Great call out @Rob6 ! Linville Gorge Wilderness is worth the drive! Beautiful ridgeline hikes overlooking the gorge, you could do out-and-back sections of the entire 22 mile loop. Or even plan for some backcountry camping! Fan favorites, short & steep include Hawksbill, Table Rock, and Shortoff Mountain Trail. If you're looking in that area, check out the leisurely Fonta Flora Trail too!
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Hi there @W1LDFLR I recently joined REI Conversations, so I am definitely late to the game, but for future reference, I love visiting Big Creek Campground. You can do an out-and-back from the campgrounds or explore a 17 mile loop. Make it into an awesome 3-day adventure taking the 2-night Mt. Sterling Loop Trail. Just make sure to check-in with the Big Creek Campground for overnight parking and get permits for backcountry camping through NPS. THREE DAY LOOP The first day will have the most activities and stops. Along the 5.6 mile Big Creek Trail you will find Midnight Hole, great for swimming, and Mouse Falls. The first backcountry campsites (37 & 36) are along the river and relatively flat & friendly. The next day is mostly a wooded climb up to the Mt. Sterling fire Tower, 4.4 miles on a steady up. Before you head up, make sure you've got plenty of water... the water resource at this site is a bit further than campsite 38 (then a climb back up). The last day is a 6.6 mile up & downhill as you make your way back to Big Creek Campground. Wooded and lush, just the perfect amount of leisurely hiking to end your trip! Do the whole thing in reverse to end your day at the swimming hole! Enjoy the Smokies!
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Hi there @EK I may be a little late to the game, but for future reference, I am a big fan of Big Creek Campground. This could easily be a 3 night adventure by camping the first night at the main campground. Then there are a few backcountry sites (37, 36, 38) while taking the 2-night Mt. Sterling Loop Trail. Overall it is a 17 mile loop, with a bit of elevation gain when climbing up to Mt. Sterling, which may not thrill the littlest (or you having to carry littlest). Just make sure to get permits through NPS. Backcountry Campsite 37 is the closest to Big Creek Campground at 5.5miles, with 36 just a few trots further. THREE DAY LOOP The first day will have the most activities and stops. Along the Big Creek Trail you will find Midnight Hole, great for swimming, and Mouse Falls. The first backcountry campsites (37 & 36) are along the river and relatively flat, a good area for a family. The next day is mostly a wooded climb up to the Mt. Sterling fire Tower, 4.4 miles on a steady up. Beautiful, but no great stops for smalls kids on your way to backcountry campsite 38. Camping that night is not as flat, but there are some great little alcoves for family time. Before you head up, make sure you've got plenty of water... the water resource at this site is a bit further than the campsite (then a climb back up). The last day is a 6.6 mile up & downhill as you make your way back to Big Creek Campground. Wooded and lush, but no waterfalls or bouldering. OUT & BACK TRIP It may be fun and easy to try making a basecamp by booking at Big Creek Campground. Stay there the first night, then backpack up to backcountry site 37. With plenty of stops along the way, and such a flat & friendly backcountry site, it's a good start to testing how your littlest does. Stay the night, and then hike back past all the beautiful waterfalls and swimming holes again. You end right back at your Big Creek Basecamp. EXPORE COSBY CAMPGROUND Another option, that I have not personally done, is looking into an out and back from Cosby Campground. Start there and hike the Lower Mount Cammerer Trail to Backcountry Camp 35, the next day head to the Davenport Gap shelter, and then reverse it all. Be sure to plan ahead and speak with the Campground about overnight parking & policies so there are no unpleasant surprises. Enjoy the Smokies!
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Great suggestion @OutdoorWood ! Another one for Conserving Carolina to be proud of! The Weed Patch Trail can get you all the way to Eagle Rock- a long, long hike but an epic view (20 miles round trip). REI Asheville also provided grant money for this project! Great for hikers and MTB'ers alike!
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Hi there @Bitmistress How thoughtful of you to do this for your friend! It is amazing how the outdoors can transform us; bringing peace, joy, and wonder into our perspective. Below are a few of my favorites, you may still find people on them ,but not as many as chimney rock. I would definitely connect with Conserving Carolina, they are a local outdoor non-profit and have plans to increase trails access in the Hickory Nut Gorge area. 1) Catawba Falls, beautiful falls and easy access & parking. But please practice waterfall safety, many people have lost their lives here from trying to take that "epic photo". 2) Wildcat Rock (Little Bearwallow Falls), a great hike with some vistas along the way and of course a little waterfall. REI Asheville donated $10,000 to help fund access and trail signage to this trail, its very clearly marked and has parking across the street. 3) Trombatore Trail & Bearwallow Mountain, both share the same parking lot and grand vistas on grassy balds. 4) Check out a few hikes in the Montreat area! I have yet to explore these myself, but found them on the Hiking Project App. Rocky Knob, Lookout Trail, Katsuma, and Graybeard Trail. Happy Hiking!
