BackpackingOutdoor Trips

Best Backpacking Trails in NC – Come and Explore Them Here!

North Carolina is such a home of astounding mountain scenery, different relaxing campsites, and shelters, as well as amazing trails. From the Pisgah National Forest up to the Great Smoky Mountains and Linville Gorge Wilderness Area, these best backpacking trails in NC are highly rewarding to backpackers and hikers. You can generally plan to have a single night out or enjoy the wilderness on a multiday trip to North Carolina.

In this blog post, we listed here 5 of the wonderful backpacking trails that you can see within NC. I have been in some of these trails during my previous backpacking adventure. See which one seems challenging and exciting to hike into!

List of the Best Backpacking Trails in NC

With the following national parks, forests, and astounding wilderness, you will never fail to discover the best backpacking trails in NC. Check this list of the most beautiful and amazing trails in North Carolina and see how it rewards hikers and backpackers with its panorama.

At Pisgah National Forest, Brevard, NC

Being a National Forest in North Carolina, camping and backpacking here generally entail restrictions and policies. To know more about the restrictions and policies within the trails here at Brevard, just visit the website of this North Carolina’s National Forest. Here are the best backpacking trails and wonderful sceneries that you can see at the Pisgah National Forest in Brevard, NC.

  • Distance: 31.1 miles in just a one-way point-to-point access
  • Level of Difficulty: Intermediate or Difficult

The first on the list for the best backpacking trails in NC is the Art Loeb Trail which is one of the most popular trails in North Carolina. Aside from that, its long-distance trails tend to be the most unique ones. Hiking this trail generally allows you to start from any direction. Don’t be surprised if you’ll have to encounter portions of rugged terrain and steep uphill.

Generally, this backpacking trail in NC crosses along the southern end of the Pisgah National Forest and penetrates into the Shining Rock Wilderness on the other end within the north. Always keep in mind that camping and backpacking here entails wilderness restrictions. These basically include not allowing campfires in the area of the Shining Rock Wilderness. Moreover, the group size is only limited to around 10 people within the wilderness ground.

best backpacking trails in nc

Overall, backpacking here at the Art Loeb Trail can give you an unforgettable reward and experience. If ridgeline hiking is your goal, then look no further as this trail will offer you more than that with the bonus of the panoramic views of the following peaks in Pisgah National Forest:

  • Black Balsam Knob – 6,214 feet
  • Pilot Mountain – 5,072 feet
  • Tennent Montain – 6,040 feet

In a year-round, you can generally enjoy the amazing views here at this trail in Brevard, NC. However, during the spring and fall season, this backpacking trail in NC provides distinct ways for backpackers and campers to take the pleasure of wildflowers and autumn colors. Meanwhile, this trail section, the other part that crosses the Shining Rock Wilderness is less well-traveled.

  • Distance: 9.8 miles overall a round-trip loop
  • Level of Difficulty: Intermediate

Sam Knob Loop is the other best backpacking trails in NC that can be found within the wilderness area of the Pisgah National Forest. This backpacking trail in NC is highly suitable as a reachable distance for novice and intermediate backpackers. If you are also looking for a short one-night trip, the Sam Knob Loop is also the best backpacking trail for you. Being on top of the loop, you will generally see breathtaking sceneries plus the bonus of vivid waterfalls along the way.

Generally, the starting point at this trail is at the Sam Knob Trail in which hiking through a counterclockwise direction on the loop will end you up quickly to Sam Knob. For you to experience the best views, don’t forget to take the short trail in climbing your way up. However, going back to the loop, you will head on the scenic woods as the trail descends constantly but progressively.

At this backpacking trail in NC, you will also tend to explore the wonders of the Flat Laurel Creek Trail. This portion mounts a number of spots for dispersed camping as part of the trail’s restrictions and policies. The end of this trail portion will land you on a trailhead and parking area. With that, you will shortly traverse a road before setting back into the Mountain-to-Sea Trail. Another trail section that showcases additional panoramas is the Devil’s Courthouse which is reachable for around 1.5 miles if you opt to hike in it.

