Easy Hikes Near Asheville For Waterfalls, Picnics, & Blooms

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Hit the trails and chase waterfalls with these easy hikes near Asheville perfect for the entire family. These hikes will take you across the city’s historic landmarks, past lakes, onto the Blue Ridge Parkway, and into the Pisgah National Forest. Find information if you are hiking with toddlers, senior family members, and more – from locals.

Easy Hikes Near Asheville Featured Image with waterfallPin
Bridal Veil Falls – DuPont

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Quick List Of Easy & Family-Friendly Hikes

Tom and I love living in the Blue Ridge Mountains. There are endless and terrific hiking trails near Asheville (for all levels). This is a quick list of some of the best easy hikes near Asheville, NC:

  • Hooker Falls at DuPont State Forest – under 1 mile roundtrip
  • Laurel River Trail – beautiful, local, and largely flat near Hot Springs
  • Craggy Gardens – BRP hike with picnic area and overlooks
  • The NC Arboretum Trails – pay for parking or an annual membership; gardens, events, and nature trails
  • Bent Creek Experimental Forest – local mountain biking spot in South Asheville
  • Pink Beds Loop – gentle but long loop in the Pisgah National Forest for blooms
  • Botanical Gardens At Asheville – free, extremely short, and scenic nature trails around UNC – Asheville
  • Biltmore Estate Trails – fun for passholders or Estate visitors, varying in lengths
  • Glassy Mountain Trail – pass farm animals and the Carl Sandburg home in Flat Rock
  • Moore Cove Falls – easy waterfall hike in the Pisgah National Forest
  • Bearwallow Mountain – hike in the forest or along a gravel road to cows
  • Catawba Falls – popular waterfall hike to cascading falls near Old Fort
  • Oconaluftee River Trail – at one entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park with elk and wildflowers
  • Max Patch – a stunning mountain bald that intersects with the Appalachian Trail

You might also enjoy strolling Western North Carolina’s gorgeous lakes. We frequent Beaver Lake’s perimeter trail, especially after dinner in North Asheville. Or, take a day trip to the Waynesville/Maggie Valley area. Lake Junaluska is one of my favorite places to unwind and breathe. See all that you can do in and around Asheville – like a local – and consider a guided Blue Ridge Parkway hiking and waterfall tour.

Details On Our Top 10

Keep reading for information on what to expect along a few of our favorite easy Asheville hiking trails. This includes picnic areas, best facilities, when to pack hiking poles, prettiest waterfalls, and more.

DuPont State Forest

Man and woman in front of Hooker Falls waterfallPin
My parents at Hooker Falls

A 50-minute drive, Dupont State Recreational Forest is one of the best places to see waterfalls in WNC. For a variety of beautiful and easy hikes near Asheville, I prefer to park at the Hooker Falls Access Area, which has restrooms and water fountains. From here, hike to Hooker Falls, which is under 1-mile roundtrip with options to wade in the water (no lifeguards on duty).

Hikers may continue onto Triple and High Falls, but they are more difficult, totaling 3 miles. My parents (70+) were OK with Hooker Falls, but we stopped after the trying hill up to Triple Falls. I’d recommend hiking polls for older hikers, especially with rolling rocks and mud underfoot. Young kids may also tire.

DuPont State Recreational Forest | GPS: Hooker Falls Access Area or DuPont State Recreational Forest Visitor Center, 89 Buck Forest Rd, Cedar Mountain, NC 28718

For movie buffs: Triple Falls was a filming location for The Hunger Games and Bridal Veil Falls for The Last of the Mohicans. While I find the Bridal Veil Falls hike a tad tedious and flat, it is great for young beginner mountain bikers and families.

Laurel River Trail

Selfie along Laurel River TrailPin

Forty minutes by car from Asheville between Hot Springs and Marshall, the Laurel River Trail is one of my favorites for its beauty and local draw; this isn’t a touristy Blue Ridge Parkway hike. This 7+ mile out-and-back follows Big Laurel Creek and enters the Pisgah National Forest. Flat and pet-friendly, make the hike as short as you wish.

The first mile cuts through private property with plenty of warnings not to veer off for baby waterfall photos. Once in the public forest, people picnic and swim in safe areas. You’ll see plenty of whitewater rafters. For kid-friendly hikes near Asheville, just keep in mind that the trail may become muddy and filled with downed trees, boulders, and rocks.

Laurel River Trail | On our GPS, this trail is labeled “Laurel Creek Trail”

After enjoying the trail, explore Marshall, another quaint mountain town near Asheville. Or, head to Hot Springs, which has food, beer, and Appalachian Trail hikes like Max Patch.

Bent Creek Experimental Forest

If you are visiting Asheville with kids, Bent Creek Experimental Forest promises a variety of local trails. The easy .7-mile out-and-back Homestead Trail hugs Lake Powhatan and is popular among families. Hikers pass Lake Powhatan, the dam, and footbridges. Add the Deerfield Loop or Small Creek Trail. For a much longer hike, link up to the Hard Times Trail, which connects to The NC Arboretum. We always see families teaching their younger children how to mountain bike around here.

Bent Creek Experimental Forest | Lots & street parking around the Hard Times Trail at Wesley Branch Road, Asheville, NC 28806

Max Patch

About an hour and a quarter along the Tennessee-North Carolina Border, Max Patch is a 1.5-mile loop intersecting with the Appalachian Trail. While we love the serenity and beauty of Max Patch (those views!), please know that the road to Max Patch’s trailhead is difficult to navigate in inclement weather. I wouldn’t drive here with ice, snow, or heavy rain. This trail has also been damaged by foot traffic and camping, making it a sore spot for environmentalists and locals. There are no facilities and camping is currently banned.

