A  Concise Guide to Trekking Through the Most Beautiful Trails in the Tar Heel State

As anyone who has ever travelled through North Carolina can attest, it’s an incredibly beautiful state. For hiking enthusiasts, though, it’s an extra special treat. Home to vast swathes of the legendary Appalachian Trail, the longest manmade footpath in the world, the Tar Heel State boasts some of the most challenging and picturesque hiking trails in the continental United States. The following is a short synopsis of three of the more interesting and scenic areas of North Carolina to explore on foot according to avid hiker Peter Nyberg. 

Fontana Dam

Located just inside the southern boundary of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Fontana Dam is something of a marvel of modern engineering. At four hundred and eighty feet high, it is the tallest dam in the Eastern United States. It is also the nexus point of thirteen major trails, each of which varies in length and offers a distinct hiking experience. Some of the more popular ones include Lost Cove Trail, Lakeshore Trail, and Eagle Creek Trail—all of which feature campsites and water sources for those who wish to take an extended trip and sleep amongst the stars. A section of the Southern Appalachian Trail crosses the top of the Fontana Dam itself, offering on one side a breathtaking view of the deep gorge of the Little Tennessee River nearly five hundred feet below, and on the other side a view of the surrounding Great Smoky Mountains and mountains of the Nantahala National Forest. 

According to Nyberg, “all of these trails are meant for experienced hikers, and it is advised to use them only between the months of April and October.”

Boone Fork Trail/Hebron Falls

The Boone Fork Trail is located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway near the Tennessee border in North-Western North Carolina. The trail is approximately five miles in distance and is laid out in the pattern of a loop. Beginning at a large picnic area at the Julian Price Memorial Park near Price Lake, the trail then winds along the Boone Fork River for the first three miles, giving hikers an excellent view of the water tumbling over giant boulders lodged in the riverbed. The final two miles of the trail veer away from the river and deeper into the gorgeous, ancient forest which surrounds the entire area. If already in the neighborhood, a worthy side trip to consider is visiting Hebron Falls. About one mile into the Boone Fork Trail, a divergent path leads eastward to this beautiful waterfall. The way is clearly signed and the view alone makes it well worth the detour.

The Boone Fork Trail is perfect for beginner and novice hikers. It is accessible all year round and is officially listed as child and dog friendly.

Lakeside Park Trail at Lake Rhodhiss

Located near Granite Falls at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Lakeside Park Trail is an amalgam of three beginner level trails and two intermediate level trails. All totaled, the trail network covers about six miles. Although the wilderness flanking the pathways is something special to behold, the main attraction and central feature of these trails is Lake Rhodhiss, a manmade, yet pristine body of water famous for its clarity. Lake Rhodhiss is easily visible from all but two of the trails in the Lakeside Park Trail network.

“The Lakeside Park Trail is ideal for hikers of all skill levels” states Nyberg. It is open throughout the year and is officially listed as child and dog friendly.

Whether a beginner, novice, or veteran hiker, these destinations are guaranteed not to disappoint anyone with the inclination to fill up their water bottle, lace up their boots, and set forth on a journey into North Carolina’s natural splendor. Happy trails!

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