GVL Guides    Lifestyle

Your ultimate Carolinas hiking guide 🏔

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Sassafras Mountain to Caesar’s Head
Whether you're a beginner or a hiking pro, here are 10 trails you have to check out. | Photo by @madolins.photos

Hey, Greenville. 👋 With parks opening and the weather getting nicer as summer gets closer, many people will be itching to put on their hiking shoes and enjoy some time outdoors.

We wanted to share our Carolinas hiking guide, so y’all can start planning your next outdoor adventure (while still practicing social distancing, of course).

Disclaimer: Note that while many parks are open now, some of these are on a limited basis. Be sure to check park websites before visiting.

Paris Mountain State Park, 2401 State Park Rd., Greenville, SC | 6 miles from downtown Greenville

Route: Lake Placid Loop

  • Difficulty level: Easy
  • Length: .75 mile loop
  • Dog-friendly: Yes 

Hike this trail if you want lake views and (mostly) flat ground. You may see wildlife like birds or turtles as you circle the lake, cross a boardwalk foot bridge + pass the swimming area. 

Route: Sulphur Springs Trail

  • Difficulty level: Strenuous
  • Length: 3.6 miles
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, if your dog is in good shape 

Hike this trail if you want to see an old water tower and dam (and hike a pretty steep hill for about .25 miles). It’s easy to get lost on this trail since it has an upper and lower section so download a map of the park to your phone before you go.

 Route: Brissy Ridge Trail

  • Difficulty level: Moderate-Strenuous
  • Length: 2.4 mile loop
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, unless your dog is afraid of bicycles

Hike this trail if you want to explore a steep route along some of the Upstate’s hills. There is a hiker’s only portion (which is much steeper than the rest of the trail) and there are lots of tree roots on the ground so watch your footing. Be on the lookout for mountain bikers on the other sections of the trail. (Remember, hikers yield to bikers on the downhill.)

Cedar Falls State Park, 201 Cedar Falls Rd., Fountain Inn, SC | 20 miles from downtown Greenville

Route: The Natural Trail

  • Difficulty level: Easy
  • Length: 1.5 miles
  • Dog-friendly: Yes 

Hike this trail if you’re looking for a family friendly trip with views of the Reedy River. This route extends from the tree line above the playground to the Reedy River near the shoals + features three connector trails. Within the park, the Reedy River widens to over 200 ft. in a cascade over rocks and boulders.

Table Rock State Park, 158 Ellison Ln., Pickens, SC | 25 miles from downtown Greenville

 Route: Lakeside Trail

  • Difficulty level: Easy
  • Length: 1.9 mile loop
  • Dog-friendly: Yes 

Hike this trail if you want a leisurely walk with some historic elements (and great views of Table Rock). It’s considered to be a good alternative route for families looking to avoid steeper mountain trails. Added perk, you don’t need to worry about completing a hiking registration card for this route.  

 Route: Pinnacle Mountain Trail

  • Difficulty level: Very strenuous
  • Length: 4.2 miles one way
  • Dog-friendly: Yes (dogs are allowed but it may be difficult for them to climb up some of the large rocks)

Hike this trail if you want a serious challenge with uninterrupted mountain views from the tallest mountain in S.C. On this route you’ll encounter creek crossings with small footbridges + steep mountain slopes. On your way back, you can return the way you came or (for a less strenuous option) you can follow the Ridge Trail to the Table Rock Trail. 

  Route: Carrick Creek Trail

  • Difficulty level: Moderate
  • Length: 2 mile loop
  • Dog-friendly: Yes

Hike this trail if you want to see lots of waterfalls and can handle some steep elevation changes. Be sure to check out the observation deck less than 100 yards up the trail at Carrick Creek Falls. There are three other trails in the park, including Table Rock Trail which summits Table Rock Mountain. See those here.

Keowee-Toxaway State Park, 108 Residence Dr., Sunset, SC | 32 miles from downtown Greenville

Route: Natural Bridge Nature Trail

  • Difficulty level: Moderate-strenuous
  • Length: 1.3 miles
  • Dog-friendly: Yes

Hike this trail if you want views of Lake Keowee, mountain laurel, and natural blueberry bushes. Natural Bridge Nature Trail is aptly named for the natural bridge that allows you to cross Poe Creek.

Route: Raven Rock

  • Difficulty level: Moderate-strenuous
  • Length: 4.4 mile loop
  • Dog-friendly: Yes

Hike this trail if you want a longer outing on land that Cherokee Indians once traversed. This trail starts at the Meeting House + is well-marked. Wildlife in this park includes white tail deer, chipmunks, and salamanders. 

