Waynesville NC is a beautiful mountain town located in the western part of the state. With its picturesque views, lush forests, and numerous hiking trails, Waynesville is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Waynesville NC is surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Pisgah National Forest, and the Blue Ridge Parkway. All of these combined offer hundreds of excellent hiking trails and many of them near Waynesville NC.
If you're looking for an easy hike in the area, there are plenty of options to choose from. Here are some of the best easy hikes near Waynesville, NC.
Easy Hiking Trails near Waynesville NC
As previously mentioned, the term "easy" is a bit subjective, meaning the 10 trails highlighted below aren't necesarily easy. BUT, these trails compared to the hundreds of others in the area are the easiest to hike. Some of the trails below are easy than others, and we will point these out for you, so you can select the best trail for your needs and capability.
All of these trails are within a 1-hour drive of the town of Waynesville NC.
Let's jump in and highlight the Top 10 Easy Hiking Trails Near Waynesville NC:
1 - Lake Junaluska Lake Trail
The Lake Trail at Lake Junaluska, just outside of Waynesville NC is one of our favorite walking trails. Some may argue it's not actually a hike, but this paved trail takes you around the lake for 2.3 miles. The lake trail is relatively flat, and provides beautiful views of the lake, surrounding mountains, and lake wildlife. You might even see the Bald Eagles that live there!
You can park and start the trail from most of the locations around the lake. We generally park near the pool or rose path on the main entry road by the Terrace hotel. You can walk in either direction. For a longer walk, you can take the extended 3.8 mile loop. Lake Junaluska Lake Trail is even dog friendly!
The lake is just minutes from Waynesville.
2 - Waynesville Greenway Park / Richland Creek
Waynesville has been working on extending the Greenway Park over the past 10 years and so far is doing an incredible job with with beautiful greenway that runs along Richland Creek.
The Greenway follows Richland Creek for 4.8 miles. You can visit and enjoy this trail either walking or hiking. The trail begins at the Waynesville Recreation Center and ends near Lake Junaluska. Along the way, you'll find various recreation areas you can stop and enjoy, as well as creek views and wildlife as well.
3 - Pink Beds
The Pink Beds Loop Trail is a popular hiking trail located in Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. The trail is approximately 5.5 miles long and offers hikers the opportunity to explore a unique ecosystem characterized by dense forests, wildflowers, and grassy meadows.
The trail is well-marked and well-maintained, making it accessible to hikers of all skill levels. The trail is mainly flat, and can be shorted by a cut-through that is part of the maintained loop trail. While hiking this easy trail, hikers can enjoy scenic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, as well as several small waterfalls and streams.
The trail is named after the pink-colored rhododendron bushes that bloom in the area during the summer months. The Pink Beds Loop Trail is a great way to experience the natural beauty of Pisgah National Forest and is a must-do for any hiking enthusiast visiting the area.
4 - Rough Fork Trail, Cataloochee Valley
Rough Fork Trail is a hiking trail located in Cataloochee Valley part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The trail is approximately 5.2 miles long out and back trail. The trail follows Rough Fork Creek, offering hikers the opportunity to enjoy the scenic beauty of the valley and its surrounding forests.
The trail is well-maintained and has an easy to moderate level of difficulty, making it accessible to hikers of various skill levels.
While hiking Rough Fork Trail, hikers can view several historic buildings, including an old homestead and a restored springhouse. The area is also rich in wildlife, and hikers can expect to see a variety of species, including black bears, elk, and deer.
The trailhead is easily accessible, with a parking area located near the beginning of the trail. Rough Fork Trail is an excellent choice for those looking to experience the natural beauty and history of Cataloochee Valley.
5 - Palmer Creek Trail, Cataloochee Valley
Palmer Creek Trail is a hiking trail located in Cataloochee Valley part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The trail is approximately 7.5 miles long and offers hikers the opportunity to experience the natural beauty of the area and creek-side hiking.
The trail is well-maintained and easy to moderate in difficulty.
