“Pics or it didn’t happen”
If there’s no digital proof of your hike, your bike ride, your kayak trip, dinner…did it really happen? You and your family are on that much-awaited for North Carolina mountains summer vacation – free of work and school and you plan to wear your kids out on the trails under majestic canopies of pines and poplars. You’ve trucked it 1.5 miles down a fern-laced trail with your kids with hardly any complaints. Your adventure brings you to a waterfall that tumbles down 80 feet across boulders and winds between bushes and branches for a scene that even amazes your children…
Sure beats a video game, huh?
Now you just got to get the whole crew together in front of the rumbling water for that picture that immortalizes this moment in time.
Our North Carolina mountains, the quieter side of the smokies, are one of the prime outdoor locations for hikers, kayakers, bicyclists, car clubs, and more. Summer vacation becomes even more memorable when your family is walking down majestic trails surrounded by rhododendrons in these blue-tinted mountains. Plan a quick Fall weekend getaway to witness the awe-inspiring beauty of brilliant oranges, reds, yellows, and greens as the Fall colors show up and show out. Or, are you a snow bunny, with a definite need of snow bibs, hot chocolate, warm fires in a cozy cabin next to someone special after a long day of skiing on a white, chilly mountain top?
Whatever your favorite season is in the Great Smoky Mountains, there will be plenty of opportunities to immortalize your trip with popular photo opportunities of you in breathtaking sceneries. Use #828Vibes to tag your photos
19 Awesome Instagram Photo Spots in the North Carolina Mountains
1. Chimney Rock
Chimney Rock Park is a one-stop showroom of beauty that is THE mountains of North Carolina. Steps and trails that have both easy and strenuous sections lead you to the top of the spire where you’ll find the American flag proudly blowing in the breeze and grand views of both Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure.
Not only is this beautiful state park the home to a 315-foot monolith but also to the 400 foot high Hickory Nut Falls. If you’ve seen the movie The Last of the Mohicans, then you’ve seen Hickory Nut Falls. The wide path to the falls is an easy 1.5-mile round trip hike.
2. Rough Ridge on the BRPW
The Blue Ridge Parkway (BRPW) is 469 miles from Cherokee, NC to the North Carolina/Virginia border. There are many beautiful, camera-worthy locations on this BRPW list but Rough Ridge, located at milepost 302.8, is one of our favorites. It’s only a little over a half-mile from the parking lot to the summit and along the way, you are blessed with spectacular long-range views of the Blue Ridge mountains. From many lookout spots on boulders and walkways, you’ll have excellent views of the famous Linn Cove Viaduct and Grandfather Mountain. Take a photo from the popular rock overhang halfway to the top.
3. Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC
Completed in 1895, this 174,240 sq ft home of George Washington Vanderbilt II took one thousand men six years to build. The largest private home in the country, the Biltmore House is a 250 room located on an 8,000 acres estate. The estates also have a winery, gardens, and hiking trails. Photos of families and couples sharing their visits in 250-acres of gardens can be seen at https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/biltmoreestate/Find Your Way There
4. Crabtree Falls on the BRPW
Located at milepost 339.5 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, this 60-foot cascading waterfall can be accessed by woodland trail either by a short 1.8-mile moderate hike to the waterfall and back or the 3 miles round trip following the whole loop. The falls and trail are named for the plentiful, beautiful pink flowering crabtree blossoms that once populated the area.
5. Clingmans Dome
The walk up to Clingman’s Dome from the parking lot is only a half-mile but it’s a steep walk with an elevation gain of 332 feet. But, at an elevation of 6,643 feet, you’ll be at the highest point in the Great Smoky National Park and Tennessee.
6. Alum Cave Trail to Mt LeConte
Sure, it’s on the Tennessee side of the Great Smokies National Park, but it’s really just a short drive from where you’re staying in the 828 Smoky Mountains…and it’s a GREAT hike! When you take this 11+mile out and back hike to Mt LeConte via Alum Cave Trail, you’ll gain over 2700 feet in elevation. With a summit of 6593 feet, Mt LeConte is the third highest peak in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
7. Craggy Gardens, Blue Ridge Parkway
If you are looking for one of the most spectacular floral displays in the Smoky Mountains, then schedule a hike on the Blue Ridge Parkway and make a stop at Milepost 364.4-367.6. Here you will find Craggy Gardens, a high elevation summit full of rocky crags that give it its name, and Catawba rhododendrons full of pink and purple flowers. The visitor center is at MP 364.4 and the trail/picnic area is MP 367.6.
