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Hiking and Trails

Waterfalls, Wildlife, and Smokeholes – Check.

Whether your hope is to stay on-site or explore the world around us, Bear Lake Reserve is perfectly situated for hiking out outdoor enthusiasts.

Regardless of your experience level, you will feel appropriately challenged on our nearly 17 miles of hiking and walking trails that connect throughout the 2,100-acre community. There is easy access to ancient forests, cascading waterfalls, wooden bridges, and scenic overlooks – not to mention the abundant species of birds and plant life.

Off-Site Trails

There are more than fifty well-maintained trails in the region of North Carolina in which Bear Lake Reserve sits, including 675 miles of trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park alone. The Appalachian Trail – running 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine – passes just north of the county and draws millions of hikers annually. Various guide services are available for both day hikes and overnight pack trips, and Bear Lake Reserve has commissioned a thorough Trail Guide (PDF) of the nearby and very popular Panthertown Valley trails.


Some of the best hiking in and around Jackson County is found along the Blue Ridge Parkway as it gently meanders the county’s eastern edge. Within a 30-mile stretch, you can hike Water Rock Knob (6,292 feet), Richland Balsam (6,410 feet), and the imposing Devil’s Courthouse (5,723 feet). Additionally, a trail at Wet Camp Gap offers a short, easy hike to a mile-high meadow with awesome views of the Pisgah National Forest. The Mountains-To-Sea Trail can also be accessed at Wet Camp Gap. While not as high as its brethren, Devil’s Courthouse is memorable for spectacular rock outcroppings at its peak. The park service has a paved trail of 0.8 miles (roundtrip) leading to a summit that provides a view of four states: North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee.