Since the 1930s, almost 20,000 people have hiked the entire Appalachian Trail, beginning in Northwest Georgia and extending into Maine. I feel so lucky that part of the Appalachian trail runs through my home city of Asheville, North Carolina. Right in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is popular tourist destination any time of year, but specifically in October and November, due to the vast amount of tourists flooding the area to catch a glimpse of the fall foliage on the mountains. the locals have even nicknamed it “Leaf Season”. Whether it's a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway or a hike in Pisgah National Forest, the breathtaking views are worth a weekend getaway to Western North Carolina. I have had the pleasure of living in the area for almost 5 years and have narrowed down to my top five favorite hikes for checking out the changing colors.
1. Glassy Mountain/Carl Sandburg Home
Located in the small town of Flat Rock the historic home of poet Carl Sandburg is home to over five miles of public trails as well as historic building and a goat farm. The main trail is Glassy Mountain, a 2.2 mile out and back trail, though there are options for joining trails all around the property if you're looking for a longer hike. This is a great hike for beginners with a very gradual elevation climb. The view from the lookout is amazing, a giant open rock face with a Northwest view.
2. Lover's Leap
Right on the North Carolina-Tennessee border the town of Hot Springs hosts a great sunrise or sunset hike. Once you make it to the halfway point there are 3 different rock faces that hang out over the French Broad River and Pisgah National Forest. This trail is more moderate with a higher elevation gain but is only a 2 mile loop, making it a perfect quick outdoor adventure.
3. Looking Glass Rock
Probably one of the more well known trailheads in Pisgah is Looking Glass Rock. If you're looking for a 180 view this is your hike. It's a 5.5 mile out and back trail with and elevation gain of 1600 feet, shaded by dense rhododendron thicket with challenging switchbacks. At the top there is a large outcrop, but exercise caution - the drop off is sudden. The outcrop is great place to rest and catch the top of the tree line.
4. DuPont State Forest
Hands down, my favorite place to hike any time of year. I love waterfalls and this hike has three. There are a few different trails with the “main” waterfall trail, DuPont also is a desired spot for mountain biking on Cedar Rock Mountain. Finish the hike at the base of Hooker Falls where there's plenty of spots for hanging a hammock, enjoying a picnic lunch or if you don't fear cold water, a refreshing swim. This a great place for hiker's of all abilities and ages. If you're a fan of the Hunger Games or Last of the Mohicans, both of these movies filmed scenes here.
5. Art Loeb Trail/Black Balsam
Finally, my favorite autumn hike. The trail itself is 30.1 miles, but you don't have to commit to all of it. The trail is broken into 4 sections, Black Balsam is section 3. There is a small parking area off the Blue Ridge Parkway for this trailhead, and the high point showcases a plaque dedicated to Art Loeb. The hike is mostly all on mountain balds, with vast 360 views for 6.8 miles. This is also a great camping spot, but watch out for bears! Make sure you store food in a bear canister.