Summertime in the city can often get a little stuffy, so there’s no better excuse to pack up and head toward the mountains to take advantage of higher altitudes with cooler temps, while hiking and taking in the breathtaking scenes of WNC at the same time. We’ve put together a list of incredible hikes that are all within three hours of Uptown Charlotte and perfect for a quick weekend hiking trip:
Black Balsam Knob
Travel Time: 2 hours 48 minutes
Situated less than a mile off the famed Blue Ridge Parkway, Black Balsam Knob, takes hikers on an adventure through treeless, rocky balds with sweeping vistas that seem to go on for miles. The most popular hike is a five-mile loop, which will take you over Black Balsam Knob, Tennant Mountain, and then connects with the Ivestor Gap Trail to lead back to the trailhead. The trail is also part of the Art Loeb Trail, a much larger network of trails that span 30 miles, so you can add on milage to your hike if you want to get a little more exercise and scenery by continuing on. For a truly breathtaking sight go at sunrise to catch the sun coming over the mountain ridge and illuminating the Blue Ridge Parkway below. You can also camp on Black Balsam Knob, which makes it a lot easier to get there for sunrise! As an added bonus, the trail is dog friendly.
Tip: If you’re in the mood for some different scenery there are two other remarkable hikes nearby — Devil’s Courthouse and Graveyard Fields.
Craggy Gardens Pinnacle Trail
Travel Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
If you’re looking for something short and quick with a big payoff at the end, then the 1.4-mile Craggy Gardens Pinnacle Trail is definitely the right hike for you. The easy to moderate trail peaks at an elevation of almost 6,000 ft. and is virtually treeless a the summit, allowing for pristine 360-degree views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and nice, cooling breezes. The Pinnacle is so popular for it’s natural beauty that you’ll often find professional photographers shooting everything from landscape shots to engagement sessions along the pathways and at the peak. Plus, the hike will take you through colorful patches of wildflowers, rhododendron, and berry bushes — giving you plenty of Insta-worthy photo ops.
Tip: There’s easy parking at the Craggy Gardens Visitor’s Center located at 364 Blue Ridge Pkwy, Black Mountain.
Travel Time: 2 hours 33 minutes
Beech Mountain may be an extremely popular spot to visit during the winter months for its skiing, but it’s also a great option to consider during the summer months for hiking. With almost 30 miles of hiking trails and temperatures that rarely ever reach above 75 degrees — because of its elevation — the area is ideal for an outdoor adventure even during the dog days of summer. We suggest hiking the Emerald Outback Trail System, which is made up of seven different trails and reaches over eight miles, depending on the route you take. Each of the trails along the network offers different types of terrain and difficulty levels, so there’s something for everyone no matter their experience. Hikers can expect to find scenic views of the Elk River Valley, a number of postcard-worthy overlooks, and tranquil forests.
Tip: Guided-hikes are offered twice a month during the summer. For more info visit: http://beechrecreation.org/hiking-trails/
Travel Time: 2 hours 36 minutes
Located a little over two-and-a-half hours from Charlotte, Roan Mountain, is another incredible WNC hiking destination to keep in mind. The mountain offers hikers a variety of trail options that vary in length ranging from less than a mile to up to five miles. The best part is, you don’t have to do the full trek to reap the rewards. While making the entire five-mile trip across the summits of Round Bald, Jane Bald, and Grassy Ridge Bald is completely worthwhile, hikers can take in picturesque long-range views by hiking less than a mile along the trail. To make an entire day of it, drive two miles over to the Roan Mountain Recreation Area after your hike to enjoy a picnic lunch, and, if you want to take another quick hike make your way to the Roan High Bluff Overlook.
Tip: Be sure to stop by the Roan Mountain Rhododendron Gardens, which are in full bloom in June, and a spectacular sight.
We want to hear where your favorite NC hiking spots are. Comment below and let us know.