Last Updated on September 22, 2020
Last Updated on September 22, 2020
Affiliate links linking to products we love may be found within this article. For more info, please check our Disclosure page for more explanation of affiliates and sponsorships.
And if they’re not right next to these wonderful small towns, rest assured that you can reach each one within a reasonable (if not short) drive.
For each trail, we’ll include length in miles and difficulty, based on our experiences and those of others. Length and difficulty levels (from Easy to Strenuous) will be listed just below individual trails and adjacent to the first mention of those within state parks.
This post is part of our series on awesome places to visit in Western North Carolina. We already mentioned that some of these hikes include some of the area’s (and North Carolina’s best waterfalls), but a few are also near Asheville, Brevard, and Cherokee.
Hiking Trails near Boone, Blowing Rock, and Banner Elk (Travel Times and Organization)
Travel times from Boone, Blowing Rock, and Banner Elk are included and broken down by distance (in miles) and time. Times vary according to when you decide to travel, due to weather, traffic congestion, and other factors.
Also, many trails get very crowded throughout much of the year. If you visit and see that parking lots are full, please do NOT park in undesignated spaces and plan another time for your hike.
We’ve grouped these trails alphabetically and placed individual ones after those that fall within larger trail networks and protected areas, which include the following:
- Elk Knob State Park
- Grandfather Mountain State Park
- Linville Gorge Wilderness Area
- Moses H Cone Memorial Park
- Stone Mountain State Park
- Tanawha Trail
Note: Don’t sue me for not adding the Blue Ridge Parkway and Pisgah National Forest here. Let’s just assume both of them are always nearby.
For visual learners, there’s a map at the bottom of this post to show the location of each hiking trailhead.
Leave NO Trace (and Stay On Path!)
Before we get into these hiking trails, it’s important to ask that you please leave no trace when visiting. That way the next person can enjoy them just as you did.
Also, stay on designated paths so you do not damage any of the fragile ecosystems that are trying to coexist with us humans.
Another reason to not venture off-path is that you could get lost or seriously injured. Deaths have been reported from many of these trails for failing to stay on the path.
Larger Trail Networks and Protected Areas
Elk Knob State Park
- Boone to Elk Knob State Park: 11 miles (19 minutes)
- Blowing Rock to Elk Knob State Park: 18 miles (32 minutes)
- Banner Elk to Elk Knob State Park: 28 miles (48 minutes)
Elk Knob is a fairly new state park located in Meat Camp, with nicely maintained trails that you’ll love. Volunteers came together in 2011 to help build the trails and the park is still open to volunteers helping with other park projects.
With a change in elevation of 1,000 feet, the climb to sweeping vistas on the park’s Summit Trail (3.8 miles round trip, Strenuous) is steady and windy. There are two overlooks at the top, which include views of Grandfather Mountain, Mount Jefferson, Mount Mitchell, and more.
Other fun hiking trails at Elk Knob State Park include the Backcountry Trail (4 miles round trip, Moderate) and the Beech Tree Trail (1 mile loop, Easy). The latter is a Kid’s TRACK Trail.
Trail Length: 0.7 miles round trip | Difficulty: Moderate
- Boone to Grandfather Mountain: 19 miles (32 minutes)
- Blowing Rock to Grandfather Mountain: 11 miles (19 minutes)
- Banner Elk to Grandfather Mountainlls: 13 miles (23 minutes)
Writing about Grandfather Mountain is tricky because there’s a FREE section managed by North Carolina State Parks and an admission-required section (roughly 720 acres) that the non-profit Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation maintains.
The ticketed section of Grandfather is what we’ll focus on here. There are a number of hiking trails inside the park, but most folks go for the 228-foot long Mile High Swinging Bridge. You can easily access by car and elevator. However, you can also park below and hike to the bridge.
Grandfather Mountain State Park
Trail length: 0.8 miles round trip | Difficulty: Easy
- Boone to Asutsi Trail: 16 miles (28 minutes)
- Blowing Rock to Asutsi Trail: 8 miles (14 minutes)
- Banner Elk to Asutsi Trail: 15 miles (30 minutes)
Many advanced level hikers come to the state park portion of Grandfather Mountain for the strenuous Profile Trail. We’ll mention that path shortly, but if you are looking to find easier access to the eastern side of Grandfather Mountain, the Asutsi Trail is a great option.
