A few weeks ago, guest contributor, Cheryl Rodewig, took us on a lovely Autumn Escape to Hendersonville, North Carolina. Now she’s back to reveal some of her tried and true tips for hiking in Hendersonville.
The Blue Ridge Mountains fringe the western edge of North Carolina. They’re filled with dozens of waterfalls, hundreds of miles of trails and more scenic vistas than you can cram into a weekend or even a full week. No matter what your level of fitness or how much time you have, there is really something for anyone in this incredibly picturesque area of North Carolina.
Hiking in Hendersonville and Western North Carolina
If you’re like me, you’re always up for a good hike, but that doesn’t mean you want to be out in the middle of nowhere either. Hendersonville makes a good home base for hikers visiting western North Carolina. With mountains to the west, forests to the south and the iconic Chimney Rock just east, the city is a convenient location if you want to explore the region. Plus, it has plenty to do — museums, orchards, shopping and more — for any non-hiking days.
Hiking Trails Near Hendersonville
Hikes range from accessible trails to more daunting climbs. The ones below are fairly moderate but still pack in incredible views, so bring your camera.
About 10 miles southwest of Hendersonville, Holmes Educational State Forest isn’t on the tourist track, so you’ll have plenty of room to yourself. You’ll hear the locals who do know about it tell you it’s home to the “talking trees,” a series of seven trees with recorded messages (from the tree’s point of view) along a level, half-mile trail. Another pleasant half-mile walk, the Crab Creek Trail will take you by a rock labyrinth and a helicopter that flew in Vietnam.
DuPont State Recreational Forest is just a little farther southwest but larger and better known than Holmes, so expect crowds, especially on weekends. Waterfall lovers will want to check out the trail along Little River where you can catch three falls in three miles. If you’re short on time, the first one, Hooker Falls, is a mere 0.3 miles from the parking lot. The pool at the base of the falls is a favorite spot for swimming, which is allowed though not supervised, so be careful if you decide to wade in.
With the views you’d expect from a place called Jump Off Rock, this public park is only 5 miles from downtown Hendersonville. Your car does most of the work by driving to the top, so it’s not much of a true hike, but you get all the payoff of a mountainous trek. Walk less than 10 minutes to the overlook to admire a brilliant panorama of the Blue Ridge and Pisgah mountains. When fall color hits late October, this is truly spectacular.
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Popular with campers, the North Mills River Recreation Area is northwest of the city, right on the river, where you can get in some fishing or tubing if you want (BYO tube). It’s also in the Pisgah National Forest, so you can keep to the developed nature trails near the campsite or head off into the backcountry for more rugged terrain and miles of solitude.
For an unusual hike, head to Carl Sandburg’s former home, Connemara, now a national historic site. Points of interest near the house include a lake, a garden and a herd of friendly dairy goats. The estate has five miles of trails, with the longest climbing steadily to the Glassy Mountain overlook at 2,700 feet.
Hiking in Lake Lure and Chimney Rock
Chimney Rock and Lake Lure are just 30 minutes up the road from Hendersonville, a perfect way to extend your trip.
If you decide to stay overnight, the Hickory Falls Guesthouse is good for those on a budget, convenient to all the sites and with clean, comfortable rooms. For a little more upscale option, the Broad River Inn lets you stay in the heart of downtown Chimney Rock, so you can roll out of bed for the made-to-order complimentary breakfast and a stroll along Main Street.
If you’re doing it as a day trip from Hendersonville instead, you’ll want to get an early start so you can see everything, particularly if you’re hiking Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park.
This park is the only place on this list that charges admission (discounts for families and kids, but not seniors), but it’s also arguably the most impressive. Its two most famous features are the 404-foot waterfall seen in The Last of the Mohicans and a 315-foot rock formation that somewhat resembles a chimney. You can hike to both these sites and many more, taking in some amazing overlooks and a whole lot of stairs along the way.
I’d recommend taking the elevator up and the stairs down so you can see the Outcroppings Trail with interesting formations like the Grotto and Pulpit Rock. Don’t skip the bat cave, even if you don’t like bats. It’s fairly small, and I didn’t see any bats, but it feels otherworldly to descend into a crack in the rock face. There are stairs and handrails, so it’s not too hard to navigate.
Outside the park, if you haven’t gotten your fill of fabulous rocks. head to the Rocky Broad Riverwalk. This trail runs alongside Main Street in Chimney Rock Village, a stone’s throw from restaurants, hotels and more. If you brought a picnic, here’s where you want to eat. Grab a rock, spread out under a tree for some shade and enjoy the sounds of the river.
Less than 10 minutes from Chimney Rock, the town of Lake Lure also has several trails, many of them great for beginners or if you’re traveling with someone with limited mobility. Morse Park is popular for its gardens, wetlands and lakeside scenery. The wheelchair-accessible Lake Lure Flowering Bridge, though less of a true hike, is another fun option. Volunteers keep the gardens planted from early spring through fall and even add lights for the holiday season, so there’s always something to see.
Tips for Hiking in Hendersonville
Whenever you go hiking, you know you want to the traditional hiking gear such as bring sunscreen, bug spray and plenty of water. What I wasn’t expecting was a bout of allergies.
This area of the state is loaded with natural beauty, but it’s also known to pack a bit of a punch when it comes to natural allergens. If you’re prone to this sort of thing, pick up some local honey (the Mast General Store downtown has some) and bring anything else you might use to ward off the sneezes.
It’s just too pretty here to stay inside.
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