An Insider’s Guide to the BEST Hiking Trails near Boone, NC

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 Boone, North Carolina is home to some of the most beautiful natural landscapes on the east coast. The Appalachian Mountains span the entirety of North Carolina’s western border and are home to some incredible hiking. 

The Blue Ridge Parkway runs just by Boone and nearby Blowing Rock, making the trip up to North Carolina’s high country an amazing place to be – especially during the fall when the leaves change. 

If you are looking for the best hikes in the area, look no further than this list!

The Boone Fork Trail

Overall, the best hike in the Boone area, possibly all of North Carolina, is the Boone Fork Trail. This trail is just under 5 miles long as a loop, and covers about 500 feet of elevation gain.

Since it is located along the Blue Ridge Parkway and Julian Price Memorial Park, it is fairly easy to access and relatively popular, though you often won’t run into to many others along the trail. Bathrooms are located close to the trailhead.

The reason why it is so good is simple; it has all of the best components of a great hike all wrapped into one. It has great panoramic views, waterfalls, rocks to climb, exciting elements, river crossings, and more! 

All of these features wrap up to make the trail considered a moderate difficulty, but it really is not too difficult to handle, so I would still recommend it for families. There are plenty of spots to take short breaks along the way, so even with little kids, you can still make it through in a few hours.

The trail can be accessed via two parking spots. Most navigation systems will take you directly to the trail head area where camping is available. There are a few spots to park there, but it is easier to head straight into Julian Price Memorial Park, then pick up the trail from there.

If you hike the trail clockwise, which I recommend, the trail itself starts out a bit uneventful for a half mile or so as you make you way through the camping areas and out towards the mountains.

You will be going uphill gradually, but there’s nothing too strenuous. Soon enough, you’ll be near the top of a grassy area, with great views of the surrounding mountains.

From there, you will descend alongside a trickling stream towards a river. There are a couple of crossings across the stream, which can be managed without getting your feet wet most times of the year (as long as you have decent balance).

If it recently rained a lot, you may encounter a lot of mud. One crossing includes a recently added rope to hold onto as you cross over a couple of narrow beams. These crossings are just challenging enough to be exciting without being too difficult or dangerous to worry less experienced hikers.

Once you finish the gradual descent, you will hike along a river which has multiple viewing points and small waterfalls. There are a few stairs up and down, including a couple of sets of steep steps (sort of ladders) that ascend and descend boulders. Last time I hiked the trail, I carried my Boston Terrier up and down these with no problem. Larger dogs should be able to manage the steps on their own.

Towards the end of the trail, you can choose to make a short detour down to Hebron Falls, a beautiful rocky waterfall surrounded by trees. If you are agile, you can climb all the way up to the top of it – but be sure to take extra care, as this can be very dangerous. Even if you stay at the bottom, it’s a great spot for pictures and simply enjoying nature.

The Glen Burney Trail

Before getting into the details of the trail, it is important to note that the trail can be difficult for new hikers who are somewhat out of shape.

The trail is located just behind the main street of downtown Blowing Rock, which makes it an excellent location close to amenities. Bathrooms are available in the park area just up the hill from the parking lot. 

After your hike, you can stroll through the shops or enjoy a meal at any of the amazing restaurants nearby. Adults can also enjoy a drink at a nearby brewery. Check out our list of Boone’s best breweries.

The trail itself is among the best in Boone because of its stunning waterfalls. If you are seeking the best waterfall trail, this is it. The trail descends from Blowing Rock down into a valley, and along the way passes 3 separate waterfalls. 

If you are feeling brave, you can even walk out onto the rocks and look out over the falls for some incredible views. Since the way out is all downhill, you get to see the waterfalls from both the top and bottom. However, since it’s an out-and-back trail, the way back up the mountain is a bit strenuous. Overall, it’s not too long, at 2.3 miles total.

Moses H Cone Memorial Park

Anjohnst, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Moses Cone Memorial Park is an amazing spot to visit, and has numerous trails on which to hike. The trails are all fairly well-traveled and popular, and some are even paved the entire way. Moses Cone Manor sits atop a hillside overlooking an orchard and pond, and serves as the starting point to most hikes.

There are two other parking locations around the park, so keep that in mind if you are visiting the park during a popular time of the year when parking may be difficult to find.

