Best Hikes

Appalachian Trail from Yellow Mountain Gap to Little Hump and Big Hump Mountains

Posted by on Jun 13, 2016 @ 12:31 pm in Appalachian Trail, Best Hike, Cherokee National Forest, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Pisgah National Forest, Rated Difficult Hikes, Roan Highlands, Tennessee, Vista Hikes | 8 comments

Appalachian Trail from Yellow Mountain Gap to Little Hump and Big Hump Mountains

You can see them from Roan Highlands. They appear when viewed from Linville Gorge and Grandfather Mountain too. The long, green balds that comprise Little Hump and Big Hump Mountains stick out like limes in a grapefruit basket. And, you can see all those other landmarks from the Hump Mountains. The iconic Appalachian Trail (AT) arrives from the Highlands of Roan to traverse these two treeless knobs that stand well over 5,000 feet at their summits. Begin from the headwaters of Roaring Creek, near Spruce Pine. Climb for about ¾ mile on...

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Walking the Cades Cove Loop Road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Apr 26, 2016 @ 2:04 pm in Best Hike, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Inspiration, Photo Essays, Rated Moderate Hikes, Tennessee | 2 comments

Walking the Cades Cove Loop Road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Perhaps the most popular feature in all of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cades Cove is a throwback to 19th century living. Cades Cove is a wide, verdant valley surrounded by mountains that today is teeming with wildlife and spring floral beauty. The 11-mile Loop Road around the valley provides an opportunity for motorists, bicyclists, even walkers like me to sight-see at a leisurely pace. Cades Cove offers the widest variety of historic buildings of any area in the national park, including churches, cabins, mills and barns. Numerous...

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Elk Mountain Trail, Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge

Posted by on May 29, 2015 @ 2:24 pm in Best Hike, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Oklahoma, Rated Moderate Hikes, Vista Hikes | 1 comment

Elk Mountain Trail, Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge

Wild, rugged, and weathered — the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in central Oklahoma is a symbol of the old west standing at the threshold of modern times. The natural attractions of the refuge are many and varied. In addition to viewing and photographing wildlife in their natural setting, visitors find the lakes, streams, canyons, mountains and grasslands ideal for hiking, fishing, and other outdoor activities. Elk Mountain lies within the Charons Garden Wilderness Area in the western corner of the refuge. You may not think of...

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Porters Creek Trail to Fern Branch Falls, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Apr 2, 2015 @ 1:03 pm in Best Hike, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Rated Moderate Hikes, Tennessee, Water Hikes | 0 comments

Porters Creek Trail to Fern Branch Falls, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

You know how some hikes can be kinda boring, then have a big reward like an outstanding overlook at the end? Or perhaps others will wind through a stunning forest only to peter out? Well, this hike located in the Greenbrier section of the Smokies has neither problem. The Porters Creek Trail is an exciting adventure from start to finish. I would describe it as a play with four acts. The opening act follows a picturesque, cascading mountain stream. Act II is all about history — including farmsteads, a cemetery, and recreations of a 19th...

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Upper Muley Twist Canyon, Capitol Reef National Park

Posted by on Nov 23, 2014 @ 2:26 pm in Best Hike, Canyon Hikes, Capitol Reef National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Rated Difficult Hikes, Utah, Vista Hikes | 0 comments

Upper Muley Twist Canyon, Capitol Reef National Park

Perhaps the best hike in all of Capitol Reef National Park, Upper Muley Twist Canyon is a full-featured Utah adventure that includes narrow canyons, expanses of slickrock, large arches, and dramatic vistas from the top of the incomparable Waterpocket Fold. There are opportunities for side trips to slot canyons and other exciting off-trail experiences, as well as perilous exposure to precarious canyon rims. The canyon was carved over eons through a particularly contrasting section of the Waterpocket Fold where the deep red Wingate Sandstone...