Palmer Creek Trail follows Palmer Creek through Cataloochee Valley and offers several creek crossings, making it an ideal trail for those who enjoy water features. The area is also rich in wildlife, and hikers might see a variety of species, including black bears, elk, and deer.
The trailhead is easily accessible, with a parking area located near the beginning of the trail. The Palmer Creek Trail is an excellent choice for those looking to experience the natural beauty and history of Cataloochee Valley and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
6 - Moore Cove Falls
The Moore Cove Falls trail is a popular hiking trail and waterfall located in the Pisgah National Forest near Brevard NC. The trail is approximately 1.5 miles roundtrip and is considered easy to moderate in difficulty, making it a great option for families or those who are looking for a less strenuous hike.
The trail begins at the Moore Cove Falls parking area off Highway 276 and follows a well-maintained trail through the forest. Along the way, hikers will pass through a beautiful forested area with lush greenery, tall trees, and a variety of native plant species. The trail is marked with signs and is easy to follow. There is even a smaller waterfall on the way to the larger Moore Cove Falls.
As hikers approach the falls, they will hear the sound of rushing water and soon catch a glimpse of the impressive 50-foot waterfall. The trail leads directly to the base of the falls, providing hikers with an up-close view of the cascading water. The waterfall drops into a shallow pool, making it a great spot to take a refreshing dip on a hot day.
Overall, the hike to Moore Cove Falls is a scenic and enjoyable experience that showcases the natural beauty of the Pisgah National Forest. It's a great option for hikers of all ages and skill levels and is a must-see destination for anyone visiting the area.
7 - Kephart Prong Trail
Kephart Prong Trail is a popular hiking trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The trailhead is located near the Oconaluftee Visitor Center which is easily accessible from Cherokee, NC. The trail is approximately 4.2 miles long and is considered moderate in difficulty. The trailhead is directly off Newfound Gap Road, the main road through the national park.
The trail follows Kephart Prong stream for most of the way, providing hikers with scenic views of the stream and surrounding dense forest. The trail is well-maintained and marked with signs, making it easy to navigate.
As hikers make their way along the trail, they'll pass through a variety of landscapes, including hardwood forests, rhododendron thickets, and open meadows. There are also several footbridges that cross over the Kephart Prong stream, adding to the picturesque scenery.
At the beginning of the trail, hikers an explore the historic CCC Camp. The CCC were responsible for building most of the park, and the camp here was one of many throughout the park during its construction and creation.
One of the highlights of the hike is the Kephart Shelter, which is located about 2.5 miles into the trail. The shelter is a historic log cabin that was built in the 1930s and is available for hikers to use as a rest stop or overnight stay. There are also several campsites in the area, making it a great spot for backpackers.
The trail continues past the shelter and eventually reaches the Appalachian Trail.
Overall, Kephart Prong Trail is a beautiful hike that offers a great combination of scenery, history, and wildlife. It's a must-see hike for anyone visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
8 - Oconaluftee River Trail
The Oconaluftee River Trail is a scenic hiking trail located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, on the North Carolina side. The trail follows the picturesque Oconaluftee River for 1.5 miles, providing visitors with a peaceful and relaxing hiking experience.
The trailhead is located at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center and the trail is relatively easy, with only slight elevation changes along the way. Along the trail, hikers can enjoy stunning views of the river, as well as the surrounding forest and mountains.
The trail is perfect for those looking for a casual hike or walk, or maybe even a more invigorating run. The trail is more of a walking trail, than a real hiking trail.
In addition to the natural beauty, the Oconaluftee River Trail also has historical significance, as it follows the path of an old road used by the Cherokee people to travel between the Smoky Mountains and the lowlands.
The trail is one of two trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park where dogs are allowed on a leash. The river trail is not only easy and beautiful, but dog friendly as well.
Overall, the Oconaluftee River Trail is a great option for those looking for a scenic and peaceful hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with a mix of natural beauty and cultural significance. While there, you might just see some Elk as well, as the visitor center is a popular "hang-out" location for the Elk.
9 - Soco Falls
The hike to Soco Falls is short, beautiful and relatively easy. The hike is located in the Cherokee area of the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. The trailhead is located off of US Highway 19 and is marked with a small sign for Soco Falls.
