Devils Fork State State Park is best known for the beautiful Lake Jocassee. But even if you don’t have a boat, there’s still plenty to do. Bear Cove Trail takes you out to the point of a cove on the lake. It’s a great place for a mid-hike swim or a sunset!

Length: 2.0 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Directions: From Greenville, follow SC 183 Shady Grove Rd to State Rd S-37-127 in Oconee County. Continue on this road until you see signs for Devil’s Fork State Park. Once you enter the park, follow signs for the day use parking area. The trailhead is at the lower parking lot away from the water.

As a native son of the Upstate, Frugal staffer, Isaac knows a thing or two about local trails. One of his favorite hiking destinations is Raven Cliff Falls. If you’re looking for an easy hike with picturesque views, Raven Cliff Overlook Trail is a great choice. The terminus of this gentle 3.8 mile out-and-back is a lovely pavilion that provides sweeping views of the falls. It makes for a great picnic spot.

Feeling a little more adventurous? You can get in a full day of hiking by adding a 5 mile loop to your hike. This is a challenging trail so we recommend trekking poles, sturdy hiking shoes, plenty of water, and a backup filtration or purification method.

Difficulty: Moderate/Hard
Length: 3.8 miles/7.7 miles
Directions: From Greenville, head NW on 276. One mile past the entrance of Caesars Head State Park you will see a parking area for Raven Cliff Falls. The red-blazed trailhead is directly across the street.
From the trailhead follow Raven Cliff Trail (red blaze) for 1.9 miles just before you reach the overlook. If  you’re sticking with the shorter trail, enjoy a picnic and peaceful views, before heading back the way you came.
If you’re continuing on, turn left to Dismal Trail (purple blaze) to start a 2k ft decent into the valley. Dismal Trail is 1.5 miles long and ends at Nature Land Trust Trail. Once you’ve reached the bottom, turn right onto Nature Land Trust Trail (pink blaze), and start heading back uphill. This section of the loop is especially enjoyable as it follows the river until you reach huge rock ledges that you walk beside the rest of the way to the falls. This part of the trail for approximately 2 miles. The hike uphill is a little more technical than Dismal Trail with ladders, large rocks, and high steps.
You will know you’re done climbing when you come to the falls and cross a suspension bridge over it. Shortly afterwards, you’ll come to another fork where the Nature Land Trail ends at Gum Gap Trail. At the fork turn right onto Gum Gap trail (blue blaze). It is well maintained without too much elevation gain or loss. It’s a super easy 1.5 mile hike back to Ravencliff Falls trail. Make sure to follow the blazes. The trail runs straight onto an unmarked logging road that you could easily mistake for trail. Stay left onto the blazed path, and continue another mile to the parking lot you came from.
Orange handicap symbol with arrow

It’s never easy dealing with a disability. Whether it’s physical or psychiatric, it’s easy to feel like you don’t quite fit in. I understand this first hand, since I am on the Autism Spectrum and struggle with severe anxiety. For me, hiking with my service dog, Dexter, is an escape from reality. It’s a breath of fresh air, away from the stresses of everyday life. I’m grateful that I have the ability to hike, but not everyone does. That’s why I want to share with you four great wheelchair friendly hikes for people with limited mobility. Being outside is therapeutic and healing, and EVERYONE deserves to get the chance to enjoy nature.

Pink handicap sign that reads "step free route" sitting in the grass

Lake Junaluska Trail

First up on this list is the Lake Junaluska Trail. This trail is 3.8-miles long and surrounded by the Great Smokey Mountains. With plenty of lookout points and sitting areas to enjoy the view and lakeside experience, it’s easy to lose track of time and spend all day in this beautiful environment. As you travel on the trail, you will get the chance to literally go over the water on the Turbeville Footbridge, providing another unique and serene vantage point of the lake and mountains. My personal favorite, the Rose Walk, is another must see part of the Junaluska experience. This part of the trail goes through the rose garden, where you will see (and smell) over 200 rose bushes! This is a great spot to recharge and relax during or after your adventure.