8. Pickens Nose
Speaking of craggy outcrops sticking out of a mountainside, one of the most popular picture opportunities in the 828 Smoky Mountains can be found at Pickens Nose in the Nantahala National Forest. The trail is an easy 1.4 mile out and back trail located between Franklin, NC, and the Georgia state border.
9. Hawksbill Mountain
Take a moderate 2.5-mile hike (out and back) with a 700 foot gain up Hawksbill Mountain (el 4,009 ft) to see breathtaking 360 views of Linville Gorge canyon. If it’s a clear day, you can catch views of Charlotte which is about 90 miles away.
10. Dry Falls in WNC
Walk safely BEHIND a waterfall in the Western North Carolina mountains. Head up through the Cullusaja Gorge between Franklin and Highlands and you’ll drive right past the pull-off for this spectacular 75 ft waterfall. Pull in and take a short walk down the stone staircase and path to grab your photo with the family on your Smoky Mountain vacation.
11. Road To Nowhere
The story behind this tunnel is a very interesting look into broken promises, but the 8.4-mile loop trail of Whiteoak Branch to Forney Creek begins at this 1,200 ft tunnel with a road that dead ends on the other side.
12. Looking Glass Falls
Highway 276 runs right next to the viewing area of this beautiful waterfall making it very accessible and one of the most popular large falls in the Smoky Mountains. *Currently the stairs down to the lower viewing deck and the pool is closed due to damage from flooding from Hurricane Fred in the late summer of 2021.
13. Linville Caverns
These natural limestone caverns are located deep inside of Humpback Mountain in the Smoky Mountains. It has been open to the public for viewing since 1937.
14. Catawba Falls & Upper Catawba Falls
Catawba Falls Trail is a moderate 2.3 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail. The river drops over 600 feet in about a half-mile creating multiple falls along this trail. Catawba Falls is a 100-foot waterfall that cascades down over several levels. Upper Catawba Falls drops 50 feet into a deep, clear pool.
15. Linville Gorge Wilderness
This wilderness area lies within the Pisgah National Forest and encompasses near 12,000 acres around the Linville River. The deep gorge surrounded by numerous rock cliffs ranges in elevation from 1,300 feet at the river level to 4,120 feet on top of Gingercake Mountain. There are many hiking trails in and around Linville Gorge as well as Table Rock Mountain.
16. Table Rock in NC
Located on the east rim of Linville Gorge, Table Rock is a mountain that has a distinct table-like formation that towers at 3950 feet above sea level. Not only known for its great hiking trails but the cliffs of Table Rock are also a popular hub for rock climbing.
17. Beech Mtn Ski Resort
Beech Mountain Ski Resort is located in Beech Mountain, the highest town east of the Rocky Mountains. The views from 5506’ Skybar at the top of the ski resort are super awesome.
18. Sugar Mtn Ski Resort
Just like Beech Mtn in the same region, Sugar Mtn Resort is a beautiful place to spend the winter skiing or the warmer months hiking and biking.
19. Waterrock Knob & Browning Knob Plane Crash
Located at Milepost 451.2 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Waterrock Knob has a spectacular view at the top overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains between Waynesville and Sylva, NC. It’s a 1.2 mile out and back hike to Waterrock Knob. The peak is at 6,292 ft elevation. From the parking lot it’s a steep climb gaining 412 feet but at the top on a clear day, you can see for 50-miles. Just as you arrive at the top of Waterrock Knob there is a trail to the left that will take you to Browning Knob where you can see a plane crash from 1983.
BONUS LOCATION – Hooker Falls
The Hooker Falls Trail is .8 mile out and back trail and provides a grand view of Hooker Falls. This waterfall on the Little River is 12 feet high and free-falls into a pool where you can play on a hot summer day.
Get Outside Into the 828 Mountains
As you share your fun photos on Instagram include the hashtag #828vibes. Enjoy the Great Smoky Mountains in western North Carolina on the Quieter Side of the Smokies.