Foot access to good habitat is the most-important aspect of grouse hunting. A hunter who can’t walk the rugged terrain for several miles with relative ease is not going to flush many grouse.

Hiking trails are also hunter trails, and both Pisgah National Forest and Nantahala National Forest have excellent trails. The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission provides decent maps of the trail systems on its website, but better, larger-scale maps are available from the U.S. Forest Service. 

Many trails are marked with signs and may even have mile markers at their trailheads as well as at intersections where trails cross or merge. Maps are important; there are places that have no satellite signal for operating a GPS unit or cell phone.

If a hunter is walking a trail on the way to good grouse cover, he should be on high alert and ready to shoot, because a grouse can flush anywhere, at any time. Many hunters do not leave the trails, but walk along, stopping at intervals, especially when in position to get a shot at grouse erupting from a rhododendron thicket or sapling thicket. When a hunters hears something, stops walking and turns as though to investigate, a grouse will often lose its cool and erupts with fanning wings. It is harder to hit a grouse if you are walking in mid-stride than standing still.

Another reason grouse hunting is good along trails is that they often offer the only opening through the canopy of a mature forest that allows enough sunlight through to produce early successional plants that produce seeds and forage for grouse. One thing to look for is trails planted with lespedeza or clover, which grouse eat. Trails that have only pasture grasses as cover do not attract as many grouse.