The Cradle of Forestry

This is definitely the outdoor experience I recommend for anyone who is interested in history and wants to get outside. With three paved trails that cater to anyone with a wheelchair, you can easily maneuver and experience everything this place has to offer. There is the 1.3-mile Forest Festival Trail, the 1.3-mile Forest Discovery Trail, and the one-mile Biltmore Campus Trail. All three trails go by plenty of historic buildings and artifacts with a plethora of interesting information to accompany them. To top it all off, the Forest Discovery Trail is actually on the NC Birding Trail, which makes it great for bird watching. Whether you are a history geek, bird nerd, or simply want to get outside, the Cradle of Forestry provides a multitude of experiences for anyone and everyone!

Blue Jay sitting on a branch

Mt. Mitchell

The view from Mt. Mitchell is one that I guarantee will take your breath away. At a whopping 6,684 ft, Mt. Mitchell is the highest point east of the Mississippi River. Part of the Mt. Mitchell experience is the beautiful drive there on the Blue Ridge Parkway. On the Parkway there are plenty of spots to pull off the road and admire the mountain view, so take your time getting to your destination. Once you arrive, all that’s standing between you and a stunning 360 degree panoramic view of the mountains is a quarter-mile paved trail. Totally wheelchair accessible, the summit of Mt. Mitchell is the perfect place to go for anyone looking to clear their minds and gather their thoughts.

Roan Mountain Gardens

catawba rhododendron flowers

The final location on this list is the Roan Mountain Gardens, famous for its exceptionally voluminous population of Catawba rhododendrons. Accessibility isn’t an issue when it comes to admiring the beautiful blooms. Enjoy the half-mile paved trail through the gardens, as well as a lookout point and picnic area. For this experience, make sure to park in the Recreation Area, since there are other hikes around Roan Mountain that aren’t wheelchair friendly.

 

Taking time to unplug and slow down is something that everyone can benefit from. It’s easy to forget to breathe in the fast paced world we live in. Being outside has always given me the ability to unwind and recharge. I hope that this blog gave everyone some ideas for what adventure you will take next, regardless of your physical capabilities.

Child in yellow jacket with a blue backpack outside

Any parent who loves to hike knows how much fun it is to show your little ones the great outdoors. Any parent ALSO knows that it is never a bad time for a good game! Put two and two together, and you get these five fun hiking games that you can play with your kids!

The Alphabet Game

The Alphabet Game is one that I used to play all the time growing up. It was definitely one of my favorites. This one is so simple, but so fun! All you do is pick a category, in this case, “things on the hiking trail.” You then have to take turns with each person in your hiking group naming things that start with each letter of the alphabet! You start with A, then go to B, then C, until you get to Z. Now, some letters are harder than others, especially for kids. It’s totally fine to skip a few and make the game your own depending on what is most enjoyable.

Tip: I find that this game is also a great opportunity to teach your kids about new things. If you pass a kind of plant or animal that your child doesn’t know (which also happens to start with the letter you are on), tell them about it! They can use their new-found term as their word for that letter.

Scavenger Hunt

A mother and father walking down a trail outside with their childWho doesn’t love a good scavenger hunt? I remember my Mom would have me play this game in the grocery store a lot (she would give me a small list of things to find and bring back as quickly as I could). However, playing this game on a trail is way more fun for everyone! You will have to tweak this game a little though, just to be sure that nothing in the environment is being damaged. Instead of asking your child to find and BRING you a purple flower, ask them to find and SHOW you a purple flower. You can spice this game up even more by creating a scavenger hunt check list before your hike! Below, I have inserted my own example of what one might look like:

  1. Find and show me: a bird in a tree
  2. Find and show me: a rock with moss on it
  3. Find and show me: a maple leaf
  4. Find and show me: a purple flower
  5. Find and show me: a squirrel
  6. Find and show me: a fern
  7. Find and show me: a very tall tree
  8. Find and show me: a rhododendron bush
  9. Find and show me: a cool bug
  10. Find and show me: a pine tree

You’ll notice in my example I included a mix of easy and difficult things to find. Again, if you make a list it will be whatever you decide is appropriate/fun for your child. If you do include more difficult things to find that they might not know, it is yet again another opportunity for education!

