There are many day hike and slackpacking options in our area. Here are a few of my favorites.
1. Indian Grave Gap to the Nolichucky River.
This is an easy, mostly downhill hike that is approximately 8.5 miles. We drive you to Indian Grave Gap where your hike begins southbound on the Appalachian Trail. 4 miles into your hike you'll arrive at Curley Maple Gap shelter where you can enjoy lunch or a snack before continuing the last 4.5 miles of the hike. Allow 6 hours for the hike, however most finish between 4 to 5 hours.
2. Spivey Gap to the Nolichucky River.
This hike, at approximately 10.5 miles is easy to moderate and is ideal for trail running. After a 1 mile climb out of Spivey Gap the trail levels out for the next 3.5 miles with very little elevation gain or loss. At mile 4.5 you arrive at No Business Knob shelter where the trail eases around the mountain before the short climb out of Temple Hill Gap leading to the switchbacks down into Erwin. Allow 7 hours for this hike, however most finish in 5 to 6 hours.
3. Sams Gap to the Nolichucky River.
This is an ambitious day hike for the fit hiker with a light daypack. At 24 miles, an early start is recommended for this hike. Highlights include Big Bald, a southern bald over 5500' with 360 degree long range views. Rated moderate to strenuous, the first 6.5 miles are mostly up, followed by 6.5 miles of elevation loss before arriving at Spivey Gap (see above hike). Allow 14 hours for this hike. Fit hikers usually finish in 11-12 hours. This is a great running trail for those training for a longer trail run.
4. Iron Mountain Gap to the Nolichucky River.
Another ambitious hike at 21 miles also rated moderate to strenuous. The hike begins at Iron Mountain Gap where the trail gradually climbs Unaka Mountain. Arriving at the summit, you're greeted by an enchanting spruce forest and then descend down to Beauty Spot where you'll have long range views in all directions. After 2 miles of elevation loss you'll arrive at Indian Grave Gap (see hike #1 above) and hike the last 8.5 miles into Erwin. Allow 13 hours for this hike. Fit hikers usually finish in 10-11 hours. This is also a great trail to run. There are 2 shelters on this hike where you can rest and enjoy lunch or a snack.
5. Pinnacle Mountain Fire Tower.
At 9 miles this hike up to the Pinnacle Mountain fire tower is a great way to spend a half-day. The trail is blazed, well maintained and takes advantage of switchbacks which gives it a moderate rating. It's a great out-and-back hike that doesn't require a shuttle. You can park in the parking area, hike up to the fire tower and then hike back down to your car. From I-26 East, take Exit 32, turn right and you'll go 100 or so yards and you'll see the restrooms and kiosk with trail information. The trail begins in the woods behind the restrooms. You can't miss it. Tip: This is a great training hike for fitness as well as testing backpacks, shoes, clothing, etc.
p.s. We have daypacks you can borrow free of charge!