Caesars Head State Park, 8155 Geer Hwy., Cleveland, SC | 32.4 miles from downtown Greenville

 Route: Raven Cliff Falls Trail, Naturaland Trail, The Dismal Trail + Gum Gap

  • Difficulty level: Strenuous
  • Length: 8.8 miles
  • Dog-friendly: No

Hike this combination of trails if you want an all day hike with steep ledges, great views, and a suspension bridge. If you want the waterfall view without the distance and difficulty, hike up Raven Cliff Falls Trail to the overlook. 

Jones Gap State Park, 303 Jones Gap Rd., Marietta, SC | 39 miles from downtown Greenville

  Route: Rainbow Falls Trail

  • Difficulty level: Strenuous (but also the most popular in the park)
  • Length: 2.2 miles one-way
  • Dog-friendly: Yes

Hike this trail if you’re looking for waterfall views or bird watching. Other great waterfalls to see in Jones Gap State Park include: Falls Creek Falls, Jones Gap Falls, and Silver Steps FallsJones Gap State Park has limited parking, so get there early. There is also little-to-no cell phone coverage.  

  Route: Hospital Rock Trail (part of the Falls Creek Falls Loop)

  • Difficulty level: Strenuous
  • Length: 4.4 miles one-way
  • Dog-friendly: Yes

Hike this trail if you’re looking for a serious challengeit’s identified as one of the “most rugged and difficult trails in the state.” Legend says Confederate deserters hid out under Hospital Rock during the Civil War.

Pisgah National Forest, 1600 Pisgah Hwy., Pisgah Forest, NC | 39 miles from downtown Greenville

 Route: Appalachian District: Max Patch Mountain Trail

  • Difficulty level: Moderate
  • Length: 1.5 miles
  • Dog-friendly: Yes

Hike this trail if you’re looking for 360-degree vistas of Mount Mitchell + the Great Smoky Mountains. Max Patch runs next to the Tennessee state line and is a great option for picnics. It’s listed as one of the most popular Appalachian Trail hikes in N.C.

Route: Appalachian District: Linville Falls

  • Difficulty level: Moderate
  • Length: 2.2 miles
  • Dog-friendly: Yes

Hike this trail if you want epic views of Linville Gorge’s enormous waterfalls. This route gives hikers access to three waterfall overlooks and at the end, you’ll find southbound views of the gorge itself. We recommend trying this hike during the summertime if you head there in the morning, you may catch fog lifting from the valley + the sun rising on the opposite ridge. 

Route: Pisgah District: Black Balsam Knob via Art Loeb Trail 

  • Difficulty level: Easy
  • Length: 1.4 miles
  • Dog-friendly: Yes

Hike this trail if you want to experience Black Balsam Knob, the 23rd highest of the 40 mountains in North Carolina over 6,000 ft. (an elevation of 6,214 ft.). This hike is incredibly unique since you are hiking among the balds rather than a steep incline. Pro-Tip: The best time for this hike + camp is late April-October. This part of the Parkway is closed during winter

Route: Pisgah District: John Rock

  • Difficulty level: Moderate
  • Length: 5.7 miles
  • Dog-friendly: Yes

Hike this trail if you’re looking for a “ranger favorite.” The trail is forested with waterfalls + great views year-round. Hiking with youngins? There’s a small paved trail behind the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education. You can also plan a visit to the Fish Hatchery

Hendersonville, 201 S Main St., Hendersonville, NC | 40 miles from downtown Greenville

  Route: Big Glassy Mountain Trail

  • Difficulty level: Easy
  • Length: 1.3 miles one-way
  • Dog-friendly: Yes

Hike this trail if you’re looking to explore Big Glassy Mountain or the grounds of Carl Sandburg’s historic home. This hike starts just behind the house and features a small reservoir, rock outcroppings, and benches. There’s no fee to visit the National Historic Site, but you will need to pay to tour the home itself. 

 Route: Bearwallow Mountain Trail

  • Difficulty level: Moderate
  • Length: 1.7 miles
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, but beware – there are cows so dogs must stay on a leash

Hike this trail if you’re looking for a great year-round hike. With panoramic views, you can have a picnic + watch the sunset. (Just note that there are cows grazing this privately owned area that is protected by a land conservation easement – yes it is still OK to hike). The hike up the trail is kind of strenuous, but one can take the service-road for an easier route.