Meaning “bridge” in Cherokee, the Asutsi is a short 0.4 miles one way and connects to the Boone Fork Trail parking area. The trail begins on US 221, and is the only winter access to the connected Nuwati Trail (2.4 miles round trip, Easy) when the Blue Ridge Parkway is closed.
The Profile Trail
Trail Length: 7.6 miles round trip | Difficulty: Strenuous
- Boone to Crab Orchard Falls: 13 miles (22 minutes)
- Blowing Rock to Crab Orchard Falls: 13 miles (26 minutes)
- Banner Elk to Crab Orchard Falls: 7 miles (13 minutes)
The highest mountain on the Grandfather ridgeline, Calloway Peak via the Profile Trail is one of the most stunning views. The change in elevation is over 2,000 feet so this isn’t a simple walk in the park.
While it is free to park, permits are required and can be found at the trailhead’s shelter. The trail is out and back and definitely a rocky scramble, so be prepared with proper attire.
We also mentioned the Nuwati Trail (2.4 miles round trip, Easy) and there are more hiking trails inside Grandfather Mountain State Park. They include the Daniel Boone Scout Trail (6 miles round trip, Strenuous) and the Grandfather Trail (4.8 miles round trip, Strenuous).
Linville Gorge Wilderness Area
Linville Gorge Wilderness Area in Burke County is one of the most rugged places you’ll find anywhere. Many of the trails here aren’t very well marked, due to the Gorge’s status as a protected Wilderness Area.
Here are a few that will likely not get you lost, as they’re the best-kept of the bunch.
Hawksbill Mountain Trail
Trail Length: 1.5 miles round trip | Difficulty: Moderate
- Boone to Hawksbill Mountain Trailhead: 32 miles (52 minutes)
- Blowing Rock to Hawksbill Mountain Trailhead: 29 miles (51 minutes)
- Banner Elk to Hawksbill Mountain Trailhead: 22 miles (39 minutes)
Hawksbill Mountain Trail is one of many hikes that offers beautiful views of the Linville Gorge. And on clear days, you can see the Charlotte skyline!
The hike takes you up and down about 700 feet in elevation and is perfect for peak fall colors. It’s the first of two Linville Gorge hikes that lie along State Road 1265 (also known as Table Rock Rd). Can you guess what the second one might be?
Note that the road is unpaved and not well maintained, so it is not recommended for a low car. However, our Prius made it just fine going slow!
- Boone to Linville Falls Visitor Center: 29 miles (44 minutes)
- Blowing Rock to Linville Falls Visitor Center: 26 miles (39 minutes)
- Banner Elk to Linville Falls Visitor Center: 19 miles (30 minutes)
Three incredible viewing areas for Linville Falls in Pisgah National Forest can be found along Erwin’s View Trail (1.6-mile round trip, Easy). This is easily one of North Carolina’s most popular waterfalls, featuring two levels of cascades that flow over a rocky outcrop.
And if you want to get an up-close view of the falls, the 1.4-mile Plunge Basin Trail is a moderate, yet rewarding adventure.
Table Rock Summit Trail
Trail Length: 2.2 miles round trip | Difficulty: Strenuous
- Boone to Table Rock Summit Trail: 36 miles (1 hour 13 minutes)
- Blowing Rock to Table Rock Summit Trail: 34 miles (1 hour 11 minutes)
- Banner Elk to Table Rock Summit Trail: 27 miles (59 minutes)
Table Rock Summit Trail is the second trail along Table Rock Rd (did you guess correctly?), five miles from the Hawksbill trailhead. And like its neighbor, this 3,930-foot peak also offers sweeping views of the Gorge.
Your hike to the top will be sometimes steep but is rewarding at the top. As we mentioned earlier, the road to the trailhead is quite bumpy, so take it slow and easy.
Trail Length: 0.4 miles round trip | Difficulty: Easy
- Boone to Wiseman’s View: 33 miles (1 hour 2 minutes)
- Blowing Rock to Wiseman’s View: 30 miles (1 hour)
- Banner Elk to Wiseman’s View: 23 miles (48 minutes)
Wiseman’s View might not be considered much of a hike, since it’s one of the shortest in our guide. But it absolutely belongs because of the incredible views of the Gorge that await.
Wiseman’s two stone observation areas peer down and out into the Linville Gorge and even offer incredible views of Hawksbill and Table Rock. As a bonus, this is one of the few hikes with accessible viewing areas and a bathroom at the parking area.
