Great mountain adventures

We asked Joe Miller to pick his favorite mountain destinations. He is the author of “Adventure Carolinas: Your Go-To Guide for Multi-Sport Outdoor Recreation,” to be published in May (UNC Press; $45 hardcover, $20 paperback).

All-around best

Whitewater activities at Nantahala Outdoor Center. “NOC ( is remarkable — really a one-of-a-kind — with pretty amazing opportunities. There are whitewater kayaking classes that range from one-weekend to an intensive five-day course.”

Mountain biking in Pisgah National Forest. “It’s hard to pinpoint a particular area: There are so many good places in this forest ( that have a national reputation among hardcore bikers. There are hundreds of miles of mountain-bike trails. People come and spend a week here.”

Backpacking in Shining Rock Wilderness. “Backpacking is a huge draw here for church groups and Scouts doing wilderness programs. You can spend a week here. There are so many places you can go in Shining Rock (, and there’s breathtaking scenery.”

Best for families

Davidson River Campground. “It’s near Brevard, and a river runs through it ( There’s good tubing on the river — that’s popular — and lots of great day hikes. You can rent mountain bikes: there are good trails there. You’re also fairly close to some good whitewater opportunities. All in all, it’s a great base cam for a lot of family fun.”

Nantahala Outdoor Center. “There are many family programs — not just paddling, though it’s the big thing. NOC also has mountain biking, tours, rentals and great hiking. There are family programs, including those for whitewater rafting. There are a couple of Class III rapids in that part of the Nantahala River.”

Ziplines. “There are so many of them out there, and it’s a huge family thing. One I’ve heard a lot about, Navitat (, in Asheville, is opening a new line in May.”

Great mountain hikes

We asked Johnny Molloy about his favorite mountain hikes. He is the author of “Hiking North Carolina’s National Forests” (UNC Press; $45 hardcover, $22 paperback).

Most compelling

Highlands of Roan. “It has the largest number of natural Catawba rhododendrons in the world. This is a moderate trail in Pisgah National Forest, and when you start you’re immediately in a meadow of rhodos and you walk through miles of fields interspersed with them. The trail is on a high ridge on the Appalachian Trail, on the North Carolina-Tennesse border and you have unbelievably great views.”

Shining Rock Wilderness. “Many have heard of this area off the Blue Ridge Parkway, but the wilderness portion is actually of lower height and goes through rugged back country where nature is on display. And it’s nature at its overpowering finest, with enormous trees, big waterfalls and big streams. The trails are less maintained, so you have a challenging hike at the same time.”

Glen Falls. “This is a nice little moderate hike along a stream called Overflow Creek, near Highlands. The creek is almost one continuous waterfall and on the hike you see so many different faces of it.”

Best for families

Jackrabbit Mountain loop trail. “This is near a campground on Lake Chatuge, in the Nantahala National Forest near the Georgia border. It’s a nice two-mile loop that goes by an old home site and along the lake. It has something to offer in every season.”

Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. “Here you have a pretty easy two-mile loop trail; you can go as far as you want. Kilmer is notable for its collection of huge trees; a walk in this forest primeval makes you glad North Carolina’s national forests are preserved.”

Max Patch. “This is a nice loop trail near Hot Springs with an open meadow you can drive to for enjoying 360-degree mountain views. It’s fun to pick blackberries there in the summer.” : :

— Compiled by John Bordsen. Reprinted with permission. qnotes is a member of The Charlotte Observer’s Charlotte News Alliance.

The Charlotte Observer is the largest daily newspaper in the Carolinas. is the most visited news and information website in the region. QNotes is proud to be a member of The Observer's...