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?