Top 3 Asheville Hikes


With sweeping mountains and a vast number of waterfalls, the variety of views you can see while hiking around the Asheville area is astounding.  The diversity and number of hikes around Asheville truly makes it one of the best places to go hiking in the US.  Although the number of hikes (literally hundreds of different trails) in the Asheville area is overwhelming, no need to fret.  We have done the research for you and have compiled our ‘Top 3 Asheville Hikes’ list based on our personal experience hiking each.  Read on for our best Asheville hike recommendations. 

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Top 3 Asheville Hikes: #1 Wildcat Rock 

Our number 1 top hike in Asheville recommendation is the Wildcat Rock trail. Wildcat Rock is an awesome hike as you’ll not only get sweeping mountain views at the summit but also pass a unique waterfall on the way.  This hike is 3.5 miles round trip with 1,100 feet of elevation gain.  On this trail, you first hike up on a serene wooded trail and about ⅔ of the way up on, you’ll pass Little Bearwallow Falls.  Then, you’ll continue to hike up until you reach the Wildcat Rock summit with sweeping mountain views (first picture in article).  

Scrambling and Difficulty 

Please note, there are some rock scrambles involved in this hike.  However, the scramble really only involves stepping up rocks until the very end.  At the very end of the trail to get to the viewpoint, you do have to climb up a large rock and duck under a tree.  However, we found this very manageable even carrying the kids (on our back and front) so don’t let that deter you from hiking it.  If you are able to hike to the summit, you’ll be able to climb up this rock.  

Our perception of difficulty may be a bit skewed as we were carrying a toddler and a baby up the trail, but we would rate this hike as moderate to strenuous.  It’s pretty steady incline up most of the trail.  Budget 2-3 hours to complete this hike.  This is also a great trail to see wildflowers in the late spring/early summer.

Parking, Cost & Dogs

There is a small lot to park across the street from the trailhead. This parking area serves several trailheads.  We arrived on a Saturday around 10:30 AM, and there were about 5 spots left at that time.   There is no fee to hike this trail.  Leashed dogs are allowed on the trail.   Learn more details about this hike here.

Wildcat Rock Logistics Summary

  • Length/elevation: 3.5 Miles, Out & Back, 1,100 feet of elevation gain
  • Intensity: Moderate to Strenuous
  • Cost: Free
  • Dogs: Leashed allowed

Top 3 Asheville Hikes: #2 Lookout Mountain

Our number 2 top Asheville hike is the Lookout Mountain trail. This 1.4 mile round trip hike with 600 feet of elevation is steep and a bit rocky at the top but so worth the effort for the views.  This is a great bang-for-your-buck hike. You get some of the best sweeping mountain views relatively quickly.  

Scrambling and Difficulty 

The Lookout Mountain hike is a steady climb up through the woods. The trail consists of stairs or a dirt/rock path that requires no true scrambling until the very end. For less than 0.1 miles, you will have to scramble up some rocks and use your hands to brace yourself to get to the summit.  However, it is not overly technically challenging as we were able to do this safely while baby wearing our kids.  We rate this hike as moderate. Other than the rock scramble portion of the trail and summit area, the trail is almost completely shaded (huge bonus in our eyes).  The summit has stunning expansive mountain views and there are several large rocks to sit down on to take it all in.  

Parking, Cost & Dogs

We hiked this trail on a weekday around 10 AM and only saw two other small groups of people.  This hike was so peaceful and felt like a hidden gem. There are two small gravel lots to park near the trailhead, but there are only about 10 spots available total so you may have trouble parking if it is a busy weekend day.  This hike took us about an hour to complete, including taking a 15 minute break at the top to soak in the views, take some pictures and give the kids some snacks.  There is no cost to hike this trail but at the trailhead there is a QR code you can scan to donate to Montreat for the trail maintenance and we highly encourage you to donate if you hike it as the trail is very well maintained. Dogs are allowed on a leash. 

Lookout Mountain Logistics Summary

  • Length/elevation: 1.4 Miles, Out & Back, 600 feet of elevation gain (can make longer by combining with another trail)
  • Intensity: Moderate
  • Cost: Free, donate to Montreat using QR code at trailhead
  • Dogs: Leashed allowed

Top 3 Asheville Hikes: #3 High Falls, Triple Falls and Hooker Falls

DuPont State Park Hiking

Our number 3 top Asheville hike is the High Falls, Triple Falls and Hooker Falls hike in DuPont State Park.  This hike is about 4.5 miles round trip with 490 feet of elevation gain and you see 5 waterfalls along the trail.  Each waterfall on this route is unique. High Falls is the most impressive and has several viewing points including the base.  Triple Falls is unique as it is three waterfalls that run together.  Hooker Falls is the smallest of them all, but there is a calm area of water the kids (or adults) can play in at the base.

Natalie’s favorite waterfall was High Falls, Sam’s was Triple Falls, and the kids’ favorite was Hooker falls, (because they could play in the sand and calm water at the base).  We did not stay at Hooker falls overly long though because the kids started to eat sand like it was going out of style.  Reality!

