Trail Reports

Shut-in Ridge Trail to Ferrin Knob, Blue Ridge Parkway

Posted by on Feb 17, 2017 @ 11:13 am in Blue Ridge Parkway, Forest Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Pisgah National Forest, Rated Difficult Hikes | 0 comments

Shut-in Ridge Trail to Ferrin Knob, Blue Ridge Parkway

The Shut-in Ridge Trail and the Mountains to Sea Trail are one as they traverse the Blue Ridge from the North Carolina Arboretum to Mt. Pisgah. Along the way, there are several jumping on and off points where you can access this trail from the Blue Ridge Parkway, enabling short day hikes. One of these short sub-sections is along Bent Creek Gap Road at BRP milepost 400. From there it’s a steep climb of 1.4 miles to an old fire tower location on Ferrin Knob. Ken and I visited this little corner of the Blue Ridge Parkway on Tuesday,...

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Little River, Cucumber Gap, Jakes Creek Loop at Elkmont, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Jan 28, 2017 @ 7:13 am in Forest Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Rated Moderate Hikes, Tennessee, Water Hikes | 0 comments

Little River, Cucumber Gap, Jakes Creek Loop at Elkmont, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Elkmont is a nice area of the Smokies to visit in winter. It’s quiet, historic, alive with waterways, and offers views of the surrounding mountains through the leafless trees. Little River is beautiful as always, the climb up and over Cucumber Gap is invigorating, and the timeless cottages of Daisy Town along Jakes Creek harken back to a simpler time in the mountains. Combine them all on this delightful loop hike. I visited Elkmont on Wednesday, January 25, 2017 beginning at 9:30AM and ending about 12:45PM. My plan was to take Little...

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New Year’s Eve at Cataloochee – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Jan 2, 2017 @ 4:50 am in Forest Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Photo Essays | 4 comments

New Year’s Eve at Cataloochee – A Photo Essay

Cataloochee Valley in the Smokies is of course most popular during the green seasons. People come from far and wide to experience the wildflowers in Spring, the myriad of hiking trails in Summer, and the exciting elk rut and colorful foliage in Fall. But Winter too has its appeal. Perhaps the best reason to go to Cataloochee in winter is the solitude. The crowds are considerably smaller. The wildlife is still there. The trails are just as inviting. The views are every bit as scenic. The creeks are refreshing as always. Sure, it isn’t...

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Autumn Drive from New Mexico to Colorado – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Nov 4, 2016 @ 10:51 am in Colorado, Hiking, Hiking Blog, New Mexico, Photo Essays | 0 comments

Autumn Drive from New Mexico to Colorado – A Photo Essay

The final day of our recent trip to New Mexico, my brother Dave and I returned to his home in Colorado. Along the way we stopped for some sight seeing in Los Alamos, NM, Pagosa Springs, CO and near Leadville, CO. When we originally left Colorado a few days before, the weather had been summer-like, and we had enjoyed the turning of the aspen trees to their brilliant autumn gold. Once we crossed back into Colorado from the south it became evident some different weather had arrived while we were gone. There was an October snowfall in the...

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Buck Spring to Pilot Rock, Pisgah National Forest

Posted by on Oct 30, 2016 @ 11:53 am in Forest Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Pisgah National Forest, Rated Moderate Hikes | 1 comment

Buck Spring to Pilot Rock, Pisgah National Forest

Starting at the former site of George Vanderbilt’s Buck Spring hunting lodge near Mt. Pisgah, this hike crosses the summit of Little Bald Mountain before dropping down the watershed to Pilot Rock, one of the many plutons found within the Pisgah Ranger District. The high country is home to thickets of mountain laurel and rhododendron, while various maples, oaks and pines line the trail as you near Pilot Rock. Ken and I took this picturesque trek on Wednesday, October 19, 2016 beginning at 9:30AM and ending about 1:45PM. Our plan was to...

