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Hiking Graybeard Mountain

I love being outside and have always enjoyed outdoorsy activities like hiking and camping. I think this can be attributed to all of my time as a girl scout, going to camp every summer and then working as a camp counselor for five years. I still get nostalgic for my camp days. It was a such a great opportunity to be able to spend every summer in college at camp in the North Carolina mountains. Those days may be over but I feel so lucky to have the North Carolina mountains just two hours away from Charlotte. As you have probably noticed, weekend trips to Asheville are one of my favorite activities and are pretty much required quarterly!

I was spent last weekend in Asheville with some of my best friends here in Charlotte. We all met through the yoga community. It’s kind of crazy because they started taking my class in the first few weeks I started teaching and have supported me ever since. The three of them actually went through teacher training together last winter/spring. I met with each of them individually to discuss their decision to pursue teacher training and the experience brought all of us together. Do we look like a big bunch of yoga teachers preparing to go hike or what? 😉

A big day of hiking called for a hearty breakfast. We polished off a dozen scrambled eggs with spinach and cheese, a tube of cinnamon rolls and a pint of strawberries between the four of us. Once our bellies were full, we were ready to get out and enjoy the absolutely perfect weather. It was sunny and 70 degrees.

I did a lot of research to find a new hike to take my friends on and finally decided on Graybeard Mountain at Montreat in Black Mountain. I wanted to do a moderately long and challenging hike that was closer to Asheville than driving to the Pisgah where I usually hike. Everything that I read when I was researching the hike online indicated that it was about 7 miles roundtrip but we would later learn that information was dated. Regardless, we arrived at the trailhead with smiles and were just so grateful to be outside and together on such a great day.

We set off and the initial section of the hike followed alongside a pretty stream. We were happy to find that the trail was well maintained and clearly marked with blue markers. We followed along at a pretty steady ascent until we arrived at Graybeard Falls about one and a half miles in.

The Falls mark the start of a section of switchbacks. The switchbacks were a nice break from the steeper climbing we had been doing and we fell into an easy gait and were able to chat and enjoy the scenery. The ground was flat, soft and felt very easy and comfortable to walk on. Apparently, the switchbacks used to be a part of an old logging railroad.

A little shy of two hours in we arrived at Walker’s Knob Shelter. We passed a ranger on the way up and he told us that Walker’s Knob was an excellent lunch spot. We decided to go ahead and hit the summit of Graybeard before stopping for lunch. That was a very good decision.

It ended up being another brutal 1.5 miles up to the summit. This was by far the most challenging portion of the hike. We were all drenched in sweat and gasping for breath. It kinda felt like we were on a never ending stair master. There was a chorus of, “my thighs burn, my calves are tight, my hands are swollen, oh my hips, my butt is on fire” but we plugged on at a good pace until we reached the top. Thinking it was only 3.25 miles to the top, we kept asking our friend with the Garmin, “how far have we been?” When she replied 4+ miles we knew some calculation was off!

The summit of Graybeard is 5,408 feet and overlooks Mount Mitchell, which is the highest point east of the Mississippi. Everyone agreed that the view was worth the effort it took to get up and we were all very thankful that we didn’t attempt it with lunch in our stomachs.

We headed down the mountain and out to Walker’s Knob. By this time we were starving for lunch and quickly inhaled the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and apples that we packed. I swear, peanut butter and jelly tastes 10x better with tired legs and views like this.

Not much to complain about when you can lunch on the rocks at 4,000 feet with this scenery and your friends. The view from Walker’s Knob offers a look at Black Mountain below and the Blue Ridge mountains.

It was a clear day and we counted at least 7 mountain ranges in the distance and commented on how lucky we were to live in a country with such diverse geography. I love the NC mountains so much. Being up there and such a small part of everything around me feels so good.

We began our descent down the mountain after doing a little bit of stretching. Some lunging was in order to stretch our tight hip flexors. Crescent lunge, anyone? My legs were literally shaking at this point. We all remarked over how we could be so in shape to do one thing (running, yoga, CrossFit, etc) but got our butts kicked so much by hiking.

The walk down went much quicker than the hike up. I think it took us about 2 hours and 15 minutes to get up and about 90 minutes to get down.

We laughed when we saw this sign posted when we arrived back at the trailhead. Clearly we were too excited to notice it on the way up. It was indeed 4.8 miles up and not 3.25 due to trail improvements.

