You’re holed up at a coffee shop in downtown Asheville, sipping an espresso and pouring over a stack of trail guides. What would you like to do today—summit the East coast’s highest peak, or explore the East Coast’s deepest canyon? Scramble up the chutes and ladders of Grandfather Mountain, or weave gently through a verdant valley to reach a 70 foot waterfall? From this eclectic, craft-beer fueled city, nestled inside a lush basin in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the choice is yours. The peaks and forests of Western Carolina are brimming with a dazzling array of hiking adventures.
Perched high in the Great Balsam Range, the glittering quartz formations at the summit of Shining Rock make for a gorgeous and unusual spectacle. The bright swirling rock, emerging like frozen ocean waves from a dark coniferous forest and surrounded by soaring mountain views, creates a scene so lovely and dramatic it appears almost otherworldly. A section of the Art Loeb Trail , beginning at the Black Balsam parking area and meandering over a series of grassy balds is particularly exquisite way to reach “the crystalline cliffs.”