The Laurel River Trail, located within Pisgah National Forest near Hot Springs, is a moderate hike that traverses a beautiful forest alongside Big Laurel Creek. The mostly flat hike has typical Pisgah terrain like rocks and roots as it winds through the steep river gorge beside the boulder-strewn creek that is popular for kayakers in the area as a Class III+ creek. The Laurel is a tributary of the French Broad River and the confluence makes a great spot to take a break before heading back on the out-and-back trail. During summer months the trail’s frequent access points to the river offers a good opportunity to play in the river and check out the views of the nearby rock cliffs of the Palisades, but caution should be taken by anyone entering the riverbed as the rocks can be very slick and the current of the river swift.
Directions from Asheville: Take I-26 W for 8.5 miles to Exit 19A to merge onto US 25/70 towards Marshall. Take US 25/70 for 21 miles towards Hot Springs. The Laurel River Trail is at the intersection of Hwy 25/70 and Hwy 208. There is a gravel parking area about 100 yards south of the intersection. Look for the brown Laurel River Trail Forest Service sign.