North Carolina has designated 2023 as the Year of the Trail. From the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks on the coast, our great state is filled with hiking trails to fit every skill level and every outdoor itinerary. Whether you want to hike, bike, paddle, horseback ride, or walk there’s a trail out there calling your name. Bring your family, from the youngest to the oldest. Make a day or week of it, and forget about work–forget about your worries and just be. Let this be the year you get outside, breathe in the fresh mountain air (or coastal air), and let your soul rest in the beauty of a wilderness alive with nature.

“Come to the woods, for here is rest. There is no repose like that of the green deep woods.” ― John Muir

“Jobs fill your pockets, but adventures fill your soul.” – Jaime Lyn Beatty

“When life knocks you down, roll over and look at the stars.” – Unknown


Forest Trails

Each of us, whether we know it or not, need forest trails, mountain tops, and to stand near a vast body of water. We need nature–from towering oak trees to rushing white water rivers to the sound of waves breaking on a rocky shoreline–to replenish what an ordinary life has taken from our heart and soul.

sarah cole chimney nantahalaWhat’s left of the Matthew and Sarah Cole 1870s farmhouse near the Nantahala River (one of two chimneys)

There are many different types of trails–trails that meander through the woods and trails that climb high into the mountains. Still, other trails lead you to breathtaking destinations–waterfalls, sunsets and sunrises, and old homesteads where you’ll step back in time to bygone days. Set your feet on a leaf-strewn path and soak up the earth’s history–let it infuse every fiber of your being. Let your imagination run wild as you envision life of another era. No planes, no cars, no noisy city streets. Drink in the peace of a quiet moment. Stand beside a secluded inlet after hiking a trail that leads to solitude.Your mind and body will thank you.

Deep Creek Indian Creek Falls

indian creek falls

One of the easiest trails to hike in western North Carolina is the Deep Creek Trails in Bryson City, unless you decide to hike up to the old Wiggins Cemetery. It’s considered a moderately challenging hike, but worth it for the beauty in the spring and fall.  Deep Creek trails are family friendly and can be hiked in one day with time left over for a picnic in their recreation area. Along the way you’ll visit three waterfalls: Juney Whank, Tom Branch, and the Indian Creek falls. The office staff at Carolina Outfitters white water rafting visits Deep Creek often just to get outdoors for a day to replenish our energy. 

Wesser  Bald Trail

Part of the famous Appalachian Trail crosses over the Nantahala River in the Great Smoky Mountains with destinations to Cheoah Bald and Wesser Bald. These trails aren’t easy but if you’re in good shape, the hike is worth it for the views. Wesser Bald trail leads to a historic fire tower with panoramic views of the Nantahala National Forest. If you plan on taking the long way in (accessed at the head of Wesser Creek) and hiking back out, start out early, or night will fall before you return to your vehicle. However, it’s a much shorter hike from Tellico Gap near Franklin, North Carolina.

Bartram Trail

bartram trail entrance sign on ledbetter creek bridge

The Bartram Trail (Winding Stairs to Nantahala Lake) is named after the botanist and explorer William Bartram. He chronicled his travels and adventures of the British Colonies in North America from 1773 to 1777 in a book called Travels of William Bartram. He explored the flora and fauna of what is now known as the Nantahala National Forest. The Bartram Trail is maintained in his memory and is a moderate to challenging in and out hike (about 8 hours). It’s a great hike for backpacking, camping, birdwatching, and you’ll see a few small waterfalls along the way. 

Deep Creek Juney Whank Waterfall Trail

deep creek juney whank trail

There are many more trails to hike in western North Carolina, so throw on your best hiking boots, pack your backpack, grab your walking stick, and explore a few trails in these beautiful mountains of the south. Nothing humbles you like standing on top of a mountain and looking down on God’s great creation. To paraphrase an old country song, He spent a little more time on the Great Smoky Mountains. Join North Carolina in the year of the trail! It might just be one of the best adventures of your life.


Hiking Trail Resources:

Great Trails North Carolina

Find a Trail

Hike the South

All Trails


Always keep safety in mind while hiking. Study the terrain you’ll hike. Pack appropriately. Know your limits. Always tell someone where you’re going. 


Margaret Marr, is a local author of paranormal, mystery, and suspense laced with romance. She has written over 15 books available on Amazon. 


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