The state of North Carolina is home to the Great Smoky Mountains, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and part of the Appalachian Mountain Range. The mountains in these ranges vary in height and difficulty, and offer visitors the chance to explore different parks, cities, and communities within the state. From a drive along Blue Ridge Parkway, which will wow visitors with its breathtaking views and beauty, to rock climbing on one of the sheer cliff faces of the peaks above Linville Gorge, North Carolina is home to some truly spectacular sights and activities that are definitely not to be missed.
1.Blue Ridge Pinnacle
3.Big Cataloochee Mountain
25 Best Day Trips in the North Carolina Mountains
- Blue Ridge Pinnacle, Photo: Courtesy of demerzel21 - Fotolia.com
- Allison Ridge, Photo: Courtesy of Juhku - Fotolia.com
- Big Cataloochee Mountain, Photo: Courtesy of Kagenmi - Fotolia.com
- Hawksbill Mountain, Photo: Courtesy of skiserge1 - Fotolia.com
- Scaly Mountain, Photo: Courtesy of kalypso0 - Fotolia.com
- Snake Mountain, Photo: Courtesy of Jrg - Fotolia.com
- Silers Bald, Photo: Courtesy of Wollwerth Imagery - Fotolia.com
- Sylva Pinnacle, Photo: Courtesy of julianroehr - Fotolia.com
- Brushy Knob, Photo: Courtesy of nounours1 - Fotolia.com
- Hanging Rock, Photo: Courtesy of FiledIMAGE - Fotolia.com
- Flat Rock, Photo: Courtesy of Craig Zerbe - Fotolia.com
- Mount Jefferson, Photo: Courtesy of Jill Lang - Fotolia.com
- The Chimneys, Photo: Courtesy of Alexey Rotanov - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of aheflin - Fotolia.com
Three Top Mountain
Three Top Mountain consists of a 6-mile ridge in Ashe County, upon which stand several prominent, rocky peaks. It makes for a distinctive shape in the North Carolina skyline, and the tallest of these peaks stand at 5,020 feet elevation, with trails for hiking and ATVs. The trails to the summit are of various levels of difficulty, but most are for experienced hikers, as several require scrambling or climbing. Along the route, visitors may find forests and old logging lands, rocky outcroppings and ridges, and even the state’s only naturally occurring growth of bluebells.
Craggy Dome ranks in the top ten highest peaks with 1,000 feet of prominence in Eastern America, and at 6,105 feet at the summit, this mountain makes for a challenging but beautiful climb. The summit of this mountain is choked with rhododendrons and laurel bushes, but with a little creativity – or just a very long pair of legs – hikers can gain a pretty impressive view from the top. Hikers can use the Blue Ridge Parkway to reach the Mountains to Sea Trail, or the Douglas Falls Trailhead, both of which will lead to a smaller, steep, 1-mile path to the top.
Rocky Face Mountain
Rocky Face Mountain is a distinctive granite dome, similar to Stone Mountain, with a bald top almost completely free of trees, though it is well known as a home to many species of rare flowers and other plants, which thrive in the shallow soil atop the granite. Rocky Face Mountain is a great location for rock climbing, with an old stone quarry where climbers will find a number of challenging and fun routes. There are also about 5 miles of trails on the mountain, which are all incredibly well made and kept, although no camping is allowed anywhere within the park.
Little Pisgah Mountain is located near the Hickory Nut Gorge, and although it is not as well known as some of the other mountains in the area, Little Pisgah has one of the best views of any of them. The hike to the summit begins at the parking area for the Florence Nature Preserve and extends for 5.5 miles past cascades, through forests, and up to the top, where hikers can see views of the Hickory Nut Gorge as well as many of the other mountains in the area. On a clear day, even Linville Gorge can be spotted.
Yellow Buck Mountain
Yellow Buck Mountain doesn’t have any spectacular forests or sweeping views from grandstands, but what it does have are several gorgeous waterfalls. The mountain, which is located near Morgantown, is home to the Harper Creek Trail, a loop trail that brings hikers into the Harper Creek Drainage, which is home to the waterfalls. The trail follows a gorge, where a cold, clear mountain stream travels down cascades, over rocks, and makes for some incredibly beautiful waterfalls. During the spring and summer, the area is packed with colorful wildflowers, making it a truly picturesque spot.