The road to Wiseman’s View (Kistler Memorial Highway) is rough, but we’ve managed to get up there in a Toyota Camry.
Moses H Cone Memorial Park
Moses H. Cone Memorial Park is an exquisite Blue Ridge Parkway stop (MP 294). Flat Top Manor is one of the main attractions here, overlooking Bass Lake and beyond.
But before you move on, here are a few trails that we think you should check out.
Speaking of Blue Ridge Parkway stops, Moses Cone is the first of a few in this guide that we mention here.
Bass Lake Trail
Trail Length: 0.8 miles loop| Difficulty: Easy
- Boone to Bass Lake: 9 miles (18 minutes)
- Blowing Rock to Bass Lake: 1 mile (3 minutes)
- Banner Elk to Bass Lake: 18 miles (36 minutes)
Not to be confused with the Bass Lake Trail in Holly Springs (Wake County), this is actually a couple of easy hiking trails and parking is very close to downtown Blowing Rock.
There’s a really easy loop (0.8 miles), though a longer option is The Maze (3 miles, Moderately Easy). The loop is wheelchair-accessible and especially good for strollers, which you’ll love if you’re traveling with a little one.
Flat Top Mountain Fire Tower Trail
Trail Length: 5.6 miles round trip | Difficulty: Moderate
- Boone to Moses Cone Memorial Park: 9 miles (17 minutes)
- Blowing Rock to Moses Cone Memorial Park: 2 miles (5 minutes)
- Banner Elk to Moses Cone Memorial Park: 17 miles (34 minutes)
The Flat Top Mountain Fire Tower Trail begins from Flat Top Manor. It’s an old carriage trail that ends at a fire tower.
It might threaten your fear of heights (like ours) but the top offers incredible 360 degree views of Blowing Rock and the mountains all around.
While the trail is long, the path is wide and not very steep. This hike near Blowing Rock takes you along a beautiful meadow and to plenty of stunning photo opportunities!
Stone Mountain State Park
- Boone to Stone Mountain State Park: 55 miles (1 hour 11 minutes)
- Blowing Rock to Stone Mountain State Park: 61 miles (1 hour 22 minutes)
- Banner Elk to Stone Mountain State Park: 73 miles (1 hour 41 minutes)
Stone Mountain Loop
Trail Length: 4.5 mile loop | Difficulty: Strenuous
Stone Mountain State Park is largely known for the massive granite dome and amazing 200-foot namesake waterfall that awaits along the Stone Mountain Loop (4.5 miles, Strenuous).
Personally, I like starting from the Upper Trailhead Parking that is closest to the falls. However, the Lower Trailhead Parking on the opposite is nice, too, for its proximity to the Hutchinson Homestead.
If you want to extend your time on the loop, you can via the Cedar Rock Trail (2 miles round trip, Moderate), Wolf Rock Trail (3 miles round trip, Moderate), and the Middle Falls/Lower Falls Trail (1-mile round trip, Moderate).
Away from the loop is the strenuous Widow’s Creek Trail (5 miles round trip), with another waterfall near the beginning.
With a hawk feather-shaped blaze to acknowledge its meaning in Cherokee, the 13.5-mile Tanawha Trail (Moderately Easy) is made up of wonderful hiking trails close to Boone, Blowing Rock, and Banner Elk.
You don’t have to do the entire thing and can break things up into individual hikes, as we have over the years. Here are a few of our favorites along that wonderful path.
Beacon Heights Overlook Trail
Trail Length: 0.5 miles round trip | Difficulty: Easy
- Boone to Beacon Heights Overlook Trail: 21 miles (34 minutes)
- Blowing Rock to Beacon Heights Overlook Trail: 15 miles (29 minutes)
- Banner Elk to Beacon Heights Overlook Traills: 12 miles (20 minutes)
The Beacon Heights Overlook Trail is probably the shortest and easiest Tanawha Trail hike, making it ideal for kids. Its parking area is on the Blue Ridge Parkway (MP 305) and popular throughout much of the year.
The half-mile round hike ends on a bald rock face, which provides stunning views of the mountains beyond. Some prominent peaks that you can see include Grandfather and Grandmother mountains, as well as Table Rock and Hawksbill.
