Trail Reports

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 | 9 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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Thomas Divide Trail to Nettle Creek Bald, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Feb 22, 2016 @ 10:54 am in Forest Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Moderate Hikes | 1 comment

Thomas Divide Trail to Nettle Creek Bald, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Thomas Divide is one of those ridge hikes that splits the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains Range. It is also one of the longer trails in the national park at near 14 miles, but you can do as much or as little as you wish for a day hike. The trail passes through a rich forest of Eastern hemlock, beech, birch and multiple varieties of maple. The crest also enjoys the presence of spruce and fir. When the leaves are down you can see Clingmans Dome on the west side of the ridge and the massive shoulders of Richland Mountain to the east. Ken and...

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Walking the Pisgah Ridge on the Blue Ridge Parkway – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Feb 18, 2016 @ 11:37 am in Blue Ridge Parkway, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Photo Essays, Pisgah National Forest, Vista Hikes | 4 comments

Walking the Pisgah Ridge on the Blue Ridge Parkway – A Photo Essay

Walking the Blue Ridge Parkway in winter is a great way to get a slow-motion view of the wonderful vistas that whiz by at 45 mph in your car. The Parkway is closed so you don’t have to worry about traffic. The only concern really is perhaps slipping on snow or ice. This latest in the Photo Essay series looks at a 4-mile stretch of the BRP between mileposts 412 and 408. It starts where Scenic Hwy 276 climbs to meet the Parkway at milepost 412. The Cold Mountain Overlook is right there, and that’s where Ken and I parked. Gates are...

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Flat Rock and Plantation Trails, DuPont State Forest

Posted by on Feb 15, 2016 @ 10:24 am in DuPont State Forest, Forest Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Easy Hikes | 1 comment

Flat Rock and Plantation Trails, DuPont State Forest

Working on a little project to tick off all the trails within DuPont State Forest, I visited two short ones that are close to each other in the northeast corner off Sky Valley Road. Each is little more than a mile round trip. Flat Rock Trail passes through a boulder field and past a recent logging operation to a dead end at the confluence of Jim Creek with Grassy Creek. Plantation Trail walks among an absolutely stunning pine forest that, judging by all the ribbons tied to trunks, is unfortunately probably next for the lumberjack’s axe....

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Pitch Pine, Three Lakes and Bridal Overlook Trails, DuPont State Forest

Posted by on Feb 10, 2016 @ 10:35 am in DuPont State Forest, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Moderate Hikes, Water Hikes | 1 comment

Pitch Pine, Three Lakes and Bridal Overlook Trails, DuPont State Forest

Located in the heart of DuPont State Forest, Three Lakes Trail does exactly what its name implies… it takes you to a trio of very picturesque lakes near Conservation Road. Lake Dense is an ideal stop for a family picnic. Lake Alford, really more of a pond, may be the most vivid and charming of all. The largest, Lake Julia, is breathtaking from every angle. Add to this a stroll along Pitch Pine Trail to reach the lakes, and a visit to Bridal Overlook afterward, and you can make a delightful day in the woods of DuPont State Forest. I...

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Pine Tree Trail and Cascade Trail Loop, DuPont State Forest

Posted by on Jan 23, 2016 @ 10:40 am in DuPont State Forest, Forest Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Easy Hikes | 1 comment

Pine Tree Trail and Cascade Trail Loop, DuPont State Forest

Arriving before the morning sun had a chance to melt the fresh dusting of snow, I walked this short loop in the southwest corner of DuPont State Forest with the sound of woodpeckers filling the air… and not much else. It was quiet. A half inch of snowfall muted the normal sounds. I purposely picked this woodsy loop. Usually enjoyed by mountain bikers, I guessed correctly that I would have it all to myself on this day. So for two serene hours I strolled along Pine Tree and Cascade trails following rabbit and squirrel tracks and listening...

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Noland Creek Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Jan 17, 2016 @ 3:53 pm in Forest Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Moderate Hikes, Water Hikes | 0 comments

Noland Creek Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Bryson City, NC is located on the far southern boundary of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and hosts the Deep Creek and Lakeview regions of the park. Noland Creek Trail runs north/south off Lakeview Drive between Fontana Lake and the Noland Divide high above in the mountains. The trailhead is one mile north of the lake and heads in both directions. On this day Ken and I headed north up into the drainage. The Noland Creek valley contains a beautiful hardwood and pine forest and at one time was home to several settler families. If you look...