Climbing the Great Smoky Mountains at North Carolina

The Bryson City and Cherokee are the other points in North Carolina that parade the best backpacking trails in NC. This is where the Great Smoky Mountains reside. Backpacking at one of the National Forests in North Carolina also requires you to follow the park’s restrictions and regulations. Just visit this Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s website to have an idea about their backcountry rules. Below are the amazing trails in NC where you can start your backpacking activity.

  • Distance: 29.5 miles overall a round-trip loop
  • Level of Difficulty: Difficult
  • Location: Bryson City, North Carolina
best backpacking trails in nc

The thing that makes this Great Smoky Mountain trail an excellent backpacking excursion site is its loop that resembles a figure-eight. Generally, this backpacking trail in NC is highly recommended for backpackers who have lots of experience and aim to take a longer route. However, there are shorter loop options available for a more relaxed backpacking trip.

In terms of the featured sceneries, the length of the Deep Creek until Clingmans Dome unveils several waterfalls, historical milestones, fall color, and seasonal wildflowers. Moreover, part of the restrictions here is the permission for camping on designated campsites and shelters.

4-Days Backpacking Highlights

Overall, this backpacking trail gives off a 4-day adventure within the wonders of the Great Smoky Mountain area. Be amazed by the spectacular beauty of this trail as you go on your 4-day trip. Here is a quick overview of your backpacking adventure and expect to experience the following:

  • DAY 1: Deep Creek Trail – this is actually a very famous hike especially during the summer season here at the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The highlights of the trail trot out through the balance of Indian Creek Falls, Juney Whank Falls, and Tom Branch Falls.
  • DAY 2: Pole Road Creek Trail – you may generally begin your adventure here and it is highly recommendable to make some short breaks. Moreover, for traversing the 8 miles way up, you can immediately reach the Clingmans Dome and enjoy a palatable lunch at the highest lunch spot in the Smokies.
  • DAY 3: Forney Creek Trail – descending from the Dome, you will discover the wonders of various campsites at this trail. There will be some short out-and-back turns going to the Andrews Bald showcasing additional views. Moreover, the Springhouse Branch Trail is where the challenge of this adventure is more concentrated. This is actually almost 2,000 feet within the entire distance of 7 miles. You can generally take a break when you finished this trail as there are campsites with a number of picnic tables await you.
  • DAY 4: Nolan Creek Trail – this trail is actually a section of astonishing woods with backcountry campsites. Lonesome Pine Overlook is the best feature of this final day backpacking here. It gives opportunities to discover the fantastic viewpoint surrounded by wildflowers. Going back to the Deep Creek Trailhead allows you to experience a gradual downhill motion.
  • Distance: 16.0 miles over-all a round-trip loop
  • Level of Difficulty: Intermediate or Difficult
  • Location: Bryson City, North Carolina

In case you want to explore the wonders beyond the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Mount Le Conte Loop is among the other best backpacking trails in NC. This loop will generally lead you up through the Roaring Fork area via the convenient ascent of this loop’s summit. The beginning of this trail allows you to traverse the scenic streams on its side until you gain access to the Roaring Fork and Grotto Falls. Being a well-known day hike, the Grotto Falls is busy most of the time yet it also offers a more secluded area after passing through it.

Generally, the summit of the Mount Le Conte Loop ranks as the third highest peak within the park. It basically has an elevation of 6,593 feet. To end your first day at this backpacking trail in NC, you can choose to stay overnight at the Le Conte Shelter. Moreover, there is the Le Conte Lodge which is a more luxurious option to stay overnight.

The second day of the trip here allows you to descend down gradually to the trailhead having an encounter at the Rainbow Falls. You will be mesmerized by the rainbow in the mist of this 80-foot cascade during the early morning or late afternoon. Finally, the last day of the hike leads you to Le Conte Creek.

This amazing spot at this backpacking trail is abundant with wildflowers such as the azalea, mountain laurel, rhododendron, and many more. There are also numbers of black bears and white-tailed deer along with an enormous group of birds. This backpacking experience is highly enjoyable during the spring season. In winter, take note that this trail is closed because of the snow.