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Hi there @meisha2244 This is a great additional question to the thread above! Shorter runs can be tricky to find, I myself have been trying to explore different aspects of the French Broad to discover new routes and not so heavily visited put-ins & takes-outs. I’m sure you’ve seen how weekends on the French Broad can get crowded quickly! My first recommendation would be taking a look at the book: Carolina Whitewater, A Paddlers Guide to the Western Carolinas. There will be some great suggestions for the WNC area, outside of the shallow & rocky Swannanoa. If you’re into pioneering the way, try a short section of Swannanoa from Owen Park to Old Farm School Road. If you look up a map using your favorite internet search engine, you can see where the River Trail for running & walking begins and ends. There will be some parking off the road on Old Farm School Road near the trailhead, which we’ve seen many people access for swimming & tubing. Just keep in mind as you explore that there may be areas that are shallow, rocky, and have unforeseen obstacles. Paddle on!
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Hi @ Odemanrivvr This is such a great question, you’ve got all us Asheville locals wondering too! Swannanoa is a great & interesting little river for tubing & finding swimming holes. The put-in and take-out areas are not widely discussed on the internet, so take what I have to say with a grain of salt and an attitude of exploration! First thing to note, it may be difficult to paddle upriver on the Swannanoa as it is a shallow & narrow river, not typically ideal for kayaks- although you will see the occasionally bold paddler. There may be sections in which the water level is too low- which may result in you having to walk certain parts. Beware that sections can be exposed, rocky & have downed trees blocking your path. Best bet, tackle the Swannanoa on a day after heavy rainfall & be prepared for obstacles. Your local REI Asheville currently sells a book by Bob & David Benner titled: Carolina Whitewater, A Paddlers Guide to the Western Carolinas. This book is a gem and has extensive details on local rivers, including the Swannanoa. Call the store to check for the current stock of this book. One of the easiest ways to paddle up the Swannanoa is where it meets the French Broad River. French Broad River Outfitters does a paddling tour that guides you up the Swannanoa to gaze at the Biltmore Estate grounds, just remember, this is private property so please stay in your boat. This option still keeps you close to the French Broad, so may not be the adventure you’re looking for. Headed further up the Swannanoa you’ll find Charles D. Owen Park for river access, which leads 8.2 miles downriver to the take-out at Azalea Park. This is an easy Class I-II section of the river, but again, may have some obstacles. While there is no official put-in area at Charles D. Owen Park, there is plenty of public parking and access to the river (you’ll see many a tuber floating on down there). The Park is close to Warren Wilson College and has a great walking running trail along the river where you will see families & friends dipping in for a swim, and potentially the occasional nude swimmer. Side note: this is my favorite trail for trail running! Azalea Park has tons of roadside & public parking, drive there and scope it out! Be sure to pass the dog park on your left, as you continue down Azalea Road E you will see families & friends enjoying the river access. Azalea Road E follows the Swannanoa so you can keep an eye out for other parking areas that suite your needs. My suggestion, take a practice run: grab a tube and a do a leisure float to explore Owen Park & Azalea Park, and see what you think. Please keep water levels in mind for your safety. Another great resource for the rivers in the greater Asheville area are a few of our non-profit partners: Mountain True, RiverLink, and GreenWorks. Greenworks, in particular, has done some recent river clean-ups along the Swannanoa, where they use kayaks to help pull debris & trash from the river. They are a wonderful group, and I highly recommend volunteering with them. And as per usual, with any water voyage, we highly recommend referencing the Swim Guide for current water quality levels if you plan on taking a swim. Paddle on!
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This is a great question! Sometimes pockets are too short and sometimes phones are just too dang big!
A few brands come to mind, but I am also interested in other features you may be looking for. For instance, shorts come in a range of different lengths, were you looking for a certain inseam/outseam? Are cargo pockets a must for you? Then we can also talk about fabrics, materials & colors... I could go on and on...
Here are some of our customer favorites with deeper pockets.
Kuhl Silencer Shorts 10.5" inseam & 12'' inseam
Kuhl Renegade Shorts 10" inseam & Cargo 12'' inseam
PrAna Stretch Zion Shorts 10'' inseam & 12'' inseam
Notice a nice zip pocket on the left that could fit a phone depending on size
Honorable mentions, the REI Sahara Cargo & Columbia Silver Ridge, though sometimes the weight of a large phone may pull on their lightweight fabric.
I'd check these out at your local REI, or place an order with REI.com to see if they suit your needs.
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