Little Cataloochee Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Little Cataloochee developed as an expansion to Cataloochee Valley with many of the sons and daughters of the original founders spreading their wings, albeit just a few miles away. Travel these days is limited to hiking boots and horseback, but a sense of time and place is still available through the historic restorations made by the National Park Service. Little...

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Kephart Prong Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Kephart Prong is one of the many water drainages that give the Smokies its character and provide refreshing nourishment for all the flora and fauna. Named for Horace Kephart, an author who was very instrumental in helping the Great Smoky Mountains achieve national park status, this scenic mountain stream is especially inviting during the spring greening season....

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Sycamore Cove Trail, Pisgah National Forest

Essentially a loop trail (the two ends are about 200 yards apart on Hwy 276), Sycamore Cove is a great hike for the entire family. It’s relatively easy, with only about 600 feet of elevation change, and it’s a delightful four-season hike that is a great way to start your day. The trail initially follows picturesque Starnes Branch amidst large hemlock and...

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Forest Road Connector of Caney Bottom and Daniel Ridge Trails, Pisgah National Forest

The U.S. Forest Service is the greatest road builder in the world. Oft times, those forest service roads come in handy for hikers to get from one ridge to another, from one creek drainage to another, or simply from one trail to another. That’s the case with Forest Road 225 in Pisgah National Forest. FR225 tips the Caney Bottom and Cove Creek Trails on its eastern...

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Scout Camp Loop on Art Loeb Trail and Little East Fork Trail, Shining Rock Wilderness

Backcountry wilderness. If you really want to get a taste, then this hike is for you. Starting at the remote Camp Daniel Boone, the northern terminus of the Art Loeb Trail enters Shining Rock Wilderness immediately. As you begin the nearly 2,000′ ascent to Deep Gap, on the southern shoulder of Cold Mountain, you will cross numerous streams as you hike through...

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Buck Spring Trail to Pisgah Inn, Pisgah National Forest

There’s a trail from Scenic Hwy 276 that parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway as it winds around 10 ridges and makes 13 easy stream crossings on its way to the Pisgah Inn on the Parkway. Buck Spring Trail eventually ends up at the site of the former hunting lodge of George W. Vanderbilt II, the father of Pisgah National Forest. In the spring this trail is alive with...

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Reasonover Creek Trail to Lake Julia and Fawn Lake, DuPont State Forest

Down in the far southern section of DuPont State Forest is the Reasonover area, near the community of Cedar Mountain. Home to several trails and a couple of reservoirs, like most of DuPont, Reasonover is a great place to go hiking. Especially if you want to stay away from the high country during the winter season, Reasonover is less than 3,000 feet, so you’re a lot...

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East Lake Creek Trail, White River National Forest

I went to the Colorado Rockies in late September-early October with the expressed intention of being there for the autumnal yellowing of the aspen trees. It’s a gorgeous sight, the leaves take on a golden glow that shimmers in the breeze. Well, mission accomplished. My brother saved East Lake Creek Trail for the last hike of my visit, one that walks for miles in...

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Bighorn Trail, Eagles Nest Wilderness

Beginning on Columbine Dr. in East Vail, CO, the Bighorn Trail climbs steeply out of the Vail Valley, then more gradually climbs up through stands of aspen and pine. The trail passes beaver ponds and the remains of old mining camps as well as Bighorn Creek. Near the halfway point, be sure to turn around because the views of Vail and Bighorn drainage behind you are...

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Booth Lake Trail, White River National Forest

Booth Lake Trail begins at Booth Falls Road in East Vail, CO and ends at Booth Lake. The trail climbs up the Booth Creek valley through mostly aspen groves before passing the 60-foot Booth Falls. Beyond the falls the trail winds through conifer forests and meadows filled with wildflowers. Above 10,000 feet the trees thin and the terrain changes offering views of the Gore...

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Fall Creek Trail to Lake Constantine, Holy Cross Wilderness

One of the things I miss about the Blue Ridge and Smokies is mountain lakes. The Rocky Mountains are adorned with memorable alpine lakes, usually surrounded by majestic peaks and bountiful evergreen forest. All you need is an input and output source, like Fall Creek in the case of Lake Constantine, and a bowl between mountains to collect the water. Fall Creek Trail...

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Big Glassy Mountain Trail, Carl Sandburg’s Connemara

Carl Sandburg’s wife Lilian discovered the mountain farm named Connemara in the community of Flat Rock, south of Asheville, NC. From 1945, until his death in 1967, the famous American poet, biographer, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author lived and worked on the 264-acre estate. The family then sold the property and donated the contents to the National Park Service...

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Pink Beds Loop, Pisgah National Forest

Peaceful. If I were to think of a single word to describe the Pink Beds Loop Trail, that would be it. Peaceful. Located in a high valley in the Cradle of Forestry, Pink Beds is surrounded by the tall mountains and lush woodlands of Pisgah National Forest. Home to rare mountain bogs, unique vegetation, and unusual wildlife, this area is ideal for those who like to explore...

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Appalachian Trail from Beauty Spot to Unaka Mountain, Tennessee

High above the community of Erwin, Tennessee, the Appalachian Trail follows the North Carolina / Tennessee state line through the Unaka Range. From a grassy bald ridge with the appropriate name Beauty Spot, to the summit of 5,184′ Unaka Mountain, the trail winds northeasterly for a 4-mile section through a continuously changing ecology. Stand on the bald with...

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Big Creek Trail on Little Pisgah Ridge, Pisgah National Forest

Looking to do some ridge hiking down, down, down from the Blue Ridge Parkway into Pisgah National Forest? Overlooking North Mills River, the Little Pisgah Ridge starts at 4,800′, then drops down into the Big Creek drainage some 2,100 feet below. Catch your views of the mountains on the Parkway before you start because this is a heavily forested hike that instead...

