Are you looking for the best fall hikes near Asheville? Check out these stunning leaf hikes to catch the brilliant North Carolina fall foliage.
I had no idea that Asheville could be this beautiful in the fall. A native New Englander, the leaves spoiled us with stunning colors ensconced within beautiful Victorian homes filled with spooky ghosts.
NOTHING COULD BEAT A NEW ENGLAND FALL, right? Isn’t that where all of those leaf-obsessed baby boomers head like candy-junkie toddlers?
However, a few weeks ago, we headed south on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Elevations sneak up pretty fast and high along this gorgeous, twisty two-lane road (filled with PYSCHO drivers). The mountain colors and leaves blew me away. I could have driven right off the cliff. Take that, NEW ENGLAND!
This year, the fall hit Asheville like a sour beer hits my taste buds. One week, we had temps creeping into the 90’s. I sweat my butt off in that corn maze at Stepp’s.
The following week?! BAM! FALL ARRIVED with literally no warning along with those 40-degree temps. The other day, a little kid carried a massive icicle down Craggy Pinnacle.
Even though I am a newer local, I knew that I had to chase the leaf gold. I even Googled “best fall hikes near Asheville,” which didn’t disappoint.
However, my husband and I stumbled upon some fall foliage hikes near Asheville on our own, too, that I have to share. Just don’t tell too many people, KAY?! I just saw a prediction that by 2025, the Asheville metro population might break half a million people. I am a trendsetter. Probably a hated one.
Where do we love to hike in and around Asheville in the fall?
The Best Fall Hikes Around Asheville, NC
- Craggy Pinnacle
- Craggy Gardens
- Craven Gap
- Biltmore Estate
- Graveyard Loop & Waterfalls
- Botanical Gardens at Asheville
- Beaver Lake
- Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary
- DuPont State Forest
- The North Carolina Arboretum
- Looking Glass Rock Trail
- Chimney Rock
Remember, I am new here so I promise to tell you where I love to hike as well as what is on my bucket list. If you know me from my tipsy site, The Uncorked Librarian, I promise you that I will update these fall leaf hikes every year as we explore them.
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The Best Fall Hikes Near Asheville On The Blue Ridge Parkway
Find fall foliage hikes in and under 1-hour from Asheville
Truth: I am pretty terrible at navigation. In Florida, I’d always say that we are heading “down to CT.” It’s a form of expression, right? RIGHT?!
With that said, these are the best fall hikes around the Blue Ridge Parkway from north to south that we have found thus far. Trust me, too; we hike almost every week and do our research.
A Quick BRP Reminder:
Always check with the National Park Service (NPS) before heading out on the Blue Ridge Parkway if you start seeing rather sketchy weather. Long stretches may close, which sometimes you’ll catch first on your GPS as well. See all of the NPS closures here and look under ‘Weather,’ specifically to see if the Blue Ridge Parkway gates are closed.
I felt like I was driving in Iceland with those sporadic and sometimes scary road closures.
Craggy Pinnacle makes for a semi-easy and short fall hike before breakfast. It’s only about 1.4-miles roundtrip, and we always take a few of the detours when it’s not foggy. You’ll find at least three scenic viewing areas around the top.
Fair warning: Fog loves to hug up on Craggy Pinnacle, and sometimes you’ll see nothing but the clouds. The trail also becomes icier late into October/early November. The foliage dissipates around then too. This year, Asheville has seen unseasonably chilly temps. Like in the 20s…
We’ve hiked Craggy Pinnacle during both the fog and ice, and I promise you, it’s slippery. Wear good hiking shoes.
While a moderate hike up, at the peak, you can see the Asheville Watershed, Craggy Gardens, and Mount Mitchell.
Craggy Pinnacle is at milepost 364.1 on the Blue Ridge Parkway right past the tunnel after the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center (driving north from Asheville). The lot entrance isn’t well labeled as you turn in, but you’ll see two-tiered parking and signs once you enter the lot. Craggy Dome is the official trailhead. There are no bathroom facilities here.
A hot spot for fall hiking in Asheville, Craggy Gardens is 20 miles away with a variety of options and accessibility.
The Craggy Gardens Visitor Center has great views of the fall foliage along with restrooms, snacks, and a souvenir store. You can even pick up the trail although parking is limited and a tad stressful. During the fall, congestion greets the unsuspecting visitor.
Head to the Craggy Garden Picnic Area where there is an abundance of parking, charcoal grills, restrooms, and another entrance to the trails.
The trail is just a little under 2-miles roundtrip with a gazebo and beautiful fields. Of course, you’ll find flowers and heart-stopping mountain views.
Don’t forget that the temps are a tad chillier up here! The air can be at least 10-15 degrees cooler than downtown Asheville, if not more.
Hoping to catch a bear? It’s possible! Until then, check out some bear-loving gifts and say hi to our furry and pesky neighbors.
