North Carolina’s Appalachian Trail includes about 90 miles of the trail through Western North Carolina, and of course people here think it’s some of the best the trail has to offer. Even if you are not a big-time hiker, it is a thrill to actually step foot on what distance hikers simply refer to as the “AT.”
The easiest spot to check out the AT is Hot Springs where the trails runs along the town’s main street. You might want to stay and take the waters at the Hot Springs Resort & Spa where you can camp, set up your tent, park your RV, rent a cabin or a luxury room. Heading out toward the east, there are a couple of places you can easily access the AT whether you want to hike for a day, a couple of hours or just grab a photo opp. If you are visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there are a few places you can connect to the AT from hiking trails in the park. One is from the Newfound GAP parking area where you can go short distances north or south. The Park Service also suggests Charlie’s Bunion as a destination to the north, where you can get some spectacular views.
Another place to pick up the AT is along various points in the Nantahala National Forest where long stretches of the trail go up 5,000 foot peaks and down again to 4,000 foot gaps where the trail meanders through mature, hardwood forest where wildflowers abound and mountain streams trickle by. This section of the trail actually goes through the Nantahala Outdoor Center on Highway 19 W in Bryson City, where you could also spend a day. The center offers white water rafting excursions on eight rivers, a variety of zip line escapades for the daring and routine adventures like mountain biking and canoeing. And of course you can always take the proverbial walk in the woods.
If you are there at lunchtime, you might want to check out The Filling Station Deli Sub Shop with its Cuban sandwiches or for something more upscale, you could go for dinner at the Cork & Bean Bistro, inside the boutique Everett Hotel, where you might just want to stay the night in the building that in 1908 opened its doors as the Bryson City Bank.
These are not scenarios for serious hikers who might want to get on the trail for a few days, a few weeks or longer. This introduction is to acquaint you with the AT and remind you that when you are in Western North Carolina, you can make a stop on the trail a part of any itinerary.