Do you feel like you’ve hiked and biked every sidewalk, trail, and unofficial footpath in your neighborhood? Are you looking for new wilderness to roam?
It’s easy to find the path less traveled without going too far!
In Western North Carolina, you can explore trails your entire life and still find something new. That’s great news during a season in which many people have worn out their local trails and found their summer vacations cancelled. And we know just the ones to try that aren’t overcrowded with locals itching to escape the house.
We challenge you to enjoy the wild side of WNC. Keep your social distance on these secluded trails!
Skip ahead! Find lesser-known hiking and biking trails near you:
- 5 Secluded Trails near Asheville
- 2 Secluded Trails near Brevard
- 2 Secluded Trails near Hendersonville
- 3 Secluded Trails near Waynesville
- Keeping Your Social Distance on the Trail
5 Secluded Trails near Asheville
Little Butt Trail
We could make a few jokes about this trail name, sure. But the truth is, you’ll work your butt off on this four-hour hike through Pisgah National Forest that gains 1,300 feet in elevation. (Sorry, not sorry.) From the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, the markers for Little Butt take you through a hardwood forest that’s great for seeing the biodiversity of our mountains up close. There is paved parking at the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center near the trailhead (MP 359.8), and this trail is great for dogs. Bring snacks with you—Little Butt is a wide rock outcropping, perfect for a picnic. Click for more info.
Length: 4.8 miles round trip
Black Mountain Crest Trail
If you’re looking for a true challenge, try your hand at what’s known as the “Most Difficult Trail of the East.” This rugged summit-bagging trek climbs more than 3,000 feet in four miles, skirting the crest of the largest collection of 6,000-foot peaks east of the Mississippi. In exchange for your hard work, you’ll be rewarded with some of the most sweeping views of our mountains, especially from atop Mount Craig. The hike ends at the observation deck at the summit of Mount Mitchell, the highest peak in the Appalachians. Access the trail from Bowlens Creek Road, south of Burnsville. Click for more info.
Length: 11 miles
Difficulty: Very Strenuous
Douglas Falls Trail
If you’re visiting Craggy Gardens, one of the top destinations along the Blue Ridge Parkway, you can’t miss the opportunity to find this 70-foot hidden waterfall! Choose an easy (one hour) or challenging (six hours) approach to Douglas Falls, and enjoy a rare opportunity to walk behind a waterfall! Unless you’re visiting after a hard rain, Douglas Falls is a low-flow waterfall. It was named for Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, who was an active environmentalist appointed to the court by Franklin D. Roosevelt. Paved parking is available at both trailheads. This hike is good for pets. Click for more info.
Length: 1 mile round trip (short) | 6.6-miles round trip (long)
Difficulty: Easy Moderate
From Black Mountain, the “Prettiest Small Town in America,” it’s easy to find the trailhead for Graybeard Mountain, though it’s traveled by few hikers. In your 5–6 hours on the trail, Graybeard offers a birds-eye view of town, incredible scenery, and even a short spur to the small Graybeard Falls. We recommend taking this hike in October to enjoy the fall colors, stunning views, and just-right temperatures. The hike climbs 2,400 feet in elevation, largely after passing the waterfall. Parking is available and the trail is pet friendly. Click here for more info.
Length: 4.8 miles from trailhead to summit | 9.5 miles roundtrip
Mountains-to-Sea Trail near the Folk Art Center
With easy-access parking and a route that’s not too steep (823-foot climb in elevation), this is a great five-mile hike that’s close to town. The hike begins along the Blue Ridge Parkway at the Folk Art Center (MP 382.0) and covers a short stretch of the 935-mile Mountains-to Sea Trail. Enjoy a steady uphill climb surrounded by wildflowers and wild mushrooms. Enjoy great views at the top of the mountain above Haw Creek Valley Overlook (MP 380). The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March–November. Dogs are welcome on this trail but must be kept on leash. Click for more info.
Length: 5.0 miles
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2 Secluded Trails near Brevard
Middle Prong Wilderness
Located north of Brevard and the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Middle Prong Wilderness Area encompasses 7,900 acres of steep, rugged, high-elevation ridges ranging from 3,200 to over 6,400 feet. That makes it one of the least visited parts of the Pisgah National Forest, and a perfect place to find secluded trails and minimal signs of human impact. There are ample hiking options within the Middle Prong WA, including access to the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. However, signage is minimal, so plan your navigation accordingly. Middle Prong gets its name from the middle prong of the Pigeon River, whose headwaters are located in the area. Click for more info.