Craggy Gardens (not including the Dome) has two easy access points off of the Blue Ridge Parkway. One is at the the Visitor Center, and the other is from the Craggy Gardens Picnic Area. Milepost 364.4-367.6 will help guide you.
Craven Gap is pretty special and much more local. You won’t find a ton of breathtaking vistas here, and this trail is way more off of the beaten path. …unless you are Michele and Barack Obama.
Yup, back in 2010, the Obamas hiked here, allegedly because the trails see much more privacy and security. You can check out their visit on Blue Ridge Outdoors here.
I love the Craven Gap hike for fall foliage, and the trail spits you out literally onto the Blue Ridge Parkway at the other end.
Find mini-caves, a wooden bridge, and ladder steps, plus endless baby streams. To some, Craven Gap is underwhelming if you want those Craggy Garden views. To others, enjoy the local quiet.
Craven Gap is part of the Mountains-To-Sea Trail and is a little under 5-miles roundtrip. While moderate, the Craven Gap hike is a tad tiring as well as narrow. Follow the blaze on the trees to make sure that you are still on the trail, but truly, it’s not that confusing. If we can do it, so can you.
The trailhead is actually unmarked at Craven Gap. Look for the off-road parking lot with a tiny staircase. I’m not kidding. There are no facilities here so it’s just you and Mother Nature. …and maybe some black bears. You want to look for Milepost 377.4 or GPS N35.6479, W82.4910.
Biltmore Estate & Trails
In order to enter any part of the Biltmore Estate, you must have a ticket or annual pass. This goes for the winery and restaurants too.
We didn’t even realize that the Biltmore has over 22-miles of trails and gardens. You can easily spend all day touring around.
The gardens are perfect for accessibility and are, of course, quaint and beautiful. Find the historic and Azalea gardens.
Also, encounter walking, running, and biking trails, some as long as 3.5 miles and ranging from moderate to challenging.
As Biltmore annual passholders, we still have much of the grounds to explore. Even driving from the house to the winery, you can glimpse trails and the pop of fall colors.
The Biltmore fall foliage is the perfect way to get to know Asheville too. The Estate is rich in history and forestry education.
The Biltmore is located at 1 Lodge Street Asheville, NC. Read more about the Biltmore Estate Trails.
Graveyard Loop Trail & Waterfalls
Located right off of the Blue Ridge Parkway past the Mount Pisgah area, Graveyard Loop Trail is about one hour from Asheville. The trails boost of two unique, rocky waterfalls: High and Low Falls.
Low Falls are about .4-miles at the trailhead when you take a right after the footbridge. You will need to loop back to hit the actual Graveyard Loop, which is about 4 miles.
Heading to the High Falls is confusing. The hike is about a 3.5-mile hike roundtrip. I’m pretty sure that we climbed the harder way up along the face of the falls, whoops!
A much harder hike, you will climb slippery rocks and have to wade through sometimes higher streams. The mud is for real after some rain. My husband started humming the song from the NeverEnding Story. I felt Artax-triggered.
This beautiful fall foliage hike near Asheville also catches a view of Black Balsam Knob and intersects with the Mountains-To-Sea Trail. Romantic Asheville best explains the wildness of the Graveyard Loop Trail and which way(s) you can go.
Graveyard Loop Hike is at Milepost 418.8, south of Asheville. The tiny parking lot fills up, but you can safely park COMPLETELY on the side of the road right before the entrance. Don’t leave your car hanging into the Blue Ridge Parkway. You will also find restroom facilities here.
Fall Hikes Around Asheville
Find serene leaf hikes in the heart of Asheville
These fall walks and hikes are all located within and around the downtown area of my favorite city, Asheville! Also, know that these are the most accessible places for non-avid hikers.
P.S. You can also book special Asheville tours here.
The Botanical Gardens At Asheville
Imagine 10-acres of non-profit botanical gardens with small and easy trails at your disposal. Located near UNC Asheville about 10-minutes from downtown Asheville, that’s exactly what you will encounter at The Botanical Gardens At Asheville.
I’m not really sure why all of the big tourism sites don’t mention the Botanical Gardens in Asheville for fall leaf hiking. Yes, they aren’t the Blue Ridge Parkway or as vibrant, but the landscape is cozy and sweet. Plus, you can bring a picnic or a book to just chill.
The hikes are more like walks, but they are perfect for families, couples looking for romantic places, and some brisk exercise. During the day, the grounds are especially peaceful. Find a literary cabin in the woods, beautiful bridges, rock formations, labeled flora and fauna, and large streams.
Admission and parking into the Botanical Gardens is free. Read more about the The Botanical Gardens at Asheville. The gardens are located at 151 W.T. Weaver Blvd. Asheville.
I feel like the North Asheville locals might shoot me for this one (and I am one sooo whatever…). Although Beaver [Dam] Lake has sensible rules that you must respect, anyone is allowed to park in the public lots around the lake and walk the gorgeous grounds. The lake is technically private but open to all.