Buzzards Roost is located in South Mountains State Park and is the tallest mountain in the southern range. The park is filled with some amazing hiking trails, although the northern half of the park, where Buzzard’s Roost lies, is undeveloped and remote. There are no direct trails to the summit, but hikers can make their way there nonetheless with some bushwhacking. This hike is not for amateur hikers, and items like a GPS, map, or compass are suggested when attempting this route. Despite the difficulty, a trip to the summit of Buzzard’s Roost is home to some truly beautiful nature, including forests that have been untouched by man for decades.
At 5,408 feet, Graybeard Mountain is the sixth-tallest mountain in the Blue Ridge Range. From its summit, hikers can find views of Mount Mitchell to the north as well as of the Swannanoa Valley. The privately owned but publicly accessible town of Montreat is where the trailheads originate for this mountain, and signs clearly point to Graybeard Trail, which is the main trailhead. The trail extends for about 6 miles to the top of the mountain, and the change in elevation is steep, about 2,400 feet. Along this trail, hikers can find the picturesque cascades of Graybeard Falls as well as Walker’s Knob, a giant rocky crag.
Occoneechee Mountain is located about 10 miles from Durham, accessible via Exit 164 on the I-85. The mountain rises above the Eno River and is one of the most dramatic summits in the state. The Occoneechee Mountain Loop Trail will lead hikers up stairs and hills, through forests of mountain laurel and rhododendron, and even over an old stone quarry known as the Panthers Den. The rock in this quarry is unsuitable for climbers and should not be explored. For a gentler hike, the Summit Road will also lead hikers to the top, albeit with less scenery.
Narrows Knob is named for the narrow ridges that lead to the top. Most of the hike to the summit is in forested areas, although there are some lovely views near the summit, where trees have difficulty growing. The mountain is located within Pisgah National Forest in the Mackey Mountain Roadless Area, and is partially accessible via the Mackey Mountain Trail. Unfortunately, the trail ends almost 2 miles from the summit, so access is limited to those who are comfortable with bushwhacking. As it is national forest land, camping is permitted anywhere in the area, although campers should be aware that bears are quite prominent in the region.
Bullhead is one of the hidden gems of North Carolina peaks. With a summit of 5,930 feet and a location just north of Asheville, Bullhead Mountain is a great destination for a peaceful, solitary hike. The Mountains to Sea Trail will lead hikers close to the summit, although the rest of the trip to the top will need to be done with a bit of trailblazing through the brush. Hikers should note that the southern and eastern sides of Bullhead Mountain are restricted areas, as they are part of the Asheville Watershed Land, although walking the boundary of this land is acceptable.
Dogback Mountain is located in the Linville Gorge Wilderness area, with steep, rocky slopes and cliffs. The summit of the mountain is accessible by vehicle via the Kistler Memorial Highway, but Dogback is also home to some of the most challenging trails in the region. Visitors to Dogback Mountain will find ample opportunity for hiking, camping, bouldering, and climbing as the rocky slopes of the mountain are very steep and contain dozens of routes for climbers. The Rock Jock Trail, which was originally created by climbers looking for a good spot, is an incredibly scenic trail for hikers. While much of the forests on Dogback Mountain were wiped out by a series of horrific wildfires, this trail still leads past some gorgeous views of the cliffs and the descending gorge.
Shortoff Mountain Linville
Shortoff Mountain, located on the southeastern side of Linville Gorge, is a beautiful mountain for hiking and climbing. From its 3,000-foot summit, Shortoff offers gorgeous views of the entire Linville Gorge as well as the peaks of the Black Mountains. Shortoff is also unique because it possesses a natural pond near the summit, something that is quite rare for mountains in the southern US. The summit is accessible via the Mountains to Sea Trail, and a short spur trail, which can be quite difficult to traverse in wet weather due to mud and erosion. The mountain is a major destination for rock climbers in the area, and offers routes of varying levels of difficulty. There are many campsites on Shortoff Mountain, and plenty of various trails for hiking.