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Jones Gap Trail to Rainbow Falls, Jones Gap State Park

Posted by on Jan 3, 2016 @ 12:03 pm in Hiking, Hiking Blog, Mountain Bridge Wilderness, Rated Difficult Hikes, South Carolina, Water Hikes | 0 comments

Jones Gap Trail to Rainbow Falls, Jones Gap State Park

Jones Gap State Park sits on the Blue Ridge Escarpment in upstate South Carolina very near the state line with its neighbor to the north. Along with Caesars Head State Park, these two share an area known as Mountain Bridge Wilderness. The Jones Gap Trail follows the Middle Saluda River along an old roadway built by Solomon Jones in the 1850s. In this cove backcountry the river is quite wild with many waterfalls and rapids that add exciting sights and sounds to a pristine mountain woodland. Near the eastern end of Jones Gap Trail are two...

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Chasteen Creek Cascade, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Dec 28, 2015 @ 11:27 am in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Easy Hikes, Water Hikes | 0 comments

Chasteen Creek Cascade, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Smokemont region of the Smokies is one of the most convenient, located just a short few miles northwest of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center off Hwy 441. The trailhead for Bradley Fork starts in the back of the Smokemont Campground, surrounded by the Smokies ubiquitous waterways. It’s only a mile and change up Bradley Fork Trail to its meeting with Chasteen Creek Trail, and then just another three-quarters mile to an exciting cascade on Chasteen Creek. The path along the way is easy to navigate and offers many picturesque vantage...

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World’s Edge at Chimney Rock State Park – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Dec 23, 2015 @ 12:06 pm in Hickory Nut Gorge, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Photo Essays, Rated Easy Hikes, Rated Moderate Hikes, Vista Hikes | 6 comments

World’s Edge at Chimney Rock State Park – A Photo Essay

August 2005 saw the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and The Nature Conservancy purchase a 1,568-acre tract of land south of Lake Lure known as “World’s Edge” for $16 million with the intention of transferring the land as the first to be added to the new Chimney Rock State Park. World’s Edge contains a mile-long set of steep slopes on the eastern edge of the Blue Ridge Escarpment, with more than 20,000 feet of streams and waterfalls. From an overlook point, the land falls away to the southeast providing a stunning view of...

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Micajah and Cannon Creek Trails, DuPont State Forest

Posted by on Dec 18, 2015 @ 11:11 am in DuPont State Forest, Forest Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Moderate Hikes | 0 comments

Micajah and Cannon Creek Trails, DuPont State Forest

The far southwestern corner of DuPont State Forest offers a forested hike atop multiple plutons, past a retired rock quarry, and across a couple of gentle mountain streams. The oak trees are in abundance, as are white and longleaf pines. Look for the fascinating moss and reindeer lichen on the plutons as you gaze at the far away mountains of Pisgah National Forest. This section of the state forest is quite popular with mountain bikers, but hikers can enjoy the scenery every bit as much. Ken and I explored the Micajah on Wednesday, December...

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Thomas Cemetery Loop, DuPont State Forest

Posted by on Dec 14, 2015 @ 12:46 pm in DuPont State Forest, Forest Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Easy Hikes | 1 comment

Thomas Cemetery Loop, DuPont State Forest

Beginning at the Guion Farm area of DuPont State Forest on Sky Valley Road you can make a nice hike on several roads that loop through a deep and dense pine woodland. This is a pine regrowth region that the N.C. Forest Service leases for controlled logging, so you may need to keep your eye out for large trucks, but you may also have the opportunity to see modern lumberjacks in action. Half way along the loop through the forest is a 19th century cemetery that encloses the remains of the Thomas family. Dave, Grace and I walked these roads on...

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Raven Cliff Falls Overlook, Mountain Bridge Wilderness

Posted by on Dec 12, 2015 @ 4:31 pm in Forest Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Mountain Bridge Wilderness, Rated Easy Hikes, South Carolina | 0 comments

Raven Cliff Falls Overlook, Mountain Bridge Wilderness

Matthews Creek plunges more than 350 feet over Raven Cliff Falls into the gorge it has carved below Raven Cliff Mountain. One of a myriad of landmarks along the Blue Ridge Escarpment in Caesars Head State Park, the rim of this gorge offers a gentle and rewarding hike. Part of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area that also includes Jones Gap State Park, this is the most extensive trail system in South Carolina. More like Western North Carolina than the coastal and central regions, the South Carolina Upcountry is similar in elevation and forest...

