Appalachian Trail: Hot Springs to Rich Mountain Lookout

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Rich-Laurel Wildlife Area

Appalachian Trail: Hot Springs to Rich Mountain Lookout is a 14.1 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Hot Springs, North Carolina that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until November. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

Distance: 14.1 miles Elevation Gain: 3,608 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dog friendly

backpacking

camping

hiking

nature trips

bird watching

running

forest

lake

views

wild flowers

This trail begins on the east side of Hot Springs, along side the French Broad River. The first 1/2 mile is a flat easy hike along the river. The next two miles are a rather steep rise of 1200 feet. The trail is rocky and narrow in places and caution should be the rule. This part of the trail reminds me of trail conditions similar in the Rockies. There are nice views of the French Broad and Hot Springs during the ascent. At the top of the elevation gain is a good area for camping. The rapids of the river can be heard for the first 3 miles. The next 4 miles through Tanyard Gap and the intersection of Roundtop Ridge are tree covered, with a number of Rododendrun Tunnels to go through. Just before Tanyard, are some very nice open areas for wildlife viewing. At Roundtop Ridge the trail descends downhill for almost 4 miles.The trail ends on the river front road. Stunning views of the surrounding mountains can be seen by taking a side trip to the Rich Mountain Fire Tower.

2 months ago

didn't get to hit the whole thing due to a late start, but it's a beautiful trail! the start is very hard so if you're new be ready for a challenge. once you get 3 miles in or so you're in the heart of the mountains, it's so quiet you can hear a pin drop. around the 3 or 4 mile Mark there's tons of great places to set up camp. highly recommend it, just don't let the start discourage you.

2 months ago

This was a good, challenging hike. Lots of views of the mountains this time of year that I presume wont be there once the leaves come in. I got to the lookout, but it was snowing so no need to go up. I'm sure the view is wonderful though. It's tough both out and back, so be prepared.

hiking
11 months ago

This was a tough trail. Very beautiful at the start along the river. Lots of quite spots along the way. We went mid June and water sources were mere trickles. Make sure you fill up when you can.

hiking
Thu Mar 28 2019

LONG hike. Took us 4.5 hours to get to fire tower and about 4 to get back (we had a tired teen who needed some breaks). We (my husband and I) took our black lab puppy and two teens. The hike was fairly strenuous on the way up, but SO WORTH IT. The view from Fire Tower is incredible! The hike itself was peaceful and breath taking- you are in the heart of the mountains for most of it. I highly recommend an early start so you can have lunch at the tower. We stayed there for an hour resting and enjoying the views. I would definitely recommend plenty of water and protein-rich snacks. And I probably wouldn’t take anyone under 15 unless they were avid hikers. According to my watch it was about 8.25 miles from the trail head in hot springs to the fire tower itself. In total we hiked 16.5 miles. It was mostly uphill towards fire tower and mostly down hill on the way back.

hiking
Sun Jan 28 2018

It is a workout. If you are a newbie be prepared for a challenge. Cars can drive to the top so you may see non-hikers at the firepower.

Sun Aug 06 2017

Hell of a workout. I was a little disappointed when a car drove up to the fire tower at the top of the mountain after I worked so hard to get there.

Sat Jul 29 2017

Fun hike if this is the one that starts at the silver mine. AT trail well marked with white stripes. Great view of the river and surrounding landscape as you climb up

hiking
Thu Feb 23 2017

Took the Roundtop Ridge trail from Reservoir Rd to just a short section on the AT, to the trail up to the Rich Mountain Fire Tower - about a 7 mile hike excluding the walk from town. The trail was fantastic, and the view from the tower was amazing. Everything at the top was covered in ice, even though the temp in Hot Springs that day was in upper 40s/low 50s. It was incredibly beautiful. Also secluded - we met no one on the trail. A very rewarding hike.

hiking
Mon Aug 22 2016

Very nice out and back trail. Firetower was a beautiful view. Moderate trail, with some good uphill hiking

hiking
Mon Feb 22 2016

A great loop hike with several nice pubs and a mineral soak to finish the day - What more could you want? Like most folks, I recommend doing it counterclockwise: 1) The descent down the Roundtop trail, while not very scenic, provides a pretty neat perspective of the dramatic slope of the ridge. 2) The busier parking area on the Silvermine side is preferable to the relative remoteness of the reservoir at the Roundtop trailhead. The car would probably be fine.....but who wants to ponder such things on the trail? The whole loop is 13 miles long if you include the extra mile up to and back from the Rich Mountain tower on the AT.

hiking
Sat Oct 17 2015

Great hike but actual route is closer to 12 miles instead of 10. Did not find the fire tower so the scenic views were not what we expected, but the hike itself was great.

Tue Jun 09 2015

Great day hike. Didn't see a soul after leaving the Appalachian.

hiking
Wed Aug 07 2013

Nothing bad to say here grizz and Chaplin is back on the trail

hiking
Tue Jan 24 2012

Walk out of town on the right side of the bridge as you reach the other side look over the guardrail for some stairs. Follow the road upstream to the trail start. The first climb is intense over 850ft in 15min. Three more moderate to strenuous climbs bring you up to 3200ft. Now the make a left on Roundtop Ridge and start the continuous 2.5+ miles decent back down tothe river. 3950ft elevation gain, 11miles, 5hrs, @4.5mph moving speed 2mph avg

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recorded Recording - Mar 10, 19:29

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recorded Recording - Jan 01, 3:17 PM

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