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Pup's Picks: The Best Pet-friendly Hikes in WNC

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21 Oct 2020

By receiving the designation of “Dog City USA” you can expect a few 4-legged tourists to venture through the Asheville area. It’s no surprise that one of the most frequent questions we receive is: “What are the best pet-friendly hikes?” We decided to take this question directly to our pets (they are the experts after all) to get their opinion on Asheville’s best pet friendly hikes: 

Graveyard Fields

A very popular and relatively moderate hike, Graveyard Fields is up to 3.5 miles round trip, and it's accessible at Milepost 418.8 of the Blue Ridge Parkway. This hike offers stunning waterfalls, fields of wildflowers and blueberries, and gorgeous views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Popular in every season, late July to mid August sees an influx of visitors foraging wild blueberries, and October sees a number of in and out of state visitors hoping to encounter the vibrant color-changing foliage. 

JoJo’s Pick: 

In my human's doghouse on wheels, I love to stick my face out in the cool air as we climb up the windy road of the Blue Ridge Parkway. We drive and drive and drive all the way to my favorite place! We are going on an adventure, OH BOY! My human calls it Graveyard Fields.

It’s my favorite trail because there’s so many creeks to cool off in, and I love water! There’s lots of blueberry bushes to sniff! There’s also usually lots of little muddy spots to feel the warm, squishy mud between my paws. Towards the waterfall, there are a lot of rocks on the trail, which makes it fun for me because I love to jump and climb! 

My human likes to eat lunch at the waterfalls (if I sit real handsome, she might even give me a bite). She says it’s peaceful, and she can wash my feet off, even though I'll just get super muddy on the way back. Once I’m done splishing and splashing, we make our way back through the mud and muck, and my human just throws me in a creek again to clean up so I don’t gross up her mobile doghouse. 

Lookout Trail in Montreat

An easily accessible and moderate to difficult hike, Lookout Trail in Montreat is 1.5 miles round trip (with the option of adding other trails along the way for a longer hike) that is an amazing place to spot the peaks of the Seven Sisters Mountain range and the small town of Montreat.  As you walk this trail, you'll be surrounded by mountain laurel, rhododendron, and many different species of mushrooms. This hike also offers several rock outcroppings near the peak perfect for enjoying the fresh mountain breeze and a small picnic. Heavily trafficked in every season, this trail sees many conference-goers, large family groups, and college students from Montreat. 

Nellie’s Pick: 

Mom calls me Wild Child because I have so much energy! I just wanna play, play, play all day, day, day! Montreat is my favorite area for hiking because I get an all day adventure to do all my favorite things! As soon as we ride through the Montreat archway, we pull off, and I immediately know where we are and that I’m going swimming. Mom hooks me up to my leash (aka my favorite tug of war rope), grabs my slimy, gently chewed up yellow ball, and off we go through the woods and to my favorite swimming hole. She throws the ball. I get it, bring it back, and go again over and over until I look like a little drowned rat with my tongue hanging out of the side of my head. 

Once she’s tired (because I could do this all day), we hop back in the car to ride up to the Lookout trail. Mom calls it Narnia, and I like it too because there are lots of flat places to play tug of war, and it’s not too steep so I don’t have to stop and wait on her to rest. Occasionally, I’ll meet new friends along the way and greet them loudly even though Mom scolds me. As we near the top, I get to do a little rock climbing, and once we're finally to the top, it’s treat time for the eyes and belly! We always find a rock to sit on and look out over Black Mountain as Mom rewards me with some fresh water and tasty treats. She may even let me have a bite of her apple or peanut butter sandwich if I’ve been a particularly good girl. Once I’ve nailed my mountain top glamour shots, we pack up and head back down the mountain. 10 out of 10 paws for this adventure!  

Lover’s Leap

An outcropping of the well known Appalachian Trail, Lover's Leap is a moderate 1.8 mile round trip hike that offers spectacular panoramic views of the French Broad River, Pisgah National Forest, and town of Hot Springs. There are several rock outcroppings along the trail to stop and take in the views and enjoy some delicious snacks. Popular throughout the year, this trail sees the most activity from March to November. The nearby town of Hot Springs also boasts a spa where you can soak in the natural mineral waters after your hike!