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Trail 12 at Valles Caldera National Preserve, New Mexico

Posted by on Oct 27, 2016 @ 6:59 am in Hiking, Hiking Blog, New Mexico, Rated Difficult Hikes, Vista Hikes | 0 comments

Trail 12 at Valles Caldera National Preserve, New Mexico

Valles Caldera is a 13.7-mile wide volcanic bowl in the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico near Los Alamos. About 1.25 million years ago, a spectacular volcanic eruption created this circular depression now known as the Valles Caldera. The Valles Caldera Preservation Act of 2000, signed by President Clinton, created the National Preserve. The preserve is known for its huge mountain meadows, abundant wildlife, and meandering streams. The area also preserves the homeland of ancestral native peoples and embraces a rich ranching history. The...

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Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, New Mexico – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Oct 23, 2016 @ 11:31 am in Canyon Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, New Mexico, Photo Essays | 0 comments

Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, New Mexico – A Photo Essay

The Río Grande del Norte National Monument is comprised of rugged, wide open plains at an average elevation of 7,000 feet, dotted by volcanic cones, and cut by steep canyons with rivers tucked away in their depths. The Río Grande River carves an 800 foot deep gorge through layers of volcanic basalt flows and ash. Among the volcanic cones in the Monument, Ute Mountain is the highest, reaching to 10,093 feet. This area has attracted human activity since prehistoric times. Evidence of ancient use is found throughout the area in the form of...

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Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

Posted by on Oct 21, 2016 @ 6:38 pm in Colorado, Great Sand Dunes National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Photo Essays, Rated Easy Hikes, Vista Hikes | 0 comments

Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve protects the tallest sand dunes in North America, and a whole lot more. From the San Luis Valley floor to the crest of the 13,000 foot peaks in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains — the park and preserve contains ecosystems ranging from sand sheet to dunes to tundra — each supporting specially adapted plant, animal and insect life. Days are typically sunny, even in winter, and nights offer skies so dark you can see the Milky Way. Recreational opportunities include backpacking and hiking, car...

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Fall Foliage Time on the Blue Ridge Parkway – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Oct 18, 2016 @ 10:44 am in Blue Ridge Parkway, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Photo Essays, Pisgah National Forest | 2 comments

Fall Foliage Time on the Blue Ridge Parkway – A Photo Essay

There aren’t many places in Western North Carolina better for Autumn leaf peeping than the Blue Ridge Parkway. On Monday, October 17, 2016 I set out to demonstrate that by taking a little tour between mileposts 410 and 420. But first I had to get there. I went up the Pisgah Ridge on Scenic Hwy 276, passing the Cradle of Forestry along the way. I arrived at the Cold Mountain Overlook once on the Parkway, then headed to Pounding Mill Overlook to take care of one of my volunteer jobs. I pick up trash at this overlook on a regular basis....

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County Road 2 from Hoosier Pass, Pike National Forest

Posted by on Oct 16, 2016 @ 12:25 pm in Colorado, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Pike National Forest, Rated Moderate Hikes, Vista Hikes | 0 comments

County Road 2 from Hoosier Pass, Pike National Forest

There’s a reason they call it Summit County. An old mining road climbs from Hoosier Pass above 12,000 feet and is surrounded by several of Colorado’s famous fourteeners. The first half of the road meanders through a spruce and fir forest with occasional views of the massive mountains that envelop the region. The rest of the way is above treeline, offering unobstructed viewing of giants Mt. Bross, Mt. Lincoln, Mt. Silverheels and Quandary Peak. The north side of the ridge also has long distance vistas of more fourteeners, several...

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Shrine Ridge Trail, White River National Forest

Posted by on Oct 14, 2016 @ 12:55 pm in Colorado, Forest Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Rated Moderate Hikes, White River National Forest | 1 comment

Shrine Ridge Trail, White River National Forest

Fog and low-lying mist is very common in the Southern Appalachians. It is a product of the rainforest effect. Fog is highly unusual in the Rocky Mountains, but that’s what greeted Dave and I as we hit the trailhead to climb Shrine Ridge. It was somewhat of a dreary, forlorn scene as we walked from mountain bog to spruce forest to high meadow on our way to the ridgeline. Shrine Ridge has wide open vistas of three mountain ranges including Sawatch, Tenmile, and Gore… but not on this day. We visited Shrine Ridge Trail on Friday,...

