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Jonathan Stull | 02.12.2018

The Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina offer an outdoor oasis away from the East Coast bustle, and the Blue Ridge Mountains are among the prime regions to visit amid this montane geography. They boast the highest peaks on the Eastern Seaboard south of Baffin Island, not to mention the Linville Gorge Wilderness, which contains over 12,000 protected acres in Pisgah National Forest where logging impracticalities preserved virgin old-growth forest. The longest chain of Appalachian Mountain balds offers stunning views and picturesque wildflowers, and among the trees are hideaways accessible to even the faintest of heart. Trail networks are veined with footpaths in search of higher ground, wider views, or quieter corners amid forest burgeoning with rhododendron and broadleaf.

Within this can’t-miss wilderness, try one of these five must-do hikes.

  1. Linville Falls: One of the most recognizable features in the Linville Gorge Wilderness is Linville Falls, a multi-tiered cascade that drops into the gorge. The trail offers great views, interesting geology, and numerous overlooks of the falls and the gorge itself.
  2. Craggy Gardens: The best feature of a quiet forest is the ability to explore, and the trail at Craggy Gardens offers just that—footpaths that lead to trees to climb, overlooks, and an old gazebo. Find them, and while you’re here, explore your way to the beautiful overlook at Craggy Pinnacle.
  3. Among the peaks of the southern Appalachian Mountains are unique geographical areas called “balds,” wide expanses of highland meadow with sparse tree coverage. The Roan Highlands at Carver’s Gap and Grassy Ridge, which encompass the longest stretch of balds in the Appalachians, is one of the highlights of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The typical deciduous forest breaks open into wide highland prairie with staggering views, wildflowers, and a section of the Appalachian Trail.
  4. Huckleberry Knob: Like the balds of the Roan Highlands, Huckleberry Knob offers a tranquil, short trail with camping opportunities, broad views, and wildflowers. Unlike the balds, however, it offers a dose of history: the remnants of an F-51 jet that crashed here in 1952.
  5. East Rim Trail: Lesser traveled and long, the 22 miles of the East Rim Trail showcase the diverse terrain and virgin old-growth of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This unofficial route has been cobbled together from Forest Service roads and official trails, so route finding and independent research is a must. Stick around in one of the backcountry campsites and explore the trail’s many spurs.

Comments

Thank you for reading, and sorry about the tone. Other similar websites either don't respond or don't even have a comment section or email address, which is why I get frustrated.
Zachary, thanks for taking the time to help us get our information straight. When it comes to wilderness guides, there is a lot of information that is oftentimes contradictory. You bring up some excellent points. Note that this article has been changed to reflect your input.
I really wish the authors of these pages actually knew more about the places they wrote about. Three glaring inaccuracies in this article that are a joke to anyone who actually lives and hikes in NC would know. This is why many hikers really dislike these types of aggregation websites and prefer local blogs with accurate and detailed information.

1) The Linville Gorge Wilderness is one of the largest in the country? This is laughably ridiculous. It is only the 5th largest wilderness area in North Carolina behind Shining Rock, Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock, Pocosin, and Southern Nantahala. The wilderness areas in the western U.S. are many scales larger than Linville Gorge. The largest have hundreds of thousands of acres and some have millions. LG has 11,651 acres, it is not close to the top 100 largest in the country.

2) There is no such thing as the "East Rim Trail." From what I can tell it is a collection of trails along the east side of Linville Gorge, and maybe some road walking in between. No one calls a full hike of the eastern rim the "East Rim Trail," they refer to any of those trails by their actual trail name. It is impossible to do a 22-mile eastern rim hike without forest roads and unofficial manways connecting the official trails.

3) The highest peaks in the southern Appalachians are not balds. Grassy Ridge Bald is the tallest grassy bald in the Southeast at 6,160 feet high, and it is only the 22nd highest peak NC and TN. The highest peaks between 6,000-6,684 feet are dominated by dense southern Appalachian spruce-fir forest, notably in the Black Mtns and the Great Smoky Mtns. Most grassy balds are between 5,000-6,200 feet and are maintained to preserve the grassy state so mountain laurel and blueberry don't overcome the grasses. The natural state of the highest peaks are dense conifer forests leftover from the Ice Age glacial retreat.

Also, Linville Falls is approximately 50 feet high. No clue where that 90-foot statistic comes from, that is way too high.
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