Hikes within Middle Prong Wilderness:
- Buckeye Gap Trail #126, 3.1 miles
- Green Mountain Trail #113, 5.0 miles
- Haywood Gap Trail #142, 6.0 miles
- Mountains to Sea National Recreation Trail #440, 39.7 miles
Length: 3.1–39.7 miles
Lake Julia Trail
Enjoy great views along the banks of Reasonover Creek to beautiful Lake Julia from this trail that rises only 250 feet in elevation. This five-hour hike includes a crossing at Little River, which must be forded at the beginning and end of the hike. In normal conditions, the water depth will not exceed 1.5 feet, but water levels and current can vary dramatically based on rainfall. River shoes with good traction are recommended. This route travels through the remote southern portion of DuPont State Forest, and the ford across the Little River limits foot traffic in this area of the forest. Click for more info.
Length: 10 miles round trip
Difficulty: Easy Moderate
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2 Secluded Trails near Hendersonville
From Bearwallow Road in Fairview, get to know Hickory Nut Gap on the Trombatore Trail! Most hikers gravitate to Bearwallow Mountain, considered one of the best hikes around. But right across the road from that trailhead is the starting point for this lesser-known hike. Blazed in 2014, the heavy canopy keeps much of this trail shaded in the summer. Pass over creeks, through open fields, and along old stack-stone walls. After gaining 1,200 feet in elevation, you’ll reach a beautiful pasture at the summit that’s covered in wildflowers in the spring. It’s perfect for a private picnic! Click here for more info.
Length: 5.0 miles round trip
Difficulty: Moderate Strenuous
Turkey Pen Loop
Turkey Pen Loop offers a great place to seek solitude and adventure within Pisgah National Forest. Travel along the banks of the South Fork Mills River, then ford the adult knee-level water to continue through rolling terrain and a peaceful hardwood forest. A suspension bridge takes you back across the river so you don’t have to get your feet wet again. The trail climbs around 400 feet over the course of your 2.5-hour hike. The rough road and river fording discourage many hikers and bikers. But this is one of the most popular horseback riding destinations in Pisgah. Click for more info.
Length: 4.6 miles round trip
Difficulty: Easy Moderate
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3 Secluded Trails near Waynesville
The Boogerman Trail
Cross one of the longest footbridges in Great Smoky Mountains National Park into an old growth forest on the Boogerman Trail. The trail gets its name from Robert Palmer, whose nickname was “Boogerman.” As you travel along the path, you will pass the former Palmer home site. An initial climb, along with another short, stiff climb near the half-way point, are the only stretches that keep Boogerman Trail from being anything other than a very pleasant walk in the woods. The park recommends traveling counterclockwise, but many hikers prefer the clockwise route. Ths trail is primarily used for hiking, running, and horses and is accessible year round. Click for more info.
Length: 7.3 miles round trip
Cataloochee Divide Trail
If you’d rather see more wildlife than people, this trail is for you. Located in the heart of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but away from tourist centers, the Cataloochee Valley offers scenic solitude at its finest. This four-season, out-and-back trail features beautiful wildflowers in spring. In summer, the high elevations (the trail gains 2,791 feet) offer cooler temperatures, and the fall and winter views are unmatched. The trail follows the park boundary, approaching “The Swag,” an open area with great views and a private resort of the same name. Take the intersecting Hemphill Bald Trail to the bald for lunch with a view. Horses are also able to use this trail. Click for more info.
Length: 13.8 miles
If you are ready for a long weekend, enjoy the Little Tennessee Lakeshore Trail near Fontana Dam. The trail offers the adventurous some of the most quiet hiking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Start your hike from the “Road to Nowhere” by heading through the automotive tunnel that’s never seen an automobile. Travel vertically (with elevation changes of 5,459 feet) and horizontally along the length of Fontana Lake. There are a number of NPS-designated backcountry sites along this trail. Visitors must have a permit. Camping outside of established campsites is not permitted. You can fish in the lake for trout and smallmouth bass. Click for more info.
Length: 32.6 miles
Grab your gear and get outside. Find homes near your favorite hiking and biking trails. Search homes for sale in Waynesville.
Keeping Your Social Distance on the Trail
Since social distancing measures began in town, people have taken to the forests. As a result, some areas of our mountains have become extremely overcrowded. As you plan your route, have a Plan B and Plan C ready to go, just in case. If the parking area for your planned outing is full or overflowing when you arrive, go to the next plan.
Remember to maintain safe distances at parking areas, and wear your face coverings until you are safely on the trail. Many facilities (especially visitor centers and restrooms) remain closed during the pandemic. Check with land managers to confirm exactly what’s available before you head out.