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Spraddle Creek Trail, White River National Forest

Posted by on Oct 10, 2016 @ 3:32 pm in Colorado, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Rated Moderate Hikes, Vista Hikes, White River National Forest | 2 comments

Spraddle Creek Trail, White River National Forest

The U.S. Forest Service has done a nice job of building trails up the watersheds that drain into the Town of Vail. Included among these is Spraddle Creek, located across I-70 from Vail Village. The reward at the top of the ridge is a mountain meadow that overlooks Vail, Beaver Creek ski mountain, and the Holy Cross Wilderness far, far away. Hike in late September for an extra treat of peak golden aspen color. My brother Dave and I enjoyed Spraddle Creek Trail on Thursday, September 29, 2016 beginning at 9:00AM and ending about 1:30PM. Our...

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Balsam Mountain Trail to Laurel Gap, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Sep 11, 2016 @ 9:59 am in Forest Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Moderate Hikes | 0 comments

Balsam Mountain Trail to Laurel Gap, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This remote corner of the Smokies isn’t easy to get to, but your efforts will be rewarded with solitude, quiet, peaceful 2nd growth forest, and a pensive wandering. The Cherokee lived on one side of the ridge. The Cataloochee settlers on the other. They met in the middle to graze their cattle on “The Ledge” between the two. The bald knobs are reforested now, but I found myself thinking about what it was like to be here a century ago. A little warning is in order: you are in for a longish drive on twisty gravel road both...

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Long Bunk Trail at Cataloochee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Aug 24, 2016 @ 11:58 am in Forest Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Moderate Hikes | 2 comments

Long Bunk Trail at Cataloochee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The forest north of Cataloochee Valley in the Mt. Sterling watershed has recovered nicely from logging activities a century ago. It is dense, rich and diverse… a verdant testimony to Nature’s ability to reinvigorate herself. This hike starts at the north end of Little Cataloochee on Mt. Sterling Road and meets Long Bunk Trail a mile later. Long Bunk is a near 4-mile path that winds through cove and hardwood forest until it meets the Mt. Sterling Trail. Along the way you have an appointment with historic artifacts, and with dynamic...

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Appalachian Trail from Clingmans Dome to Newfound Gap, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Jul 28, 2016 @ 2:40 pm in Appalachian Trail, Forest Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Difficult Hikes, Tennessee | 3 comments

Appalachian Trail from Clingmans Dome to Newfound Gap, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina can get pretty warm and muggy in mid-summer. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is not exempt from that. So when I hike in July and August I like to head for the high country… and there’s nowhere higher in the Smokies than Clingmans Dome. In fact, it’s the third highest peak in the East and the highest point along the full length of the Appalachian Trail. Taking the A.T. from Clingmans Dome to Newfound Gap on the North Carolina / Tennessee state line is a great workout through...

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Mountains to Sea Trail Near Old Bald, Nantahala National Forest

Posted by on Jul 11, 2016 @ 11:13 am in Blue Ridge Parkway, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Mountains to Sea Trail, Nantahala National Forest, North Carolina, Rated Moderate Hikes, Vista Hikes | 0 comments

Mountains to Sea Trail Near Old Bald, Nantahala National Forest

Love the high country in summer. It’s like getting an extra month of spring. For much of its length through the Western North Carolina mountains, the Mountains to Sea Trail parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway. There is an area near mile marker 434 on the Parkway, beneath Old Bald, where the MST winds through mixed forest and high mountain meadows teeming with wildflowers. The air is cool and the vistas impressive here in the Great Balsam Mountains. There are also plenty of old logging roads making this playground one that is suited for...

