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Hiking at Paint Rock, NC

Cynthia is a digital marketer, writer, and artist. She writes about a variety of topics, especially digital marketing, languages & culture.

The rock face looking up at Paint Rock.

The rock face looking up at Paint Rock.

Hiking in Western North Carolina

I love to go on hikes and spend time photographing nature. Recently, I went to Paint Rock, NC on two different occasions.

The first time my husband and I went, it was a voyage of discovery. We looked for Paint Rock and we thought we had not found it; that made us decide to return.

However, there was PLENTY we did find and it instantly became one of those places that you just love to go to anytime you want to get out in nature. We only live about half an hour away from this beautiful place.

River Road leading to Paint Rock.

River Road leading to Paint Rock.

Getting to Paint Rock

Western North Carolina is a rural place and it's sometimes difficult to find places, especially when they're not well-marked.

If you're in Asheville, NC and want to go to Paint Rock, your best bet is to take I-26 North to exit 19A. From there, you'll head west on Hwy 25/70. A couple of miles outside of Hot Springs, you'll come to an intersection and you'll want to veer left and continue on 25/70. (Don't go straight and get on 208.)

Just before you get into town, you'll turn right onto River Road, which runs parallel to the French Broad River. Stay on that even when the road becomes gravel, passing Murray Ranch Recreation Area on your left and continue on for a couple more miles (it's about 5 1/2 miles from when you turn off 25/70).

You'll know you've arrived when you see a large rock cliff on your right and the road makes a sharp turn to the right and behind the large rock and splits off into Lower Paint Creek Road (FR 41) and Paint Mountain Road (FR 54).

A side river behind Paint Rock.  I took this photo as an experiment with water photography.  I was quite pleased.

A side river behind Paint Rock. I took this photo as an experiment with water photography. I was quite pleased.

Paint Rock

Once you get to Paint Rock, the French Broad will be a majestic vista on your left, and the rock face will be on your right.

The first time we arrived at Paint Rock, we had no idea that the big rock face is Paint Rock itself.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of graffiti at the bottom of the rock.

We discovered, on our second trip, however, that if you look up about 20 to 30 feet high, there are quite a few faint geometric and swirly markings on the rocks.

These are the petroglyphs that are 5,000 years old. They're hard to see, but once you recognize them, they're really neat.

They look like blocks of squares with really squiggly and swirly lines.

Cherokee Native American Indians painted these pictographs. Unfortunately, they're difficult to see even with the naked eye, let alone the camera. The only way to see them really well would be to climb the rock; I am NOT a rock climber, and you can't climb the rock anyway.

Despite the graffiti, it's all a sight to see. We just figured humans have always liked to paint on this rock.

The view near the end of Paint Rock Trail.  You can see the French Broad River, especially in winter.

The view near the end of Paint Rock Trail. You can see the French Broad River, especially in winter.

Paint Rock Trail

This trail is a hidden gem in Western NC. I have lived here for nearly 6 years and never knew about the majestic beauty and recreation you can do.

At the fork where FR 54 and 41 begin, there is an information hut. It tells you about where good fishing is, the types of fish you can expect to find, dealing with wildlife should you see it, and more.

Just after FR 54 begins, if you walk up just a bit, Paint Rock Trail is on the left.

It is a steep trail; as you ascend you'll feel your legs burning if you're not used to it. It's only 1.3 miles long, but it feels longer because of all the climbing.

It's well worth the effort, though, especially in winter. The views extend for miles out over the Blue Ridge Mountains and it's much easier to see without all the foliage on the trees.

The end of the trail is actually an intersection with Chimney Rocks Trail. Our first time out on the trail, we were hoping to see more rocks with pictographs, but alas, only the views were our reward—and that was still enough.

A river shot at Paint Rock, NC.  There's great fishing, rafting, swimming holes, mountain biking, camping and more.

A river shot at Paint Rock, NC. There's great fishing, rafting, swimming holes, mountain biking, camping and more.

More Things To Do In Paint Rock Canyon

Hiking and fishing are only but two of many different activities you can do. Mountain biking trails are all around (though many of them are accessible on the Tennessee side of the Canyon—yes, Tennessee is that close).

There is a campground near the Canyon, swimming holes, and picnic areas, and the scenery is majestic and unspoiled.

After your hike, you can return to Hot Springs and indulge in the hot springs that naturally occur close to the river.

It's an incredible area and I have to say, it feels sacred.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on October 11, 2017:

Yes, if you are heading west, it's on the right - the river is on the left. It's one of those "can't mistake it" kind of things. But, finding the actual glyphs can be difficult.

Sean on October 10, 2017:

I'm a little confused...this sounds like the rock is right on the side of the there an actual hike to get a view of the rock, or a better view?

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on August 06, 2014:


Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on August 06, 2014:

Rebecca: Paint Rock, the Outer Banks and Shining Rock are all on your list of things you need to see in NC. :D HUGS!

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on August 04, 2014:

I don't know how this place passed me by all the years I was in school up that way. Sounds wonderful!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on January 12, 2014:

Tillsontitan - thank you, thank you! I definitely love to try to take a good photograph. :) Thank you so much for coming by and checking this hub out. :) Have a wonderful day!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on January 12, 2014:

Brett - thank you. I can imagine - I've had friends who have lived in S. Korea and the photos are always beautiful. You're right: the doing/achieving something is the greatest thing, especially when surrounded by nature. Thanks for sharing!

Mary Craig from New York on January 12, 2014:

What a beautiful hub...all around. Your information about Painted Rock (Indian paintings especially) makes it sound so interesting but I have to say most of all I enjoyed your beautiful pictures! Nothing draws you in like a great photograph!

