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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.

What is an Overnight Trek?

what is an overnight trek landmark

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:

  • Where are you going and how long will it take you to get there. Determining this will give you an idea about things like pack weight and what to bring.
  • Plan for the size of your group. You’ll need more food, for example, if you’re bringing a group of five versus a group of two.
  • Know what the essentials are. Since you’re carrying everything, you don’t want to bring more than you need. We’ll help you determine that.

What Do I Need for Overnight Hiking?

what do i need for overnight hiking landmark vacations

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:

  • Tent or hammock
  • Backpack
  • Hiking poles
  • Boots


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.

Hiking Poles

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.

What Do You Eat on an Overnight Hike?

One of the most important things to think about on an overnight hike is making sure you get enough food to eat. 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 Do You Eat on an Overnight Hike?

For breakfast:

  • Grits
  • Oatmeal packets
  • Seeds and nuts
  • Dried fruit
  • Powdered milk
  • Powdered eggs
  • Power meals

For lunch:

  • Cheese
  • Salmon and tuna
  • Dried meat and beef jerky
  • Bagels
  • Cliff bars
  • Crackers

For dinner:

  • Instant rice
  • Instant noodles
  • Dried vegetables
  • Instant potatoes
  • Freeze-dried meals

What is Considered a Long Day Hike?

what is considered a long day hike landmark vacations

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.

Are Night Hikes Dangerous?

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:

  • Know your gear well in case you need quick access to something
  • Bring extra batteries for your flashlight
  • Always tell someone where you’re going
  • Always hike in a group, if possible
  • Make sure you look at the weather forecast
  • Don’t disturb wildlife

Overnight Hiking Trails Near Me

Here are some popular overnight hiking trails near your Western North Carolina vacation rentals we think you’ll like.

Appalachian Trail

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.

Blue Ridge Parkway

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.

How Long Does It Take to Hike the North Carolina Section of the Appalachian Trail?

how long does it take to hike the north carolina section of the appalachian trail.jpg

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.

Best Backpacking Trips for Beginners

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.

What Season Will You Be Hiking In?

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.

How Often Do You Hike?

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.

Will You Be Hiking Alone?

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.

What Is Your Pack Weight?

  • The most important thing for you to figure out before you go on an overnight hike is what your pack weight is. As they say on the hiking trails, “every ounce counts,” and it’s true. Your back is going to be carrying a lot more weight than usual.
  • The lighter you can make your pack, the more likely you are to physically succeed in longer distances because your whole body is being put under the least amount of stress possible. In the summer, you can typically have a lighter pack weight, as you won’t be having to carry extra clothing layers and heavy winter supplies.
  • If you are overnight hiking in Western North Carolina for multiple nights, you will need more supplies, which will increase your pack weight.
  • There are many things you should consider when thinking about how to get your pack weight down, but it’s good to weigh your pack as is, then lay out every single thing that’s in it, and then figure out what you can leave behind to lighten your load.
  • What you want to aim for, on average, not taking into account your body frame/height/weight, is a pack weight between 20-30 pounds. Some people can do more, and some people should do less, but that’s generally a good range to aim for to be on the safe side.

Overnight Hiking Backpacking Essentials List

Here are some items we think you should bring with you while backpacking. This is your overnight hiking backpacking essentials list:

  • Food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Make sure you bring just enough because you don’t want to carry more than you need to.
  • A backpack
  • Hiking boots
  • Sleeping bag
  • Tent
  • Umbrella to stay dry
  • Cookware and utensils
  • Water treatment supplies
  • Water bottle
  • Small repair kit
  • First aid kit
  • Hygiene essentials like deodorant
  • Maps
  • Compass
  • Flashlights, extra lights and batteries
  • Knife
  • Lighter, matches, etc.
  • Extra clothes
  • Hiking pole
  • Lip balm
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Bear spray
  • Personal tracking device

Overnight Hikers Sleeping Site Tips

  • Investing in the right sleeping pad and sleeping bag makes all the difference. We recommend starting with the least expensive options and seeing what your body needs before you splurge on the more expensive choices.
  • Listening to the sounds of nature and your surroundings can be extremely soothing and can help you fall asleep.
  • Listen to the trees, the water in the nearby stream, frogs croaking, crickets chirping and more. Don’t think about being alone in the wilderness at night. Focus on being present and letting the sounds of Mother Nature soothe your soul. When you go back to your vacation rental and reflect on the experience, it’ll make it all that much more worth it.

Where Can I Backpack in NC?

where can i backpack in nc landmark vacations

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:

  • Trails near Highlands
  • Trails near Cashiers
  • Western North Carolina
  • Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Highlands-Cashiers Plateau
  • Black Balsam Knob
  • Looking Glass Rock
  • Linville Falls
  • Mount Mitchell
  • Art Loeb Trail
  • Table Rock
  • Grandfather Trail

Overnight Hiking in Western North Carolina

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.

Overnight Hiking Trails in Sapphire Valley NC

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:

  • Gorges State Park
  • Whiteside Mountain
  • Fairfield Lake
  • Panthertown Valley
  • Whitewater Falls

Overnight Hiking Trails in Cashiers 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:

  • The Bartram Trail
  • Panthertown Valley
  • Chinquapin
  • Sunset Rock
  • Silver Run Falls Trail
  • Whiteside Mountain
  • Whitewater Falls
  • Yellow Mountain

Overnight Hiking Trails in Highlands NC

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:

  • Ranger Falls Trail
  • Whiteside Mountain
  • Dry Falls
  • Glen Falls
  • Chattooga Loop Trail
  • Scaly Mountain

Plan a Hiking Vacation Trip Today

plan a hiking vacation trip today

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.