North Carolina's 20 Most Popular State Park Hiking Trails

Mount Mitchell State Park
Mount Mitchell State Park

North Carolina's diverse landscape is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a plethora of hiking trails that showcase the state's natural beauty. While the national parks in North Carolina are renowned, the trails outside these parks present equally enchanting opportunities for adventure. Join us on a journey through the Tar Heel State's 20 most popular hiking trails, where mountain vistas, waterfalls, and lush forests await every hiker.

1. Linville Falls Trail

Embark on a captivating hike through Linville Gorge, often referred to as the "Grand Canyon of the East." The Linville Falls Trail takes you to multiple viewpoints, offering breathtaking scenes of cascading waterfalls and rugged cliffs within this stunning gorge.

2. Hanging Rock Trail

Hanging Rock State Park is a treasure trove for hikers, and the Hanging Rock Trail stands out with its panoramic views from the summit. Overlooking the Piedmont, this trail is a favorite for those seeking a challenging ascent and a rewarding vista.

3. Looking Glass Rock Trail

Located in Pisgah National Forest, the Looking Glass Rock Trail leads hikers to the iconic granite dome of Looking Glass Rock. The summit provides sweeping views of the surrounding forest, making it a popular destination for both seasoned and novice hikers.

4. Triple Falls Trail

DuPont State Recreational Forest boasts numerous scenic trails, and the Triple Falls Trail is a standout. Hikers are treated to the sight and sound of three cascading waterfalls, set against the backdrop of lush greenery and serene forest surroundings.

5. Uwharrie National Recreation Trail

The Uwharrie National Recreation Trail, winding through Uwharrie National Forest, offers a diverse hiking experience. Hikers traverse through pine and hardwood forests, crossing streams and meandering through rolling hills, making it a beloved trail for nature lovers.

6. Joyce Kilmer National Recreation Trail

For a stroll through ancient woodlands, the Joyce Kilmer National Recreation Trail is unparalleled. This loop trail in the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest introduces hikers to giant poplars and impressive hardwoods, providing a glimpse into a pristine, untouched forest.

7. Stone Mountain Loop Trail

Stone Mountain State Park is known for its granite domes and waterfalls, and the Stone Mountain Loop Trail is the perfect way to explore this natural wonder. The trail encircles Stone Mountain, offering diverse terrain and striking views of the iconic rock face.

8. Grandfather Trail

Grandfather Mountain, a rugged peak in the Blue Ridge Mountains, beckons hikers with the Grandfather Trail. This challenging trail leads to the summit, rewarding intrepid hikers with unparalleled views of the surrounding peaks and valleys.

9. Mount Mitchell Summit Trail

Climb to the highest peak east of the Mississippi on the Mount Mitchell Summit Trail. The trail leads to the summit of Mount Mitchell, where panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains unfold, creating a spectacular backdrop for a challenging hike.

10. Cox Mountain Trail

Eno River State Park offers a peaceful escape, and the Cox Mountain Trail is a gem within its boundaries. This trail meanders along the Eno River, through forests and meadows, providing a serene setting for a relaxing hike.

11.Ledge Springs Trail

Dominating the Piedmont landscape, Pilot Mountain State Park offers the Ledge Springs Trail, providing stunning views of the iconic "Knob" and the surrounding countryside. This moderately challenging trail is a local favorite for its accessibility and scenic rewards.

12.Elk Knob Summit Trail

For a mountain adventure with a touch of alpine scenery, the Elk Knob Summit Trail is a must. Located in Elk Knob State Park, this trail leads to the summit, where hikers are greeted with breathtaking views of the Appalachian Mountains.

13.Mount Jefferson Trail

Ascend to the summit of Mount Jefferson with the Mount Jefferson Trail. This trail offers a unique hiking experience, surrounded by high-altitude forests and concluding with a panoramic view that encompasses three states: North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

14.High Shoals Falls Loop Trail

South Mountains State Park is home to the High Shoals Falls Loop Trail, a scenic route leading to a spectacular waterfall. Hikers traverse through dense forests, crossing streams and ascending to witness the mesmerizing beauty of High Shoals Falls.

15.Rainbow Falls Trail

Gorges State Park is a hidden gem, and the Rainbow Falls Trail is its crown jewel. This trail takes hikers to the base of the stunning Rainbow Falls, surrounded by the lush greenery of the park's unique ecosystem.

16. Roan High Knob Trail

Roan Mountain State Park offers the Roan High Knob Trail, where hikers can explore the diverse ecosystems of the Roan Highlands. The trail leads to Roan High Knob, offering expansive views of the surrounding mountains.

17.Great Blue Heron Loop Trail

Winding through the Haw River State Park, the Great Blue Heron Loop Trail is a tranquil hike along the banks of the Haw River. Birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts will appreciate the diverse wildlife and serene landscapes along this trail.

18.Morrow Mountain Loop Trail

Morrow Mountain State Park boasts the Morrow Mountain Loop Trail, a scenic route providing stunning views of the Uwharrie Mountains and the Pee Dee River. This trail offers a mix of woodlands, open fields, and historical sites.

19.Crowders Trail

Crowders Mountain State Park is a popular destination, and the Crowders Trail is a favored route for its accessibility and stunning vistas. Hikers can ascend Crowders Mountain for panoramic views of the surrounding Piedmont landscape.

20.Flytrap Trail

For a coastal hiking experience, the Flytrap Trail in Carolina Beach State Park introduces hikers to the unique environment of the Venus flytrap. This easygoing trail offers a glimpse into coastal ecosystems and the fascinating world of carnivorous plants.

North Carolina's hiking trails beyond the national parks weave a tapestry of diverse landscapes, from the coastal regions to the peaks of the Appalachian Mountains. Whether you're seeking waterfalls, panoramic vistas, or serene woodlands, the Tar Heel State has a trail for every nature lover. Lace up your hiking boots, explore these remarkable trails, and discover the natural wonders that make North Carolina a true gem for outdoor enthusiasts.