North Carolina Hikes – Hiking Boots Fit for the Trails
Written by Jess
We love the outdoors, and hiking is one of our favorite family activities. We live in North Carolina where there are vast amounts of activities to participate in outdoors. Here are a few of our favorite hikes:
5 of Our Favorite Family Hikes in North Carolina
1. Pisgah National Forest – Upper Creek Falls – outside of Boone, NC
I would say that out of all the hikes that we have been on as a family, this is one of the top three. This hike is moderate with several strenuous climbs. We hiked to the top, then back to the middle of the falls. Once you get to a particular place in the descent, you can ride the falls down the rocks like a waterslide. We spent hours sliding down the falls! The endless hours of entertainment that the falls provide make this hike worth the time it takes to get to the falls. I would recommend that you do not go after a heavy rain or if rain is in the forecast as flash floods are very common in these areas.
Directions: From the Blue Ridge Parkway, take Highway 181 south for approximately 5.5 miles. The parking area will be on the left.
2. Stone Mountain State Park – Roaring Gap, NC
The hike up to the top is moderate to strenuous but was not too hard for our 5-year-old. We waited until later in the day to hike to the top of the mountain, so we did not complete the entire loop. The loop trail takes you to the summit, past a 200-foot waterfall, then down into the historic settlement that rests near the end of the trail. The entire loop is 4.5 miles. There are entrances onto the loop that allows for access to shorter trails that lead to the summit, waterfall, other points of interest, or the historic settlement. The hike from the visitors center to the settlement is a moderate hike on a gravel road. The settlement is directly below the dome of the mountain – the scenery is breathtaking!
Directions: Stone Mountain State Park is located in Wilkes and Alleghany counties approximately six miles southwest of Roaring Gap, NC. From I-77 North, take Exit #83(Hwy 21 North/Sparta/Roaring Gap – you will exit from the left lane). Go north approximately 13 miles to Traphill Road (state road 1002 – you will see a brown state park sign), then turn left. Go about 4 miles to John P Frank Parkway (you will see another brown state park sign), then turn right. Follow the parkway to the park, approximately two miles.
3. Eno River State Park – Durham, NC
We live ten minutes from the Eno River making this the most frequented place that we hike. The trails are easy to moderate. One of our favorite past times on the Eno is swimming in the river – some areas are deep enough to swim and other areas that are ankle to knee deep. The trails are well-maintained. If you enjoy a relaxing hike, a dip in the river, and a little history sprinkled throughout the trails, then the Eno River trails are well worth exploring! West Point on the Eno is a gathering place for many activities throughout the year, as well as a great place to relax in the river on a warm day. With over 5 miles of hiking trails in this portion of the park – including a portion of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, this area of the park is a fantastic place to begin a day hike.
Directions: From I-85, take exit 176 for US-501 North/Duke Street. Drive 3.3 miles north on US-501, and the entrance to the park will be on the left at a stoplight at Seven Oaks Road.
4. Cataloochee Valley – Great Smokey Mountain National Park
You could spend a week or more in this area and still have places left to explore. Cataloochee Valley was a settlement during the late 19th century and into the 20th century before it was cleared and turned into a featured area inside of the national park. While hiking, you will find remnants of the old settlement, a creek that winds its way through the valley, and you may even spot elk or a bear. The central settlement area houses a campground, historic buildings, and areas to picnic and play in the creek. If you are up for the 3-mile hike (one way), then you can venture over to Little Cataloochee where the children of the original settlers started their settlement.
Directions: From 1-40: Take exit 20 towards Maggie Valley. After 1/2 mile, turn right on Cove Creek Road (steep and curvy road). Go about 13 miles to the Cataloochee Valley. You will travel on gravel roads when you enter the park at the top of Cove Creek Road. Once in the park, the road is narrow and curvy.
5. Panthertown Valley – Nantahala National Forest
Panthertown Valley is one of the most beautiful places in the NC Mountains. It is tucked away in a portion of the Nantahala National Forest and provides a very rugged experience that, although becoming popular, still seems untouched by the world around it. It has been nicknamed the “Yosemite of the East” due to its fantastic beauty and adventure that lies within its boundaries. We enjoyed a mixture of hiking on land and in the creek bed, and there are many more opportunities to hike in the forest – with close to 30 miles of trails (including backcountry, permitted backpacking). There are cliffs, waterfalls, swimming holes, creek beds to hike in, and wildlife (some of which are very rare).
Directions: From Asheville, take US Highway 64 West toward Brevard and Lake Toxaway. Near Lake Toxaway turn right onto NC Highway 281 N for 8-10 miles to Cold Mountain Road (on your left just past Lake Toxaway Fire Station). Take Cold Mountain Road approximately six miles up the mountain (turns to gravel near the end). At a sharp left turn, a sign will indicate the Panthertown parking is just ahead.
Hiking Gear Must Have
Hiking is an excellent activity to participate in with family and friends (or even on your own). The one thing that can make or break a hike is your choice of shoes. I have hiked in various types of shoes, and by far, Lugz at the most comfortable hiking boots that I have ever worn. I have high arches and by the time that I get finished hiking my feet are often very sore.
My Lugz boots (I have the Women’s Empire HI boots) have a memory foam sole that also seems to offer my feet more support than other boots that I have owned in the past. Not only are they comfortable, but they are also waterproof – a massive bonus for someone who often gets her shoes wet when crossing creek beds. I think that the feature that sold me on these boots is that they are warm enough for the winter and cool enough for the summer – gone are the days that I will need two pairs of boots!
**A quick note for safety when hiking: Please make sure that your family takes some precautions when hiking in the mountains: do not hike in valleys, near rivers, or close to waterfalls if there has been a substantial rain or if rain is in the forecast – flash floods are very common and can be deadly in these areas. Also, make sure to bring enough water and snacks to cover you for the length of the hike and other activities that you plan to enjoy (you may end up being out for longer than you anticipate, so always be prepared!). Finally, make sure to bring a first aid kit with you.
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