Our Top 3 Favorite Winter Hikes

Winter Hikes: The Best of the Best
 When it comes to hiking, "Best Of" lists are really difficult to compile for those of us that live in Western North Carolina. We are literally surrounded by some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country and we have hundreds of hiking trails from which to choose. But because we know that we will be graced with hundreds of visiting families over the course of the winter, we got down to business compiling a short list of our top 3 favorite winter hikes. Read on for some suggestions on what to explore!
Our Favorite Waterfall Hike
Okay - we admit that our "favorite waterfall hike" changes just about every few days. It's just that there are so very many from which to choose!  This week, we're pretty excited about Daniel Ridge Falls in Pisgah National Forest. Daniel Ridge goes by several different names - Jackson Falls, Tom's Springs Branch Falls, and Daniel Ridge Falls.  We love it because it's so enormous that we feel humbled every time we walk away from it. At a daunting 150 feet, Daniel Ridge Falls will take your breath away. An easy half mile hike on the Daniel Ridge Trail leads you to the base of the falls.  Looking for a bit more of a workout? There is a 4 mile loop trail that takes you to the top of the waterfall then out the way you came. To access this hike from Downtown Asheville, hop on I-26 East. Take exit 40 for Highway 280 West and drive 16 miles toward Brevard. Once in Brevard, look for US Highway 276 North.  Take a Right. Travel 5.3 miles, then turn left at the sign for Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education. Travel 3.9 miles and park in the parking lot to the right. 
Our Favorite Summit Hike
Just as with the waterfall hikes, it is so difficult to choose one favorite summit hike and stick to it! There are so many fantastic options, it becomes almost impossible to only recommend a single hike. We've written before about Lover's Leap in Hot Springs, NC and it still happens to be one of the dreamiest hikes we know. Parts of the trail can be a bit strenuous, but by and large it is a moderate hike. From the peak, hikers can enjoy the breathtaking views of both the town of Hot Springs and the French Broad River that runs through it. To access this trail from downtown Hot Springs, follow 25/70 East for .5 miles before turning left onto Silvermine Road.  Take the first left to continue following Silvermine Road.  Just past the bridge, you'll see a trailhead for the Silvermine trail.  Continue walking down the road, passing the Silvermine Trail, and get on the Appalachian Trail, which is marked with white blazes.  Once on the trail, markers indicating Lover's Loop will be easy to spot.
Our Favorite City Hike
The Botanical Gardens of Asheville, tucked into a bit of land next to the University of North Carolina in Asheville, is one of the city's best amenities. Boasting hundreds of native varieties of Southern Appalachian Mountain plants, the Botanical Gardens are beautiful, peaceful, and informative. With about 10 acres of land, the trails running through the Botanical Gardens can certainly fill a morning or an afternoon of exploring.  Beautiful any time of year, the Botanical Gardens are a must see for those visiting the area.  To access the gardens from Downtown Asheville, take Merrimon Avenue/ US 25 north for just under 2 miles. Take a left at the traffic light next to Luella's BBQ onto W.T. Weaver Blvd. Slightly past the entrance to UNCA, swing right into the parking lot for the Gardens. Unfortunately, Fido is not permitted in the Botanical Gardens, so he/she will have to sit this hike out!
Staying Local
Staying nearby makes trips to the area complete. Carolina Mornings has dozens of amazing vacation rentals in and around the Asheville area. For a gorgeous 3 bedroom, pet friendly cabin located in surrounding Asheville, check out Mountain Sky! Just two miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway and close to all that the charming small town of Weaverville has to offer, Mountain Sky is the perfect home-base for those coming to explore the area. You'll fall in love with the mountain views, the private Hot Tub, and the fully-equipped kitchen.
To begin planning your winter getaway, contact Carolina Mornings at 877-902-9441. A professional Vacation Planner will help line up your vacation rental accommodations, Biltmore Estate ticket, and outdoor adventures such as ziplining and whitewater rafting (included with every Carolina Mornings Rental!)
By: Dana Carrico

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