Join us on a virtual journey through the Tar Heel State's most captivating State Park hiking trails. We've curated a list of North Carolina's 20 best state park trails, each with its own distinct charm and natural beauty. Whether you're an experienced hiker seeking a challenging summit or a nature lover looking for a peaceful escape, these trails offer a range of experiences that showcase the state's rich outdoor heritage.
1. Mount Mitchell State Park - Mount Mitchell Trail
As the highest peak east of the Mississippi River, Mount Mitchell is a must-visit destination for hikers seeking breathtaking vistas. The Mount Mitchell Trail offers a challenging ascent through dense forests, leading to the summit's observation tower, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, making it a top choice for adventurous outdoor enthusiasts.
2. Grandfather Mountain State Park - Profile Trail
Grandfather Mountain is an icon of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the Profile Trail is the gateway to its majestic beauty. This hike meanders through lush forests and rocky terrain, eventually arriving at the world-famous Mile High Swinging Bridge, where you can savor awe-inspiring views of the rugged landscape below.
3. Stone Mountain State Park - Stone Mountain Loop Trail
Stone Mountain State Park is renowned for its massive granite dome, and the Stone Mountain Loop Trail offers an excellent way to explore this unique geological wonder. The trail takes you around the base of the granite dome, where you can admire intriguing rock formations, explore a historic homestead, and witness picturesque waterfalls that cascade from the mountain's flanks.
4. Hanging Rock State Park - Hanging Rock Trail
Hanging Rock State Park is a treasure trove of natural beauty, and the Hanging Rock Trail is one of its most beloved features. This trail takes you to the summit of Hanging Rock, where you'll be rewarded with stunning views of the Piedmont and the iconic hanging rock formation. It's a favorite among hikers seeking a picturesque mountaintop experience.
5. Pilot Mountain State Park - Jomeokee Trail
Known locally as "Jomeokee" or "The Big Pinnacle," Pilot Mountain offers panoramic views of the Yadkin Valley, and the Jomeokee Trail is a straightforward route to reach this stunning vantage point. The trail winds through woodlands and rocky outcrops, offering a relatively easy hike for visitors looking to enjoy awe-inspiring vistas with minimal effort.
6. Crowders Mountain State Park - Crowders Trail
Crowders Mountain State Park provides outdoor enthusiasts with a range of hiking options, and the Crowders Trail is a popular choice. The trail leads to the park's highest point, where you'll be treated to sweeping views of the Charlotte skyline and the surrounding Piedmont region. Whether you're a seasoned hiker or looking for a moderate challenge, this park has something to offer.
7. Raven Rock State Park - Raven Rock Loop Trail
Raven Rock State Park is known for its impressive rock formation along the Cape Fear River, and the Raven Rock Loop Trail takes you to the park's namesake feature. This trail guides hikers through dense forests and offers glimpses of the river before arriving at Raven Rock, where you can marvel at the geological wonder and take in sweeping river views.
8. Gorges State Park - Rainbow Falls Trail
Gorges State Park is a hidden gem with lush rainforests, and the Rainbow Falls Trail is a must for waterfall enthusiasts. The trail leads to the stunning Rainbow Falls, a 150-foot cascade that plunges into a pool of vibrant blue-green water, creating a mesmerizing sight amidst the verdant surroundings.
9. South Mountains State Park - High Shoals Falls Loop Trail
South Mountains State Park is a haven for waterfall seekers, and the High Shoals Falls Loop Trail is a popular choice. This trail takes you to the park's centerpiece, High Shoals Falls, which tumbles dramatically over a rugged cliff. It's a picturesque hike in a tranquil natural setting.
10. Eno River State Park - Cox Mountain Trail
Near Durham, Eno River State Park offers a peaceful escape, and the Cox Mountain Trail is a favorite among hikers. This trail meanders along the Eno River, providing scenic river views and the opportunity to explore a historic mill site, making it an excellent choice for a relaxing hike.