Area Attractions

Mountain Gear:

Bluff Mountain Outfitters 828-622-7162. A good selection of whatever you might need to enjoy the outdoors plus some friendly conversation, fax machine and internet access. Lots of maps of the area. Shuttle service for hikers.

Water Activities:

Huck Finn River Rafting 877-520-4658 or 828-622-9645. Right next door to Bluff Mountain Outfitters you will find Huck Finn River Rafting. The people are great and the waters beautiful. Call ahead to book your trip. Open 7 days a week, April 1 thru October 31.


. Offering rafting trips on the French Broad and Nolichucky Rivers with a $5 discount if you tell them you are staying with us! Online information and trip reservations.

The Hot Springs Spa

828-622-7676. Call ahead to book a natural mineral bath, body treatment, hot stone massage, or Swedish massage. The most unique "spa" in the US and the only natural mineral baths in North Carolina! Excellent therapists. Take the waters by booking your own private riverside tub for an hour or two of indulgent relaxation. (You can also bring a bottle of champagne and cheese and crackers - or provision yourself on the way in at "The Camp Store".). The

Trust General Store

- 622-7400 has fishing licenses as well as bait and tackle

Mountain Biking:

Bluff Mountain Outfitters 828-622-7162 See them for info on mountain biking trails and shuttle services.


Appalachian Trail

- There is a public access to the Appalachian Trail in Hot Springs on 25/70 located behind the Catholic Church . Another public access is located at the end of Gorenflo Gap Road in the Spring Creek area, just 8 miles from Hot Springs on 209 (turn right on Gorenflo Gap Road. Gorenflo Gap Road is 1 1/2 miles long and terminates at the AT trail access point.). Bluff Mountain Outfitters operates a shuttle service for hikers. You can also get onto the AT from

Rocky Bluff Campground & Hiking Trails

-located halfway between Hot Springs and Spring Creek, Rocky Bluff boasts a beautiful walking trail along Spring Creek (watch for signs of beaver activity!) as well as the Vann Cliff trail.
US Forest Service (Pisgah National Forest - Appalachian Ranger District), PO Box 128, Hot Springs, NC 28743, (828) 622-3202. Trails

Spring Creek Nature Trail

- [Accessed from Rocky Bluff Campground, 3 miles south on 209, on your left as you leave Hot Springs. The Campground is only open May -November, but you are always welcome to park your car at the gate and walk down to the trail.] Easy 1.6-miles loop along Spring Creek. Lots of beavers in the area too!

Van Cliff Loop

[Also from Rocky Bluff Campground] 2.6 milesA steep, difficult hike along streams and ridge tops where the forest has reclaimed old farmland. The Trail leaves the south end of the Rocky Bluff Campground, crosses NC 209, and ascends Taylor Hollow Creek.

Max Patch Bald

- Absolutely, positively, the best hike if you only have time for one!Elevation: 4,692 feet. [Take 25/70 out of Hot Springs go 7-8 miles turn right on Meadow Fork, right on Little Creek, then a last right onto Max Patch Rd . Be sure to stop at Panther Branch Rd along the way to see a lovely waterfall. Panther Branch dead-ends so head back to Meadow Fork Rd once you have seen the waterfall.]Just one half mile from the parking lot to the top and you have panoramic 360 degree views into Tennessee, The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and even all the way to The Blue Ridge Parkway! Max Patch offers a gentle climb across the southernmost bald on the Appalachian Trail to its grassy summit at 4,629 feet. During the warmer seasons, the trail abounds with wildflowers.
Privately owned until 1982, the land covered by the trail had been used for grazing sheep and cattle. An offer to sell to a ski development was fortunately countered by the U.S. Forest Service, which bought the 392 acres for the Appalachian Trail.
Take a jacket as it is often very windy and exercise caution during the winter months as the road to Max Patch may be icy and dangerous even when there is no snow at Hot Springs.

AT Trail from Max Patch

: Max Patch can also be the starting point for an AT trail hike to the north (towards Hot Springs) or south (towards The Great Smoky Mountains National Park).
The northern segment travels 20 miles to the town of Hot Springs. The first 7 miles along this segment are easy, gaining less than 1,000 feet in elevation, but the path soon climbs steadily toward the wooded summit of Walnut Mountain (elevation 4,280 feet). After a short stretch on an old roadbed, the trail reaches Catpen Gap and ascends Bluff Mountain (elevation 4,686 feet). From here the trail drops steadily, losing more than 3,000 feet along its 10-mile descent into Hot Springs.

