Frozen Head State Park: Emory Gap Falls, Panther Branch Trail to Lookout Tower, and Lookout Tower Trail, Wartburg, Tennessee
The Cumberland Mountains is the Cumberland Plateau with a twist - the same canyons but higher elevations and better views. Frozen Head State Park has some of the best the Cumberland Mountains have to offer: two waterfalls and a fire tower with panoramic views. This hike occurred on January 24th, 2015. My plan was to hike the Panther Branch Trail to North Old Mac Trail, and take the North Old Mac Trail to Frozen Had Lookout Tower. Along the way, I would stop at DeBord Falls and do the spur trail to Emory Gap Falls. From the Lookout Tower, I would return by Lookout Tower Trail back to the main park road, and then follow it back to the trailhead.
The Cowee Mountains is the highest mountain range in the Highlands-Cashiers area, with many mountains approaching 5000 feet. This hike leads to the highest point in the Cowee Mountains as well as the highest point in the entire Highlands-Cashiers area, Yellow Mountain. Yellow Mountain rises to 5127 feet, and has a historic, renovated fire lookout. You'll also pass over several other mountains with great winter views and some viewpoints as well. Chances are you will be tired by the time you make it back to the trailhead at Cole Gap, and although the fact that the route back is almost as hard as the way in is pretty major, the rewards will sill be worth it, especially on a clear day. This hike occurred on Thursday, November 27th, 2014. My plan was to hike the Yellow Mountain Trail from Cole Gap to Yellow Mountain, and then return the same way.
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 Nantahala River is a premiere location for whitewater rafting and water slalom. The Nantahala Outdoor Center is situated right along the banks of the Nantahala's rushing waters, and on a good weekend, you can expect at least a hundred people here. Meanwhile, there's something for us hikers too. The Appalachian Trail passes through the NOC, crossing the busy US 74 and the Nantahala River. The Appalachian Trail offers a couple destinations in this area, including Cheoah Bald and Wesser Bald. While both are not easy to reach, both have ultimate rewarding views. This hike occurred on Friday, July 4th, 2014. My plan was to follow the Appalachian Trail from the NOC southward to the Jump-Up, and then even further to Wesser Bald and its fire tower. I would come back the same way.
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Year 1: 540.0 Miles
Year 2: 552.3 Miles
Year 3: 518.4 Miles
Year 4: 482.4 Miles
Year 5: 8.2 Miles