This is a classic warm-weather water hike, the first mile of which is quite popular. That’s where the trail encounters Harper Creek Falls, which plunges 65 feet into one of the sweetest pools around. No wonder most people get off here. But continue on and you’ll be in and out of Harper Creek and North Harper Creek more often than not. More good pools on the way up. You can make this a loop by taking the North Harper Creek Shortcut up to FR 464 and, subsequently, Yellow Buck Trail, or simply return the way you came. A keen hike to do in your Keens on a hot summer’s day.

More info: USDA Forest Service, Grandfather Ranger District, 828.652.4841; Friends of Wilson Creek,

Maps: “Wilson Creek Wild and Scenic River Trail Guide: Pisgah National Forest,” USDA Forest Service.

Map of trailhead here.
View 20 Classic North Carolina Hikes: Wilson Creek, Harper Creek/North Harper Creek in a larger map

harpers creek
Location: Wilson Creek Area
Nearest town: Morganton
Latitude: N35 58.693
Longitude: W81 45.968
Difficulty: Hard
Distance: 13.6 miles
Loop/one-way: Loop (you can trim the hike to 6.9 miles by eliminating the mostly road-return option shown on map below)
Time to complete: 5 hours to full day