As an innkeeper, I get asked a lot about local attractions and activities. One of the most common questions is where the best hiking trails are located. Here are a few comments on my first hiking trail experiences. All of these are within a short drive of the Waynesville area. While they vary in difficulty, all are beautiful and well worth the effort.
- Water Rock Knob: Just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, this is one of the “superstar trails.” Only about a 20 minute drive from Waynesville, the site features a parking area complete with Ranger Station. The summit is touted as the highest hikeable point on the Parkway and the trail is well-maintained and easily accessible. It is a moderately easy hike to the top with only about 1.3 mile round trip. The views along the way are excellent, with even spectacular views from the parking area. For those with limited experience hiking or with limited mobility, this is a worthwhile stop for anyone driving the Parkway.
- The Appalachian Trail: The section of the AT that crosses through North Carolina is not huge: only about 95 miles of the AT are in NC, while about 220 more miles over the border in Tennessee. However, those NC miles are spectacular. You can do a short 4 hour trek on the AT starting at Newfound Gap in the Smoky Mountain National Forest. This trail is very well maintained with a tree canopy and beautiful vistas all along the way. I actually encountered a whole family of deer who just stood and watched as I walked past less than 10 feet away. Along the way I visited with multiple other hikers I encountered and got to hear their hiking stories. While no means a difficult hike, there was something magical about my first visit to the famed Appalachian Trail.
- Mountains-to-Sea Trail: While looking for a roadside trail along the Blue Ridge Parkway, we discovered this amazing trail system. The MTS is visually stunning, starting at Clingmans Dome and running all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. With access points all along the Parkway, the trail varies in difficulty, but this system offers some quieter out-of-the-way hikes for the more intrepid traveler.
The slopes of the Smoky Mountains are breathtaking, especially when awash in the colors of the autumn leaves. I look forward to discovering more of these trails in the future, and would love to hear suggestions about other trails and hikes in the area others might recommend! Enjoy the top hikes in the area when you stay at our Waynesville bed and breakfast.