Top Place: Western North Carolina

Catawba Falls in North Carolina
Western North Carolina is home to a large portion of the Greater Smoky Mountains and some of wildest forests in the east.

Experience the highlands of western North Carolina

The highlands of western North Carolina are a place where wilderness hikes weave through towering old growth forests and rhododendron jungles.

The 68,000 acres of designated wilderness and 25,000 acres of wilderness study areas in the Nantahala and Pisgah national forests provide urban escapes for the millions of Americans living within driving distance.

What are some of the best things about Western North Carolina?

Wilderness protection guards many of the steep, forested slopes where the sun doesn’t reach the bottom of mossy canyons before noon. (The Cherokee word Nantahala means land of the noon-day sun.)

Wilderness hikes can also be found outside designated wilderness areas.

One remote getaway: The Tusquitee Roadless area and black bear sanctuary where visitors can enjoy hiking in 4,000 acres of old growth forest and plenty of backcountry trails. 

What’s one activity Western North Carolina is known for?

Wilderness hikes.

The Hangover Ridge route through Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness delivers all the wildness of neighboring Great Smoky Mountains National Park without the crowds.

Also nearby is Snowbird Wilderness Study Area, home of the hellbender salamander.

What’s one way The Wilderness Society is working to protect Western North Carolina?

In the summer of 2010, southern Appalachian trail clubs got together to create the Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards (SAWS).

This Wilderness Society supported group maintains trails for wilderness hikes and unites all kinds of trail users around future wilderness protection.

Interested in great hiking? Get insider tips

Learn more about our work in Western North Carolina.

Helpful links

  • Blue Ridge Outdoors:

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