lot at the base, and there are no fees associated with using this trail or the park.

Outer Banks Hiking

Although the Outer Banks may not come to mind when travelers think of hiking trails in North Carolina, the flora near the sand dunes of this special area actually provides some of the best hiking in North Carolina. The Nags Head Woods Preserve and the Buxton Woods are the two best areas for hiking in the Outer Banks. The elevation is almost nil, since you will be hiking through a maritime forest, but the surrounding plants and animals that live among them are unique. Venus Flytraps and other insect-eating plants are actually native to this area and make an area hike well worth the time. To use these trails, park at Nags Head Park or Cape Hatteras, two parks which have no entrance fee for park use - you'll be able to hike all day for free.

When hiking through trails in North Carolina, it is important to remember to stay on the hiking trails to avoid disturbing wildlife in the area. Use only designated restrooms or, if using the forest as a restroom, stay on the trail for this purpose as well. Be sure to pack plenty of food and, more importantly, at least 60 ounces of water per person for every two hours that you plan to hike. Bring along a compass, a cell phone, and a mountain locater device if you plan to hike for more than one day.

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