The Laurel Creek Trail, located within Pisgah National Forest near Hot Springs, is a moderate hike that traverses a beautiful forest alongside Big Laurel Creek and offers great access to some nice swimming holes. The mostly flat hike winds through the steep river gorge beside the river, which is loaded with Class III+ rapids and makes a great run for experienced boaters when the water levels are up. We like this trail during the summer thanks to the plentiful options to play in the river and check out the views of the nearby Palisades, a set of towering cliffs overlooking the river. Use caution when 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.