Road Trip: Scenic (and Cool) Mountain Hikes

The large, sandy pool at Silver Run Falls is ideal for swimming in the shallows.

Even though the calendar says it’s spring, this Memorial Day weekend will feel more like the beginning of summer. With temperatures forecast in the 90s, it might be a good time to head to the mountains for a few days. You’ll find cooler air, breathtaking views and, at the end of a scenic hike, a splash in a forest pool.

Here are a few warm weather hikes to tempt you to explore North Carolina’s high country.

    1. The Richard Balsam Overlook, a surprisingly easy 1.5-mile loop, is located along the Blue Ridge Parkway. At 6,053 feet above sea level, Richland Balsam is the highest peak on the parkway, meaning hikers have miles and miles of scenic vistas to enjoy.
    2. The High Falls Trail is less than 1 mile, but includes a lot of steps – so be ready to climb. You’ll be glad you did when you see the 100-foot waterfall fed by the West Fork Tuckasegee River. Don’t forget a bathing suit – the pool at the bottom and its sandy beach are the perfect place to relax and take in the falls!
    3. Geared toward more active hikers, the initially steep 1.2-mile roundtrip hike along Waterrock Knob Trail provides a vigorous climb to reach the 6,292-foot summit. Once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of western North Carolina.
    4. Those who prefer a more moderate trail will enjoy the 2-mile loop of the Whiteside Mountain Trail. Along this 90-minute hike up Whiteside Mountain, you’ll see one of the county’s most recognizable peaks with the highest vertical cliffs in the eastern United States at 1,800 feet.
    5. For a half-day adventure, the Pinnacle Park Trail is 7 miles roundtrip and includes streams, waterfalls and scenic views. Make sure you bring along a picnic to enjoy amid the natural beauty. The trail is challenging and covered in boulders, so plan accordingly.
    6. For a lovely waterfall view that doesn’t require much effort, Silver Run Falls is the perfect option. The path is not long, perhaps 500 feet, when it reaches a footbridge that crosses the Whitewater River. After crossing the footbridge, you’ll reach the base of the falls within minutes. A small pool awaits at the bottom of the falls.

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