Boone Fork Trail
Trail Length: 5.2 mile loop | Difficulty: Easy
- Boone to Boone Fork Trail: 10 miles (20 minutes)
- Blowing Rock to Boone Fork Trail: 10 miles (26 minutes)
- Banner Elk to Boone Fork Trail: 12 miles (23 minutes)
Boone Fork Trail is many people’s favorite hiking trail nearest to Blowing Rock because of all of the beautiful flora that awaits. You’ll start at Price Park Picnic Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway (MP 296) and cross a variety of terrains.
The trail will take you through rhododendron-covered paths, wooded areas, and even a few bouldery waterfalls!
Rough Ridge Trail
Trail Length: 1.5 miles round trip | Difficulty: Moderate
- Boone to Rough Ridge Trail: 18 miles (31 minutes)
- Blowing Rock to Rough Ridge Trail: 11 miles (17 minutes)
- Banner Elk to Rough Ridge Trail: 14 miles (24 minutes)
One of the best views we’ve found the Blue Ridge Parkway is from Rough Ridge Overlook. It’s also a very popular hiking trail, especially for sunset, but we enjoyed taking in the sunrise from there, too.
Rough Ridge is a quick climb up, which is what makes this a moderate hike. We’ve mentioned this already but with Rough Ridge, but the ecosystem here is especially fragile.
It is VERY important for you to stay on the path to preserve it.
Individual Hiking Trails near Boone, Blowing Rock, and Banner Elk
Cascades Falls at EB Jeffress Park
Trail Length: 1 mile loop | Difficulty: Moderate
- Boone to EB Jeffress Park: 15 miles (21 minutes)
- Blowing Rock to EB Jeffress Park: 21 miles (32 minutes)
- Banner Elk to EB Jeffress Park: 33 miles (51 minutes)
Cascades Falls is one of our favorite hiking trails closest to Boone and one of many we also discuss in our guide to waterfalls in the area. The get started, you’ll park at EB Jeffress Park just off the Blue Ridge Parkway (MP 272).
The namesake 35-foot waterfall awaits along a short one-mile loop. There are a couple of levels for you to watch it, and you’ll agree that this one is absolutely worth the relatively easy to moderate walk.
Back at EB Jeffress Park, you can enjoy lunch at one of the picnic tables that overlook mountains and valleys below. Also, unlike many of the other hikes near Boone, Blowing Rock, and Banner Elk in this guide, this one offers plenty of parking and restrooms to go with those picnic tables.
Crab Orchard Falls
Trail length: 1 mile round trip | Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
- Boone to Crab Orchard Falls: 13 miles (26 minutes)
- Blowing Rock to Crab Orchard Falls: 13 miles (26 minutes)
- Banner Elk to Crab Orchard Falls: 6 miles (12 minutes)
Crab Orchard Falls sits about five minutes away from the original Mast General Store in Valle Crucis, which by the way, is another fun place to visit in the area if you’ve never been.
Back to the waterfall, though, which is slow, gentle, and cold to make this one of the most worthwhile places to go hiking near Banner Elk. The steep one-mile round trip trail starts at the Valle Crucis Conference Center, in case you’re having a hard time finding it by GPS.
China Creek Trail
Trail Length: 5.2 miles round trip | Difficulty: Easy
- Boone to China Creek: 10 miles (20 minutes)
- Blowing Rock to China Creek: 3 miles (5 minutes)
- Banner Elk to China Creek: 17 miles (34 minutes)
The China Creek Trail was built in the 1920s by the Mayview Manor Hotel. It was an invitation to guests seeking a deeper experience of the beautiful and clear China Creek and Thunderhole Creek.
While the hotel is no longer around, the trail has long remained a popular Blowing Rock hike.
Crabtree Falls Trail
Trail length: 2.6 miles round trip | Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
- Boone to Crabtree Falls: 51 miles (1 hour 16 minutes)
- Blowing Rock to Crabtree Falls: 48 miles (1 hour 12 minutes)
- Banner Elk to Crabtree Falls: 41 miles (1 hour)
Crabtree Falls is a 65 foot waterfalls that rushes over mossy rocks and fallen logs. It’s incredibly popular and photogenic, which is why you must arrive as early as possible to get good photos.
The trailhead sits at milepost 340 on the Blue Ridge Parkway and the 2.6-mile loop is considered strenuous, mainly because of some steep and rocky sections.
