Winter is over and that means more freedom for us all. Freedom from heavy jackets and cough drops and, most importantly, freedom from being cooped up inside. And there’s no better way to celebrate the return of nice weather than with a nice hike.
The South is full of great trails to explore, from beach side strolls to epic climbs along the Appalachian Trail. Whatever your experience level, it’s time to grab your boots and a bottle of water and try out some of our favorite hikes in the South.
We’ve linked to the All Trails or other relevant listings for each one of these excursions so you can see what other hikers have to say about the route. Before you go please make sure you’ve prepared for any unexpected conditions and always, always let someone know where you’re headed.
The Appalachian Trail in North Carolina gets all the attention, but the Mountains-to-Sea Trail really celebrates what makes the Tar Heel State great. The Mountains-to-Sea Trail is a 1,200 mile path that runs from Clingman’s Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park—the highest point on the Appalachian Trail—to Jockey’s Ridge in the Outer Banks. Fortunately for the weekend warriors out there, you can easily hop on and off the trail every few miles or so. But if you want to do the whole thing in one go, we totally get it.
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There is an unmistakable sense of wonder when you’re surrounded by wildflowers. They take your breath away. Sometimes referred to as the “Wildflower National Park,” Great Smoky Mountains #NationalPark in #Tennessee is a world-renowned preserve of wildflower diversity. The park boasts over 1,500 kinds of flowering plants from spring-beauties in late winter to the last asters in the late fall. As spring unfurls, #wildflowers perform like an orchestra, taking turns blooming based on sunlight, rain and active pollinators. Photo of black-eyed susans @GreatSmokyNPS courtesy of Nathan Szwarc (@nathaninthesouth). #travel #FindYourPark #greatsmokymountainsnationalpark #usinterior
Don’t forget that the Southern Weekend went on a pretty great hike in the Smokies in 2018. Check it out!
Want to get in a nice beach walk without all those pesky mountains? Savannah is the place for you. Skiddaway Island State Park has six miles of hiking trails to choose from. Check out the tidal creeks populated by birds, crabs, and the occasional alligator. Or check out the other side of the Intracoastal Waterway which is home to Wormsloe Historic Site, a Civil War Fort nestled amongst the Lowcountry’s famous live oaks. Whichever side you choose, we recommend kayaking there.
So what if you don’t care for the mountains OR the beach? How about the bayou? The Caroline Dormon Trail in the Kisatchie National Forest is a long (but easy) jaunt through the heart of Louisiana. And not only is it a lovely walk in the woods, the trail was named for Caroline Dormon, a botanist, ornithologist, and educator, who was the first woman to be employed by the U.S. Forest Service. So come out and check out some of the wildlife that Caroline loved so much. This is not a loop trail so please be sure to arrange transportation at the end or be prepared to double back.
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Sometimes, I just can’t get a trip out of my head. Three days is not long enough for me anymore. I want to keep going for as long as possible. I’m excited knowing that the #kisatchienationalforest can keep me on the trail for more than a week…if I only had time. #louisianahikes #geauxhiking #onlyinlouisiana #kisatchieloop #kisatchiehillswilderness #carolinedormontrail #kisatchieloop
Just a hop, skip, and a jump north of the bayou, you’ll find the Ozarks. The rolling, verdant hills of Arkansas (and Missouri) are home to some of the best hiking in the South. Our pick here is the Whitaker Point Trail, a 3-mile out and back trail featuring one of the state’s most breathtaking views. A rock formation known as a crag juts out from one of the Ozark National Forest’s many bluffs and allows visitors to gaze across a massive valley. Be sure to get there early and be respectful to your fellow hikers, this is a popular trail.
Do you crave the red clay splendor of the Utah parks? Still waiting for the spring airfare deals to hit? Well you can sate your desires with one of Georgia’s hidden gems, Providence Canyon State Park. Often referred to as Georgia’s “Little Grand Canyon,” this 150-foot canyon is actually man made. Farming practices during the 1800’s led to massive erosion in the area. Instead of trying to fix the land, Georgia built a state park around it. The perimeter loop trail is an easy 2-mile stroll, but we encourage you to stay the night and enjoy the stars in one of Georgia’s off-the-beaten-path treasures.
If you’re not concerned about where you go and just want a great hike, head Shenandoah National Park, one of the crown jewels of the South. Old Rag Mountain is the park’s most popular hike, but it will take all day and requires some serious upper body strength. If you want something a little more relaxing pick almost any hike off Skyline Drive, the main road through the park. The Hawksbill Summit Trail is a short and steep climb through the woods that puts you out onto the park’s tallest peak. Head here for a sunset and the satisfaction of a great view without scrambling over boulders on Old Rag.