Maddron Bald Trail to Albright Grove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Take a hike on the Maddron Bald Trail from the Cosby area of the Smokies, and you will be thrust into a different age and time. With a restored 19th century cabin and old family cemetery along the way, and mature forest as your destination, you might imagine yourself walking the trail in the days more than a century ago when settlers built their homesteads here. The...

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Big Fork Ridge, Caldwell Fork, & Rough Fork Loop at Cataloochee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Start your morning with the elk rut in Cataloochee Valley. Then gear up for this enchanting deep forest hike that includes mountain creek crossings, giant old growth tulip poplar and hemlock, occasional views of the Smoky Mountains surrounding the valley, and a stroll down memory lane at historic settler homesteads. Enjoy this 10-mile loop in three segments, on three...

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Norman Wilder Forest, Pacolet Area Conservancy

Located in an area of Polk County, NC between Tryon and Saluda, the Norman Wilder Forest is a conservation easement that first opened to the public in 2001. Owned and operated by the Pacolet Area Conservancy, the 185 acres of protected mature third growth mixed hardwood forest provide hikers with a small trail system that meanders beneath the shady canopy. Lying on the...

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Bradley Fork and Smokemont Loop Trails, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Water. Forest. Mountains. History. For me, that is what Great Smoky Mountains National Park is all about. On the Smokemont Loop hike you will get all of them. For the first couple miles, stroll along one of those beautiful mountain streams the Smokies are known for, then prepare your legs and lungs for a tough climb 1,350 feet through the forest to the top of the ridge....

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Big Butt Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway & Pisgah National Forest

Another foray into the Black Mountains led us to summits with names like Point Misery, Little Butt and Big Butt. The Big Butt Trail takes off from Balsam Gap on the Blue Ridge Parkway along Brush Fence Ridge, roller-coastering across several peaks and gaps. The forest is filled with floral and fungal oddities, and old-growth spruce and pine that protect the ridge like...

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Douglas Falls Trail from Craggy Gardens, Blue Ridge Parkway

Sometimes you have to work for the reward at the end of the trail. Hiking from Craggy Gardens to Douglas Falls is a prime example. You will descend 1,350 feet from the Blue Ridge Parkway to this 70-foot waterfall through a luscious forest of birch, maple, and beech, even enjoying old growth hemlock along the way. Expect a rough hike, as the terrain is very rugged in the...

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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...

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Grassy Creek Falls, Table Rock Trail and Lake Dense, DuPont State Forest

There are 84 named trails in DuPont State Forest. This robust and mature trail system is a series of arteries that connect the various and disparate sections of this family friendly recreation area. In the central region of the state forest I put together a semi-loop hike that took me first to a waterfall, then to a hilltop summit, and finally to the tranquil banks of a...

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Turkeypen Gap Trail and South Mills River Trail Loop, Pisgah National Forest

I always enjoy hikes along the South Mills River in the Pisgah Ranger District. This loop follows the north side of the riverbank for several miles along an old logging road. But to get there, first you cross Sharpy Mountain from Turkeypen Gap. The trail travels through beautiful hardwood and heath forest as it roller-coasters across four gaps to its meeting with Wagon...

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Snake Den Ridge Trail and Appalachian Trail to Inadu Knob, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Cosby area in the Smokies offers quite a few long and rugged hikes from valley floor to mountain tops, including this leg-wrecker from the Cosby Campground to the Appalachian Trail on the Snake Den Ridge Trail. Even up top there are multiple potential destinations. We chose Inadu Knob and the old search & rescue helicopter pad at Deep Creek Gap for the views...

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Boogerman Loop Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Robert “Booger” Palmer may have a silly nickname, but there’s one thing we can always appreciate him for. He never would allow loggers onto his 220 acre homestead in Cataloochee Valley. As a result, still today there is old growth forest that includes poplar trees with trunks six feet in diameter. The massive hemlocks have unfortunately succumbed to the...

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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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