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Mountains to Sea Trail Over Blackstock Knob to Balsam Gap, Mt. Mitchell State Park

Posted by on Aug 2, 2014 @ 11:56 am in Best Hike, Blue Ridge Parkway, Forest Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Mountains to Sea Trail, Mt. Mitchell State Park, North Carolina, Rated Difficult Hikes, Vista Hikes | 0 comments

Mountains to Sea Trail Over Blackstock Knob to Balsam Gap, Mt. Mitchell State Park

Hiking among the giants of the East. That’s what you’re doing when you take the Blue Ridge Parkway to Mt. Mitchell State Park for this trek on the Mountains to Sea Trail in the Black Mountains. With fabulous views of the Blacks and the Great Craggy Range, and closeup experiences with gnarly old growth fir and spruce krummholz, this stretch of the MtS is some of the best of the North Carolina high country. The trail climbs through ancient forest, past moss-covered granite outcrops, to the crest of the ridge and Blackstock Knob...

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Cataloochee Divide Trail to Hemphill Bald, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Dec 19, 2013 @ 12:30 pm in Best Hike, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Difficult Hikes, Vista Hikes | 5 comments

Cataloochee Divide Trail to Hemphill Bald, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Cataloochee Divide Trail follows the eastern national park boundary for 6.4 miles from Cove Creek Gap to a junction with Hemphill Bald Trail. It is then another half-mile climb to the 5,520′ summit of Hemphill Bald. We shaved 4+ miles off the round trip by starting at Purchase Knob rather than Cove Creek Gap. You will pass fabulous views to the east and south of the Black and Great Craggy Mountains nearly 50 miles distant, as well as Mt. Pisgah and Cold Mountain near the Blue Ridge Parkway roughly 20 miles away. Hemphill Bald stands...

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Appalachian Trail on Grassy Ridge, Roan Highlands

Posted by on Jun 22, 2013 @ 3:05 pm in Appalachian Trail, Best Hike, Cherokee National Forest, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Pisgah National Forest, Rated Moderate Hikes, Roan Highlands, Tennessee, Vista Hikes | 3 comments

Appalachian Trail on Grassy Ridge, Roan Highlands

Located along the North Carolina/Tennessee state line, and where Pisgah and Cherokee National Forests merge, Grassy Ridge in the Roan Highlands is the longest stretch of grassy balds in the Appalachian Mountains. The Appalachian Trail navigates this stunning ridge, hopping from Carvers Gap to Round Bald to Jane Bald, and on to the 6,169 foot Grassy Ridge Bald. The Highlands are a haven for wildlife, and mountain bushes like rhododendron, flame azalea, and green alder. Rare flowers are found here as well, including species such as spreading...

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Appalachian Trail to Max Patch and Buckeye Ridge

Posted by on Jun 1, 2013 @ 8:15 pm in Appalachian Trail, Best Hike, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Pisgah National Forest, Rated Moderate Hikes, Vista Hikes | 2 comments

Appalachian Trail to Max Patch and Buckeye Ridge

Standing guard along the state line, Max Patch Mountain is a grassy bald with fabulous panoramic views of the surrounding North Carolina and Tennessee Great Smoky Mountains. Oh, and by the way, the celebrated Appalachian Trail crosses its 4,629 foot summit. So far as Southern Appalachian summits go, this one is moderately short and easy, but you can make a day of it by taking in one or more of the other trails found in the vicinity, including Buckeye Ridge. Another grassy bald itself, Buckeye Ridge sits off the southeastern shoulder of Max...

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Mountains to Sea Trail to Green Mountain Trail, Middle Prong Wilderness

Posted by on Dec 15, 2012 @ 2:47 pm in Best Hike, Forest Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Middle Prong Wilderness, Mountains to Sea Trail, North Carolina, Pisgah National Forest, Rated Moderate Hikes, Vista Hikes | 3 comments

Mountains to Sea Trail to Green Mountain Trail, Middle Prong Wilderness

Between mileposts 423 and 424 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Scenic Hwy 215 crosses at Beech Gap. If you head about 1/4 mile north on 215, the famous Mountains to Sea Trail crosses from the Black Balsam area into Middle Prong Wilderness. The MtS winds through an ever-changing forest that runs the gamut of evergreens found in the high country of Western North Carolina. Past waterfalls and streams, through thickets and meadows, surrounded by 6000 foot tall mountain peaks, with the always present aroma of pine and spruce and fir, this stretch of the...

