View Full Version : Other trails or wilderness areas in the Southeast?
After completing the AT in 2000 I was yearning for a spring hike in the Southern Appalachians earlier this year. My two hiking buddies convinced me to broaden my horizons and to hike some new territory, and boy am I glad we did.
We spent 4 days hiking around the Pisgah National Forest around Black Balsam Knob and up into the Shining Rock Wilderness area. We hiked quite a bit on the Art Loeb Trail and the Mountains to Sea Trail. What an incredible area!
Then we spent 3 days in the Nantahala National Forest in the Joyce Kilmer Slick Rock Wilderness area. Another total gem of an area! It was so beautiful there that I actually felt as if I did not belong. Thick carpets of trillium on the forest floor and moss covered boulders all along Slick Rock Creek in the heart of the wilderness.
Anybody have any other favorite non-AT hiking areas in the Southeast? I'll be relocating to the Chattanooga area in 2003 and need to learn a few new places to escape to. I'm told the Cumberland Trail starts a few miles from my new home in Signal Mountain, TN. Any experience with that trail out there? A Of course the Smokies are beckoning... Any favorite side trails that I should place on my short list? Thanks...
Slickrock is great but you already know that.
In Alabama there is the 100+ mile long Pinhoti that is being lengthend to connect to the Benton McKaye Trail into the AT at Springer.
In Kentucky Mamoth Caves Park has 90+ miles of surface trails over the cave system.
Sipsey Forst in Alabama is some of my old stomping grounds as well.
Just don't come to Louisiana.
I'm a really big fan of the Smokys. There are about 850-900 miles of trail in the park, which means that there are lots of possibilities for loop hikes. Some of the best parts of the Smokys are not on the Appalachian trail, which is the only part that most hikers see. The other trails are alot less populated than AT in the Smokys and some have as good, if not better, views (Mount Sterling, along Dry Sluice, Bouelevard, Sunkota Ridge, High Rocks). You do see a fair number of fisherman at lower elevations on some of the larger creek systems, but not always. Also, if you are looking to avoid horses, alot of the creek trails have fords higher up which are too tough for most horses. Lower down though, you may be sharing the trail.
There are lots of places to go and things to see in the Smokys. Historical things abound, so if that is something that interests you, the Smokys will be paradise. The Old Settlers trail is the best for this, but there are fair amounts of historical stuff along Forney Creek, in the Bone Valley, and in the Big Creek region. Don't let the 10 million visitors per year get you down. The vast majority just drive to Newfound Gap or Clingmans or Cades Cove. Most of the rest do day hikes either to IceWater, Ramsay Cascades, Chimneys, or LeConte. Any of the other 800 miles of trail are usually pretty empty.
A trip that I recently did and liked was: From Clingmans, head west on the AT to the Welch Ridge trail, in between Double Springs and Silars. Drop down to the Hazel Creek trail and follow it all the way to the Bone Valley. Camp at the head of the Bone Valley (83, I think). This is officially a horse camp, but there was no one there when I came through and is right on a river. The next day, take a spur trail up the Bone Valley to see the cabin. Then, head east on the Cold Spring trail up to High Rocks. High Rocks is, as far as I can estimate, 10 miles from the nearest trailhead and pretty isolated in the Smokys. This means that there are no day hikers. Good views to the South, including things like Cheoah and Wesser. Drop down on the Bear Creek (?) trail to the Forney Creek trail. Take Forney creek up, camping at one of the campsites (lots along the way). The last day, haul up to Clingmans along Forney Creek, stopping off at Andrews Bald which, for now, is closed to day hikers. Be warned, though, that this requires a lot of fords. I lost count somewhere around 45 fords and guess that I forded about 60 times. No rock hopping was possible, but I also had high water (after TS Isidore). I saw a grand total of 9 people and 3 bears during this 3 day trip. Very cool.
If you want more, email me.
There is an unbelievable waterfall on Jacks creek. Great for jumping off of. I have extremely fond memories of this place because it was the first backpacking trip I did with my future wife. We had an amazing time. It does get very crowded during hot summer days though despite it being 4 miles from the closest road. If I could only remember the name of the wildnerness area it was in. OH! I remember - Cohutta. I think that i remember reading that Cohutta combined with Big Frog (they are back to back) is the biggest desiginated wilderness area in the US (?).
Anyway, GREAT falls. They are in the best picture I have ever taken. Don't be afraid to jump! (20 ft fall or so...)
I would be pretty suprised if there was any wilderness area in the east that rivaled the size of things like the Bob Marshall complex or the
Frank Church or Death Valley, etc, etc. Big Frog et. al might be the largest east of the Rockies, although the Everglades probably has a pretty large portion which is designated as wilderness. I don't think the Smokys has the wilderness tag on it.
The Benton MacKaye Trail covers about 90 miles. Starts at Springer Mountain in GA on the Appalachian Trail (AT) and ends at the Ocoee River just north of the Big Frog Wilderness in TN.
The Pinhoti Trail in AL is about 100 miles. It is within the Talladega National Forest.
The Bartram Trail covers about 100 trail miles (about 14 mile road walk around Franklin, NC). Basically starts where GA Hwy 28 crosses the Chattooga River on the GA/SC border and ends at Cheoah Bald on the AT in NC, 142 miles north of Springer Mountain. The BT crosses the AT at Wayah Bald in NC, so one could hike about a 55 mile loop between Wayah Bald and Cheoah Bald on the AT and BT.
The Foothills Trail covers about 75 miles. Starts at Table Rock SP in SC and ends at Oconee SP in SC. It crosses the NC/SC border 4 times.
The Duncan Ridge Trail (DRT) covers about 30 miles in GA. It starts at Three Forks on the AT and shares the trailway with the Benton MacKaye Trail (BMT) until it gets to Rhodes Mountain, where it turns east and continues to its terminus with the AT at Slaughter Gap. The DRT and AT can be combined for what is known as the Georgia Loop Trail, about 55 miles...you can also extend it to about 65 miles by starting at Springer Mountain and including the BMT.
The Chattooga Trail covers about 35 miles and follows the Wild and Scenic Chattooga River along the GA/SC border. The northern 15 miles is on the SC side and the southern 20 miles is on the GA side.
If you want to hike a little longer trail, keep in mind that some of these trails connect with each other. The Foothills Trail connects with the Chattooga Trail, which connects to the Bartram Trail, which connects with the Appalachian Trail, which connects to the Benton MacKaye Trail, which kinda/someday will connect to the Pinhoti Trail .
It might be a little far for you, but worth the trip.
Go and pet a pony....
Try Big South Fork up near Jamestown Tn. You should be very pleased.