Proof. 9.24 miles in just over 5 hours (including the lunch break). We felt accomplished and deserving of our appetizer spread of cheese and crackers followed by a dip in the hot tub with prosecco. I was pretty sore the next day but in a good way. I loved this hike and will definitely be doing it again. It felt very safe and I would even feel comfortable doing it alone with Sullie. Like I mentioned before, the trails were very well maintained and so clearly marked. We only encountered about 10-12 people the whole time and I loved that! Pretty awesome for a fall Saturday.

I would recommend this hike for anyone in the area. Let me know if you have any questions.

Hiking…love it or hate it? 


{ 58 comments… add one }
  • Erica { EricaDHouse.com } September 24, 2012, 5:18 pm

    Gorgeous hike! The bf and I just did a 10 mile hike last weekend (no hills though!) Hiking is my absolute favorite physical activity. The scenery can’t be beat and it is one hell of a workout. I just wish there were more places I could hike at in Florida!

    • Jen September 25, 2012, 4:53 pm

      come visit north carolina and we’ll have hills to your hearts content! 🙂

  • Kerry @ Totes My Oats September 24, 2012, 5:24 pm

    What beautiful pictures! I absolutely love Asheville and hiking!

  • Brittany (healthy slice if life) September 24, 2012, 5:53 pm

    I love hiking! I haven’t been on a challenging one since I was 6 months pregnant, but would love to. Sounds like a perfect girls weekend!

    • Jen September 25, 2012, 4:52 pm

      whoa! i’m impressed you did a challenging hike 6 months pregnant! 😉

  • Mary Beth September 24, 2012, 5:56 pm

    love love love hiking. we were in asheville last month and drove toward pisgah to hike a section of the art loeb trail near Black Balsam, it was amazing! Will have to to try Greybeard next summer!

    • Jen September 25, 2012, 4:51 pm

      oh, i’ve done that hike. love it!!!

  • Chris K September 24, 2012, 6:02 pm

    Love it. Tough with a little rock hopping and I’m happy! You NEED to hike the Grand Canyon.

    • Jen September 25, 2012, 4:51 pm

      let’s go!!! we were actually talking about taking a trip to phoenix and doing it while we were hiking last weekend!

  • Brooke @ sweats & sweets September 24, 2012, 6:04 pm

    Love it! I too was in girl scouts and I miss those camping and hiking trips. I grew up in North Georgia so I feel comfortable in the mountains. That trail looks beautiful, and the leaves were starting to change! Miss seeing fall leaves, Savannah doesn’t have them!

    • Jen September 25, 2012, 4:50 pm

      fall leaves are my favorite (although i do not enjoy the mess they make!). we have beautiful colors here in nc…even in charlotte!

  • Tracy September 24, 2012, 6:37 pm

    Great post and lovely pictures. I LOVE hiking. I’m heading up to Brevard in a couple of weeks, and have thought of driving over to Pisgah. How does Graybeard compare to a Pisgah hike? Thoughts? I’d love to hear your feedback. We haven’t done either of those. Thanks Jen!

    • Jen September 25, 2012, 4:49 pm

      hey tracy – if you’re going to be in brevard then i would recommend hitting the pisgah rather than driving over to black mountain. i love the john’s rock hike in the pisgah for the scenery although it isn’t as strenuous or long as what i did last weekend. (but the view at the top is incredible) there are tons of great hikes in the pisgah!

      • Tracy September 25, 2012, 8:26 pm

        Thank you Jen. I’ll check that one out!! Take Care.

  • Kacy September 24, 2012, 6:52 pm

    Loved this post! Perfect timing too- I am leaving for my Outward Bound trip on Thursday– and it’s in the Pisgah range! I am scared to death since camping is not my thing- this is going to be like Survivor for me. But, thanks to your post I actually feel better and more excited!

    • Jen September 25, 2012, 4:47 pm

      thanks kacy – you are going to do great with the trip. i cannot wait to hear about it. please let me know if you want to write a guest post about your experience with outward bound. i would love it!

  • Kristy@RunTheLongRoad September 24, 2012, 7:00 pm

    i’m so jealous! i love to hike and that trail seems incredible!

  • Emily September 24, 2012, 8:06 pm

    This post makes me want to go hiking ASAP. I’ve never been to Asheville to hike (only to visit Biltmore), I will have to plan a trip!
    Also, I made that banana pumpkin coconut chocolate and everything else bread … It is really good!