Biltmore Estate’s Trails

Whether you are planning a weekend trip or are a local, Biltmore Estate is a must as America’s largest home and an iconic Asheville attraction. You will need an annual pass, daytime ticket, or overnight property reservation to enter the grounds. Tom and I have been passholders for over 5 years, mostly to access Biltmore’s scenic trails, restaurants, and special exhibits.

For some of the best easy hikes in Asheville, we frequent the Lagoon and Deerpark Trails, leading up the side of Biltmore House to the Walled Garden. Sit along Biltmore Lagoon to watch the geese or play in the bamboo forest. The Deerpark Trail has one steep hill, but keep going to see the breathtaking Biltmore Blooms. We use the restrooms at Biltmore Conservatory while getting beverages at the food stand.

Biltmore Estate | 1 Lodge St, Asheville, NC 28803

Enjoy Biltmore with the entire family, including some of the best Biltmore restaurants. We grab iced coffee and tea at The Creamery for our walk to the lagoon.

Bearwallow Mountain

Christine with cow at Bearwallow MountainPin

Two miles total, hike the wide gravel access road or the more challenging forest trail up to a beautiful meadow filled with cows. That’s Bearwallow Mountain, an extremely popular picnic and sunset spot about 35 minutes from Asheville. Combine them to form a loop.

The cows roam freely and may throw shade; watch out for their “presents.” On a clear day, you can see the Black Mountains, Mount Mitchell, Mount Pisgah, and the Great Smoky Mountains. Bearwallow Mountain also makes for a great fall and winter hike.

Bearwallow Mountain Trail | 4854 Bearwallow Mountain Rd, Hendersonville, NC 28792

Moore Cove Falls

Moore Cove FallsPin

Located in the Pisgah National Forest, Moore Cove Falls is for families and rainbow chasers. Trek a 1.4-mile out-and-back trail straight to a 50-foot waterfall. Never climb these falls, though; there have been causalities.

The trail may grow a bit muddy. Cross small wooden bridges with a few narrower spots along the packed dirt path. Moore Cove Falls is located just past Looking Glass Falls off the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway about 50 minutes from Asheville. Sliding Rock is nearby. Afterward, head to Downtown Brevard for beer, shopping, and food.

If you want to see three waterfalls in one day, consider taking one of Asheville’s most popular guided BRP tours.

Oconaluftee River Trail

Tom on the Oconaluftee River TrailPin

Although a bit of a drive – one hour and ten minutes – if you are craving a quick introduction to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, head to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center and River Trail. For educational, kid-friendly hikes near Asheville, it’s perfect.

Encounter a beautiful 3-mile, out-and-back nature walk along the Oconaluftee River. See elk from afar (in season). View exhibits educating visitors about Cherokee artwork, traditions, and spiritual beliefs. Pass the open-air Mountain Farm Museum and Mingus Mill. Freely explore a collection of log buildings dating back to the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Lastly, enjoy the amenities of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. Find restrooms, maps, and park rangers to answer your questions. The local gift shop is perfect if you need snacks and water. If you don’t mind stairs, Mingo Falls promises a short hike to stunning falls.

The North Carolina Arboretum

We are members of The North Carolina Arboretum, especially for easy access to their nature trails and gardens. You will have to pay to park if you aren’t a member. Hikes vary in length and difficulty, and most packed dirt trails loop around the property through the forest. They get a little confusing but are usually well-labeled. We’ve spotted black bears along the trails.

The NC Arboretum is another great picnic spot, and you cannot miss the Quilt Garden, which lights up for Winter Lights. Find multiple facilities with restrooms and fountains. Grab a bite to eat at the bistro. Discover even more beautiful parks and gardens with short hikes near Asheville, NC. We recently watched the solar eclipse here.

The NC Arboretum | 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way Asheville, NC 28806.

Craggy Gardens

Craggy Gardens is one of the slightly more moderate but still easy hikes near Asheville, about 40 minutes away. This popular Blue Ridge Parkway trail boasts a visitor center and picnic area. We love bringing charcoal for the grills and appreciate the seasonally open facilities.

Enjoy a 2-mile out-and-back hike, and we always park at the picnic area since it is much bigger. In the spring and summer, spy vibrant wildflowers. Dip over to the gazebo and head to the “top” for stellar mountain views. Nearby, we also frequent Craggy Pinnacle, a short but moderate 1.4-mile hiking trail promising 360-degree views of the Asheville Watershed and Blue Ridge Mountains.

Craggy Gardens | Craggy Gardens Visitor Center (MP 364.4) or Craggy Gardens Picnic Area (MP 367.6)

*This article began as a collaboration with my favorite mom blogger and good friend, Tori Curran of Explore with Tori.

Christine and Tom selfiePin

Christine Frascarelli

Christine (pronouns: she/her) is the owner and lead writer of Uncorked Asheville. After falling in love with those gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains, Christine and her husband Tom decided to call Asheville, North Carolina home. When her pointy Italian nose isn’t stuck in a book, Christine is adopting all of the kitties, getting lost in the forest, and drinking an ESB. She has a BA in English and History from Smith College, her MLIS from USF-Tampa, and is a former U.S. Fulbright Scholar - Indonesia. Christine also owns The Uncorked Librarian LLC with books and movies to inspire travel.


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