After spending all our weekends at home for a couple months, we recently drove out to North Carolina for a wedding. It was a several hour drive, but the gorgeous scenery was well worth it. On our way home, we stopped for two beautiful hikes. The first was in Western North Carolina, about 45 minutes northeast of Asheville. I spent quite a bit of time researching online to find the hikes with the best views, and you know what I discovered? There are tons in that area!We ended up choosing Mt. Mitchell State Park because reviews said the terrain is more similar to Western Canada. (Most of you know that we took a trip to the Canadian Rockies this summer and loved it.)
Of course there are no snowy peaks in North Carolina at this time of year, but it was still about 20 degrees cooler at the summit than it was along the interstate. The one downside is that the 20-plus-mile road leading to the park is narrow and winding.
We drove as far as the road would take us, parked, and then walked five minutes up to the Mt. Mitchell Summit. The view was glorious!
At 6,684 feet elevation, Mt. Mitchell is the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. Apparently the guy after whom the mountain is named lost his life proving that statistic.
We wanted some decent exercise, so we hiked two miles down the mountain on the Commissary Trail (very rocky but not too strenuous). On the way back up, we took the 2-mile Old Mitchell Trail (even rockier and much more strenuous).
The sun was setting quickly, so we had to jog part of it, but of course we still had to stop and take a few photos.
We spent the night at a cheap hotel in Asheville, walked around the shops of Historical Biltmore Village and then drove a couple hours to Gatlinburg to hike the 2.6-mile out-and-back Laurel Falls Trail.
It took about 30 minutes to reach the waterfall and 20 minutes to return. The trail is a decently steep incline, but due to erosion, it is paved (although still very bumpy). The waterfall was beautiful, as were the views along the way.
In downtown Gatlinburg, we stopped for BBQ at Calhoun’s, a Knoxville-based restaurant with nine locations. The ribs were some of the best we had ever tasted. And let me tell you, when your husband is as much of a ribs connoisseur as mine is, that’s saying a lot.
While driving through the area, we saw some of the damage from the November 2016 Gatlinburg fire, but the town has done a fantastic job of restoring and rebuilding.