Information on Trail Conditions, Trail Statistics and Ratings, Navigation and Hazards
WARNING!! – Hiking any of these trails involves considerable physical activity. None of these trails are suitable for people with heart or balance problems, joint issues or other relevant medical problems. Most of these hikes are in areas with NO cell phone coverage or immediate medical assistance.
Do Not Hike Alone !!
All hikes listed here are located on public land and involve treks of several miles over rough terrain and are generally, but not always, well-marked and well-traveled. They all involve walking over very uneven, steep terrain on trails that have roots, mud and rocks on the surface. Hiking usually requires stream crossings (without bridges) and scrambling over rocks, boulders or downed trees and hiking through thick vegetation complete with thorns. Wear long pants, good hiking boots (preferrably waterproof) and carry extra clothing for wet and cold conditions. Hiking poles are highly recommended for the steep descents common on these trails. Weather conditions change quickly in the mountains and can turn quite cold, wet and windy in a heart beat! Carry the correct map, plenty of water, extra clothing and do not hike alone. Plan on the hike taking much longer than you anticipate.
Trail Statistics and Ratings
Information is provided on the total round trip distance in miles, the total ascent in feet, the maximum elevation and the difficulty rating for each trail listed. The total ascent is the sum of all the uphill parts of the trail and indicates the amount of climbing. For planning purposes, the hiking time is approximately 30 minutes per mile plus 30 minutes for each 1000 feet of ascent. Individual times can vary dramatically from this guideline, however. Both distance and total ascent are estimated using GPS data gathered while hiking these trails. GPS data is subject to inherent inaccuracies and these numbers should be considered approximate. If you download a GPX file for your hike, bear in mind that your device may indicate a variance from the downloaded track by 50 feet or more.
Trail difficulty is a subjective rating based on the combination of distance, total ascent and trail conditions. We believe that the ratings are consistent with generally accepted ratings for the trails listed and represent the difficulty level for reasonably fit active hikers. However, any two experienced hikers will inevitably disagree on many trail ratings. If you are not very experienced, our advice is to start with easy, short hikes until you are confident that you can handle more difficult trails. There are no flat trails in Western North Carolina – every trail involves climbing at some point. Remember, even Easier trails can be challenging.
Finding your way along the trail is rarely a problem but it does happen occasionally. While these trails are generally well-marked with a defined track that is easy to follow, there may be crossing trails or unmarked sections that can cause you to be disoriented. Unless you are hiking a very popular trail on the weekend, you may not encounter another hiker that can help you. Have the appropriate trail map with you and follow your progress on it. If you think that you have strayed from the trail, backtrack along your route until you come to a place you know. Unless you have become quite experienced in backcountry hiking and have the correct equipment, NEVER leave the trail and try to bushwhack cross-country.
Leaving the Trail – you may encounter impassable thickets of mountain laurel, rhododrendron and/or blueberry bushes or come upon a steep dropoff unexpectedly. Stay on the trail!
Black Bears – Black bears are rarely seen on the trails and will try to avoid or run from hikers. Making noise while hiking is a reasonable precaution. If you do see a bear, DO NOT APPROACH OR TRY TO FEED ANY BEAR OR BEAR CUB. If there are cubs with an adult, the adult will try to tree the cubs or may confront the hikers if the hikers are close to the cubs. Make noise, raise your arms and slowly back away from the bear. Bear pepper spray is also available as a last resort.
Venomous Snakes – Yeah, we got those. Timber rattlesnakes and copperheads frequent these mountains and are found throughout the region. The good news is that they are rare and will attempt to avoid you if possible. Rattlesnakes and copperheads sun themselves on the many exposed sunny rocks. Rattlesnakes can be found in sunny grassy areas and copperheads in brush or wood piles. Do not approach or provoke a snake – that’s just plain stupid. Many bites happen by accidently stepping on a snake. The only advice we can offer is to be aware of your surroundings, stay on the trail and watch where you place your feet. If stepping over a log or rock, use your hiking pole to probe the other side first. Snake gaiters are also available.