Some folks go out and back on this trail but we recommend doing the loop. This route may be longer, but the return trip is much easier (and more scenic) after a steep climb out.
Elk River Falls
Trail Length: 0.5 miles round trip | Difficulty: Easy
- Boone to Elk River Falls: 30 miles (52 minutes)
- Blowing Rock to Elk River Falls: 32 miles (54 minutes)
- Banner Elk to Elk River Falls: 12 miles (23 minutes)
Elk River Falls might be one of the most photogenic waterfalls near Banner Elk, and the hike to this 85 foot plunging waterfall is an easy one. that we highly recommend! It is a short quarter of a mile trail to the falls with some steep steps.
Bring your swimsuit, too, as the water on the other side of the main falls pool is a popular place to hop in the cool mountain water! Just no jumping off the falls, please. Serious injuries and deaths have been reported here.
Glen Burney Trail
Trail Length: 3.2 miles round trip| Difficulty: Moderate
- Boone to Glen Burney Falls: 8 miles (16 minutes)
- Blowing Rock to Glen Burney Falls: 0.3 miles (2 minutes)
- Banner Elk to Glen Burney Falls: 18 miles (33 minutes)
Just down the hill from Main St in Blowing Rock is the Glen Burney Trail. It’s an awesome hike and leads to three beautiful waterfalls.
You’ll hike down and back up through the dense forest along the way, and at times, feelings of isolation will definitely kick in! Many folks love the Glen Burney Trail, so try to get there early because the path can get crowded on busy days.
Green Knob Trail
Trail Length: 2.3 mile loop | Difficulty: Easy
- Boone to Green Knob Trail: 11 miles (19 minutes)
- Blowing Rock to Green Knob Trail: 3 miles (5 minutes)
- Banner Elk to Green Knob Trail: 15 miles (30 minutes)
The Green Knob Trail is another hiking trail really close to Blowing Rock. This one snakes along the Mountain to Sea Trail inside Pisgah National Forest.
You’ll begin this 2.3-mile trail at Sims Pond Overlook on the Parkway (MP 295.7), though there’s another option down the road at Sim’s Creek Overlook (295.2). Start at Sim’s Pond Overlook and go counter-clockwise on this loop for beautiful wildflowers and dense forests.
You’ll pass through rhododendrons, wide-open pastures, creeks, and more.
Otter Falls Trail
Trail Length: 1.2 miles round trip | Difficulty: Moderate
- Boone to Otter Falls: 13 miles (23 minutes)
- Blowing Rock to Otter Falls: 13 miles (27 minutes)
- Banner Elk to Otter Falls: 9 miles (17 minutes)
Located in the resort community of Seven Devils, Otter Falls is a relatively new trail and not as popular as the others. If you visit early in the morning and have it to yourself, the waters of Otter Falls will make you feel like you’ve ventured into a truly magical place.
The trails may seem confusing, so take a picture of the trail map before you leave. No matter what, just keep heading down and toward the sound of water and you’ll get there. Trust me!
Upper Creek Falls
Trail Length: 1 mile round trip | Difficulty: Moderate
- Boone to Upper Creek Falls: 29 miles (42 minutes)
- Blowing Rock to Upper Creek Falls: 26 miles (39 minutes)
- Banner Elk to Crab Orchard Falls: 19 miles (28 minutes)
And for the last of our hikes near Boone, Blowing Rock, and Banner Elk is a wonderful swimming hole also known as Upper Creek Falls. On hot days, this is the perfect spot!
The 80-foot cascading waterfall drops over a gradual slope and even has a rope for some Tarzan-esque fun. If you do visit, please be careful and don’t go alone. There is no lifeguard on duty so please act responsibly.
Ready for These Wonderful High Country Hikes?
Believe it or not, there are more awesome hikes near Boone, Blowing Rock, and Banner Elk, so we’re going to continue exploring this area. If you’ve visited some of these hikes, we’d love to know which are your favorites. Is there one we left out?
And for anyone who’s never been to this area, what’s the first path that calls to you? Let us know in the comments!
Map of Hiking Trails near Boone, Blowing Rock, and Banner Elk
As promised, here’s the map of these hikes. Stone Mountain State Park is the main outlier, sitting to the easy away from many of the other hiking trails closer to Boone, Blowing Rock, and Banner Elk. You can select each one for more information, including quick directions that’ll jump to your GPS.