Lover’s Leap is a 1½ mile out-and-back trail featuring 3 rocky overlooks near Hot Springs, North Carolina. It’s a very short section of the Appalachian Trail (AT) and you can make the hike a loop by taking the Silvermine trail back down to the road.
Hot Springs is a tiny trail town and popular summer destination. If you’re there in April when the northbound AT hikers are passing through, it’s not uncommon to see people walking around in rain gear on sunny days while their hiking clothes are in the wash
Visitors like to camp, float the river, and go on little hikes this. There’s not really any parking next to the trailhead, which is simply the place where the AT intersects with Highway 25 at the bridge over the French Broad River. Just park in one of the public parking spaces in downtown Hot Springs and walk across the bridge. The trailhead is on the right.
Technically, the AT follows Bridge Street, so you’re on the trail as soon as you get out of your car. Once you step off the bridge, the trail will follow the bank of the French Broad River until the pathway climbs the mountain on switchbacks. It’s a rocky trail that requires shoes with good tread. If you’re there during tourist season, expect the trail to be crowded with visitors out for a little exercise.
There are 3 overlooks near the summit of the mountain. The trail forks at the last one. You can continue right along the AT to Mill Ridge or take the left path down Silvermine Trail (there is parking at this trailhead). Just make sure to take a left at the next fork near a decrepit wooden staircase to stay on the trail. The trail to the right heads down Pump Gap Trail to the shelter and continues along the creek. It’s a fun area to explore if you want to stretch your legs, but make sure to bring some bug spray.
The map below will direct you to the place where the AT intersects with Bridge Street. There is limited cell reception in the area (most of the town relies on WIFI), so get your navigation app up and running while you still have a signal.
While it’s inexpensive to camp at the Hot Springs Resort & Spa, I should add that there are free, primitive campsites along the French Broad River section of this hike. So you could enjoy a weekend in Hot Springs for nothing more than the cost of your travel and entertainment.
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