  • Distance: 14.4 miles over-all a round-trip loop
  • Level of Difficulty: Intermediate or Difficult
  • Location: Cherokee, North Carolina
best backpacking trails in nc

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is such an abundant natural resource as it also cradles the other best backpacking trails in NC, the Charlies Bunion through the Kephart Loop. This loop basically offers the historical overview of the Great Smokies. Kephart Prong Trail is the starting point of this trail which leads to a delicately wooded climb. You will also go back to reminisce the memories of the civilian corps as you will have to take a look at the Civilian Conservation Corps Camp.

Progressing your way to the hiking trail, you will have the chance to stay overnight at the Kephart Shelter. This is basically a good option to take into if you consider a one-night trip. Providing a 4-mile round-trip distance, you can already trek over an easy and well-maintained trail of this spot. Moreover, ascending from the Oconaluftee River Valley going towards the Grassy Branch Trail will offer more challenging steps uphill.

Numbers of small streams with some parts of muddy trails can be encountered when the rain pours over this trail. Going left on the Dry Sluice Gap Trail is a way to elevate into the Appalachian Trail and Charlies Bunion. Passing over the trail to the south is actually an opportunity to enjoy amazing viewpoints of the ridgeline of Masa Knob. Afterward, you will descend to the Icewater Spring Shelter, the second great choice to stay overnight.

Another good trails option is the Sweat Heifer Creek Trail that highlights a rocky descent that traverses via the second-growth forest. You can also see numbers of streams on your way which turns you back into the east. This leads you to reconnect with the Kephart Prong Trail.

Exploring the Wonders of the Linville Gorge Wilderness at Glen Alpine, NC

Within the Glen Alpine, North Carolina settled the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area that is also a home of the best backpacking trails in NC. Like any parks and wilderness area, there are also some restrictions and regulations here that you can found on the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area website.

  • Distance: 21.9 miles overall a round-trip loop
  • Level of Difficulty: Difficult

The Linville Gorge Wilderness Loop is a lengthy and challenging loop that offers a great view of the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area. There is actually steep and rugged terrain around this loop. And when you start the adventure on the southern part of the loop, heading north way will reveal the Shortoff Mountain Trail. Over this area sits the scenic and ideal campsites. Among the other trails, this one tends to be well-used.

As you climb your way to the Table Rock Summit Trail, you will basically be delighted with the panoramic sceneries of the place. Progress more to the north side until you reach the Little Table Rock Trail. Generally, you can be there via the 1,000 rough foot-descents heading to Spence Ridge Trail and to the river within the area.

Within the area of the Linville Gorge Trail, you will be allowed to have dispersed camping. However, expect more difficulties in finding a good site here because the terrain is naturally rugged. Yet, the water source here is very accessible because it is near the river. You also need to cross the river once again and climb the steep bank to the trailhead to go back to the parking area.

Frequently Asked Questions


A: Generally, if you want to reach the peak of the Appalachian Trail hikes in the state of North Carolina, you must have to give yourself about 6 to 7 days. This will basically give you a complete course of crossing the trail. It is actually a breathtaking experience not only in terms of the views but also it makes you really grasp for air as you get along the ridge. However, it is very rewarding once you are already there because of the astounding views from the Rocky Top and Charlies Bunion to name a few.


A: The Appalachian Trail has several wonderful mountains to trek and hike into. Most of them are generally challenging and tend to be the hardest among the others. These are the top five spots at Appalachian Trail that will give you the hardest day hike:

  1. Mount Madison
  2. Katahdin Mountain
  3. Mount Washington
  4. Mahoosuc Notch
  5. Cheoah Bald


A: As mentioned above, the Art Loeb Trail is situated along the Pisgah National Park in North Carolina. In this trail, one can definitely see the finest wonders and famous landmark mountains within this spot. This trail is most famous for an extended backpacking adventure that mostly lasts for around 2 to 3 days. There is also the presence of a number of campsites within the trail.

Final Words

The backpacking trails in North Carolina generally allow you to have a great hiking and camping experience. Each trail’s difficulty rating is highly ideal for intermediate to experienced hikers. Moreover, you also have options to stay just one night at the different campsites there or enjoy their beauty over multiple days tripping. Most importantly, don’t forget to follow the campsite’s regulations and restrictions so that you will have a more enjoyable and memorable experience of a lifetime.