Finish My Story

This is one that never fails to make everyone playing laugh. “Finish my story,” as I called it growing up, is like fill in the blanks. One person starts a story with a single sentence. The next person has to then add on with another sentence. By the end of the game you have spun a ridiculous tale that will have you all cracking up! To play this outside, use the surroundings to set the stage for your story. Here’s an example of how a story might unfold with 3 people playing on a hike:

  1. Person 1: Once upon a time, there was a guy and his dog hiking down this same trail…
  2. Person 2: Suddenly, they heard something in that big tree over there…
  3. Person 3: The man and his dog looked up, and were shocked at what they saw…
  4. Person 1: Up in the tree, there was a giant 10 foot tall chipmunk!
  5. Person 2: The man and dog began to run until they reached this little stream right here…
  6. Person 3: They turned around, and the giant chipmunk was standing right there!
  7. Person 1: The chipmunk leaned down, and opened his mouth…
  8. Person 2: The man and his dog held their breath…
  9. Person 3: The chipmunk said, “hello, my name is Jim.”
  10. Person 1: Then Jim the giant chipmunk, the dog, and the guy kept hiking together and had a great day!

I Spy:

Mother sitting on a bench with her children outdoors

This one is pretty simple, but makes the perfect game when you decide to take a quick snack or water break. Convincing your kids to sit down and re-hydrate isn’t always easy. It might not seem as fun and exciting as exploring what lies behind the next bend in the trail, but it’s a necessary part to any outdoor adventure. One way to help persuade your child to take a quick break is by playing I Spy. There are never a shortage of things to “spy” in the woods, so this game will keep you and your little one busy long enough to fuel back up and keep going!

Trail Charades

This game is especially fun for all the little hams out there. First, you choose a category that applies to your hike. That could be anything from plants, trees, animals, landscapes etc. You and you child can then take turns acting the things out, while the other person tries to guess what you are! This can get really goofy, especially when you find your kid trying to be a river, or yourself acting like a bear. This game is another that is best played once you reach your hiking destination or are taking a quick break on the trail.

I hope these five games make your time on the trail with your kids memorable and full of laughs!

Girl hugging white golden retriever outside

As a dog mom, I know how important it is to find safe, accessible, and dog friendly hikes. Dexter, my two year old golden retriever, is just as passionate about getting outdoors as I am! We go on a lot of adventures together, and thankfully there is no shortage of trails around Asheville. So without further ado, here are my top 5 hikes to take with your furry companion!

Girl looking at a white golden retriever outside

Dexter and I

Bearwallow Mountain

It’s hard to choose a favorite hike, but this one is definitely at the top of my list. The hike to the summit of Bearwallow Mountain is only a mile, but it is definitely still a good workout for you and your dog. Once you reach the top, you are greeted by a breathtaking panoramic view of the mountains. Thanks to the cows that call the mountain home in the summertime, there are no trees or large plants blocking your view. As far as being dog friendly, this hike doesn’t disappoint. There are almost always other dogs on the mountain for your canine companion to socialize with (if they feel comfortable). It’s also the perfect olfactory experience, because there is always a multitude of cow poop for your dog to sniff and explore! It might sound gross… but to your dog it’s like the cherry on top of the perfect day.

A white golden retriever laying down with the Blue Ridge Mountains in the background

Dexter at Bearwallow Mountain

Carl Sandburg

Carl Sandburg Home trail mapThe Carl Sandburg home, located in Flat Rock just outside of Hendersonville, is doggie hike heaven. This National Park Service site has a plethora of activities for you and your dog to enjoy. There are plenty of trails that cater to the short legged shih-tzu, or the athletic and sporty shepherd. Whether you are exploring the land around the house, checking out the goats (the “funny dogs” as Dexter knows them), or hiking up to Big Glassy Mountain, an entire day can easily be dedicated to having fun here.

