One of the favorite things to do for many Western North Carolina visitors is hiking the numerous trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway and through state and national forests. There are so many hiking trails, in fact, that it’s difficult to pick the perfect ones to take during a limited visit to the mountains. We’ve compiled a short list that encompasses the general area around the Sundog Vacation Rental properties, as well as a few outliers that are worth the longer travel time.
Just south of the Plott Balsam Mountains in Sylva, the namesake of this park is a ridge that rises more than 5000 feet. The view from that height is nothing short of impressive and is accessible via the West Fork Trail that starts in the parking lot and ends at the pinnacle. Fair warning, though: It’s a steep, rocky trail, and from beginning to end, it covers about 7 miles.
Haywood County’s Black Balsam Knob
A great place to catch a sunrise or sunset, the Knob reaches an elevation of 6,214 feet. Luckily, the hike to the summit is just a little over half a mile following the Art Loeb trail. Although it’s not a long hike, it is steep – the walk up rises 425 feet in elevation. Prepare for sensory overload, as the scent of balsam fir trees and wildflowers fills the area around you. To get there, take the Blue Ridge Parkway to milepost 420. A map and more detailed directions may be found here.
Richland Balsam Trail
The 1.5-mile trail begins on the Blue Ridge Parkway at the Haywood-Jackson Overlook. It’s a 700-foot climb, but it’s not difficult. There is plenty of foliage along the way, and frequent hikers claim the trail smells wonderful – owing to the abundant fir and spruce trees surrounding the trail.
Located in the Highlands area, this hike is not for the faint-hearted. It’s steep, features stairs, and the trail features some mud and slightly eroded spots. There are several overlooks along the way to the top, but they don’t all have railings or fencing, so be cautious when stopping to peek over the edges.
Devil’s Courthouse Trail
The paved hike to the top of the mountain is fairly short at just under a mile (round-trip), but provides a powerful view of the surrounding area. Still, it’s not the easiest hike, with obstacles including stone stairs. The reward is at the top, where three states are visible if skies are clear.
High Falls Trail at Lake Glenville
Just 8 miles from Cashiers, the High Falls Trail is a scenic hike with scattered rhododendron and tall tries. Its more perilous features include stone stairs, but there are also tree-built bridges that are easier to traverse. High Falls waterfall is within reach at just .7 miles along the trail, but heading back to the trailhead means climbing more than 500 feet in elevation. In all, the hike is 1.4 miles, round-trip.
The hikes mentioned here are just a small sampling of the numerous treks within the mountains of Western North Carolina. For more trails, thorough descriptions of each trail, directions to each, and levels of difficulty, visit this website.