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Little River and Goshen Prong Trails at Elkmont, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Jun 25, 2016 @ 2:38 pm in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Rated Moderate Hikes, Tennessee, Water Hikes | 1 comment

Little River and Goshen Prong Trails at Elkmont, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Little River headwaters region of the Smokies was heavily logged in the early 20th century. As a result, a community called Elkmont sprung up in the valley below to support the lumberjacks and their families. Elkmont eventually became a mountain resort for the well-to-do of eastern Tennessee with its rustic cabins along the river. These days those quaint cottages have become derelict as the national park simply doesn’t have the funds to maintain them. So now Elkmont is a favorite campground among the regulars, and a hub for a...

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Summer Solstice on Sam Knob – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Jun 21, 2016 @ 11:45 am in Blue Ridge Parkway, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Photo Essays, Pisgah National Forest | 4 comments

Summer Solstice on Sam Knob – A Photo Essay

The summer solstice occurs when a planet’s rotational axis, in either northern or southern hemispheres, is most inclined toward the Sun. Most cultures have marked this occasion in some ritualized manner and from time immemorial people have acknowledged the rising of the sun on the summer solstice. At Stonehenge, the heelstone marks the midsummer sunrise as seen from the center of the stone circle. At Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, the Chacoan people were intimately aware of all their surroundings. They were close observers of the skies and...

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Hemphill Bald Trail from Polls Gap, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Jun 18, 2016 @ 12:09 pm in Forest Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Difficult Hikes, Vista Hikes | 8 comments

Hemphill Bald Trail from Polls Gap, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

I have hiked to Hemphill Bald from the east along the Cataloochee Divide many times. However, this was the first time approaching from the west on the Hemphill Bald Trail from Polls Gap. This made my second foray into the Heintooga region of the Smokies in recent weeks, another beautiful piece of the national park that doesn’t get enough attention. This trail would show up in any hiking glossary as the pure definition of roller coaster. While only changing little more than 500 feet in elevation, because of all the up and down you will...

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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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Flat Creek Trail to Heintooga, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Jun 10, 2016 @ 4:23 pm in Blue Ridge Parkway, Forest Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Moderate Hikes | 2 comments

Flat Creek Trail to Heintooga, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This delightful forested trail in the Heintooga section of the Smokies follows Bunches and Flat Creeks up Overlook Ridge to a perch high above Cataloochee Valley and Cherokee, NC. Few short trails in the Smokies are as memorable. The pathway is carpeted with a charming wispy grass that waves in the breeze and tickles your legs as you pass by. What’s not to love? My brother Dave and I visited Flat Creek on Friday, June 3, 2016 beginning at 8:15AM and ending about 12:30PM. Our plan was to take the Flat Creek Trail up to the Heintooga...

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Big Bradley Falls Overlook, Green River Game Lands

Posted by on Apr 30, 2016 @ 12:25 pm in Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Easy Hikes, Water Hikes | 3 comments

Big Bradley Falls Overlook, Green River Game Lands

Like its partner, Little Bradley Falls, this hike is found in a remote corner of the Green River Game Lands near Saluda, NC that enables you to enjoy beautiful waterfalls. Big Bradley Trail follows Cove Creek along its path to an eventual meeting with Green River, but before it gets there, it free-falls 75 feet over the stone precipice at Big Bradley Falls. Bring your water shoes for this hike for the wet crossing of Cove Creek. I visited this area on Thursday, April 21, 2016 beginning at 10:30AM and ending about 12:00PM. My plan was to take...

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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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Schoolhouse Gap Trail to Whiteoak Sink, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Apr 22, 2016 @ 10:51 am in Forest Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Rated Moderate Hikes, Tennessee | 0 comments

Schoolhouse Gap Trail to Whiteoak Sink, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Without a doubt one of the most popular wildflower hikes on the Tennessee side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Whiteoak Sink is a basin surrounded by steep hills. In April each year this natural botanical garden comes alive with more than 30 varieties of native wildflowers right alongside the trail for all to enjoy. The name “Sink” comes from the caves that are found in the area, really more like rocky sinkholes. Much like Cades Cove just a few miles to the west, Whiteoak Sink was settled in the 19th century long before...

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Kanati Fork Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Apr 7, 2016 @ 2:15 pm in Forest Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Difficult Hikes | 4 comments

Kanati Fork Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This lovely wildflower trail is about half way up Newfound Gap Road from the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, but its shortish length and tranquil setting belie the grueling terrain. Climbing from the Oconaluftee River valley to Thomas Divide, 2,200 feet above, it is a true test of stamina for even the most seasoned hikers. Kanati Fork is one of those picturesque drainages seemingly found everywhere in the Smokies. The mountains and water give the land its character. The abundant wildflowers along this trail are simply an extra added bonus. I...

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Spring Comes to the Smokies – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Mar 27, 2016 @ 11:20 am in Forest Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Photo Essays, Rated Moderate Hikes, Tennessee | 0 comments

Spring Comes to the Smokies – A Photo Essay

The Smokies can always be counted on for fulfilling the promise of spring renewal. One of the best spots for finding early blooms of exotic native wildflowers is on Porters Creek Trail in the Greenbrier section of the national park. Along the pathway is a diverse array of flowery goodness including the multi-acre mystical fringed phacelia garden, seemingly home to a host of woodland creatures like sprites and faeries. The dazzling display of Mother Nature’s finest has been a couple weeks early this year, due in large part to a very warm...

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Paris Mountain State Park Trail System, South Carolina

Posted by on Mar 19, 2016 @ 9:23 am in Forest Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Rated Moderate Hikes, South Carolina, Water Hikes | 3 comments

Paris Mountain State Park Trail System, South Carolina

Named for an opportunistic traitor who supported the Crown during the Revolutionary War, Paris Mountain State Park was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. Richard Pearis owned 150,000 acres including what is now Greenville, SC and this state park north of the city. Once no more than a rural retreat, Paris Mountain is now a bustling destination for hikers and mountain bikers who test their conditioning on the park’s mature trail system. In addition to the near 15-mile trail infrastructure, there is...

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Palmer Creek Trail at Cataloochee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Mar 10, 2016 @ 11:13 am in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Moderate Hikes, Water Hikes | 6 comments

Palmer Creek Trail at Cataloochee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of the Smokies? Is it 6,000 foot mountaintop vistas that expand the imagination? Perhaps you think of the half-million acres of forest or the hundreds of varieties of wildflowers. There is one other constant in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and that is water. Cataloochee Valley is surrounded on all sides by myriad creeks and streams that tumble down from those tall mountaintops. Among them is Palmer Creek, named for a 19th century settler. Pretty Hollow Gap Trail and Palmer...

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Ridgeline Trail to Hickory Mountain Loop, DuPont State Forest

Posted by on Mar 7, 2016 @ 12:52 pm in DuPont State Forest, Forest Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Moderate Hikes | 0 comments

Ridgeline Trail to Hickory Mountain Loop, DuPont State Forest

When you step on a trail at DuPont State Forest, you can usually tell pretty quickly if it was designed and built for mountain biking. Some tell-tale signs are banked curves and bumps, rails for tricks, and a smooth, hard-packed surface. Such is the case with Ridgeline Trail. DuPont State Forest is a haven for mountain bikers from all over the Southeastern United States, and Ridgeline Trail is one of their favorites. Hey, equestrians like it too. Combine it with a loop around and over Hickory Mountain for a nice hike, or an exciting ride. I...

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Appalachian Trail to Mt. Kephart and The Jumpoff – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Mar 1, 2016 @ 9:44 am in Appalachian Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Photo Essays, Rated Difficult Hikes, Tennessee, Vista Hikes | 5 comments

Appalachian Trail to Mt. Kephart and The Jumpoff – A Photo Essay

The Appalachian Trail splits the states of North Carolina and Tennessee through most of the breadth of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Hugging the state line as it traverses the rugged and remote ridges, the AT is a favorite destination for day hikers and thru hikers alike. There is a three and a half mile stretch from Newfound Gap to the summit of Mt. Kephart, and beyond to a magnificent overlook known simply as The Jumpoff, that provides an excellent example of what high country Smoky Mountains terrain is all about. I’ve written...

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