Girl and white golden retriever at the top of Big Glassy Mountain

Dexter and I at the top of Big Glassy Mountain

Black Balsam Knob

Two people looking at the mountains from Black Balsam Knob

Photo by @dilsworth on Instagram

Definitely one of the most stunning hikes in Western North Carolina, Black Balsam is like something out of a fairytale. The adventure begins at the Art Loeb Trailhead, located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 420. The short stretch of trail leads to the iconic Black Balsam view. I highly recommend this hike for people and dogs who aren’t looking for anything too strenuous. Small, senior, or special needs canines can experience the joys of this beautiful hike and not over exert themselves.

DuPont Forest

There’s never a shortage of fun things to do at the DuPont State Recreational Forest. With a collective 86 miles of trails on protected 10,000 acres, there’s something for everyone and their dog (literally). From waterfalls, swimming holes, and awesome views, DuPont is the place to be. My personal favorite is seeing the waterfalls and exploring the swimming holes with Dex. I especially recommend this place for pups who love to swim. Want to learn more about all the things you can do here? Check out the Friends of DuPont Forest Website for more information!

White golden retriever swimming with a stick in his mouth

Never Dull in DuPont!

Remember: It is never a good idea to have your dog off leash near waterfalls, especially if they love swimming. There are designated spots that are safe to swim and explore, and other spots that are off limits. Please make sure to abide by these rules and regulations for you and your dog’s safety!

Catawba Falls

Catawba Falls, NC

Photo by @dilsworth on Instagram

Another great hike for all the four legged water bugs out there is Catawba Falls! This hike is just short of 3 miles, and offers plenty of opportunities for you and your dog to get your feet/paws wet! My favorite part of this hike is the swimming hole at the base of the falls, which is always refreshing on a hot summer day.

Daniel Ridge Loop Trail

The first time I went here with Dexter, I knew this would be one of our frequent hiking locations. The Daniel Ridge Loop, located in the Brevard area in Pisgah National Forest is definitely a trip you don’t want to pass up on. The trail itself parallels certain parts of the Davidson River, and again, offers wonderful swimming opportunities for you and your dog. Other than the river, there are so many other reasons this trail is worth visiting. The different biomes that you encounter throughout the trip are amazing, and the view of Tom Springs Falls is breathtaking. To top it all off, at the end of the hike you and your fuzzy adventure buddy can visit The Hub and Pisgah Tavern for a good meal in their outside seating area!

It’s a well known fact by any dog mom/dad that as long as you have your four legged companion with you, there is never a dull moment. Hopefully these 5 dog friendly hikes can help inspire you and your pup’s next adventure!

White golden retriever with his tongue out

 

Not to be confused with Chimney Rock State Park, these Chimneys sit on the edge of Linville Gorge.  Starting at the Table Rock Picnic Area, you’ll follow the white blazed Mountains to Sea Trail to the south (on the left side of the parking lot).  You’ll find beautiful 360-degree views as you walk along the ridge on the eastern edge of the Gorge.  This hike is easily extendable by continuing along the MST to Shortoff Mountain, or by heading back to the parking lot and up to the top of Table Rock (see our blog post about this hike here).
Length: 1.5 miles out and back
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Directions: From Asheville, take I-40 East to exit 85 for US-221.  Follow 221 North for 28 miles, then turn right on NC-183 South.  Follow 183 for 4.5 miles to NC-181.  Turn right onto 181 South and follow for 3 miles to Gingercake Rd (you’ll see signs for Table Rock Picnic Area).  After 0.3 mi on Gingercake, veer left at the fork onto Table Rock Rd.  Follow Table Rock Rd for 5.4 miles (the road turns to gravel after about a mile), then turn right onto Forest Road 210B (again you’ll see signs for Table Rock Picnic Area).  Follow FR 210B for 2.9 miles to the Picnic Area, passing a sign for North Carolina Outward Bound School (after 1.5 miles the road turns back to pavement and the switchbacks get steeper).

