Hiking in Hot Springs, NC, Area

Hiking and backpacking on the trails in the Hot Springs area offers many choices for beginners to experienced hikers. There are short trails as well as longer ones, some even crossing or joining the Appalachian Trail, all of them within the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina.

NOTE: Conditions and trail maintenance may change especially on the more remote trails. For the most current information, check with Bluff Mountain Outfitters at 828 622-7162 (located at 152 Bridge Street in Hot Springs) or http://bluffmountain.com

Disclaimer: Madison County TDA assumes no responsibility for contents of this information because roads and trails may change due to weather or lack of maintenance. Please note that many of these trails and roads may not be marked with signs. Mileages are approximate.

Jack Branch Trail

2.4 miles one way, moderate to difficult. A steep, difficult trail that climbs to 2900′ for good views of Hot Springs and the French Broad River. The trail begins on The River Ridge Loop crosses The Polecat Hollow Road (FS#468) and ends at The Shad Road (FS#422). From Hot Springs, go east on US 25/70 across the French Broad River bridge. Turn left on River Road (SR #1304). Follow River Road to Murray Branch or Paint Rock. Murray Branch Picnic Area is located 6 miles down the French Broad River from Hot Springs. The area offers recreational opportunities for picnicking, fishing, and canoe access to the river. Facilities at Murray Branch, under the shade of pines, include picnic tables, grills, restrooms, water, and two picnic shelters for large groups. Additionally, an easy, 1-mile loop trail is adjacent to the area, providing a bird’s-eye view of the French Broad River and the surrounding valley. Download Jack Branch Trail

Laurel River Trail

3.6 miles one way, easy trail. Laurel River Trail follows an old railroad bed along the Laurel River. Parking is plentiful at the intersection of US 25/70 and NC 208. The trail begins on a gravel road through private property. Hikers should stay on the trail to ensure the privacy of landowners along the route. After one mile, the trail enters the national forest and continues at a fairly level grade to the French Broad River. The trail is especially scenic in early spring when there are many wildflowers blooming along the path and riverbanks. You’ll even find an old time swimming hole at one point.
The old railroad bed used to carry logs to the Runion sawmill which operated in the1920s. The logging town of Runion once thrived where the Laurel River joins the French Broad River. In its heyday, Runion had a steampowered sawmill, school, railroad, commissary and more than 1,000 people. Brick chimneys and crumbling foundations remain. Download Laurel River Trail

Lovers Leap Loop Trail

(part of the Appalachian Trail)

1.6 miles, difficult. The Lover’s Leap Trail and the Appalachian Trail along the French Broad River create a scenic, 1.6 mile loop. From the Silvermine Trailhead walk down the road and get on the Appalachian Trail (white blazes) along the French Broad River. After about 0.5 mile the trail climbs steeply to Lover’s Leap ridge. When this trail reaches the ridge, there are rock outcrops with numerous overlooks.Panoramic views of the French Broad River and town of Hot Springs make this trail one of the best in the county. Return on the Lover’s Leap Trail (orange blazes) and descend to the trailhead. Download Lover’s Leap Loop Trail

Pump Gap Loop Trail

4.2 miles, moderate. Follow The Lover’s Leap Trail from the Silvermine trailhead. At the first major switchback, the Pump Gap Trail goes straight. At the next right fork the trail climbs to the AT at Pump Gap, crosses then returns by a combination of old forest roads and foot trails. The Trail is Moderate in difficulty, offering many changes in elevation and scenery. Can be looped with the Appalachian Trail. Download Pump Gap Loop Trail

Roundtop Ridge Trail

3.2 miles one way, difficult. From the junction with the Appalachian Trail on Rich Mountain, the Roundtop Ridge Trail meanders down the ridge, past old farm fields and through an oak-hickory forest. The trail ends on Reservoir Road near the Hot Springs Water Tank. Reservoir Road joins the River Road 1/4 mile downstream of US 25/70. This trail can be hiked as a loop with the AT (8.8 miles). To reach the trail, take Rich Mountain Road (FR #467) off US 25/70 and follow it for about 4 miles on gravel to Hurricane Gap where the Appalachian Trail crosses the road. Park beside the road, then follow the AT 1/3 miles to Roundtop Ridge. Download Roundtop Ridge Trail

Shut-In Trail

2.0 miles one way, moderate. Heavy growth and tunneling. Where clear, the width of the trail can accommodate two hikers walking side by side. It follows Shut-In Creek on an old wooded road. Hike along Shut-In Creek from Upper Shut-In Road to the Appalachian Trail at Garenflo Gap. From Hot Springs, take US 25/70 North/West to Upper Shut-In Road. Download Shut-In Trail