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Triple Falls, High Falls, Hooker Falls, DuPont State Forest

Posted by on Apr 22, 2012 @ 8:37 am in Best Hike, DuPont State Forest, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Easy Hikes, Water Hikes | 0 comments

Triple Falls, High Falls, Hooker Falls, DuPont State Forest

With so much interest in The Hunger Games movie, I thought it was time to head out to DuPont State Forest for a dawn hike to Triple Falls, one of the scenes in the film. Triple Falls is a tiered cascade on the Little River that drops 120 dramatic feet and was also featured in the Last of the Mohicans movie. A photo of Triple Falls was used by the Friends of the Falls conservation group to convince the North Carolina Governor and the Council of State to protect the waterfalls of the Little River from private residential development. After...

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Jones Gap Trail and Coldspring Branch Trail Loop, Jones Gap State Park, SC

Posted by on Jan 16, 2012 @ 5:12 pm in Best Hike, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Mountain Bridge Wilderness, Rated Difficult Hikes, South Carolina, Water Hikes | 9 comments

Jones Gap Trail and Coldspring Branch Trail Loop, Jones Gap State Park, SC

Jones Gap State Park sits on the Blue Ridge Escarpment in northwestern South Carolina very near the state line with its neighbor to the north. Along with Caesars Head State Park, these two share an area known as Mountain Bridge Wilderness. The Jones Gap Trail follows the Saluda River along an old interstate road built by Solomon Jones in the 1850s. In this backcountry the river is quite wild with many waterfalls and rapids that add exciting sights and sounds to a dense hardwood and laurel forest. Near the eastern terminus of Jones Gap Trail...

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Missouri Lakes Trail, Holy Cross Wilderness

Posted by on Aug 12, 2011 @ 6:09 pm in Best Hike, Colorado, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Holy Cross Wilderness, Rated Moderate Hikes, Water Hikes | 6 comments

Missouri Lakes Trail, Holy Cross Wilderness

Missouri Lakes Basin in the Holy Cross Wilderness is one of the most beautiful areas in Colorado for hiking and camping that I have experienced. It is an area of lakes and streams filled with trout and large glacial boulders, surrounded by lush forest and tundra, and the gnarly cliffs of the Sawatch Range in the Holy Cross Wilderness. There is some of just about every type of scenery for every hiker to enjoy. The trailhead starts at 10,010 feet and climbs gradually to nearly 12,000 in four miles. This is a popular area as you can imagine, so...

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Chesler Park, Needles District, Canyonlands National Park

Posted by on Jul 16, 2011 @ 11:35 pm in Best Hike, Canyonlands National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Rated Easy Hikes, Utah, Vista Hikes | 4 comments

Chesler Park, Needles District, Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park is in the southeastern corner of Utah, near Arches and Dead Horse Point. It is divided into four distinct districts: Island in the Sky, Needles, Maze, and Horseshoe Canyon. The Needles District forms the southeast corner of Canyonlands and was named for the colorful spires of Cedar Mesa Sandstone that dominate the area. The district’s extensive trail system provides many opportunities for long day hikes and overnight trips. Chesler Park is a scenic expanse of desert grasses and shrubs surrounded by colorful sandstone...

