Big Ridge sunset strollStrolling about the field and woods of Big Ridge (above pic) is among my favorite things to do—perfect with loved ones, dogs, a cocktail, or a cup of coffee. And when I need to stretch my legs a little, the mountains around us offer endless options.

Here are a few of my favorites:

  1. High Falls Trail: Close, short, steep, and amazing
    About 1.5 miles, in-and-out. <10 minutes from BRMC.
    Steep downhill (about 700′ of descent) over about 2/3 of a mile to the base of the big waterfall below Lake Glenville. Great swimming holes in the summer time. Great picnic spot year-round. Dogs and kids love it. To avoid crowds, go on weekdays, early in the morning, or about 90 minutes before sunset. The climb out will get your heart rate up. This is especially great for early morning exercise or for wearing out kids at the end of the day, but I don’t recommend it for people with heart conditions. Duke Energy has a half-dozen planned dam releases each year, during which you can watch the falls go from big to REALLY BIG.
  2. Mac’s Gap to Schoolhouse Falls: Pack a lunch
    About 5.5 miles, loop. 25 minute drive from BRMC.
    Steep descent, steep climb to beautiful view and picnic spot, steep descent to popular waterfall/swimming hole, walk along stream, then climb back out.
  3. Salt Rock Lookout: Short walk to an amazing sunrise
    About a half mile round trip. 25 minute drive from BRMC.
    Navigate to the above Mac’s Gap trailhead in Panthertown. Plan to arrive ten minutes before sunrise. Follow that same trail downhill for about a quarter mile (easy walk). The overlook is on your left. Bring a coffee in a thermos. Many thanks to my niece, Eliza, who is always up for this.
  4. Whiteside Mountain: Big view
    About 2 miles, loop. Fee to park. 25 minute drive from BRMC.
    On the way to/from Highlands. Very popular, so arrive early during the high season. Excellent year-round, but best on weekdays for crowd minimization.
  5. Foothills Trail: Serious backpacking
    15 to 77 miles. 30 minutes to an hour from BRMC, depending on your access point.
    This is among my favorite trails for backpacking. There are a many access points along the 77 mile trail, and several about 30 minutes from BRMC. You can do a 15 mile section in an ambitious day or you can stretch it out for a multi-night point-to-point adventure. Table Rock to Bad Creek is about 40 miles, and an excellent three night journey. I’ve spent a lot of time on this trail, and always happy to share what I’ve learned.
  6. Silver Run Falls: Fun for little ones
    <0.5 miles. In-and-out. 25 minutes from BRMC.
    Very easy hike to a gorgeous waterfall. Because it is so accessible, the parking area is often full. There is a second, hidden falls that is not on the map and requires a little adventuring. Let me know if you’re interested in finding it, and I’ll point you there.
  7. Cashiers Sliding Rock: Where a swimsuit
    25 minutes from BRMC. Park right by the sliding rock. Bring a towel, an adventurous spirit, and a tolerance for cold water. Eat at Cornucopia or Ugly Dog afterward.

P.S. I highly recommend you download the AllTrails app before embarking on any of the longer hikes.

Posted on January 28, 2023 by Geoff Graham