Pepper’s Pick: 

I’m a little trailblazer! So when my family asks, “Pepper wanna go on an adventure?,” I am always ready and pull them out the door! Having lived in Alaska for a couple years, I love rugged, quiet places where I’m free to roam and explore without having to share the trail with others. The perfect trail for me is Lover’s Leap because I can unleash my inner mountain goat. With my little white deer feet and my can do attitude, I scurry up this traill and leave my humans in the dust (although not really because local laws require me to be held back by a leash thus restricting my forward progress and explorations). 

The trail starts along the river, which gives me plenty of opportunities to try to jump in for a quick dip. I’m an excellent swimmer, and I’ll often look for rocks and sticks in rivers and creeks. This trail winds up, up, up the mountain about 250 dog strides (500 feet for you 2 legged uprights) until you can see the river and mountains from the big rock overlook: Lover’s Leap. This is where we usually stop and take a break so my family can catch their breath. Me though? I’m ready to keep going and keep trekking! They keep me temporarily calm by giving me some water (hydration is very important) and treats before we hike back down to the river. Because the ride back home is about an hour, I’ll get to hang my head out of the window until I’m too tired and have to nap. An excellent day of adventuring. I highly recommend!

Looking Glass Rock

A seemingly impossible hike that requires time and endurance, Looking Glass Rock is a moderate 6.5 mile round trip hike in Brevard that offers breathtaking and unobstructed views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This iconic dome rises high above the surrounding forest and will likely be visible in the pictures you snap atop other surrounding mountains like Graveyard Fields and Mount Pisgah. Especially popular on warm weekends, this trail sees a lot of activity throughout the year. 

Abbey’s Pick: 

I'm extremely playful, and I love attention and affection (preferably all of it at all times). With dogs, I have a tendency to herd them, but it's just because my instincts drive to control and protect those around me.  My family would describe me as sweet, strong-willed, and wild. Since both of my parents are super active, I’m a very avid hiker and move pretty stealthily.

In fact, I used to love slipping away and trying to hide during hikes, but lately I’ve been sticking with the family to protect our newest addition, Elijah. I was pretty used to being the baby around here (note my penchant for being the center of attention), but I’m slowly starting to accept that there’s another baby now. Elijah and I are basically frenemies, and I hate that I love him as much as I do.

I’ve traveled and trotted over many different landscapes, and while I do love splashing around in all kinds of bodies of water, I’m a sucker for a challenging hike with amazing views as the reward. This is a picture of me at the top of my favorite hike being a little silly—sticking out my tongue and giving them the old razzle dazzle. What can I say? I give my fans what they want. 

Bearwallow Mountain

A somewhat strenuous but short hike, Bearwallow Mountain is a 2 mile round trip hike on the western rim of Hickory Nut Gorge that opens onto a grassy meadow that features a nearly 360° view that includes Mt. Mitchell and Mt. Pisgah along with friendly, grazing cows in the warmer months. At the top, you'll also notice the North Carolina Forest Service fire tower that was used until the mid-1990s (unfortunately, hikers are not allowed to climb the tower). Dotted with wildflowers, thistles, and stone formations, the lush, sweeping fields are a delightful spot for watching the sunset and stargazing. 

Mucha’s Pick: 

Mom and her friends would describe me as fiercely protective, but I’m a calm and gentle giant to the ones I love. I may have small ears, but I’m the best listener (especially while cuddling in the morning).

I’m definitely a loyal, steady, and well-behaved boy, but I prefer to be the only dog around most of the time which is why I love Bearwallow Mountain. Mom and I are fascinated by moss, and we love seeing how it’s climbed up the rocks and boulders on the path leading to the field.