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Old Butt Knob and Shining Creek Trails Loop, Shining Rock Wilderness

Posted by on Jul 9, 2011 @ 11:03 pm in Best Hike, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Difficult Hikes, Shining Rock Wilderness, Vista Hikes | 24 comments

Old Butt Knob and Shining Creek Trails Loop, Shining Rock Wilderness

Perhaps it seems I’ve been spending quite a bit of time hiking in the eastern section of Shining Rock Wilderness in recent months. I can’t help myself. The terrain is wild, the forests ever-changing, the views exhilarating, and the exercise invigorating. The elevation changes dramatically — more than two thousand feet. The air is cool and refreshing even during the summer. It’s enjoyable to follow the wildflower progression from bluets and trillium to catawba rhododendron, to mountain laurel and flame azalea, then...

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Fairyland Loop Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park

Posted by on May 30, 2011 @ 5:10 pm in Best Hike, Bryce Canyon National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Rated Moderate Hikes, Utah, Vista Hikes | 2 comments

Fairyland Loop Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park is in the southwestern corner of Utah, near Zion and Cedar Breaks. Most of the park is above 8000 feet elevation, so the air is clear and the views long. Bryce Canyon is famous for its odd, fanciful geologic formations known as hoodoos and the myriad of color found in the sandstone. The Fairyland Loop Trail is one of the best kept secrets about Bryce Canyon. Located at the far northern tip of the park, most of the tourists blow right past Fairyland on their quest for car accessible Bryce overlooks. So Fairyland is a...

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Longs Peak Trail to Chasm Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park

Posted by on May 8, 2011 @ 1:46 pm in Best Hike, Colorado, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Rated Difficult Hikes, Rocky Mountain National Park, Vista Hikes | 0 comments

Longs Peak Trail to Chasm Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park

Elevations in Rocky Mountain National Park in northeast Colorado range from 8,000 feet in the grassy wetlands of the montane, to well above 14,000 feet in its alpine regions. The tallest mountain in the park is Longs Peak at 14,259′. Sitting in a circular basin 2400′ below Longs Peak is Chasm Lake, a mirror of water surrounded by the rocky alpine. More than half the trail to Chasm Lake is above treeline in the alpine tundra, so the views are long and the vistas grand. That also means the hike to Chasm Lake is exposed, so...

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Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain, Blue Ridge Parkway

Posted by on Apr 27, 2011 @ 7:22 pm in Best Hike, Blue Ridge Parkway, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Easy Hikes, Vista Hikes | 7 comments

Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain, Blue Ridge Parkway

Frequently. That is how many times I have done this hike. So many, I’ve lost count. I love the western North Carolina high country, and this area along the Blue Ridge Parkway known as Black Balsam has nearly a dozen peaks over 5,800 feet elevation, with Black Balsam Knob being the highest at 6,214. This area has some of the highest hiking on the Parkway. Many of these mountains are what are called balds, because they do not have trees on their tops, not because they are above treeline. There has been a series of fires in this area, the...

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The Narrows in Zion Canyon, Zion National Park

Posted by on Apr 22, 2011 @ 5:57 pm in Best Hike, Canyon Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Rated Moderate Hikes, Utah, Water Hikes, Zion National Park | 0 comments

The Narrows in Zion Canyon, Zion National Park

This hike has a reputation for being one of the best in the country, for good reason. The scenery, the environment, the trail (or lack thereof) are all unique and awe inspiring. You are actually hiking in the Virgin River through what is known as The Narrows in Zion Canyon. Steep sandstone cliffs rise a thousand feet or more on both sides of the river. The colors in the rock are stimulating. As the limited light strikes the river and the sandstone, glows can range from hues of gold and copper, to pink, orange and red. The vegetation that...

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Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Apr 1, 2011 @ 5:54 pm in Best Hike, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Rated Difficult Hikes, Tennessee, Vista Hikes | 13 comments

Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

One of the enduring pleasures in the Tennessee portion of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is scaling the 6,593 feet of beauty that is Mt. LeConte. It isn’t quite the highest mountain in the park, but it is by far the tallest hike from its base. The summit is so popular, there are five distinct trails to the top, varying in distance and difficulty. My favorite is the Alum Cave Trail. It is the shortest, at five miles to the summit, but as a result it is also the steepest and most difficult. At the top are cabins known as LeConte...

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