5 Best Hikes in Madison County, North Carolina

Published May 13, 2021

Madison County has hundreds of miles of hiking trails that traverse through the sprawling Pisgah National Forest in Western North Carolina. Additionally, the famous Appalachian Trail runs through Madison County on the northern border and this section is considered by many to be one of the most particularly wonderful parts of the entire 2,200 mile trail.

The trails in Madison County can take hikers along the Appalachian ridgeline, to cascading waterfalls or along burbling rivers. There is a wide range of distances and difficulty levels to be found in Madison County, listed below are some of our favorites for every kind of hiker.

Lover’s Leap

1.7 Miles – Moderate

Lover’s Leap is a great, short hike with stellar views of Hot Springs and the Appalachian Mountains. The hike has quite a bit of elevation gain but the views are well-worth it. Rhododendrens line some sections of the trail and you may catching them blooming in June. If you’re looking for a great hike near Asheville, this one may be just what you’re looking for.

Located on the Appalachian Trail, this day-hike is very doable for most ages and the trail is well-maintained. Find out more about this hike here.

Laurel River Trail

7 Miles – Easy

Looking for a less strenuous hike? The Laurel River Trail is an out-and-back along the Laurel River that is perfect for hikers who want a leisurely stroll along a scenic river. The trail takes hikers all the way to the French Broad River and is mostly in the shade.

This is an easy hike for hikers though some sections further along the trail can be a bit rocky so you’ll want to watch your footing. Find out more about this hike here.

Big Bald

13 Miles – Hard

For the more seasoned hikers, look no further than Big Bald on the Appalachian Trail. This 13 mile out-and-back is challenging but offers incredible mountain views. There is significant elevation gain as you climb 6.5 miles to get to Big Bald, be sure to pack snacks and water.

The trailhead for this hike is at Sam’s Gap on the Appalachian Trail and is approximately 30 minutes north of Asheville. Find out more about this hike here.

Rich Mountain Fire Tower

5 Miles – Moderate

Ever been inside a fire tower? The Rich Mountain Fire Tower, located just outside of Hot Springs, is a gorgeous fire tower located off of the Appalachian Trail.

Much of this hike is uphill but the breath-taking views from the fire tower are an awesome reward. The trail is well-maintained and the trailhead is just a 5 minute drive outside of Hot Springs. Find out more about this hike here.

Max Patch

1.7 Miles – Easy

Max Patch is a popular hiking destination in Western North Carolina that boasts unbelievable 360-degree mountain views. Located on the Appalachian Trail, this short hike is perfect to capture the beauty of the mountains and enjoy the outdoors.

The trail leading to Max Patch from the parking area is well-maintained and uphill. This hike is great for beginners and and veterans alike, you won’t be disappointed with the views.

Find out more about this hike here.