What you will find is a gorgeous fall walk (a flat ‘hike’) in the heart of well-established Asheville neighborhoods filled with trees and a sun-reflecting lake. Perfect for leaf-spying and bird watching, like the Botanical Gardens, bring a blanket to surround yourself with the mountains.
Fair warning: you do need a special permit if you have a pooch or for boating. And unlike the unfriendly Trip Advisor reviews, Beaver Lake is both beautiful and friendly. Just do your part to be a good human.
Beaver Lake is about 8-10 minutes from the heart of downtown Asheville.
Before you go, please look over the Beaver Lake Rules & Permits. There is no one address for the lake but you can use the Bird Sanctuary as an idea: 1020 US-25, Asheville, NC. Past the sanctuary, you will find small lots off of Merrimon Ave. next to the lake.
Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary
Personally, I love that you can walk to the Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary from Beaver Lake or vice versa. Plus, the sanctuary is another free gem that no one knows about.
Would I call their boardwalk trails serious hiking? No. However, you can enjoy a beautiful fall walk in nature in North Asheville.
Here, discover birds, dragonflies, and butterflies across 8-acres. Stay on the boardwalk and marked paths. They also host bird walks on the first Saturday of the month.
This Asheville fall hiking suggestion is more for those looking to get outside and breathe in some fresh air versus trekking up a mountain.
Read more about Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary. The Bird Sanctuary is located at 1020 US-25, Asheville, NC. Parking and entrance is free, but you can leave a donation.
Fall Foliage Hikes Near Hendersonville
A few Asheville fall hikes near the orchards and wineries
DuPont State Forest
The Hunger Games waterfalls will always land on my hiking posts, and this beautiful waterfall park does not disappoint in the fall, either. DuPont is about 45-minutes from Asheville.
If you park at the Hooker Falls Access Area, cross the scenic bridge. Follow the trail about .25-miles in for Hooker Falls. Then, head up a moderate climb of .5-miles to encounter Triple Falls and another .5-miles for High Falls. DuPont also has a walking loop with picnic areas, a covered bridge, and a visitor center.
You can either head back down the way you came up or go exploring on DuPont’s arteries. DuPont is truly one of the best fall hikes near Asheville if you are hoping to catch multiple waterfalls without a treacherous hike.
Read more about DuPont State Forest. It is free to park at DuPont. We typically park at the Hooker Falls Access Area, which has restroom facilities.
Chimney Rock is another area seething with tourist popularity. Just 25-miles from Asheville, all of our non-native NC friends have visited except us. Sigh.
Head up to the top of the rock where you can either take the stairs or elevator to see views of Lake Lure. Check out one of their numerous hiking trails that range in length and difficulty, or rest up in Chimney’s little shopping and restaurant village.
Yes, unlike most of the other fall hikes on this list, you will need admission tickets. As of 2019, adult admission is $17 and a youth admission ticket is $8.
Read more about Chimney Rock.
Our Bucket List Leaf Hikes Near Asheville
A few Asheville leaf hikes that we are dying to see
Since we are newer to Asheville, I plan on ticking off even more fall hikes and adventures ASAP. The leaf-hunting fall hikes listed above are near us in Asheville, and we frequent them often. Below are a few more of the top-recommended fall hikes from friends or that we’ve researched for upcoming weekend trips.
Other fall hikes that I’m hoping to add that are not mentioned below include: Beacon Heights, Mount Mitchell (another hike rumored to be tough), and Rough Ridge at Tanawha Trail.
The North Carolina Arboretum
We’ve driven by the North Carolina Arboretum and need to stop one of these days. Located in the Southern Appalachian Mountains south of Asheville and off of the Blue Ridge Parkway, adventure into this arboretum with botanical gardens. Uncover hiking and biking trails and in later months, a winter lights exhibit.
As of 2019, there is a $14 parking fee for personal vehicles. Visitors have access to their Bistro, and be sure to check their website for special exhibits.
Read more about The North Carolina Arboretum.
Looking Glass Rock Trail
We’ve seen Looking Glass Rock from the Blue Ridge Parkway heading back from the Mount Pisgah area after hiking at Graveyard Loop.
About 45-minutes from downtown Asheville in Brevard, you can find an easy hiking trail off of the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway. I’ve heard Looking Glass is a beast that will take you 4-5 hours for about 6-6.5 miles roundtrip. I’d say you deserve some beer after this one.
You can read a little more about Looking Glass Rock Trail on Explore Asheville.
The Looking Glass Rock Trail GPS coordinates are N35.290937, W82.776548.
Are You Ready To Go Hiking?
I hope that this starter list helps you find your next Asheville fall foliage hike. Of course, these trails tend to represent in the spring and summer as well.
What are your favorite fall hikes in Asheville so far?
What’s on your list?
Are you a leaf chaser too?