Best View in North Carolina? You Won’t Know Until You Hike It

This article and video were produced in partnership with Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, which reminds you to leave no trace when you Enjoy Outdoors.

Playing “No, this is the best day hike in North Carolina!” is a great bar game, but if you want to play with a trump card then you need to hike The Pinnacle. Located less than an hour from Asheville, the West Fork Trail devours (and then spits out) 1,800 feet of vertical over a little less than seven leg-searing miles out and back, but the rewards at the top are plenty.

From the hike’s namesake rocky precipice, you’ll have unimpeded views of the Plott Balsams and Great Smokey Mountains, as well as the Blue Ridge Parkway.

pinncale hike

More importantly, the pics on your phone will give you the winning hand the next time someone claims to know a better day hike in North Carolina.

Getting There

pinnacle hike

• Take I-240 west out of Asheville to I-40 and keep heading west.
• Take exit 27 for US-74 West, Great Smokey Mountains Expressway.
• After 27 miles, take the exit for Steeple Road.
• Take Steeple to Skyline Drive and turn left.
• Take Skyline to Fisher Creek and turn right.
• Take Fisher Creek until it ends at the Pinnacle Park trailhead.

The Hike

pinnacle hike

Hiking The Pinnacle is free, but you do need a permit, which you can get from a kiosk that sits at the trailhead before the metal gate that indicates the northbound start of the trail. Maybe bring a pen.

• You’re following purple and gold trail blazes. After you pass several small waterfalls on Fisher Creek, the pitch quickly steepens – don’t expect it to back off anytime soon.
• Before the half-mile mark, stay left at the first labeled intersection to stay on the West Fork Trail.
• Not long after, you’ll pass an enormous boulder with a fissure running through it – the locally famous and imaginatively-named “Split Rock.” Go ahead and give the Instagram people what they followed your account to see.

pinnacle hike

• Cross Fisher Creek and pass even more small cascading waterfalls.
• Did we say it had already gotten steep? We were wrong; this is where is gets really steep. Prepare to gain the majority of that 1,800 vertical feet over the course of the next mile or so.
• After a quick drink of water at a small waterfall on your left, you’ll hit the second intersection at around the 1.8-mile mark. Turn left onto Pinnacle Trail.
• Note that, if you’re feeling insanely fit, you can turn right instead. This takes you up an entirely different grueling climb to the top of Blackrock Mountain. Doing both Blackrock and Pinnacle on the same day will get you either mad props or ridicule, depending on your friends.
• The Pinnacle Trail keeps up the relentless climbing for less than a half mile before finally gaining a ridge and arcing to the south.
• After about one more mile, the trail heads into a dense thicket of rhododendron bushes before emerging onto a knife-edge ridge that dead ends on the Pinnacle.
• Pay attention, as there are some exposed cliffs along the rocky ridge and on the Pinnacle itself. These provide much faster ways down, but they’ll really, really hurt.
• Congratulations, you have definitely earned a beer.

What to Bring

pinnacle hike

Given the proximity to Asheville and the manageable (if exhausting) distance, the Pinnacle doesn’t require anything fancy. Pack enough water and snacks for about seven miles, wear solid hiking or trail running shoes, pay attention to the weather, and pack accordingly. And bring a bag that can hold a few cold cans of Pale Ale while you’re at it.

hiking pinnacle

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