AT Trail access at Gorenflo Gap

: The trailhead at Gorenflo Gap is reached via traveling south on 209 for one half mile, then following Gorenflo Gap road for 1.5 miles to the trailhead. From here you can hike into Hot Springs or Upper Shut-In (see below).

Trails from the Silvermine Trailhead in Hot Springs:

Lovers Leap Trail 1.6 mile loop From the Silvermine Trailhead walk down the road and get on the Appalachian Trail (white blazes) along the French Broad River. After about 0.5 mile the trail climbs steeply to Lover's Leap ridge where rock outcrops provide great views. Return on the Lover's Leap Trail(Blue Blazes) and descend to the trailhead.

Pump Gap Loop

2.4 milesFollow The Lovers Leap Trail from the Silvermine trailhead. At the first major switchback, the Pump Gap Trail goes straight. At the next right fork the trail climbs to the AT at Pump Gap, crosses then returns by a combination of old forest roads and foot trails. The Trail is Moderate in difficulty, offering many changes in elevation and scenery. Can be looped with the Appalachian Trail.

Appalachian Trail from Hot Springs to Allen Gap

( 14.7 miles, white rectangle blazes)Heading north, the AT crosses the bridge over the French Broad River the jumps the guardrail to the right. The AT follows the river upstream ascends Lover's Leap Ridge then after 5 miles comes to the grassy meadows and pond of Mill Ridge. The trail then descends to Tanyard Gap where it crosses US 25/70 on an overpass, climbs to the junction of the Roundtop Ridge Trail, passes the Rich Mountain Fire Tower Trail then comes to the junction of FS467a, FS422 & FS3514. Shortly after this junction the trail comes to Hurricane Gap (FS467). The trail then continues north passing Spring Mountain Shelter and finally coming to NC208 (Allen Gap). A nice loop can be made with the Pump Gap Trail or the Roundtop Ridge Trail. Another loop option begins at Tanyard Gap and returns to Tanyard via the Salt Box Road (FS3514).

Roundtop Ridge Trail

3.2 miles one wayFrom the Junction with the Appalachian Trail on Rich Mountain the Roundtop Ridge Trail meanders down the ridge, past old farm fields and through an oak-hickory forest. The Trail ends on Reservoir Road near the Hot Springs Water Tank. Resevoir Road joins the River Road 1/4 mile downstream of US 25/70. This trail can be hiked as a loop with the AT (8.8 miles AT-3.2 Miles Roundtop Ridge-1.5 miles road)

Trails Accessed from Shut-In Road, just outside Hot Springs:

[In Hot Springs stay on US 25/70 West and follow it for 3 miles, then turn left on Upper Shut-In Road (SR1183).]

Betty Place Trail

1.2 MilesAn Easy loop on a magnificent north-facing slope of Bluff Mountain. The Trailhead is nearly at the end of Upper Shut-In Road on the left. The trail passes remnants of several home sites.

East Fork of Shut-In

2.0 Miles one wayA moderate hike along Shut-In creek from Upper Shut-In road to the Appalachian Trail at Gorenflo Gap. Arrange a shuttle ride with Bluff Mountain Outfitters.
Trails outside the town of Hot Springs accessed via River Road:[Follow River Road to Murray Branch or Paint Rock.]

Murray Branch Picnic Area

The Murray Branch Recreation Area is located 6 miles down the French Broad River from Hot Springs. The area offers recreational opportunities for picnicking, fishing, and canoe access to the river. Facilities at Murray Branch, under the shade of pines, include picnic tables, grills, restrooms, water, and two picnic shelters for large groups.

River Ridge Loop Trail

1.3 mile loopA moderate loop that climbs through a pine forest for a bird's-eye view of the French Broad River and the surrounding valley. The trail begins across from the Murray Branch Picnic Area.

Jack Branch Trail

2.4 miles one way, blue blazes. A steep, difficult trail that climbs to 2900' for good views of Hot Springs and the French Broad River. The trail begins on The River Ridge Loop crosses The Polecat Hollow Road (FS468) and ends at The Shad Road (FS422).

