Photo Gallery: Exploring North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains

By Michael Lanza

Spanning Georgia to Pennsylvania, the Blue Ridge Mountains reach their apex in a rumpled carpet of forested mountains sprawling across western North Carolina. Scores of peaks over 5,000 and 6,000 feet—the highest east of the Mississippi—host craggy summits, hundreds of beautiful waterfalls, and more plant species than any other park in the country.

And, by the way, some of the nicest hiking in America.

The name “Blue Ridge” comes from the bluish tint of the mountains when seen from a distance (usually from a high overlook), caused by the trees releasing isoprene into the air, creating the blue haze. Trails often begin in the forest, but many ascend above treeline to expansive vistas and pass some of the prettiest waterfalls I’ve seen in more than three decades of hiking all over America and the world.

The Blue Ridge Parkway, which snakes for 469 miles along the spine of Blue Ridge Mountains from Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, provides a convenient and scenic base of travel for hitting many of the more than 100 trailheads and over 300 miles of trails along it. In North Carolina, many of the best hikes are protected within the Pisgah and Nantahala national forests.

The photo gallery below shows the hikes I took during a week of hiking in western North Carolina; I think the images will show you the scenic quality of this area. Below the gallery, you’ll find links to stories I’ve published about hiking in backpacking there at The Big Outside.

Please leave a comment at the bottom of this story if you care to suggest a hike I didn’t get to, or have any ideas or feedback for other readers and me.


Get the right pack for you. See my picks for “The 10 Best Backpacking Packs” and 6 favorite daypacks.


For detailed info, see all of my stories about hiking and backpacking in North Carolina, including “The 12 Best Dayhikes Along North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Parkway,” “Roof of the East: Hiking North Carolina’s Mount Mitchell,” “Photo Gallery: Waterfalls of the North Carolina Mountains,” and my feature story “In the Garden of Eden: Backpacking the Great Smoky Mountains.”


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Find more info at, and see this list of the top 60 waterfalls near Asheville (some of which are in my above photo gallery).


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Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside, which has made several top outdoors blog lists. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter, or enter your email address in the box in the left sidebar or at the bottom of this story. Click here to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Follow my adventures on Facebook, TwitterInstagram, and Youtube.


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1 thought on “Photo Gallery: Exploring North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains”

  1. Here’s a big list of some of the best “view” hikes you could consider for the next trip. Two asterisks are ones I rate as among the top in the state for views.

    **Grandfather Mt via Cragway and Daniel Boone Scout Trails
    **Snake Mountain
    -Pond Mt and Stone Mt on the VA/TN/NC border (very obscure)
    **Shortoff Mt/ The Chimneys/Table Rock Mt/Hawksbill Mt in Linville Gorge east rim
    -Pinch In and Rock Jock Trails in Linville Gorge west rim
    -Craggy Gardens and Craggy Pinnacle on BRP
    -Pinnacle on BRP (one of my personal favorites)
    -Bearwallow Mt in Hickory Nut Gorge
    -Chimney Rock State Park
    **Appalachian Trail through the Roan Highlands
    -Appalachian Trail to Big Bald
    **Appalachian Trail over Max Patch
    -Sam Knob in Pisgah (beside Devils Courthouse and Black Balsam, you might have been there)
    -Cold Mt/The Narrows/Shining Rock in Shining Rock Wilderness, Pisgah (not as good as Black Balsam view just south but this 16 mile loop is a dream for big day hikers)
    -Big Green and Little Green Mtns in Panthertown Valley, Nantahala
    -The Hangover in Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness, Nantahala
    -Wesser Bald lookout tower in Nantahala
    **Shuckstack lookout tower in GSMNP
    -Gregory Bald in GSMNP
    -Rocky Top in GSMNP
    **Mt LeConte via Alum Cave or Boulevard Trails in GSMNP
    -Charlies Bunion and The Jumpoff in GSMNP
    -Mt Cammerer lookout tower in GSMNP
    **Hemphill Bald/Cataloochee Divide in GSMNP