The parking area is small, and only accommodates about 10 cars at most.
The hike itself is a short, quarter-mile trek on a fairly well-maintained trail that leads visitors to the stunning Soco Falls overlook. This is a wooden deck that provides a really nice view of the falls from slightly above. Along the way, hikers will encounter beautiful views of the surrounding forest and streams.
Once at the falls, visitors can enjoy the sight and sound of the two-tiered waterfall that plunges into a deep pool below. The falls are surrounded by lush vegetation, including rhododendron and mountain laurel, making for a beautiful and serene experience.
For those more adventurous and sure footed, you can use the climbing ropes to go down the steep ridge to the bottom of the falls, which provide the best views and photography opportunities. This part of the trail is dangerous though, so use your judgement.
It's important to note that the trail can be slippery, especially after rain, and visitors should exercise caution when approaching the falls. Also, the tops of the falls are easy to access, but visitors should avoid getting near the top, as one slip could result in serious injury or death.
Overall, the hike to Soco Falls is a must-see for those looking for a beautiful and easy hike in the Great Smoky Mountains.
10 - Wildcat Falls Trail
The hike to Wildcat Falls is an easy to moderate hike located in the Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina. The trailhead is located off of US Highway 215 and is marked with a small sign for Wildcat Falls.
The hike itself is approximately 2.5 miles (4 km) round trip and features a mix of uphill and downhill sections, as well as some rocky terrain. The trail follows the West Fork of the Pigeon River, offering beautiful views of the river and surrounding forest.
Once at Wildcat Falls, visitors can enjoy the sight of the stunning 50-foot waterfall, which cascades down a series of rocks into a pool below. The falls flow below an old concrete bridge that is literally out in the middle of the woods. It is what remains of the logging operations there were here many years ago. In addition to the bridge, there are also several areas for visitors to sit and enjoy the falls, making for a peaceful and relaxing experience.
Overall, the hike to Wildcat Falls is a great option for those looking for a moderately challenging hike with a rewarding waterfall view in the Pisgah National Forest located off Highway 215.
11 - Max Patch Loop Trail
The Max Patch Loop Trail is an easy to modate hiking trail located in the Pisgah National Forest, near Hot Springs, North Carolina. The trailhead is located off of NC-1182 and is marked with a sign for Max Patch.
The hike itself is approximately 2.4 miles (3.9 km) round trip and features a mix of uphill and downhill sections, as well as rocky terrain. The trail leads hikers to the summit of Max Patch, which is a 4,629-foot grassy bald offering stunning 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains.
Along the way to the top, hikers will pass through a beautiful forest and encounter several open areas with beautiful views. Once at the summit, visitors can enjoy a 360-degree view of the surrounding mountains, including the Great Smoky Mountains to the south.
Overall, the hike along the Max Patch Loop Trail is a must-see for those looking for a beautiful and easy hike with breathtaking mountain views in the Pisgah National Forest. If you love a good sunset, Max Path really delivers. Just be aware that visitors can only stay 1-hour past sunset.
12 - Black Balsam Knob
The Black Balsam Knob hike is a scenic and moderately challenging trail located in the Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina. The trailhead is located off of the Blue Ridge Parkway, near milepost 420, and is a very popular area and hiking trail.
The hike itself is approximately 1.5 miles round trip and features a mix of uphill and downhill sections, as well as rocky terrain. The trail leads hikers to the summit of Black Balsam Knob, which is a 6,214-foot mountain offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
Along the way, hikers will pass through a beautiful forest and encounter several open areas with beautiful views. Once at the summit, visitors can enjoy a 360-degree view of the surrounding mountains, including the Great Smoky Mountains to the west.
It's important to note that the summit of Black Balsam Knob is exposed and can be windy, so visitors should bring a jacket and wear appropriate footwear.
Overall, the Black Balsam Knob Hike is a must-see for those looking for a beautiful and moderately challenging hike with breathtaking mountain views in the Pisgah National Forest.