A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

Three Mountain Trails Deep Creek Trail • Craggy Gardens Trail • Beacon Heights Trail [caption id="attachment_170245" align="alignnone" width="1140"] Photo Credit Enabled[/caption] Deep Creek Trail Bryson City From a bench at

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

Three Mountain Trails Deep Creek Trail • Craggy Gardens Trail • Beacon Heights Trail [caption id="attachment_170245" align="alignnone" width="1140"] Photo Credit Enabled[/caption] Deep Creek Trail Bryson City From a bench at

Year of the Trail: 3 Mountain Trails to Explore This Summer

Three Mountain Trails

Deep Creek TrailCraggy Gardens TrailBeacon Heights Trail



photograph by ThomasOsborne/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Deep Creek Trail
Bryson City

From a bench at the edge of the water, hikers on Deep Creek Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park can sit and behold the 60-foot-tall Tom Branch Falls as it cascades over rocks. The waterfall is one of three that can be seen within a two-mile hike from the Deep Creek Campground, with Juney Whank Falls and Indian Creek Falls reached via branching trails near the Deep Creek trailhead. The gently rolling Deep Creek Trail itself spans 14 miles along an old mountain roadbed from the campground to Newfound Gap Road. While the waterfall section is popular for families, the longer trail is often used by backpackers. Following the water, the trail is lined with the white flowers of mountain laurel and the purplish pink blooms of Catawba rhododendron. Visitors can bike the first section of the trail, fish for trout, or spot wildlife — like wild turkeys running through the trees or salamanders swimming in the crystal-clear creek. — Rebecca Woltz



photograph by Robert Michaud/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Craggy Gardens Trail
Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville

Take a pit stop at Milepost 364.4 of the Blue Ridge Parkway, about 24 miles northeast of Asheville, to visit the high, open balds of Craggy Gardens. During early summertime, the vibrant pink and purple blooms of Catawba rhododendron thickets line the gradual, one-and-a-half-mile uphill hiking trail to this high-altitude destination, which offers panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains at the top. But even if you miss the peak rhododendron bloom (usually in mid-June), you’ll spot bountiful and beautiful wildflowers in these natural gardens when violets, blackberries, blueberries, bee balm, coneflowers, may-apple, and flame-colored turk’s cap lilies burst onto the scene. — Katie Schanze


photograph by Craig Zerbe/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Beacon Heights Trail
Blue Ridge Parkway near Linville

From the parking area at milepost 305.2 on the Blue Ridge Parkway — not far from Boone — a short but steep half-mile hike up the rocky Beacon Heights Trail leads to jaw-dropping views. The forest clears to reveal two wide-open, quartzite outcrops — and a vista as beautiful on a clear day as it is when clouds enshroud the mountains below. Plan your visit for sunset, spread out a blanket on the rock surface, and spot Grandfather Mountain, Hawksbill Mountain, and Table Rock as you enjoy a picnic with a summer breeze. Oh, and plan your return trip, too, because yes, this easy-to-get-to summit is also stunning in the fall when the leaves change. — Katie Schanze

This story was published on Jun 13, 2023

Rebecca Woltz

Rebecca is the staff writer at Our State.

Katie Schanze

Katie Schanze is an associate editor and digital content editor at Our State.