Ivestor Gap Trail to Shining Rock, Shining Rock Wilderness

Deep in the heart of Shining Rock Wilderness is the namesake, a mountain made of quartz, standing more than 6,000 feet. On bright sunny days you can see the white quartz “shining” from miles away. The Cherokee called it Datsu’nălâsgûñ’yĭ, “where their tracks are this way,” that refers to a white rock that is said to have tracks of Tsul...

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Roan Highlands Redux – A Photo Essay

When the Southern Appalachians are your home, the month of June simply isn’t complete without a visit to Roan Highlands for the annual rhododendron and azalea bloom. Like Julie Andrews sang years ago, “these are a few of my favorite things.” From the first time I set foot on Round Bald, I knew this was someplace special. The grassy ridge of the...

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Clingmans Dome Area Trails, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Clingmans Dome is the highest point in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in the state of Tennessee, and along the Appalachian Trail. Standing 6,643 feet, it is also the third highest peak in the East, only 41 feet lower than the tallest. Several hiking trails surround the summit of Clingmans Dome, including the Forney Ridge Trail that heads south to the picturesque...

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Appalachian Trail to Lover’s Leap, Pisgah National Forest

Hot Springs, NC is an Appalachian Trail Community that sits along the French Broad River in the Appalachian Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest. The Appalachian Trail was built through Hot Springs more than seven decades ago, and today white blazes still mark the path through town and over the bridge across the river, before heading north up to the vista, Lover’s...

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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...

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Wedding Canyon and Monument Canyon Loop, Colorado National Monument

Most folks who visit Colorado National Monument view its red sandstone landmarks from Rim Rock Drive and its many overlooks. It’s convenient for peering deep into the canyons. However, like most places of interest, getting out of your car and putting your boots on the trail will give you an up-close-and-personal encounter with iconic features like Independence...

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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...

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Forest Road 5031 from Courthouse Falls to Farlow Gap, Pisgah National Forest

Sometimes the forest roads in national forests make the best hiking trails. Such is the case with FR 5031 in Pisgah National Forest. Located near Courthouse Falls on the far southwestern side of Pisgah, near the boundary with Nantahala National Forest, FR 5031 is a means of getting from a drainage bowl to Farlow Gap on Shuck Ridge. For mountain bikers, you could connect...

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False Gap Prong Manway to Grandfather Tree, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Greenbrier section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is filled with old growth forest, and with lots and lots of creeks draining into the valley from the high mountains of the Smokies above. The path of one of those creeks, False Gap Prong, takes it from near Laurel Top to Greenbrier Cove. A non-supported trail — otherwise known as a manway — follows...

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Little River Trail, South Mountains State Park

For a scenic stroll along a horse path through the South Mountains forest, you may give Little River Trail a try. Starting at the Cicero Branch parking area and climbing above Jacob Fork gorge, you will pass viewpoints for the North Carolina Piedmont and follow Little River to the end of the trail at a small but treacherous hidden waterfall. I hiked to Little River Falls...

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High Shoals Falls Loop, South Mountains State Park

North Carolina’s South Mountains State Park has more than 45 miles of marked trails. No doubt the most popular is the High Shoals Falls Loop Trail, a short, but tough climb to an 80-foot crystal-clear free-fall. Travel for a mile along rocky Jacob Fork River before beginning the steep ascent that requires stairs to navigate the tough terrain. From a viewing...

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Trombatore Trail to Blue Ridge Pastures, Hickory Nut Gorge

Blue Ridge Pastures is a grassy knoll northwest of Bearwallow Mountain along the Buncombe/Henderson County line. With terrific views of Hickory Nut Gorge, and on clear days The Great Craggy and Black Mountains, the reward for your hard work pays off. The Trombatore Trail will make you climb twice for your reward, once before and once after, but keep that reward in mind...

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Saluda Mountains Passage of the Palmetto Trail, South Carolina

This section of the Palmetto Trail borders the Poinsett Watershed used by the City of Greenville, and roughly follows the North/South Carolina state line. Enjoy a delightful forest hike that winds among the Saluda Mountains as you’re passing through one of the most significant wilderness areas in South Carolina. In 1993, the Greenville Water System conveyed an...

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Oconee Passage of the Palmetto Trail, Sumter National Forest, SC

This climb up Station Mountain begins within Oconee Station State Historic Site then passes through Sumter National Forest on the way to Oconee State Park. Along the way you’ll enjoy the 60-foot Station Cove Falls and a botanical preserve inhabited by beaver. The climb is a good workout, as a peaceful hardwood forest and a well-maintained trail lined with switch...

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Buffalo Creek Park, Hickory Nut Gorge

Buffalo Creek Park is the gateway to 1,500 acres of land conserved by the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy on Weed Patch Mountain that protects the northern headwaters of Lake Lure in Hickory Nut Gorge. The town of Lake Lure has since purchased 200 acres for the creation of Buffalo Creek Park and a network of hiking and mountain biking trails. When fully developed, it...

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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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Elephant Canyon, Needles District, Canyonlands National Park

The Needles District forms the southeast corner of Canyonlands National Park 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 overnight trips or long day hikes including this one around, over and through Elephant Canyon. This 10-mile loop will take you up...

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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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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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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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Davidson River Trail, Pisgah National Forest

This short, little trail from Cove Creek to the State Fish Hatchery is often overlooked, but it will take you to some of the most gnarly whitewater on Davidson River. The trail is simple. It’s just a straight 1.1 mile shot from one end to the other, and then back. Ah, but have you ever seen a two-tiered trail? If you promise to be very, very careful on the river...

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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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Ivestor Gap Trail to Little East Fork Trail, Shining Rock Wilderness

When the Blue Ridge Parkway reopens each year in early spring, it is great to get back into the high country at milepost 420. That means the Black Balsam area and Shining Rock Wilderness. An oft overlooked trail on the west side of the wilderness is Little East Fork, a twisty path that follows the Little East Fork of the Pigeon River from Shining Rock Gap to the Daniel...

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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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Green River Cove Trail, Green River Game Lands

From Saluda, NC the Green River Cove Road drops more than a thousand feet into the Green River Gorge to a meeting alongside the Green River. On the other side of the river is the Green River Cove Trail, at the southern boundary of the Green River Game Lands. The trail starts at Wilderness Cove and follows the river for 4.2 miles to the base of the Green River Narrows, a...

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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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Greenland Creek Trail at Panthertown, Nantahala National Forest

Panthertown Valley in Nantahala National Forest is known for its stunning mountaintop vistas, but also for a numerous and varied assortment of waterfalls that run the gamut from slides, to cascades, to ledge and plunge. Six of those falls are along Greenland Creek, including the feature cascade Greenland Creek Falls. Beyond this tall waterfall, the Greenland Creek Trail...

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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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