Don’t let the dog days keep you cooped up in the AC—seek higher altitude, instead! With mountaintops and waterfalls just a quick drive from Greenville, your ideal summertime hike is calling. Fill the water bottle, pack a picnic, pull on a ball cap, and go.
The hike even the kids will love: GRAVEYARD FIELDS
The waterfall views at Graveyard Fields are spectacular, but the hike itself may steal the show. Just follow the path of blueberry bushes, and pick the ripe fruit as you walk along the boardwalk. If you need a break to cool down, dodge over to the swimming hole for a dip. You can follow the Graveyard Fields Loop for miles, but the ⅓-mile trek to the lower falls makes this a sweet family-friendly adventure.
Park: In the lot or alongside the road at milepost 418.8 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Hike: As long or as short as you want it to be! The walk to the lower falls is only ⅓ of a mile, but you can continue for a mile to the upper falls or take the four-mile Graveyard Fields Loop.
The skip-the-gym hike: FALLS CREEK FALLS
Tucked away just half an hour past Traveler’s Rest, this hidden gem is rarely crowded, but ideal for a tough hike and a gorgeous view without the long drive. The 1.7 miles to the top are almost completely uphill, so by the time you reach the falls, you’ll feel you’ve gotten your daily workout in. Take your time wading in the water under the falls and enjoy the refreshing mist on your skin.
Park: In front of the trailhead sign or alongside the road at Falls Creek Falls Rd, Marietta.
Hike: Simply start at the trailhead on Falls Creek Falls Road, and follow the blazing 1.7 miles to the waterfall.
The full-day hiking reprieve: PINNACLE PARK TRAIL
Just under a two-hour drive from Greenville, this steep hike will give you a perfect excuse to escape to the mountains for a day. Sure to take your breath away, the strenuous hike is scenic and textured the whole way up. At the top awaits a rocky overlook, a front-row seat to a stunning show of mountains rolling far and wide into the horizon.
Park: Lot at the end of Fisher Creek Road, Sylva, North Carolina.
Hike: Follow signage for 3.5 miles to the Pinnacle.
The sunset picnic hike: CRAGGY GARDENS PINNACLE TRAIL
Take a drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway during golden hour and pull over at Craggy Gardens, home to a stunning 360-degree panoramic mountain view. You’ll watch the open sky erupt with color as the sun sinks behind the vast mountainscape. Don’t forget to bring a blanket and cozy up—at an altitude of 5,892 feet, even summer evenings can be chilly when the sun goes down.
Park: Lot at milepost 364.1 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Hike: Follow the signs for the Pinnacle Trail, and in just ¾ mile, you’ll reach a viewing area with low stone walls. Don’t be afraid to hop over them and lean against a large westward-facing rock.
The hike you can take at your own speed: CATAWBA FALLS
A shady, pleasant walk to the Lower Falls makes this hike accessible and family-friendly. But if you’re looking for a challenge, continue past the Lower Falls for a steep, rocky climb (at one point you’ll pull a rope to help you up a smooth, slanted rock). The short but intense journey lands you underneath the powerful 50-foot Upper Falls, which pour into a wading pool you might feel like cannonballing into.
Park: In the lot at the end of Catawba River Rd in Old Fort, just off of I-40 Exit 73.
Hike: 1.5 miles to the Lower Falls; ½ mile more to the Upper Falls.