Horse and Carriage Ride through Moses H. Cone Park

Enjoy a leisurely ride through Blowing Rock’s Moses H. Cone Park on a horse and carriage. Pre-book your ride and meet your coachman at the park, then sit back and relax as you ride in the comfortable carriage.

There are two spots where I recommend walking here. One is more of a simple walk, while the other is a true hike.

The Flat Top Tower hike is the best on property and offers great views throughout the hike. It ends up at a fire watch tower, which you can climb up to enjoy an even better view of the surrounding areas. The hike itself is an easy, gradual stroll with gradual elevation gain throughout.

Almost all of the trails at Moses Cone are easy and large, since they were previously carriage trails back in the day. In fact, the path takes you past the Cone Cemetery, where you can find the resting place of Moses Cone and his wife.

The Bass Lake Loop, which is a simple, paved walk around the lake, offers spectacular views without much effort.

The loop is less than a mile, but it connects to multiple other Moses Cone trails, including the Maze. Be sure to snap a picture of the map before heading off if you decide to hike more!

All in all, Moses Cone is a bit less rugged and natural than other hikes in Boone, but it’s a must-do stop when visiting.

Tanawha Trail

The Tanawha Trail is a 13.5 mile point to point trail that traverses the Blue Ridge Parkway between Julian Price Memorial Park and Grandfather Mountain. The trail is split up into various sections, so you don’t have to worry about doing the entire trail unless you’re fully up to the challenge. 

The best spot to access the best parts of the trail are just past the Linn Cove Viaduct at the Rough Ridge parking area. This section of the trail will grant you spectacular views towards the center of the state that are truly unrivaled anywhere else.

Some sections of the trail are strenuous, while others are a bit easier. Overall, I’d rate most of it as moderately difficult.

Grandfather Mountain Trails

There are a few trails which ascend Grandfather Mountain and can grant access to the State Park without having to pay the entry fee. These trails will be appealing to more avid hikers, but those looing for easier walking might find better options elsewhere on this list. 

These trails are interconnected, so it’s up to you to select the routes that are the best for your group. 

Here are a couple great options:

  • The Daniel Boone Scout Trail to Calloway Peak is a 7-mile loop that is challenging but rewards you with some incredible mountain views. The trail has lots of roots and is rocky, so you need to pay attention and maintain your balance while heading up it. The climb also features a few ladders, making it an exciting path to the top.
  • The Profile Trail winds around Grandfather Mountain similar to the Scout Trail, and features lots of exciting climbing and rocky footing. The trail has its own parking location, but branches of and connects with others along the way.

Cascades Trail

If you’re looking for a nice hiking trail that is fairly easy and still gets you waterfall views, trickling mountain streams, and forest environment, the Cascades Trail is one of the best around Boone. It’s only a half mile down to the waterfall, and then about a half mile back to the parking area. 

I’d consider it a loop, since there are separate paths on each side of the stream, but it’s mostly the same scenery both ways. Regardless, this trail near Deep Gap is a great spot to stop while traveling along the Blue Ridge Parkway to get in a quick hike with great scenery.

Otter Falls Trail

The Otter Falls Trail, located towards Seven Devils, NC on the other side of Grandfather Mountain from many of the other trails on the list, is a hidden gem of the area. It’s a short walk down through the forest to a river which features a small waterfall and tons of rocks to climb over. 

It has loops in multiple directions, so you can make what you want of it. It’s also an interesting drive up the side of a mountain, and offer good views on the way to and from it if you’re traveling from downtown Boone. Parking is somewhat limited depending on the time of year you visit, so be wary of this!

Boone United Trail and the Boone Greenway

The Boone United Trail is a relatively simple out and back forest trail, but I wanted to mention it as a great spot to spend an hour or two if you are visiting downtown Boone and wanted a hike very close by. 

The same is true for the Boone Greenway, which has a few paved trails surrounding the sports fields and playground. If you are in need or just a little bit of extra hiking and nature time during your visit to Boone, but don’t want to stray far from the city center, these trails are great options.

The Bottom Line

You won’t be disappointed no matter where you hike around Boone. If you’re looking for the best of the best hikes, then be sure to check out the ones on this list. Be spontaneous as you visit Boone, and be sure to spend ample time on the Blue Ridge Parkway!