With silvery shadows and spooky noises, night hiking lends even the most familiar trail a hint of danger and exoticism. But these three nocturnal treks into our backcountry’s darkest zones will thrill you with the added spectacle of interplanetary storms, full moons, and other galactic bling.
Shining Rock Wilderness, NC
Catch an epic meteor shower.
Cold Mountain may be best known as the backdrop for the Civil War-era novel and movie of the same name, but you won’t see anyone in hoop skirts on your way to its 6,030-foot summit. Between November 13 and 20, it’s the best seat in the Smokies to view The Leonids, an intense meteor storm in the northern sky caused by intergalactic debris. The shower peaks on November 17, when 40 meteors per hour radiate from Leo (below the Big Dipper). From Big East Fork trailhead, take the Chestnut Ridge Trail 2.5 miles to the Art Loeb Trail and cruise four miles to Cold Mountain. Camp near the well-worn summit trail, and set your alarm for a midnight climb the last .5 mile to the top. (828-877-3265, cs.unca.edu/nfsnc)
Revive at Papa’s and Beer in Hendersonville with a kicking pumpkin-seed-and-habañero salsa. Try it on an omelette. (828) 692-9915
From Asheville, take I-26 east to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Turn north, and at milepost 412, turn northwest on US 276. Travel 1.25 miles to Big East Fork Parking Area.