Scrambling, Difficulty and Route

The path for this hike is well groomed and easy to hike. There is no scrambling other than some slippery rocks at the base of the waterfalls (not actually part of the trail). There are several options for how to hike to High Falls, Triple Falls and Hooker Falls. We recommend parking at the main visitor center for DuPont State Park and starting the hike from there. You start by hiking to High Falls, then Triple Falls, and finally Hooker Falls.  We then recommend retracing your steps to return to the visitor center. 

Add ons/Alternatives 

This park is also home to Bridal Falls, which is featured in the first Hunger Games film. You can alternatively, do a 7.5 mile round-trip hike to High Falls, Triple Falls, and Bridal Falls. Another alternative is to only hike to Hooker Falls from the Hooker Falls parking lot. This hike is 1 mile round-trip with 140 feet of elevation gain. If you plan to spend a lot of time playing in the sand and calm water at this waterfall, this may be your best option. You also could just hike to High Falls and/or Triple Falls. As you can gather, there are various hiking options to suite your level of fitness and what your family will enjoy most at DuPont State Park.

Parking, Cost & Dogs

When you arrive at the visitor center at DuPont State Park, the staff will be able to give you a map and show you a 3-D diagram of the park. We’ve never seen anything like the 3-D diagram here, created by a local model train club, and heading into the visitor center is worth the time just to see this.  The visitors center is also the best spot to park as there is a large parking lot there. Alternatively, if full, you could park near Hooker Falls.  Both parking lots have bathroom facilities.  Parking here late morning was no issue on a weekday, but arrive early if visiting on a weekend.  We were astounded by the number of people there on a weekday.  There is no cost to park or hike here.  Dogs are allowed on leashes.    

High Falls, Triple Falls and Hooker Falls Hike Logistics Summary

  • Length/elevation: 4.5 Miles, Out & Back, 490 feet of elevation gain
  • Intensity: Easy
  • Cost: Free
  • Dogs: Leashed allowed

Top 3 Asheville Hikes: Bonus Top Hike Shortoff Mountain 

Table Rock Linville Gorge Views, Shortoff Mountain

Our bonus top Asheville hike is the Shortoff Mountain hike. This hike is located about an hour outside of Asheville in Nebo, North Carolina. Hiking Shortoff Mountain was one of our favorite hikes in the Pisgah National Forest.  From the top of Shortoff Mountain, you are afforded stunning views of Linville Gorge and Lake James.  This hike is particularly pretty in fall when the foliage is contrasting colors.  

Scrambling, Difficulty and Route

This hike is fast paced.  You gain 1,312 feet of elevation over the course of this 4.5 mile round-trip hike but most of that elevation is within the first mile.  There is a rock scramble but nothing too logistically challenging, and it all can be hiked vertically (no need to go on all 4s).   The last mile or so of the Shortoff Mountain hike is quite level and open with plenty of spots to take panoramic pictures.  Our picture above is from Table Rock near the end of the Shortoff Mountain hike. We rate the hike as moderate to hard due to the strenuous initial climb. The trail is easy to follow. Finding the trail though is a different story.  

Finding Trailhead 

Finding the Shortoff Mountain trailhead/parking area can be very difficult.  Unknown to us when we were searching for it, most parking areas/trailheads are not well marked in Pisgah National Forest and Shortoff Mountain is no exception. To find this trailhead, type in “Wolf Pit Trailhead” to Google Maps.  Although it is the Shortoff Mountain Trailhead you are looking for, it is at the end of Wolf Pit Road, and this should bring you to the right spot. 

Wolf Pit Road is a dead-end and unpaved road that you drive on for 2.5 miles until you get to the end/trailhead.  When we first turned down this road, we thought we were going the wrong way but soon enough, we saw a homemade sign, pointing us to Shortoff Mountain and Wolf Pit (pictured above on the left).  You can park at the end of this road right by the trailhead, but make sure you are not on private property. 

Linville Gorge Views from Shortoff Mountain

Shortoff Mountain Hike Logistics Summary

  • Length/elevation: 4.5 Miles, Out & Back, 1,312 feet of elevation gain
  • Intensity: Moderate to Hard
  • Cost: Free
  • Dogs: Leashed allowed

Where to Stay While Hiking in Asheville

We highly recommend staying at the Dancing Bear Getaway when hiking in Asheville. It is centrally located to all the best Asheville hikes outlined above yet also a tucked away serene escape.  This home, located in Black Mountain 10 minutes outside of downtown Asheville, sits on a wooded lot on a dead end road away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Asheville. It has an extremely nice outdoor area with a fire pit, hot tub and several patios to relax on.  Beyond the location and outdoor space, the family friendly amenities and helpful hosts also add to it the Dancing Bear Getaway being the best place to stay near Asheville.   We loved this house rental!  See our Where to Stay Near Asheville North Carolina for a full breakdown of why we loved staying at this place. 


We hope this guide helps you plan your hiking in the Asheville area.  For more information and tips on visiting the Asheville area, please see our 4 Days in Asheville, Weekend in Black Mountain and Asheville with a Baby or Toddler posts.

Anything you’d add to our ‘Top 3 Asheville Hikes Guide?’ We’d love to hear your feedback and questions.  Please leave us a comment!

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