Paint Rock Trail

(1.3 Miles, difficult, distance from Hot Springs-7 miles) Trail begins at Paint Rock 7 miles from Hot Springs via river road. Take FS 54 towards Lone Pine Gap 1/10 mile. Look for trail on left near Forest Service road sign. Trail ascends steeply to the intersection of The Chimney Rocks Trail. There is a beautiful view of Weaver's Bend and the north side of Bluff Mountain at this trail junction.

Trails Accessed from the junction of US 25/70 & NC 208:

[Follow 25/70 East to its junction with NC 208 at The Steady Eddy Coffee Shop.]

Laurel River Trail

(3.6 miles one-way)Begins near the junction of NC 208 and 25/70 on a dirt road that turns into the trail. Single track on an old railroad grade to the ghost town of Runion where the Laurel empties into the French Broad River. Easy grade.

Shelton Laurel Backcountry

: [Follow 25/70, then turn left (north) on NC 208 at the Steady Eddy Coffee Shop until it intersects with NC 212, and take a right. Continue for 6.8 miles to NC 1310, which is known as Hickey Fork Road. Turn left and drive until you see the parking area on the right. The trailhead begins about 200 feet up the road, on the left.]

Hickey Fork Waterfall Only

1.1 miles in length, the trail to Hickey Fork Waterfall is strenuous. The falls are rich with growing mosses. The small grottos that can be spotted behind its mist provide a habitat for the spray-cliff natural community. Hike in about 1 mile. At this point, a smaller yet beautiful cascade occurs on the right. To reach the main waterfall, continue another .1 mile. Some bushwhacking is necessary to reach the base of the waterfall. Hemlock, white pine (Pinus strobus), yellow-poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), rhododendron (Rhododendron catawbiense and maximum), mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), dog-hobble (Viburnum alnifolium), and ferns are all common.

Horseback Riding/Llama trekking:

Sandy Bottom Trail Rides 800-959-3513. Towards Marshall, this outfit boasts their own garnet stream and great Madison County mountain views! Sandy Bottom is open year round (weather permitting).

Big Pine Ranch

828-649-3176 Near Marshall - Let us know about your experience!
Wolf Laurel Stables 828-678-9370 Over the other side of I-26, these trails should provide some fine scenery. Let us know about your experience!

English Mountain Llama Trekking

828-622-9686 People are loving their llama trekking at Max Patch!!!

Fordbrook Stables

828-667-1021. One and two hour rides overlooking The Biltmore, Asheville, and The Grove Park Inn. Open year round (weather permitting).

The Biltmore

800-624-1575. The Biltmore also offers one hour trail rides and carriage rides, but you must have a regular estate admission ticket. The opportunity to ride the grounds is fantastic, but be aware that these rides are extremely supervised, i.e. Nose-to-tail only! (Open year round, weather permitting.)

Mountain Biking:

Bluff Mountain Outfitters 828-622-7162 See them for info on mountain biking trails and shuttle services.


The three courses below are in the area of NC 209 and I-40. Please contact them directly for information and directions. Ashveille also has many golf courses, but these are the three most easily reached from the cabins and Mike has comments on two of them!

Iron Tree Golf Course

828-627-1933 18 holes. This course is lined with trees and features a creek flowing through the middle of many holes. The course is very hilly and affords lots of beautiful scenery. Numerous sand bunkers have been incorporated into the course design. Ladies tee off from the same set as the men.

Waynesville Country Club

828-452-4617 27 holes. Very nice golf course and setting with 3 different 9 hole courses to mix and match.

Lake Junaluska Golf Course

828-456-5777 18 holes. This short eighteen hole course can be quite demanding because of all the trees that can affect your shots and the water hazards that come into play on key holes. Three of the fairways are doglegs, but all of them are wide open. The signature hole is 3, requiring an downhill tee shot from off an elevated tee box, then an approach shot over a stream to an elevated green. Horris Smith designed the additional nine holes in 1994.

Shooting Clays:

Fowler's Farm  828-622-7380. Get to know some locals and practice your aim on this farm in Spring Creek.

© Bill Weldner 2012