Heading to the mountains during summer means it’s time for trails galore, and Franklin delivers! Whether you’re looking for a fun family outing that’s easy on the kids or a truly challenging trek with backpacks and tents, you’re sure to find exactly what you’re looking for around these parts.
Here are 9 trails in a 45-minute drive or less from downtown Franklin! Difficulty level is ranked by AllTrails.com, and all distance measurements are round-trip.
Little Tennessee Greenway
Easy | 6.4 miles | 4 min drive
If you’re looking for the absolute best place to take the kids, check out the Little Tennessee Greenway. There are several entry points scattered throughout town, so if the six-and-a-half miles are too much, you can always pick a spot and walk as far as you like. Bring the bikes, the pets (on leashes), or a picnic—and be sure to check out the Wesley Park playground!
Easy | 1.4 miles | 44 min drive
Pickens nose is well worth the extra drive time, and not just because of the silly name that will keep your kids giggling for the whole trip. The view is absolutely stunning after a half-mile hike uphill, which is just enough to make you feel like a mountain explorer without having to break out the boots.
Wayah Bald Tower
Easy | 4 miles | 46 min drive
The kids are going to love this one; the Wayah Bald Tower is an old stone fire tower perched at 5,342 feet elevation with a massive 180-degree overlook. You can see as far as the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee all the way to the foothills in Georgia!
Rufus Morgan Trail
Medium | 1 mile | 28 min drive
The terrain is a bit more challenging, but for explorers who love chasing waterfalls, this trail is for you! The Rufus Morgan trail is also prime bird-watching territory, so be sure to grab a camera and a sketchbook. Leashed dogs are also welcome!
Medium | 4.1 miles | 9 min drive
Trail runners, get excited! The Bartram trail is a gorgeous rising-and-falling trail dotted with waterfalls that runners seek out. Climb all the way to the summit for a glorious view at William’s Pulpit. It’s also great for more adventurous kids and leashed pups, too!
Medium | 10.1 miles | 23 min drive
Get ready to feel delightfully lost in a forest wonderland. The trek is a bit longer than most we’ve covered so far, but you’ll truly feel like you’ve wandered into a fairy realm. Ready your backpack and your camera—and maybe even some camping gear—for a truly nature-rooted experience.
Expert | 4.9 miles | 42 min drive
Deep Gap is a great catch-all trail. Whether you want to spot wildlife, set up camp, or get some trail running in with your dog, the 5-mile round trip is a great balance between being challenging and also accessible for different goals.
Winding Stair Gap
Expert | 9.4 miles | 15 min drive
Want to conquer a section of the Appalachian Trail without getting whisked away to Maine? Winding Stair Gap is just the thing. The entry point is right on US 64 with convenient parking at the base. Take your pups on a leash and get ready to take plenty of floral photos!
Wayah Bald to Tellico Gap
Expert | 13.8 round trip | 42 min drive
Start at Wayah Bald Tower and prepare for an expedition! Hikers who want to backpack and camp along the trail are in for a treat between Wayay Bald and Tellico Gap. You can even bring Fido on your journey! For adventurers who want to undertake the almost-14-mile round trip in one go, we salute you—that’s an undertaking!
Ah, winter in the mountains… it’s a quieter time, a calmer time. And with the trees bare of their leaves, at every turn you’ll find views that go on forever.
For those who enjoy the brisk mountain air, there are plenty of things to do in western North Carolina during the winter months. Here are three hiking options that are sure to please, whether you’re after family fun or an active weekend escape.
Rufus Morgan Trail
A short 12-mile drive from Franklin, NC, the Rufus Morgan trail is a great option for hikers of all ages and abilities. The easy one-mile loop is well-marked and well-maintained, meandering through a mature hardwood forest and crossing a babbling stream via foot bridge.
Waterfalls in western North Carolina are a popular attraction, and for good reason. This trail will lead you to a great example. About halfway through the hike, take the optional side trail to the base of a beautiful 60-foot waterfall.
But don’t worry about crowds here. If you want some time for peace and reflection, this is the hike for you. Especially during this time of year, you’re likely to have the Rufus Morgan Trail all to yourself.
Trailhead Coordinates: 35.15398, -83.5446
Directions from Franklin, NC: https://goo.gl/maps/vShvs
Siler Bald is one of the best kept secrets in the NC mountains, rewarding hikers with stunning 360-degree views. There are two trail options for reaching the Bald – one is 4 miles round-trip, the other is 8.4 miles. While both trails are family-friendly, take the shorter route if you have smaller children.
With an elevation of over 5,000 feet, if there’s any snow in the area, Siler Bald should have a good covering. If road conditions permit, do as the locals do and bring a sled or inner tube to enjoy the sloping terrain while you take in the breathtaking views.
Trailhead Coordinates: 35.12072,-83.547093
Directions from Franklin, NC: https://goo.gl/maps/YBjON
Being in Franklin, NC is a great opportunity to hop onto a section of the gorgeous 100-mile Bartram Trail, one of western North Carolina’s best hiking trails.
A 10-minute drive from Franklin delivers you to a small parking area where you can begin the 4-mile out-and-back hike. This section of the Bartram Trail is appropriate for the whole family but is rated “moderate” difficulty due to the uphill journey through the wooded wilderness.
After only a few minutes, you’ll come upon a small, charming waterfall. At the end of the two-mile climb, you’ll find your destination: William’s Pulpit, a rock ledge that presents stunning views of the Nantahala Mountains. Enjoy the vista knowing that the return trip is all downhill!
Trailhead Coordinates: 35.18013, -83.43311
Directions from Franklin, NC: https://goo.gl/maps/owmCq