Voted up, useful, awesome, beautiful, and interesting.

Brett C from Asia on January 12, 2014:

Very informative! You provide a lot of detail and information in the hub. I enjoy hiking too, one of the best I've been on is a mountain range in South Korea. However, it is more the sense of doing/achieving something and being surrounded by nature.

Shared with my followers ;-)

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on September 20, 2013:

Journey - yes, thank you! I love that place. I need to head over there again soon. :)

Nyesha Pagnou MPH from USA on September 14, 2013:

Paint rock looks like a really interesting site to see. Thanks for sharing your photos. I'm sure being there is a cool experience.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on May 16, 2013:

Born2care2001 - Bruce, that is freaking awesome! You live in Asheville!? I actually live up in Madison County but no one's heard of my little town, so I just say Asheville, lol...I'm just 25 minutes away, though.

Yes, definitely check it out. It's definitely worth the drive from Asheville and make a day of it: bring picnicking stuff, rafting (if you're into it) and fishing gear, bike riding can even camp in the campgrounds up there. :) Hiking trails's a hidden gem here in Madison County. :)

Rev Bruce S Noll HMN from Asheville NC on May 15, 2013:

Hey Cyndi!

Thanks for the tip! My wife and I have lived in Asheville for almost three years and love to hike as well. We've been to the spa at Hot Springs, (one of my favorite healing places) and I'm sure we'd really enjoy Paint Rock. Thank you for mentioning the sacred feeling as I too, believe as my wife does that these are sacred places.

Thank you for the directions too. I'll let you know (we'll take some photos too) how it turns out!

Blessings to you!


Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on February 27, 2013:

Alocsin - hey there! So great to see you. I definitely love this place and thank you so much for stopping by! :)

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on February 24, 2013:

I'm not much of a hiker but you paint such a wonderful place with your photos and text, I want to go there and try it out. Voting this Up and Beautiful.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on February 17, 2013:

Sharon - thank you so much! I hope you're having a WONDERFUL day. :)

Sharon Smith from Northeast Ohio USA on February 16, 2013:

Beautiful hub and love your photography skills CC. Pinning to my travel board.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on February 07, 2013:

Glimmer Twin Fan - aw, thank you! I love, LOVE this place. It's one of my favorite places to go in western NC. :)

Claudia Porter on February 07, 2013:

We were in this area last summer and definitely plan on returning. Will pin this to remember this area. Gorgeous hub!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on February 06, 2013:

Deborah - thank you! It's a WONDERFUL PLACE! I appreciate your kind words!

Teaches - aww, thank you! I definitely love western NC and I'm thrilled you have lived near here. :D Cheers!

Dianna Mendez on February 04, 2013:

Wow, your photos are so amazing! I feel like I can almost hear the water rushing over the rocks and touch the mountain walls. I lived near there awhile back and the beauty is as you have demonstrated through your words and photography. Voted up!

Deborah Neyens from Iowa on February 04, 2013:

My husband and I keep talking about coming out your way to hike in the mountains. Maybe this will be the year. If so, this sounds like a great hike for us.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on February 02, 2013:

Faith Reaper - thank you! I love photographic journeys into nature. I definitely enjoy nature's beauty. :)

Efficient Admin - that's great that you're not too far from here. The entire state of NC has something wonderful to offer. :D

Danette - it is pretty! I make it out to the Outer Banks on occasion - I love the whole state. :D

Aviannovice - it is truly exquisite. :) In the same way that you make your excursions to Boomer Lake exquisite. :)

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on February 01, 2013:

What an exquisite place. This is somewhere where dreams are truly made.

Danette Watt from Illinois on February 01, 2013:

NC is a beautiful state. My parents, both now deceased, lived there and I still have 3 siblings there. They were all in the eastern half of the state but I always wanted to see the western part b/c as your photos show, it's a very pretty area.

Voted up and thanks for sharing.

Michelle Dee from Charlotte, NC on February 01, 2013:

This sounds like a really cool place to visit and to hike. Your photos are wonderful, especially that one of the water stream - beautiful!! I'm not that far from you - I live in Charlotte and occasionally travel toward that way and love it out there. Thanks for sharing this info.

Faith Reaper from southern USA on February 01, 2013:

Thanks for taking us all along on your amazing hiking adventure in such a beautiful area no doubt! What great photos here. You are very adventurous. Sounds like a great time enjoying the beauty of nature and all of its surprises.

Vote up ++++ and sharing

God bless. In His Love, Faith Reaper

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on February 01, 2013:

Mhatter99 - hehe, thank you so much for stopping by! Cheers!

Martin Kloess from San Francisco on January 31, 2013:

Thank you for the wonderful tour.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on January 31, 2013:

Kelly - that is AWESOME! I love hiking - so much! That is SO GOOD to know STL has some good trails! Next time we pass through I'll have to check them out! :D Let me know when you write something on them - I would LOVE to see!

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on January 31, 2013:

Sounds like a really cool place to visit! I'd love going there...that's the kind of stuff I LOVE! Couldn't decide for the poll but I picked fishing as my fav because you don't have to move much:) hahaha

Seriously, I love hiking and I know you'd really freak if you saw some of the trails around here:). I was just gonna write about a place (2 of them really) like that around here...hidden gems!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on January 31, 2013:

BB - you're quick! haha...Yeah...I had one more to do for the post-apprenticeship and I MADE myself do it. I still love HP (always will) but I'm so focused on blogging/photography/art at the moment...I have to make myself write the more informative articles here, LOL. Thank you for your support, friend! :)

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 31, 2013:

Great pics, lil' Sis. The experimental one of the river is fabulous. I was so excited to see a new hub by you that I dropped everything and rushed over here. I was not disappointed. :)