Fortunately, a near-death experience isn’t required for a great adventure. Being adventurous simply means you’re curious, that you like to explore, to discover new places and sights and sensations. And really, the best way to make the most of an adventure isn’t to speed through it; it’s to take your time, go slow, enjoy.
One of the most accessible and effective ways to have an adventure?
Taking a hike.
Every time you put foot to trail, it’s an adventure. Even if you hike the same trail on a regular basis, it’s a new experience every time. Late afternoon, early morning, in bright sunshine, in a light rain. Winter, spring, summer and fall: the hikes are different, all.
True as that may be, though, a truly adventurous hiker savors completely new trail now and then.
That was one of our aims when we launched the GetHiking! program last year: to expose hikers to as many new trails as possible, both in their backyards of Charlotte, the Triad and the Triangle, and in the mountains. Hikers, we discovered, love new terrain.
We also discovered that they’re especially interested in the hikes North Carolina is best known for, the hikes that offer the most revealing vistas, that encounter the most stunning waterfalls, that explore the the state’s diverse natural and human history. That’s why, as part of our Explore More in 2015 campaign, we’ve come up with GetHiking! North Carolina’s Classic Hikes.
Once a month, beginning in February, we’ll hike one of North Carolina’s classic trails. Classic, we should note, does not necessarily mean epic. Each hike will have an epic option as well as a Somewhat Epic, or shorter, option. For instance, if you don’t like the idea of the full 18-mile Shining Rock loop starting from the East Fork Trailhead, you can opt for the 7-mile version on the Art Loeb and Ivestor Gap trails that eliminates half the mileage and much of the climbing.
The 12 hikes are not just hikes; they are hiking events. There’s a fee for the program — more on that in a moment — in return for which you’ll get:
- GetHiking! North Carolina’s Classic Hikes T-shirt, designed by the popular — and local — House of Swank.
- Monthly enewsletter with detailed information on that month’s hike, including an overview touching on the trail’s highlights; map of the hike with points of interest; elevation profile; photos; info box with key information, including trail access, length, elevation gain and more. Also in each newsletter: information on camping and lodging near each hike, as well as hiking tips and resources pertinent to this particular hike.
- Swag bag for each hike. For each hike you’ll get a goody bag filled with hiking-related swag.
- Loaner gear. Curious about trekking poles but never tried them? Here’s your chance. We’ll also have loaner headlamps (if you’re worried about finishing after sunset).
- Ten percent discount on gear at Great Outdoor Provision Co.
Each hike will have at least two hike leaders, one leading from the front, the other from the back. As is the case with all GetHiking! hikes, no one is left behind.
About the fee: There’s a $50 membership fee to join. That includes two hikes (each subsequent hike is $25, or, pay $250 for the 12-hike series and get two hikes free).
Here’s a look at some of the trails included in our Classics series:
- Appalachian Trail: Carvers Gap to US 19E. This 14-mile hike (the Somewhat Epic version, Three Balds, is 5 miles) is arguably one of the most scenic stretches of trail in the state (though some of the trail spills into Tennessee), starting with stellar views from Jane, Round and Grassy balds, finishing with great views from Hump and Little Hump mountains, and with miles of diverse hiking in between.
- Black Mountain Crest Trail, Mountain Mitchell to Bowlens Creek. Much of the first seven miles of this 13-mile hike is above 6,000 feet, topping at least eight 6,000-foot peaks. The hike finishes with a mercifully mellow descent to Bowlens Creek.
- Mountains-to-Sea Trail, NC 215 to Graveyard Fields. With more than 620 miles of completed MST to choose from, it’s hard to decide which stretch of the statewide trail to hike. We like this run, part of the MST’s Mile-Hi run, for its elevation, exposure and alpine feel.
- Great Smoky Mountains: Mount Sterling to Cataloochee. The climb to Mount Sterling pays off with a visit to an alpine forest; from there, it’s nearly all downhill along Pretty Hollow Creek into the Cataloochee Valley, home to remnants of the Smokies pre-park past and a herd of elk reintroduced to the region in the 1990s.
- Linville Gorge. Linville is recognized as having some of the most challenging terrain along the East Coast. Our Epic version will get a full dose of Linville, our Somewhat Epic will give you a taste. Lots of great cascades on this hike.
In addition, we’ll hike the Shining Rock Wilderness, Doughton Park, Mount Mitchell (in winter), Slickrock Wilderness/Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, Tanawha Trail, Bartram Trail and Panthertown Valley.
These aren’t necessarily the 12 best hikes in North Carolina, but they are among the best. Ranking trails is a subjective exercise: one hiker’s panoramic view is another’s walk through an old growth forest. We’ve tried to offer the best of a breadth of the North Carolina hiking experience in our selection. We’re pretty sure you won’t be disappointed.
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Sign up for GetHiking! North Carolina’s Classic Hikes