Bright Angel Point Trail, Grand Canyon National Park

Located on the very southern tip of the Kaibab Plateau, and the prime vista location for the North Rim of Grand Canyon, Bright Angel Point offers a bird’s-eye view of the meeting of Roaring Springs Canyon and Transept Canyon at the Bright Angel Fault. It is 4/10 mile from Grand Canyon Lodge to the point on a paved trail that offers several overlooks along the way....

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North Kaibab Trail on North Rim, Grand Canyon National Park

The North Rim of the Grand Canyon doesn’t get nearly the traffic as its more touristy neighbor to the south. For one thing, it is a lot more remote. The North Kaibab Trail is the most difficult of the three trails that dissect the canyon, but it also holds the most varied ecosystem. Somewhat surprisingly, it is forested. With fir and aspen and scrub oak, along with...

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Angels Landing and West Rim Trail, Zion National Park

Angels Landing is a unique fin sandstone monolith that erupts 1,500 feet from the floor of Zion Canyon. The trail to the top is one of the most popular hikes in Zion National Park, certainly the most thrilling. For someone like me with heights and edges phobia and vertigo, it’s a little too much excitement, but there is a compromise. You can still enjoy most of the...

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Observation Point Trail, Zion National Park

Mount Baldy surveys Zion Canyon at 6,521 feet elevation, more than 2,100 feet above the valley floor. Jutting out from Mt. Baldy into one of the widest sections of Zion Canyon, Observation Point commands a view of nearly every major attraction, particularly those like Angels Landing and The Organ at Big Bend. Hikers receive a spectacular vista of the lower end of Zion...

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Park Avenue Trail, Arches National Park

Within Arches National Park you will discover a landscape of contrasting colors, landforms and textures unlike any other in the world. The park has over 2,000 natural stone arches, in addition to hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive fins and giant balanced rocks. This red rock wonderland will amaze you with its formations, refresh you with its trails, and inspire you...

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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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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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Mt. Mitchell State Park Trail System

This hike will introduce you to a good cross section of the trails found in Mt. Mitchell State Park high atop the Black Mountains in Western North Carolina. Mt. Mitchell is the highest point in the Eastern United States at 6,684′, in fact six of the 10 highest peaks are found in the Blacks. The climate of the Black Mountains is more like Canada than North Carolina....

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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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Craggy Gardens, Blue Ridge Parkway

June means catawba rhododendron at Craggy Gardens. Located northeast of Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Craggy Gardens is loaded with the purple and maroon beauties. There are two short, easy trails near the Visitor Center that access mountaintops for spectacular vista views and bunches and bunches of rhodies. Craggy Pinnacle takes you above 5,800 feet for a view of...

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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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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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The Pinnacle Trail at Pinnacle Park, Nantahala National Forest

Pinnacle Park is an 1,100 acre tract of land owned by the town of Sylva in Jackson County, NC that was previously used as the community watershed. In 1991 it was leased to the Pinnacle Park Foundation for developing hiking trails that pass by streams, waterfalls, and beautiful long distance vistas. The Pinnacle, where the park got its name, is a large rocky outcropping...

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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...

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Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center at Purchase Knob, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Purchase Knob is found on the far eastern flank of Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the Cataloochee Divide, north of Maggie Valley, NC. Near the summit and located at 4,850 feet, the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center is part of a network of what will be 32 centers supporting research and education about science in our national parks. The Purchase Knob...

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East Fork Trail to Devils Causeway, Flat Tops Wilderness

Acrophobia? Then you may want to stay home for this one, or at least don’t go all the way. That was my choice when my life-long fear of heights (that I thought I had conquered) kicked in. Devils Causeway, the destination for this hike on East Fork Trail in Flat Tops Wilderness, is an extremely narrow backbone atop a rocky ridge named the Chinese Wall that drops...

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Bowman’s Shortcut Trail, White River National Forest

Bowman’s Shortcut is an easy-to-get-to trail that tops a ridge that enables views of three different mountain ranges — Sawatch, Gore, and Tenmile. You’ll start out climbing through a pine forest with occasional glimpses of the distant peaks through the trees, then reach the bald ridge and the magnificent views of some of Colorado’s highest...

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Island in the Sky Trails, Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands preserves a wilderness of rock at the heart of the Colorado Plateau in Southeastern Utah. Water and gravity, this land’s prime architects, cut flat layers of sedimentary rock into hundreds of canyons, mesas, buttes, fins, arches, and spires. At center stage are two canyons carved by the Green and Colorado rivers. Island in the Sky stands more than two...

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High Windy Trail, YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly

Nestled in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains near Asheville, North Carolina, YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly is a full-service conference center situated on 1,200 acres of woodland beautified by mountain streams, wildflowers, ridges, valleys and spectacular views. What is little known about the property is the extensive hiking trail system. Primary among these is the High...

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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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Forney Creek Cascade and Andrews Bald, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Most people who head out Clingmans Dome Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are there to climb the half mile to the summit of the 2nd highest mountain in the East. But here at Meanderthals, we aren’t most people. Below Clingmans Dome are trails that explore the ridges and drainage on the south face. Included among those are Forney Creek Cascade, a classic...

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Big Bald Mountain on Appalachian Trail, Cherokee National Forest

Northeast of Mars Hill, NC, the Big Bald Range straddles the Tennesssee/North Carolina border and marks the boundary between Pisgah and Cherokee National Forests. The Appalachian Trail (AT) follows the state line, as it does for nearly all its length between these two states. The destination for this hike is 5,516 foot Big Bald Mountain, another of the grassy balds that...

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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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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...

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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...

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Appalachian Trail to Charlies Bunion, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Appalachian Trail straddles the Tennessee/North Carolina state line in Great Smoky Mountains National Park for more than 70 miles. A particularly scenic day hike on the AT is the four mile stretch from Newfound Gap to Charlies Bunion, a remote and rugged outcropping that sits on the ridge between the states. Along this sharp ridge you will pass magnificent views of...

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Funneltop Mountain and Squirrel Gap to South Mills River, Pisgah National Forest

Southeast of the Cradle of Forestry National Historical Site is a remote area of Pisgah National Forest with trails that will take you along ridge lines with views of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Looking Glass Rock, then follow creeks and streams as they tumble down the mountains to the western end of South Mills River. You will encounter names like Squirrel Gap, Glady...

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Cat Gap Loop to Cedar Rock, Pisgah National Forest

Cedar Rock is one of several granite pluton monoliths found in the Davidson River area of Pisgah National Forest. More difficult to get to than its nearby brethren, Looking Glass and John Rock, Cedar Rock has outstanding long distance views from both the east and west sides of its summit. You will have to work to get there, climbing nearly 1,700 feet from the valley...

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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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Mountains to Sea Trail Over Green Knob, Blue Ridge Parkway

Quite frequently in winter, the Blue Ridge Parkway will be closed for snow and ice. Not great fun for those who wish to drive along the beautiful ridges. Ah — but it’s the perfect time for hikers to get out on the trails that parallel the Parkway — like the Mountains to Sea. Between Pigeon Gap and Bennett Gap at miles 412-414 the Mountains to Sea Trail...

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