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!
Top Outdoor Town – Check out Franklin, NC
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home.” –John Muir
With mountain ridges as far as the eye can see and fresh water streams that meander through the hills, Macon County is home to nearly 250 square miles of United States Forest land, making it the perfect outdoor adventure mecca.
From unmarred national forests to pristine mountain waters, and its location as a gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains, Franklin, North Carolina is the ideal outdoor destination. With Blue Ridge Outdoor Magazine’s recent designation as a 2015 Top Outdoor Town, visitors from all over will soon find out exactly what makes Franklin the perfect place to get lost outside.
- Home to Nantahala National Forest
“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” -John Muir
With terrain reaching 5,580 in elevation, the Nantahala National Forest spans 531,270 acres over six counties, with the majority being located in Macon County. As the largest national forest in North Carolina, the Nantahala National Forest houses three wilderness areas, including Ellicott Rock near Highlands. These unharmed wilderness destinations preserve the forests as close to their original state as possible, making for the perfect outdoor experience. These wilderness areas create the perfect opportunity for solitude in a rugged, natural setting.
- A day’s drive from three major metropolitan areas
“Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.” – John Muir
Not everyone wants to get lost for long and by being located two to two and half hours away from Atlanta, Charlotte, and Greenville, Franklin makes for the ultimate day adventure. Franklin sits 130 miles north of Atlanta, 180 miles west of Charlotte, and 110 miles northwest of Greenville. After a couple of hours in the car, anyone can leave the hustle and bustle of the city and become consumed with crisp mountain air and pristine relaxation.
- Businesses and a community centered around outdoor recreation
“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” – John Muir
From the Nantahala Hiking Club providing insider information about the best spots to put some miles on your hiking boots to businesses built on serving the outdoor enthusiast, Franklin is an entire community dedicated to the outdoor industry. From custom shoe fittings at Outdoor 76 or resupplying before heading back into the woods at Three Eagle Outfitters, to grabbing a beer at the Lazy Hiker Brewery, Franklin has grown into a one stop shop, all of which are locally owned and operated for premiere customer service, for the outdoorsman.
- Franklin was designated as the very first official Appalachian Trail Community
“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir
All 2,200 miles of the Appalachian Trail stretches through 14 states and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy has designated 36 towns from Georgia to Maine as certified Appalachian Trail Communities. Franklin, being recognized as a leader in community involvement to promote and protect the trail, was designated as the very first Appalachian Trail Community.
Macon County is home to 47 miles of the Appalachian Trail, with Franklin being just 11 miles off the trail. The Macon County Transit also provide a shuttle service to hikers during peak season. As a leader in the trail communities, Franklin has even worked to develop an annual month long celebration of the trail, April Trail Days, spanning from the first day of Spring until Earth Day. With events and celebrations hosted by various businesses and clubs in the community to promote the trail and welcome hikers to Franklin.
- Hiking, biking, climbing, paddling, and every other outdoor recreation opportunity you can possibly fathom.
“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” – John Muir
The possibilities are endless. From hiking perfection like the Appalachian Trail and the Bartram Trail, to rock climbing at Pickens Nose, to paddling down the Little Tennessee, the miles and miles of forests and rivers encompassing Franklin lends itself beautifully to satisfy your wanderlust. Whether you want to throw on a pack and go off the grid in the Nantahala National Forest or if you was to suit up to test out your rod in a fresh mountain stream, there is no shortage of opportunity in Franklin.
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