The Most Popular North Carolina Hiking Trails

Fact Checked by Thomas Leary

Few pastimes unite North Carolinians from the Atlantic shores to the piedmont and Appalachia like the beauty of the Tar Heel State’s outdoor spaces. Chief amongst those spaces is the boundless acres of hiking trails that unfold across much of the state, stretching from gentle hills to the gnarled reaches of Mount Mitchell in Pisgah National Forest. While we at typically keep our coverage on and around North Carolina sports betting, we appreaciate a great hiking trail as much as the next person. 

While summer may be winding down, the crisp air of autumn in North Carolina beckons countless outdoorsmen and women to hit said trails, either for fitness reasons or to simply enjoy the changing colors of the season.  

To get a sense of which trails Carolinians enjoy most, used’s “Best Trails In North Carolina” list as a starting point to see which hikes/trails to use in our research. We then utilized Google Trends to gather the search interest of each hike/trail listed in the Top 25 of their report over the past 12 months to finalize the Top 10 hiking trails that people are looking to visit in NC. 

Most Search Interest of North Carolina Trails

Rank TrailLocationSearch Interest vs. Other Topics
1Black Balsam KnobPisgah National Forest39
2Looking Glass Rock TrailPisgah National Forest35
3Hanging Rock TrailHanging Rock State Park25
4Triple Falls TrailDuPont State Rec. Forest22
T5Whiteside Mt. National Rec. TrailNantahala National Forest17
T5Mount Mitchell TrailPisgah National Forest17
T7Turtleback FallsGorges State Park16
T7Crabtree Falls TrailBlue Ridge Parkway16
T9Clingmans Dome TrailGreat Smoky Mts. National Park14
T9Hawksbill Mountain TrailLinville Gorge Wilderness14
T9Andrews Bald TrailGreat Smoky Mts. National Park14

What Is N.C.’s Most Popular Hiking Trail?

Most of the state’s leading trails are located squarely in the Appalachian Mountain preserve known as Pisgah National Forest. The forest, which was established in 1916, spans 86,700 acres and was once part of the Vanderbilt Estate before being turned over to the federal government.  

Now, hikers can enjoy any of the more than 500,000 acres of open space inside the forest, including Carolina’s two most popular trails (Black Balsam Knob and Looking Glass Rock Trail). Those two generated search interest scores of 39 and 35, beating out No. 3 Hanging Rock Trail (inside Hanging Rock State Park), Triple Fall Trail at DuPont State Recreational Forest, Whiteside Mountain National Recreation Trail (inside Nantahala National Forest) and Mount Mitchell Trail (which is also inside Pisgah National Forest).  

The latter three trails generated search interest scores of 25, 22 and 17 — with that sextet generating greater social media traffic than the likes of Gorges State Park’s Turtleback Falls and the Blue Ridge Parkway’s Crabtree Falls Trail (16 apiece).  It seems that when it comes to hiking, North Carolina residents can’t get enough of Pisgah National Forest — with the western outdoor hotspot drawing the lion’s share of social media traffic compared with other parks and trails in the Tar Heel State.  

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Christopher Boan is a lead writer at specializing in covering state issues. He has covered sports and sports betting in Arizona for more than seven years, including stops at, the Tucson Weekly and the Green Valley News.

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