If you’re in Jacksonville, Fayetteville or even up around the beltway in DC, mountains can be tough to find. But no matter where you are in North Carolina or Virginia, you’re never that far from a good multi-day hike. All you need is a weekend, a ruck and a plan to get your ass up the side of a mountain.
1. Triple Crown Loop, VA
This 37-ish-mile loop hike hits three of the most scenic spots on the Appalachian Trail: McAfee Knob, Tinker Cliffs and The Dragon’s Tooth. You can start from parking lots at any of these three locations near Roanoke, Virginia. Do a little pre-prep research on where you can and can’t camp, and make sure to note locations of water sources, as they are few and far between on the long stretch of North Mountain, especially if you prefer your water cow-free. When you make it to Catawba, VA, try to swing by The Homeplace Restaurant for chow. The hours are a bit bizarre but this all-you-can-eat home-cooking joint is worth it. I also like to recommend a brewery nearby, but if you stopped at every brewery near Roanoke you wouldn’t get anything else done. Try Rising Silo Brewery in Blacksburg because it is probably the closest to the trail. Try the Goat’s Eye Rye, as it kicks serious ass.
2. Fires Creek Rim Trail, NC
This 25-mile hike located in the Nantahala National Forest near Hayesville, NC. With terrain that is pretty rugged and water sources a good distance apart, this trail is a bit more challenging. It’s also pretty remote, meaning it’s not well-trafficked and in spots can be difficult to follow. Make sure you bring a map and compass. You will hit 5,000’ at Weatherman Bald, and if you add in a scramble up Chunky Gal Trail (and who doesn’t love a chunky gal) you will hit 5,200’. While you’re in the neighborhood hit up the Hayesville Brewing Company and grab a Possum Drop Porter.
3. Iron Mountain Trail, VA
The 23-mile Iron Mountain Trail parallels the Appalachian Trail that it was once a part of. The trail has some steep ascents and descents, but water and good camping spots are usually readily available. For those who are a little less adventurous, the 34-Mile Virginia Creeper Trail follows an old rail line and is much less difficult. There are a few bike rental places who will transport you to the top and you can cruise down. After your hike, hit up the Damascus Brewery. They have live music on Saturday nights and they rotate through over forty-five beers. I’m partial to the Leaf-No Trace Amber Ale.
4. Art Loeb Trail, NC
The Art Loeb is a 30-mile trail that runs near the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Pisgah National Forest. You start at the Davidson River Campground near Brevard, NC, so take the time to check out Brevard Brewing Company. The American IPA is worth the stop. There are a few trails you can hit to make a loop, or just do a section out and back. There are a couple of shelters along the route. Once out on the trail, you will hit a few of the region’s most well-known peaks: Pilot Mountain, Black Balsam Knob at 6,214’, and, of course, Cold Mountain.
5. The Mountain to Sea Trail, NC
If you’re really in the mood for a challenge, strap on the 1,175-mile Mountain To Sea. It begins near the North Carolina/Tennessee border at Clingman’s Dome, which, at 6,643’, is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains, and ends in Nags Head on the outer banks. I have not completed the entire thing, and, truth in lending, there are long sections that follow roads, but it is easy to hike in sections. The Mountain To Sea website makes it easy to plan a trip. For this one you’re running the state, so download the Beer NC app on your phone and you can always find the closest brewery.
Now, pick one of these beauties, get out there and Die Living.