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Foster Creek Conservation Easement, North Mills River

Sometimes even the most benign little trail can be filled with wondrous surprises. Nestled in a small valley between Bryson and Caney Mountains in North Mills River, North Carolina, and surrounded by Pisgah National Forest, the Foster Creek conservation easement and trail is just such a place. Barely a mile in length, and nearly flat, this four-season trail is ideal for...

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Foothills Trail from Sassafras Mountain, SC to Gum Gap, NC

Hiking a state line offers interesting boundary markers and competing blaze markings. This hike on the Foothills Trail follows the boundary from the highest point in South Carolina — Sassafras Mountain — to a convenient end point at Gum Gap in North Carolina. Because of the length, for us this was a two vehicle hike, with one left at each end. Expect a roller...

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Mountains to Sea Trail to Fork Ridge, Middle Prong Wilderness

Back to Rough Butt Bald Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and another visit to the Mountains to Sea Trail. The MST follows, or remains close to the Parkway through much of Western North Carolina, so there are a number of easily accessible jumping off points that head into the backcountry. Middle Prong Wilderness was designated in 1984 and spans rugged high-elevation...

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Cat Gap Trail to Cedar Rock Falls and Long Branch, Pisgah National Forest

There is a series of waterfalls not far from the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education and State Fish Hatchery on Forest Road 475. Collectively known as Cedar Rock Falls, they carry Cedar Rock Creek on its plunge down the mountain to Davidson River. Access to these falls and the wetlands beyond is via the Cat Gap Trail, a jumping off connector trail for many of the...

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Rough Creek Watershed, Haywood County, North Carolina

The Rough Creek Watershed is 870 acres of protected mountain land north of Canton, North Carolina, in Haywood County. This is privately held land, so there are rules for hikers and mountain bikers, but it is open to the general public. The trail system is more than 10 miles, and incorporates historical road beds with well maintained single tracks for foot and bike...

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Pressley Cove and Maxwell Cove Trails, Pisgah National Forest

Perhaps you’re looking for a short hike that will really stretch your legs and get your heart pounding. Then you may want to consider the Pressley Cove/Maxwell Cove loop that is not too far from the Pisgah Ranger District headquarters. You’ll climb more than 1,400 feet in just a little over a mile through a beautiful poplar, oak and beech one-age forest....

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Daniel Ridge Loop Trail, Pisgah National Forest

One of many trails found off Forest Road 475 in the Pisgah Ranger District near the State Fish Hatchery, Daniel Ridge Loop is a beautiful 5-miler that takes you near the headwaters of Davidson River. As you climb the ridge you’ll have views of the Looking Glass and Cedar Rock plutons on the south side, and drainage off four ridges into Davidson River on the north...

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Fletcher Creek and Middle Fork Trails, Pisgah National Forest

North Mills River Recreation Area in Pisgah National Forest, along with its brother at South Mills River, has a rich and varied trail system. Among them, Fletcher Creek is a typical streamside trail that passes an old beaver pond, thick forest of hardwood and hemlock, several grassy meadows and a number of log bridge crossings over Fletcher Creek, Spencer Branch and...

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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...

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Green River Game Lands Trail System

Green River Game Lands, southeast of Hendersonville, NC, sits astride the Henderson/Polk County line. Paralleling the Green River Gorge, the Game Lands is a state owned tract of more than 10,000 acres with 16 miles of hiking along nine distinct named trails. As its moniker would imply, hunting, fishing, and trapping are allowed on the Game Lands during the months of...

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Buckhorn Gap Trail to Twin Falls, Pisgah National Forest

Just southeast of the Cradle of Forestry in Pisgah National Forest lies the Avery Creek area, a beautiful hardwood forest with plenty of water and a hidden pair of waterfalls known as Twin Falls. Access to the falls is via the Buckhorn Gap Trail, an easy to moderate track that first follows Avery Creek, then turns north alongside Henry Branch. The forest management work...

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Cascade Falls, Little Bearwallow Falls, and Bearwallow Mountain, Hickory Nut Gorge

Hickory Nut Gorge runs from Bearwallow Mountain in the northwest to Lake Lure southeast. Included in its 10-mile length are majestic cliffs of granite, inspiring waterfalls and scenic wilderness that beckons to the explorer in you. Chimney Rock State Park, Florence Nature Preserve and Rumbling Bald all offer excellent hiking within the gorge. Up in the northwest corner...

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Burnt Mountain Trail, Little River Trail, Cedar Rock Trail, DuPont State Forest

Deep at the southern tip of DuPont State Forest is an area loved by mountain bikers, but also a nice place for scenic forest, riverside, and small mountain hiking. The elevation is in the 2800-3000 foot range, so it’s ideal for winter hiking where you’re not likely to get deep snow like the 6000′ peaks in the nearby national forest. Start with a lovely...

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Bad Fork Trail, North Mills River, Pisgah National Forest

Another of the myriad of ridge and gap trails from North Mills River to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Bad Fork Trail follows its namesake creek from Forest Road 5000 to Bent Creek Gap at mile 400 on the Parkway. This is a four mile round trip that can be extended by continuing on the Mountains to Sea Trail on the north side of the Parkway. Only moderately steep, this is a nice...

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North Slope Connector to Art Loeb Trail, Pisgah National Forest

Section 1 of the Art Loeb Trail is in Pisgah National Forest near Brevard, NC overlooking the Davidson River Recreation Area. The North Slope Trail is a loop contained within the boundary created by the Art Loeb and the river. Between the two trails is a connector. Combining the two via the connector makes an 8-mile loop that takes in a large portion of the forest above...

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