Many people visit North Carolina each year to immerse themselves in nature, breathe the fresh mountain air and get back to the simple things. If you want to fully experience your natural surroundings and national parks and take your day hiking to the next level, we recommend trying overnight hiking in North Carolina. Some of the best hiking trails are in Western North Carolina and this guide will tell you all about them and everything you need to know to have a fun and successful overnight hiking or multi-day hiking experience in the Tar Heel State.
When you visit North Carolina for your next vacation, you can use this overnight hiking guide to tell you about all things hiking and overnight hiking in North Carolina. It will help you get started, and by the end, you’ll be a pro. Learn about the best hiking trails in Western North Carolina and other parts of the Tar Heel State.
There is nothing like waking up outside, in the comfort of your own tent. There are fewer ways to get in touch with nature than to wake up staring it right in the face. Sometimes, the best views are only accessible by backpacking, or overnight hiking. Day hikes don’t require nearly as much planning and organizing as a night hike. But, don’t worry! By the end of this Overnight Hiking Guide, you’ll feel like you can conquer all of the trails Western North Carolina has to offer.
But what does overnight hiking mean? Backpacking means you’re carrying everything you need with you. Some things to keep in mind are:
Here are some essentials you’ll want to add to your backpacking gear list. In this overnight hiking guide, we’ll give you some tips about how to select the right one.
Some things you’ll need for your backpacking gear list:
You’ll need to decide how you’ll want to camp. The most common way is with a tent, but many people choose to hammock camp. If you prefer a little more privacy, you might like tent camping better. However, if you like the idea of being able to set up camp anywhere quickly, you might like the ease that hammock camping provides. Of course with a hammock, you’ll likely need to buy a rain tarp or mosquito net to give you a bit more protection from those pesky elements. This is something you can even practice in your backyard before you go. Try pitching the tent you’ll use or hang your hammock and try sleeping there for a night. You’ll likely know once you try it out which type of camping is for you.
Of course, you’ll need a backpack! All packs will fit differently and have specific features that will either serve you or be of no use to you. You’ll need to try packs on in person to be properly sized, feel the weight of the pack, see how much it fits, and figure out what your pack preferences are. In order for you to reach your highest peaks, you’ll need the perfect pack.
This is something that will definitely be helpful to you on the trial. Hiking poles will help you carry the extra weight and navigate the various terrains of the mountains. Your poles can take much-needed weight off of your knees, hips and ankles. Your poles will most likely need tips that are sold separately, so ask your local outdoor retailer about the types of pole tips they offer, too.
Boots might be the top thing that can make or break a person’s overnight hike. If you are not properly fitted in boots, you can sustain multiple blisters or other foot injuries that could end your hike and just make you miserable. When looking for a pair of boots, you’ll want to buy them in person. Research brands and reviews before you go so you know what to expect. Know that you’ll most likely need to size up a half size or even a whole size, as your feet will swell more while hiking than when you do everyday activities. Also when boot shopping, keep the season in mind. If you are hitting any hiking trails in the summer, you might want a boot that is more ventilated, for example.
One of the most important things to think about on an overnight hike is making sure you get enough food to eat. REI.com says you should consume 2,500 to 4,500 calories of food per person per day. It’s important to be prepared so you don’t take more than you need. After all, you don’t want to weigh yourself down. A good rule of thumb is to bring lightweight, portable food you know you like and will want to eat.
What is considered a long day hike is different for every hiker and varies by experience levels. If you are an expert hiker, you could consider hiking 20 miles in one day a piece of cake. If you are a novice or aren’t physically used to walking long distances, you may only be able to hike 10 miles or less in a day, and that’s ok, too. The main thing to focus on is to not overdo yourself and only hike what you feel comfortable with. If you feel yourself starting to strain, it’s ok to rest and take a break.
Also consider that no two hiking trails are considered equal. The terrain on one trail could be rocky, rugged and full of hills while another trail could be a lot smoother, meaning it won’t take as long to hike as the first trail. It’s always a good idea to study the trail you’ll be hiking beforehand so you don’t run into any surprises. This overnight hiking guide also outlines some things to bring with you to make backpacking easier.
Night hikes are not dangerous if you know the dos and don’ts of night hiking. For example, hiking in the dark means you need to be sharper and do a little more planning. One rule to follow is to stay on the trail and don’t go down a new path. You could wander onto a game trail by accident and that’s not something you want to do.
Night Hike Safety Tips:
Here are some popular overnight hiking trails near your Western North Carolina vacation rentals we think you’ll like.
Stretching from Georgia to Maine, thousands of people attempt to hike the full length of the Appalachian Trail every year. But, you don’t have to walk the whole thing! You can section hike like many others choose to do. Section hiking allows you to see some of the 360-degree views and waterfalls that the trail has to offer without the five-to-six-month commitment of hiking the entirety of the trail. We encourage you to research different parts of the trail and figure out how many miles you’re comfortable with.