    • Jen September 25, 2012, 4:46 pm

      love your title for the bread. 😉 glad it turned out well!

  • Cheryl @ happy is the new healthy September 24, 2012, 8:40 pm

    Hiking and trail running probably top my list of fav ways to be active. I also love how perfect you and your gal pals look together — you could be a lululemon ad! 🙂

    • Jen September 25, 2012, 4:46 pm

      we totally looked ridiculous. we took a picture and tagged our local store in it on facebook. i’m not much of a trail runner…i need to give it another shot.

  • Julie September 24, 2012, 9:05 pm

    Love it!! Beautiful pictures from an awesome sounding hike. If you ever want to travel fans hike we did a Backroads trip to Banff, Canada last year-amazing!

    • Jen September 25, 2012, 4:45 pm

      i would LOVE to hike/camp in canada.

  • Lee September 24, 2012, 9:42 pm

    That sounds really fun. My husband and I try to take a trip to Asheville once a year.

  • Holly September 24, 2012, 10:18 pm

    Love it! So true about different workouts impacting the body. Heck I have done some cleaning this summer that had my body aching. You would think with all my workouts I’d be in shape but the cleaning used different muscles apparently.

    • Jen September 25, 2012, 4:45 pm

      haha – i need to do that type of cleaning holly!

  • Cassie September 24, 2012, 11:00 pm

    I love hiking, and this looks like a lovely day! My husband and I live in Kenya and just hiked Mt. Kenya, which is just shy of 17,000 feet!

    As a New Englander who grew up in the Mt. Washington valley, I must correct that Mt. Washington, at 6,288 feet, is the highest mountain east of the Mississippi. My 4th grade state history is deeply ingrained! 🙂

    • kat September 25, 2012, 10:53 am

      As an Appalachian Mountain resident of 18 yrs, I must correct that Mt Mitchell barely has ya at 6684 ft. So it retains the highest peak in the Eastern US designation. 😉

    • Jen September 25, 2012, 4:45 pm

      and i must also comment that i cannot believe you just hiked mt. kenya! my biggest hike ever was a 14,000er in colorado. how long have you and your husband lived in kenya?

  • theresa @ aspoonfulofsunshine September 24, 2012, 11:04 pm

    wow, the views from you hike look breath taking! I totally agree that there is nothing more satisfying that a hearty sandwich after such a long hike. And I totally love how cute you and your yoga friends look in all that Lulu 🙂

    • Jen September 25, 2012, 4:43 pm

      haha – we looked like a walking lulu ad!

  • Liz Lovett September 25, 2012, 5:07 am

    I love walking – and your walk looks amazing, what stunning views! I’m tickled though, you’re so amazingly fit that I could never do the things that you do in terms of running, yoga, cross-fit etc., but a 10-mile walk is just a half-day walk for me! It’s a strange role reversal! You’re still inspirational though 😉 x

    • Jen September 25, 2012, 4:43 pm

      it is funny how relative fitness is to what your body is conditioned to do!

  • Heather @ girlyeverafter September 25, 2012, 8:46 am

    There are no better mtns than in NC. I went to App and miss the great hiking. PB&J is a great choice for a hiking lunch, I don’t think I’ve ever packed anything else.

    • Jen September 25, 2012, 4:42 pm

      we are so spoiled by the great hiking here. and yes…pb&j is the best hiking food! cool that you went to app. i bet it was fun to live in boone for four years!

  • Hilary September 25, 2012, 9:14 am

    Love it! In fact, one of my “interests” on my resume is hiking in Western NC! I live in Raleigh but my parents live in Asheville and my fiancee is from there (met him when I lived there for a year after college-we’re getting married there too!). Such an awesome place!

    • Jen September 25, 2012, 4:41 pm

      so nice that your parents live in asheville. let me know if you have any restaurant or hiking suggestions for my next trip. always love to try new things. i bet your wedding will be beautiful there. did you enjoy living in asheville?

  • Linda September 25, 2012, 10:24 am

    Beautiful! My husband and I are going to the mountains in a couple of weeks and trying to decide where to stay. The house you stayed in looks amazing! Could I get the contact information from you?

  • kat September 25, 2012, 10:57 am

    You know my answer! Living in the Appalachian Mountains for 18 years has certainly ingrained my love for hiking, camping, rafting, biking, and all other things “mountain”. Can’t wait to return to my lovely hills. Looks like a great hike – don’t think I’ve done that one. I love that it’s close to Asheville – we got tired of always driving to Pisgah for hiking. Glad you had a great weekend!