My favorite is when my Uncle Dyl comes along on the hike because I love him the most of any other humans (aside from my mom, of course). When we go on hikes with several of mom's friends, I always have to stop and look back to make sure all my humans are still there and okay before I keep going. No matter where we go, I’m always extremely curious and love to sniff all the smells around me. This hike is extremely spread out, so I have plenty of wide open spaces to roll around in. I just love feeling the sunshine on my face. There are usually cows roaming in the fields, but I don’t mind them at all. They like to keep to themselves and lay in the grass just like I do. After a photoshoot with the cows, thistles, and open fields, we head to the nearest outdoor brewery for a burger and beer where I always score a few bites for being the best boy. 

Laurel River Trail 

An easy and predominantly flat hike, Laurel River Trail is roughly 3.5 miles to the end of the trail, but it can be hiked to any length you desire. Perfect for families and larger groups looking to enjoy each other's company and the warm weather, this heavily trafficked trail winds alongside the Laurel River where you'll find boulders blanketed in moss, clearings with trees perfect for hitching a hammock, and rocks that extend into the middle of the river where you can sunbathe, fish, or swim. This hike can provide high energy fun or quiet tranquility depending on what you're after that day. 

Molly’s Pick: 

Do you see my smile? That's because I'm chilling in the cool waters of the Laurel River. As a Golden Retriever, nothing makes me happier than being with my people and being in the water! Nothing. While bath time may be a combination of those two things, it definitely doesn't count. Rivers, lakes, and mud puddles are where it's at. My absolute favorite adventure to go on is Laurel River in Hot Springs! 

We always meet a lot of new friends in the parking lot, but lately no one has been wanting to pet me (my people say it's because we're supposed to mind our distance from others right now). 

While there are always a lot of cars there, I don't usually see that many people on the actual trail, which my people like, but I don't think is that fun. The trail meanders through private property at the very beginning, which means I can't jump in the water as soon as I'd like. Then trail slopes gently down to the river bank, where I mosey along, begging to lay in the mud puddles or jump in the river. My people make me wait until they get red faced and tired first before we find a secluded spot to wade in. I love swimming around in the river and sunning myself on a rock.

Black Balsam Knob

A popular and moderate hike, Black Balsam is up to 5 miles (though you can hike to any length desired), and it's accessible at Milepost 420.2 of the Blue Ridge Parkway. There is a dense grove of balsam fir trees on either side of the path when you begin that eventually opens onto a sun soaked landscape composed of windswept mountain balds and thickets of wildflowers and grasses. While popular in every season, late July to mid August sees an influx of visitors foraging wild blueberries at the nearby Graveyard Fields, and October sees a number of visitors on the parkway in search of brilliant fall color. 

Roxy’s Pick: 

As a 2 year old working line German Shepherd, I love going on adventures with my mom and the rest of my pack! My mom knows that I love to go-go-go and hike long distances, even if the rest of our pack doesn't like it as much as me. 

Some would describe the beginning of Black Balsam as steep, but I think it's a great way to practice my jumping and climbing skills! I love to be at the front of the pack, leading the way, because it makes me feel safe to look back and see the slower members of my pack behind me.

Black Balsam Knob is my favorite because I can see for miles! There are sweeping mountain views that one of my family members says makes her feel like she's in a Brontë novel—whatever that means. Black Balsam also gives us several options for hiking length, which is great! I like the 5 mile loop trail because I get to stand atop 3 different mountaintops, and I always sleep really well later on from all that exercise. Other members of my pack like to just sit up on the balds and have a picnic or read. 

It can get pretty crowded here, so if you're a dog (or dog parent) who doesn't like to be around a lot of people, this might not be the best place for you to hike on the weekends. All dogs are supposed to be on leash, but some people let them off to run the bald. My pack always brings outerwear (even in the summer) because it gets really windy since there are no trees on the bald. They also wear sunscreen and make sure to bring lots of water and snacks for us to enjoy!

Be sure to check out our designated pet-friendly vacation rentals along with our Ultimate Guide to Pet-friendly Asheville for even more ideas and recommendations on the best hikes, restaurants, breweries, shops, and parks to enjoy during your mountain getaway with your best friend!