Along the famous Blue Ridge Parkway, there are many places you can try your hand at overnight hiking. The Blue Ridge Parkway offers some of the best views East of the Mississippi River. The Parkway offers some easy hikes in Western North Carolina, but also difficult ones. You can find a hike that matches your abilities and desires. There are many trails to look into on the Blue Ridge Parkway. For example, Art Loeb Trail or Black Balsam Knob are great places to hike on the Parkway.
The North Carolina section of the Appalachian Trail begins about a 30-minute drive away from Highlands in Franklin, NC. Franklin is affectionately known as one of the first few “trail towns” along the way and has outdoor stores like Three Eagles Outfitters that can help you get started and give you advice on where you can start your overnight hike.
In order to have the best backpacking trip possible, you need to answer a few questions. They will determine when you should go overnight hiking, the gear you’ll buy and how comfortable you’ll be on the trail.
This is one of the most important questions you should ask yourself before committing to an overnight hike. The gear you need will most definitely depend on the season and time of year you are hiking in. If you are overnight hiking in the colder months, you’ll need to pack warmer layers. You’ll also need a different type of sleeping bag, or at the very least, a sleeping bag liner to increase the warmth of your bag. You may even opt to bring small items like hand warmers, depending on how cold it is. If you are hiking in the warmer months, you may want a more ventilated pair of boots. These are just some of the adjustments you’ll need to make based on the season you’ll be hiking in.
Doing an overnight backpacking trip, or a hike over the span of multiple nights will require you to be in great shape. To properly prepare for an overnight hike and the longer distance it may require, you should be day hiking regularly to make sure your body can handle the extra physical activity. How are your knees, hips and feet? Will you need any braces or sports tape for extra support? You can answer these questions if you take day hikes and see how your body responds. The terrain of the Western North Carolina mountains can be rocky, slippery and hard to maneuver at times. The more you can become familiar with it beforehand, the better.
Some people like being alone when they hike and some use it as a social activity with a partner or friend. Some people even like to bring their dogs! If you are hiking with someone else, you can likely split the weight of your packs between you. If one of you has a stronger, bigger frame, that person can possibly carry more weight, especially if one of you gets injured or starts feeling tired. If you are bringing a dog, there are packs designed for dogs so that your furry friend can carry their own food and certain supplies while hiking in Western North Carolina.
Here are some items we think you should bring with you while backpacking. This is your overnight hiking backpacking essentials list:
There are a variety of places to go night hiking in NC. Western North Carolina and the Blue Ridge Parkway are some of the most popular options, and Landmark has vacation rentals in the area so you can come back from your backpacking trip and relax in style.
Some popular places to backpack in NC include:
We have some great hiking trails in Western North Carolina and we think you’ll love them all. Some of these trails are great for beginners, while others are for more experienced hikers. We’ll go over them all so you can choose the best hike for you!
North Carolina is a big and diverse state and there are so many destinations to choose from. If you want to experience mountain hiking trails in North Carolina, we recommend visiting the Western North Carolina plateau. There are some great hiking trails in Cashiers, NC and some other great hiking trails near Highlands, North Carolina.
Sapphire Valley, NC is located between the towns of Cashiers and Lake Toxaway. It is an unincorporated community that’s home to 11 different waterfalls and a handful of overnight hiking trails.
Overnight hiking trails in Sapphire Valley, NC:
Cashiers is located at more than 3,400 feet in elevation, so you know it has some good overnight hiking trails.
Overnight hiking trails in Cashiers NC include:
Highlands isn’t as spread out as Cashiers. It has a charming downtown and it’s surrounded by pure mountain beauty.
Here are some overnight hiking trails in Highlands, NC worth checking out:
At Landmark, we are made up of long-time locals and folks who discovered the beauty of the mountains and moved here to be closer to them. We are a diverse team, but we all share one thing in common: we love the mountains and being here surrounded by them. If you are looking to immerse yourself in the mountains and want to plan an overnight hiking vacation, we know some pretty great overnight hiking trails you can check out while you’re here. After you enjoy some overnight hiking or multi-day hiking excursions, you’ll love knowing that you can go back to your Landmark vacation rental and relax. Get in touch with Landmark Vacations if you have any questions about overnight hiking in North Carolina or you’d like to start planning your next North Carolina vacation!
We are here to make sure you have the most incredible mountain vacation and we can answer any questions you have about overnight hikes, the Highlands-Cashiers plateau area and vacationing to Western North Carolina. Contact us to get started planning your next mountain vacation, overnight hike or multi-day hiking trip.