Devils Fork State Park, 161 Holcombe Cir., Salem, SC | 40 miles from downtown Greenville

Route: Oconee Bell Nature Trail

  • Difficulty level: Moderate-strenuous
  • Length: 1.5 mile loop
  • Dog-friendly: Yes

Hike this trail if you want to spend the day relaxing by a pond. This hike starts in the parking lot near the Ranger Station and is well-marked (making it a great option for first time hikers). The path leads you through a hardwood forest and along a creek. DYK Devils Fork State Park gets its name from a rare wild flower?

DuPont State Forest, 1300 Staton Rd., Cedar Mountain, NC | 43 miles from downtown Greenville

Route: Stone Mountain

  • Difficulty level: Difficult
  • Length: 2.65 miles
  • Dog-friendly: Yes

Hike this trail if you’re interested in the views from 3,620 ft. (the tallest summit in the park). A shorter route is available off Sky Valley Rd., but note – this path does not avoid the steepest sections of the hike. Fun fact: Scenes from The Hunger Games and The Last of the Mohicans were filmed in this state forest.

Route: Bridal Veil Falls

  • Difficulty level: Moderate
  • Length: 4.6 miles
  • Dog-friendly: Yes

Hike this trail if you’re a photographer looking to snag some long-exposure waterfall shots. Bridal Veil Falls drops in two series – the first being a freefall and the second being “veil-like sheet” falls across a rock outcrop. An overhanging ledge allows you to walk along the backside of the waterfall.

Oconee State Park, 624 State Park Rd., Mountain Rest, SC | 54 miles from downtown Greenville

Route: Hidden Falls

  • Difficulty level: Moderate
  • Length: 2.4 miles
  • Dog-friendly: Yes

Hike this trail if it’s rained recently. The Hidden Falls will be in its prime after a storm – the flow drops 60 ft. over a series of granite ledges but during dry conditions it may be reduced to a trickle. Rock benches offer hikers a place to sit + take in the dense underbrush. 

Route: Old Waterwheel Trail

  • Difficulty level: Moderate
  • Length: 1.2 miles
  • Dog-friendly: Yes

Hike this trail if you’re in the mood for a quiet, scenic + wooded route. The trail will lead you to the remnants of the stone structure where a waterwheel was used (it’s since been moved to the park lake). This route can be a bit harder to follow, so keep an eye on the trail markers. You can extend your hike by taking the Oconee Trail.   

Route: Tamassee Knob

  • Difficulty level: Strenuous
  • Length: 2 miles
  • Dog-friendly: Yes

Hike this trail if you’re willing to work a bit for a killer view. Though challenging, the path is well-maintained and well-shaded. Wear good shoes with strong ankle support because at times the trail does fall off sharply on both sides. The end of the route rewards hikers with views of the Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains + a boulder where you can set up a picnic. 

Chimney Rock State Park, 431 Main St., Chimney Rock, NC | 54 miles from downtown Greenville

Route: Exclamation Point

  • Difficulty level: Moderate-to-strenuous
  • Length: 2.9 miles
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, active dogs only

Hike this trail if you want to access the highest peak in the park (2,480 ft.). Along the Exclamation Point trail, you’ll pass the Opera Box and Devils Head (a rock shaped like the Devil). Once you’ve reached the top, you’ll witness the beauty of Hickory Nut Gorge and look down over Chimney Rock + Lake Lure. For added adventure, take the Skyline Trail from the Exclamation Point. Pro-Tip: Bring tons of water + a snack. There are several great resting stops to enjoy a picnic.

Route: Four Seasons Trail

  • Difficulty level: Moderate-to-strenuous
  • Length: 0.6 miles
  • Dog-friendly: Yes

Hike this trail if you’re looking for year-round mountain access without driving. You may see deer or wild turkey on this 400 ft. climb. The Four Seasons trail connects with the Hickory Nut Falls trail. 

Black Mountain, 201 E State St., Black Mountain, NC | 80 miles from downtown Greenville

https://www.instagram.com/p/B48wgp4pfMY/

Route: Lookout Trail (technically in Montreat, which is less than 5 min. from downtown Black Mountain)

  • Difficulty level: Moderate
  • Length: 1.4 miles round trip
  • Dog-friendly: Yes

Hike this trail if you’re on the hunt for beautiful views and a great place to watch the sunset or sunrise. If you look at the horizon, you’ll see the peaks of the Seven Sisters of the Black Mountains. This is a popular trail, visited throughout the year by families and large groups. Safety note: This trail does have some very steep patches and requires climbing over rocks towards the top.

*Check websites for tail closures, watch out for bears and trail erosion