    • Jen September 25, 2012, 2:26 pm

      kat – i loved this hike for something closer to asheville and it was a great workout too! the weekend was so wonderful. the weather was perfect and asheville was perfect too. everyone was extra friendly for some reason! must be the fall air.

  • Kelli Preston September 25, 2012, 11:48 am

    I have always wanted to go to Asheville and the post just sealed the deal. What a beautiful place. Your posts always make me want to give yoga a real shot. Thanks for posting!

    • Jen September 25, 2012, 2:24 pm

      you must go, i promise it won’t disappoint. i have a lot of asheville posts with info and email if you have questions. and about the yoga…it took me years to get into it. you just have to find the right teacher/style and be ready for it.

  • Kira September 25, 2012, 12:50 pm

    It’s amazing how good a PB&J can taste after hiking! Right before we got married, H and I took a trip to the Smokies and hiked up to Charley’s Bunion on the AT. The weather wasn’t great (lots of clouds), but it was still beautiful. I love hiking, and it can definitely kick your butt! I’m looking at a hike when we’re in Oahu that involves scaling some rock walls! Eek!

    • Jen September 25, 2012, 2:23 pm

      oh a hawaiian hike sounds lovely but rock walls sound intense! i’ve never hiked charley’s bunion. i’ll check it out!

  • Sara September 25, 2012, 1:17 pm

    I really love hiking, but unfortunately, my boyfriend would rather bike the trail than hike it. I wish I lived closer to mountains – in Wisconsin we don’t have very diverse terrain and so hikes aren’t that interesting. North Carolina looks beautiful!

    • Jen September 25, 2012, 2:22 pm

      i am terrified of mountain biking. i’m so uncoordinated! NC is so beautiful!

  • Shay @ Whine Less, Breathe More September 25, 2012, 1:28 pm

    I love, love, love hiking! I would do it everyday if I could!

  • Carrie @ Fitness and Frozen Grapes September 25, 2012, 3:00 pm

    I used to be a Girl Scout, too! Girl Scout camp was so much fun. 🙂 Great pictures, too! I’ve never been hiking, and I definitely want to someday.

    • Jen September 25, 2012, 4:40 pm

      you would love it!

  • Addy @ Six-Kick Switch September 25, 2012, 3:12 pm

    Definitely love hiking, and this one looks gorgeous! I hike pretty regularly, but I’ve gotta tell you – I can almost guarantee that state/national parks measure distances wrong. I think they must measure “as the crow flies” instead of “in actual, walking distance”….This has resulted in some pretty ridiculously long hikes for me!

    • Jen September 25, 2012, 4:10 pm

      it is so true! and i love how they don’t update the trail maps for years after making adjustments!

  • Alaina September 25, 2012, 5:56 pm

    David and I used to hike ALL the time! Not so much lately since we’ve both been so busy. Our favorites were Baldface in New Hampshire and hiking up the mountains around Lake Tahoe during our honeymoon.

    I was a Girl Scout for years and loved spending my summers at the local camps. David was an Eagle Scout so I’m sure (and hope that) our children will be scouts too. 🙂

  • Lea @ Greens and Coffee Beans September 25, 2012, 7:31 pm

    I love hiking! I actually just went hiking on Sunday. I’m lucky that I go to school in Boone and am super close to a lot of great hiking spots, I’m definitely taking advantage of it as much as possible before I graduate!

  • Michelle September 25, 2012, 10:18 pm

    I would say I just like hiking. I definitely don’t hate it but I don’t love it either. I’m home visiting my parents this week (they live in East TN) and we hiked Clingman’s Dome to Andrew’s Bald today. I actually really enjoyed it and the views were awesome. We even saw a bear! It was the perfect hike for someone like me who likes fairly short (1.8 miles each way) hikes. There were also lots of Balsam trees, so it smelled like Christmas most of the way!

  • Hannah November 18, 2013, 6:11 pm

    Love hiking! I go to Yosemite National Park as often as possible. A great hike I think you’d like (judging from how you liked this one) is the Nevada Falls Loop! it’s about 9 miles round trip and worth every bit of effort! Takes you up to Vernal Falls, then Emerald Pools (a great swimming and lunch spot if the water is low enough) then up again to Nevada Falls. So totally gorgeous!!

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