Highlands and Cashiers are two small, wealthy towns in the mountains of Southwest North Carolina surrounded by mountains with great views and great hiking trails. The Panthertown Valley Recreation Area is one of the best hiking destinations in the area, with several mountains with great views, and at least a dozen accessible waterfalls. Panthertown Valley, nicknamed "The Yosemite of the East". Mountains like Little Green Mountain alone are worth doing this hike - traversing it's open rocky faces with incredible views is quite a feeling. This hike occurred on Saturday, September 13th, 2014. My plan was as follows (and it's a long one): From the Packs Gap Trailhead, take the Blackrock Spur Trail to Blackrock Trail. From there, I'd follow the Blackrock Trail to Overlook Trail. I would take the Overlook Trail to Blackrock Mountain Overlook and to the Powerline Trail. I would turn right on the Powerline Trail and go all the way to Panthertown Valley Trail. Along the way, I would do the short out-and-back to Wardens Falls. Then, I would turn left on Panthertown Valley Trail, followed by turning right onto Little Green Trail. After visiting Schoolhouse Falls, I would summit Little Green Mountain and on the other side of the mountain, turn left on Mac's Gap Trail. Then, I would turn right onto Big Green Trail and follow it to Great Wall Trail. I would turn left onto the Great Wall Trail and follow it to Granny Burrel Falls Trail. After doing the short out-and-back to Granny Burrell Falls, I would continue on the Great Wall Trail to Deep Gap Trail. I would turn left onto Deep Gap Trail, and immediately right onto Wilderness Falls Trail. Finally, I would finish by turning left onto the Panthertown Valley Trail and ascend to Packs Gap.
The Cohutta Mountains of Northwest Georgia are some of the oldest in world, and have many great hiking trails. the southwestern end of the Cohuttas is marked by Grassy Mountain, which houses a fire tower from the last century. Below the fire tower, Conasauga Lake, the highest elevation lake in Georgia, has a campground and some hiking trails. This hike occurred on Saturday, September 6th, 2014. My plan was to approach the Grassy Mountain Fire Tower by the closed forest road leading to it. I would return by the Tower Trail and Songbird Trail.
Appalachian Trail: Hot Springs (Silvermine Trailhead) to Rich Mountain and Roundtop Ridge Trail, Hot Springs, North Carolina
Hot Springs is a small, tourist town, with a lot of history and legends behind it. It used to be bigger, but following two consecutive hotel fires, the current resort there is much smaller, so there's not as many people as used to come. For hikers like us, though, the main point of Hot Spring is that the AT passes right through the town, and follows the Main Street sidewalk for a mile. On this hike, there will be multiple features of interest - Lovers Leap Overlook, Mill Ridge, and most importantly, Rich Mountain Fire Tower. This hike occurred on August 30, 2014. Start off by following a section of the Appalachian Trail from Silvermine Trailhead to Rich Mountain. You'll return by a much shorter, albeit steeper way down the Roundtop Ridge Trail back into Hot Springs.
The Franklin Delano Roosevelt State Park is an exception to the ecosystems and land in South Georgia. The park, known as the largest in Georgia, protects a low ridgeline called "Pine Mountain", which is also the route of the 21-mile Pine Mountain Trail. Most of the hikes there are easy, but some of them provide nice views and a relaxing walk in the woods, like the one described in this post. This hike occurred on Saturday, August 23rd, 2014. My plan was to hike the Big Poplar Loop counter-clockwise from the Fox Den Cove Parking Area. I would start off by following the Pine Mountain Trail west, although I would take the Sawtooth Trail shortly to connect back with the Pine Mountain Trail at the Mollyhugger Hill Parking Area. From here, I'd follow the PMT back to Fox Den Cove.
The Fishawk Mountains west of Highlands are a small ridgeline and part of the Bartram Trail's route. In this area, the mountains house massive rock faces and fantastic panoramas of the Little Tennessee River Valley and Nantahala Mountains. This is easily one of the best hikes in the Highlands area. This hike occurred on Saturday, August 16th, 2014. My plan was to start my hike at the Jones Gap Trailhead and hike on the Bartram Trail to Wolf Rock. I would return the same way. Also, I would check out Jones Knob and Whiterock Mountain along the way. I would skip the Fishawk Mountain spur, though.
Year 1: 540.0 Miles
Year 2: 552.3 Miles
Year 3: 518.4 Miles
Year 4: 434.5 Miles