NCNatural's NC National Forests
North Carolina National Forests
Forest Use Tips - Trail & Wilderness Tips

Trail Tips

Forest trails are for hikers only, unless signed and designated for bikes, horses, or ORV's. You should assume that unsigned trails are hiking-only trails.

When you take to a trail, you discover the true richness of the forest, field, or bald--peaceful woods, exquisite wildflowers, or swaying grasses. If you're lucky, you may catch sight of an impressive turkey, a colorful songbird, a chipmunk, or a glossy snake.

Over 1700 miles of national forest trails are open to discovery in North Carolina. Some trails are easy and fun for families with small children; other paths make great half-day hikes. Longer trails can lead to backpacking adventures for a night or much longer. No permits are required for using national forest trails (except for overnight stays in the Linville Gorge Wilderness), though some areas have access fees. Wilderness trails are the most primitive and should be used only by those with orienteering skills. Check in with the District Ranger Station for the latest information, maps and current regulations.

Trail Tips
To protect yourself and preserve the forest's beauty, follow these tips;


Every national forest in North Carolina has a designated wilderness. Nature's forces shape these places, where people are visitors who do not remain. To protect the primeval character and solitude of wilderness, trails are maintained to the most primitive standard. Be prepared to orient yourself with your own maps and compass - do not depend on blazed trails and signage for direction. Mechanical forms of transport, such as bicycles, wagons, and game carts are not allowed. Group size is limited to a maximum of 10 people.

Although most trails are open only to hikers, the Southern Nantahala and Shining Rock have some trails open to horses.

You will see few signs or blazes in wilderness. Hikers should carry a compass and topographic map and know how to use them. If you wish to cook in the Shining Rock and Middle Prong Wilderness, you must carry a back-packing stove. Campfires are not allowed there.

To maintain wilderness quality, permits are required for overnight camping in the Linville Gorge Wilderness on weekends and holidays May 1 to October 31.

Before travelling to Linville Gorge, check out NCNaturals' Guide to the Linville Gorge and then write to, or visit;

Grandfather District Ranger Station
109 E. Lawing
Nebo, NC 28761
or call (828) 652-2144

Maps for the wilderness areas may be purchased from any national forest office.

© 1995-2002 NCNatural, Last updated