~ 2.4 mile

~ 685 ft

Pisgah National Forrest, NC

The Hawksbill Mountain Hiking Trail definitely falls into my top 5 favorites we have done with the boys. It checks off almost all the boxes that we look for before heading onto a trail with our crew; length, distance from home, and difficulty. Plus, we knew we were heading toward spectacular views at the top! Darrell and I were celebrating our 11th wedding anniversary that day and wanted to enjoy just being together as a family without any rush or stress that hike-prepping with kids can bring. We prepped everything the night before and took our time enjoying breakfast and moving slow before leaving Johnson City around noon. The trail was ~1 hr away which put us arriving at the trail around 1 pm est…a little later than we normally like to start, but it ended up working to our benefit.

The road leading up to the parking area is a narrow mountain road for ~3 miles. Once you get to the Hawksbill Mountain Trail head (on the right), parking can be really difficult. There is a very small parking area that was completely full with cars parked all along the road next to “no parking” signs. We turned around twice and lucked out with a spot right across from the trail.

This hike started out a little more trafficked than we had experienced so far during the era of Covid. The majority of people had neck gaiter masks that they pulled up as we passed. We didn’t have ours with us because we honestly hadn’t experienced that many people on a narrow trail recently. I did, however,  just purchase some for us and the boys for next time. I’ll let you know how they work out! The trail itself was beautiful with a couple of nice mountain views along the way. We spotted a milk snake, lizard, and tons of interesting mushrooms that we saved pictures of to study more about.

hawkbill mountain trail NC appy explorers family hiking guide - 16

(This mushroom is possibly a Russula Emetica: “vomiting russula” “the sickener” -eek! We always reinforce that all mushrooms we don’t know have the potential to be poisonous and not to touch!)

The trail did not have blazes, but was easy to follow as it is highly trafficked. There are two spots where the trail does fork.  You want to be sure to go left both times.

Once you pass the forks in the trail, you will soon begin the uphill climb that knocked the Hawksbill Mountain Hiking Trail into the moderate category. For approximately the last .2 mi, you have a steep and steady ascent. The boys did not have difficulty with it at ages 5-9. It may be a little challenging to navigate with a toddler or small child who is a new hiker. If you take your time, it is definitely manageable.

Just before the final climb, we passed a young guy who was descending. He nodded toward us as he passed and said to his friend, “They are really going to have trouble getting to the top.” This made me mildly nervous but at the same time slightly annoyed and ready for the challenge. It has been our experience on hikes that people are usually encouraging and positive when they see us with small kids so his comment took me a little by surprise. Anyway, I digress…

When we reached the top, we stayed to the left and were absolutely blown away by the gorgeous 360° views. We went on a clear day and could see mountains for days at the top. At this point, most of the people that we encountered on our way up were making their way down, so there were only a few other people around. We spread out our lunch and the boys immediately got out their nature journals to begin drawing the mountains without prompting. We were able to spend quite a bit of time at the top enjoying the views with hardly any people around which surprised me for a Saturday.

The way back down, as usual, went very fast with full bellies and a downhill climb. One of our sons had lost “his favorite stick” on the way up which led to some tears. He somehow remembered the spot we had stopped on the way up and managed to find it (how on earth you find a particular stick in a forest is beyond me!). He was thrilled to no end. The boys rated this hike a “ten million” out of 10 unanimously.

We definitely had moments along the way that were less than picture perfect- some grumbling at the very beginning because of the heat (we only felt like we were in the sun at the very beginning of the trail. The rest was well shaded and breezy at the top), a few skinned knees from tripping on roots, a couple small sibling squabbles, declarations of “I’m tired!” BUT…

“The day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit.” ~Fabienne Fredrickson

We can look at social media and feel like everyone has these beautiful flawless adventures with perfectly behaved children who are excited about every minute. It is simply false. We definitely take tons of breaks, dish out lots of encouragement/praise, and help each other through the tough spots. Every step we take into the woods, every extra mile we hike, every new elevation we climb; we are planting small seeds of resilience, connection, and finding joy in nature. We see the fruits of this work begin to show up in little bits here and there as the boys grow and it makes every challenging minute worth it.

The boys asked to go back to this trail the next day which made me ridiculously thrilled. We will definitely go back again- maybe in the fall to see the changing leaves. The Hawksbill Mountain hiking trail was a win in all our books and we will without a doubt be back.

and also…..Happy 11 years to the man I would adventure with anywhere!

Julie Roberts Photography