Tucked away in Marietta, SC at Jones Gap State Park, is an immensely beautiful 125′ waterfall, Falls Creek Falls. The 1.7 mile out and back hike is strenuous as it ascends approximately 600 feet with a few flat stretches thrown in the mix. But it is worth every bit of effort.  This moderately hiked trail is often overlooked, making it one of my favorite spots.  I love of having the solitude of enjoying the trail with just myself and my dog.  That’s right, it’s dog friendly!  The trail head is roughly 45 minutes from Greenville, SC depending on your location, making it a great local option for an afternoon trip.  I highly recommend this impressive local gem. I guarantee that will not be disappointed, but maybe a little sore and in awe of what South Carolina has to offer.

Distance: 1.7 mile out-and-back

Difficulty: Strenuous

Directions: Head north on US 276 from Greenville (you will pass SC 11 Junction). Turn right on River Falls Road; then go 4 miles. Turn right on Duckworth Road; then go a 1/2 mile. Turn right on Falls Creek Falls Road.Trailhead is down on your left with parking.

 

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Looking to get in a convenient trail run/hike? Frugal Greenville staffer, Johnnie’s go-to trail might just be your new favorite. Established in 1935 as the main water supply for Greenville, Paris Mountain State Park is a trail staple for the morning warrior. It offers great scenery and miles of trails, but is close enough to have you back home before the game. This bucolic park features plenty of plant life, 3 reservoirs, and a picturesque dam.

Johnnie’s favorite route through the park makes a loop out of several trails for a total journey of around 6 miles:

  • Brissy Ridge: Start/Parking
    • Direction: Left or clockwise
    • Difficulty: Slight incline | Wide Trail
  • Kanuga:
    • Difficulty: Moderate – somewhat steep in short intervals
  • North Lake
    • Difficulty: Moderate – roots on roots on roots on the north east side
  • Pipsissewa
    • Difficulty: Moderate – 20 or 30 yard stretches of incline
  • Brissy Ridge: Back to start!

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This one is for all the local history buffs out there! This hike takes you past the ruins of Rattlesnake lodge, built in 1904 as a summer retreat for Dr. Chase P. Ambler and his family. Dr. Ambler was an avid forest conservationist and is regarded by many as the father of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The trail starts at Bull Gap and follows the Mountains to Sea Trail east. This moderate hike starts with uphill switchbacks, but don’t worry, it levels out.
Early spring is a particularly lovely time to go, as there are a great number of daffodils on the grounds.  Spring through fall the trail can be accessed from the Blue Ridge Parkway, but when it is closed during the winter it can be accessed via Elk Mountain Scenic Highway.

Frugal crew member Maggie enjoying the solitude of Rattlesnake Lodge’s “yard”.

Length: 3.8 mi lollipop
Difficulty: moderate
Directions: From Asheville, head north on Merrimon Ave.  Turn right on Beaverdam Rd.  After 0.6 mi, turn left on Elk Mountain Scenic Hwy.  After 7 mi, continue straight on Ox Creek Rd.  At 0.2 mi you will see a small pull out on the right.  Park here or along the road (be sure your car is all the way off the road) and access the trail from the pull out.

Looking for a hike that’s short enough to do in an afternoon, but challenging enough to keep the crowds at bay? You might want to give Frugal Backpacker Greenville Staffer, Marie’s favorite hike a try – Rainbow Falls. Located in Jones Gap State Park, these stunning falls and offer plenty of space to spread out for a picnic or wade around the base (always use caution on slick rocks and around water).

Marie at her fav trail.

Distance: 5 mile out and back

Difficulty: Strenuous

Directions: From Greenville, head north on 276 toward Caeser’s Head State Park. Continue 2.6 miles past the park and turn right onto Solomon Jones Road. After 4.6 miles, you’ll see a small parking area on the right. Head back about 10 yards and turn left to to access the trail.

Start out on the blue blazed Jones Gap Trail, then after 3/4 of a mile veer right onto the red blazed Rainbow Falls Trail.