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Asbury Trail at Cataloochee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Nov 15, 2015 @ 10:22 am in Forest Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Pisgah National Forest, Rated Moderate Hikes | 0 comments

Asbury Trail at Cataloochee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Historic Asbury Trail straddles the boundary between the Smokies national park and the Appalachian Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest. It is named for Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury who, in the early 19th century, brought his traveling ministry to this area that would eventually become a national park more than a hundred years later. It was also formerly known as the old Cattalucha Indian track. You can follow Asbury Trail past the gauging station on Cataloochee Creek and all the way to Scottish Mountain, 12 miles from the Cove Creek...

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Waterrock Knob Across the Plott Balsams Range, Blue Ridge Parkway

Posted by on Oct 28, 2015 @ 11:33 am in Blue Ridge Parkway, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Nantahala National Forest, North Carolina, Rated Difficult Hikes, Vista Hikes | 6 comments

Waterrock Knob Across the Plott Balsams Range, Blue Ridge Parkway

Sometimes things just don’t go exactly as planned. But making the most of what’s available is what sets hiking apart. Everything doesn’t have to go perfectly to still enjoy the day. Such was the case with this hike across the Plott Balsams mountain range from Waterrock Knob on the Blue Ridge Parkway. You’re in rarefied air here, with the entire trail above 5,600 feet, and with magnificent views of the Great Smoky Mountains, the thriving mountain community of Sylva, NC, and even all the way to Mt. Pisgah far to the...

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Black Balsam to Silvermine and Chestnut Balds on Mountains to Sea Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway

Posted by on Oct 24, 2015 @ 4:22 pm in Blue Ridge Parkway, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Mountains to Sea Trail, North Carolina, Pisgah National Forest, Rated Easy Hikes, Vista Hikes | 5 comments

Black Balsam to Silvermine and Chestnut Balds on Mountains to Sea Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway

Looking for a short, easy, serene getaway in the high country that offers outstanding long distance views of the Blue Ridge Mountains? This is the trail for you. This little stretch of the famous Mountains to Sea Trail will take you from Black Balsam Road, through a dark and deep balsam spruce forest, across Silvermine Bald and on to Chestnut Bald to a splendid overlook of Looking Glass Rock, Pilot Mountain, and Pisgah National Forest’s Cradle of Forestry. If you have your binoculars or a zoom lens, you can see all the way to Lake...

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Twentymile Loop, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Oct 19, 2015 @ 12:26 pm in Forest Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Moderate Hikes, Water Hikes | 1 comment

Twentymile Loop, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Located in the far southern region of the Smokies, near Fontana Village and the Little Tennessee River, Twentymile is an area of the national park that is a little less traveled. Primarily used by backpackers as a means of accessing remote park highlights like Gregory Bald or Shuckstack Fire Tower on the Appalachian Trail, Twentymile can also be enjoyed by day hikers or creek seekers year round. Like so much of the mountainous Smokies, Twentymile is blessed with water, water everywhere. Two-thirds of the length of this loop is alongside...

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Cataloochee Divide Trail from Cove Creek Gap to Purchase Knob, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Oct 12, 2015 @ 11:12 am in Forest Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Moderate Hikes | 6 comments

Cataloochee Divide Trail from Cove Creek Gap to Purchase Knob, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

M eanderthals has hiked the middle section of the Cataloochee Divide Trail several times, so we thought we should check out the northern end of the Divide. And I’m delighted we did. The forest is beautiful. Starting at Cove Creek Gap, high above Cataloochee Valley, the Divide trail follows the ridge for 4.5 miles past occasional views of the Smokies and Blue Ridge on either side. We happened to catch the mixed hardwood forest in the early stages of autumn coloring, enhancing the experience even that much more. The destination is one of...

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Blue Ridge Parkway High Country – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Oct 2, 2015 @ 10:13 am in Blue Ridge Parkway, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Inspiration, North Carolina, Photo Essays, Pisgah National Forest, Vista Hikes | 0 comments

Blue Ridge Parkway High Country – A Photo Essay

Leaf peepers head to Graveyard Fields in late September for the annual ritual of Autumn color in the high country. Located at mile 418 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Graveyard Fields is one of the earliest locations to begin the chromatic display, as well as one of the most intense. From the bright red of the blueberry and sumac bushes, to the multi-colored hues of the maple and oak, this is a prime location year in and year out. But don’t limit yourself to Graveyard Fields. There is a 5-mile stretch of the Parkway from mile 416 through...

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