Expanding your hiking experience in Montreat
Montreat has many traditions; few are more universal than the hiking of Lookout Mountain. This trail gets thousands of visitors a year. Some are motivated to do it every time they visit, others may have done it and liked it but wonder what else is available. Here are three hikes worth trying if you are looking for an alternative to Lookout.
Big Piney Ridge is the long ridge running west to east that you can see if you look up as you drive through the gate. The trail starts near the end of Suwannee Drive and the hike will run you about a three mile round trip on the trail. The trail starts off sharing its foot bed with the Lower Piney trail. You will traverse the ridge as you hike through a dark cool forest with plenty of rhododendron. When the trail splits near the midpoint of Lower Piney, follow the orange blazes up the hill. This next section has some steep runs and a couple of rock scrambles until you get to the top of the ridge. Once on the ridge, you will find the trail is fairly gentle again until you come upon Rattlesnake Rock on your left. Here you will find the best view of Black Mountain from Montreat. As with all exposed rock formations, keep an eye out for snakes. This is a great morning hike to get your appetite ready for lunch.
Walker’s Knob puts Lookout’s view to shame. Easily the best view of Montreat, you can also see much of the surrounding region. You will start on Graybeard trail, a moderate trail, so take your time, pace yourself, and bring a lunch to enjoy at the top. Follow the blue blazes up Flat Creek. Most of the climbing is gradual, but there are some steep runs. There are numerous idyllic spots along the creek, so be sure to enjoy them on your way up. After crossing the stream for the third time, you will make a climb up to the old trestle railroad bed. Take a left and continue up the switchbacks (these can tend to be wet if we have had rain recently). Once the switchbacks end, take a left and do some more climbing parallel to the creek. When you get to the hiking shelter you will leave Graybeard trail and pick up the orange blazes of Walker’s Knob trail on the other side of the fire ring. A brief walk up this trail will lead you out to the overlook. Allow six hours or so of daylight to do this hike.
Lower East Ridge
The last hike is partially cheating on going beyond Lookout because you complete the Lookout trail, but don’t worry – you switch trails at the top. From the rocky overlook, continue on to the far side where the East Ridge Trail begins. Do not get on Hickory Ridge Trail (marked in blue). East Ridge trail passes through some beautiful forest with a rich sea of ferns on either side. Sharp-eyed hikers might glimpse signs of the forest fire from several years ago. When you reach Buck Gap, turn left down the trail marked with blue blazes. You will come out right behind a hiking shelter. From there turn left to get back on the Trestle Road and follow it back to its intersection with Lookout Trail. Allow two or three hours for this hike.
There are many trails that Montreat has to offer, but if you’re looking for an alternative to Lookout, these three are great hikes to start with.
Find our new trail map here and happy hiking!