Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness: The Hangover via Naked Ground/Jenkins Meadow Loop, Robbinsville, North Carolina
Right on the doorstep of the quaint town of Robbinsville is the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness, a massive wild area covering over 17,000 acres between the Cherohala Skyway and US 129. The area is known best for the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest - an area of virgin forest in the Little Santeetlah Creek watershed, featuring numerous old, grand trees. The wilderness area's central destination, however, is an inconspicuous rock outcropping on a lead below Haoe Bald called The Hangover. The Hangover features a breathtaking 360-degree view of the wilderness, with little in sight but endless mountain ridges and several lakes. The panoramic vista atop The Hangover encompasses Santeetlah Lake, Calderwood Lake, and the Little Tennessee River. This hike loops several trails from the Joyce Kilmer Recreation Area to visit The Hangover via the Memorial Forest. This hike occurred on Saturday, April 21st, 2018. My plan was to hike a clockwise loop with the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest Poplar Cove Trail, Naked Ground Trail, Haoe Lead Trail, and Jenkins Meadow Trail. I would of course take a side trip along the Hangover Lead Trail to The Hangover.
Nantahala National Forest: Panthertown Valley West End Loop to Wilderness Falls and Big Green Mountain and Deep Gap Trail to Laurel Knob, Cashiers, North Carolina
The trails at the west end of Panthertown Valley feature several popular waterfalls: Wilderness Falls, Frolictown Falls, and Granny Burrell Falls, as well as a spectacular well-known cliff line on the south side of Big Green Mountain called the Great Wall. This hike visits all of these destinations, in addition to lesser-known views atop Big Green Mountain itself. This hike also follows the Deep Gap Trail out of Panthertown Valley onto the seldom-hiked Laurel Knob Trail, a climbers' access trail that leads to the base of the 1200-foot cliffs of Laurel Knob. Laurel Knob boasts of the tallest uninterrupted cliff face in the entire Eastern United States! This hike occurred on Saturday, March 31st, 2018. My plan was to start out at the Salt Rock Gap Trailhead, where I'd take the Wilderness Falls Trail past Wilderness Falls to the Deep Gap Trail at Frolictown Falls. I'd then hike the Deep Gap Trail and Laurel Knob Trail out and back to the base of the Laurel Knob cliffs. Next, I'd return to Frolictown Falls, and I'd take the Great Wall Trail toward the top of Big Green Mountain, making a side trip to Granny Burrell Falls along the way. I would then follow the Big Green Trail past several views and continue down an unofficial connector to Macs Gap Trail. Finally, I'd follow the Macs Gap Trail and Panthertown Valley Trail back out to Salt Rock Gap.
Protecting a small gulch on the east side of Lake Guntersville, Bucks Pocket State Park is one of Alabama's most underrated state parks. Bucks Pocket features a small slice of beautiful, wild scenery typical to the Cumberland Plateau. Two scenic, cliff-lined gorges are found in the park: those of Little Sauty Creek and South Sauty Creek. The park's best-known trail, the Point Rock Trail, follows Little Sauty Creek through numerous mossy boulder fields and woods that feature an abundance of wildflowers in spring, passing a small but very scenic waterfall on the stream. The Point Rock Trail then ascends to the rim of the gorge and ends at its namesake rock outcrop, which features panoramic views from a point on the rim high above the confluence of Little Sauty Creek and South Sauty Creek. This hike occurred on Saturday, March 17th, 2018. My plan was to hike the Point Rock Trail out and back to Point Rock from the Bucks Pocket Campground.
Inside the city limits of the quaint town of Pisgah in northeast Alabama is one of the area's most under-appreciated pieces of public land: the Pisgah Civitan Park. This small community park protects a section of the course of Little Bryant Creek through Pisgah Gorge that features three notable waterfalls - two of which are significant - and an extraordinary natural bridge. An easy trail follows the rim of the gorge, accessing several clifftop perches with sweeping birds-eye views of the gorge and its waterfalls. More adventurous hikers will find a faint, rugged pathway that drops into the gorge, accessing the base of Middle Little Bryant Creek Falls and the natural bridge. Pisgah Gorge features a sampling of some of Northeast Alabama's finest natural scenery and must not be missed! This hike occurred on Saturday, March 17th, 2018. My plan was to first hike the rim trail out and back to views of Upper Little Bryant Creek Falls, Middle Little Bryant Creek Falls, and the Pisgah Gorge downstream. I would then descend the trail into the gorge to get up-close and personal with the middle falls and the arch. In addition, I would check out a side trail leading to an old mill site at the top of the upper falls.
South Cumberland State Park: Collins Gulf Loop to Suter Falls, Horsepound Falls, Schwoon Spring, and Skinny Falls, Gruetli-Laager, Tennessee
One of three rocky gorges in the Savage Gulf State Natural Area sector of South Cumberland State Park, Collins Gulf features some of the most spectacular, wild scenery on the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee. The true star of the Collins Gulf hike is Suter Falls, a majestic 40-foot waterfall on Rocky Mountain Creek (a tributary of the Collins River) surrounded by cliffs in an awe-inspiring setting. Beside Suter Falls, the hike features as many as four other waterfalls (two are largely ephemeral). As the Collins Gulf Trail treks through the rugged gorge carved out by the Collins River, it passes a small but powerful block-type waterfall on the river called Horsepound Falls, as well as set of remarkable sinks on Collins River and Fall Creek. The second part of the hike follows the Collins Rim Trail, where the trail provides nice seasonal views into the gorge as it crosses countless tumbling streams before re-entering the gorge and crossing the Collins River on a mighty suspension bridge at a particularly gorgeous boulder-strewn section of the river. This hike occurred on Sunday, February 18th, 2018. My plan was to hike the Collins Gulf Loop clockwise from the 55th Avenue Trailhead.
Pinnacle Park: West Fork/East Fork Loop to Gina Falls, The Pinnacle, Blackrock Mountain, and Fisher Falls, Sylva, North Carolina
The Pinnacle, a famous rock outcrop that stands sentinel over the town of Sylva, is known well throughout the hiking community for its breathtaking views. The Pinnacle and Blackrock Mountain - a nearby peak with another stunning view - are part of the Plott Balsam Mountains, which are among the highest mountains in the Southeast. The area around The Pinnacle and Blackrock used to be a watershed that provided all of Sylva's drinking water and was strictly off-limits. However, as Sylva became in need of a better water supply, the watershed was transformed into Pinnacle Park. Later, the Blackrock Ridge Tract - an area of previously-private land that included Blackrock Mountain - was purchased, and today, a well-used network of trails connects The Pinnacle and Blackrock to the park's entrance off Fisher Creek Road and to the Blue Ridge Parkway. This hike occurred on Saturday, February 3rd, 2018. My plan was to hike the West Fork/East Fork Loop clockwise. Along the way, I would make side trips to The Pinnacle and Blackrock, and I would also bushwhack to Gina Falls and Fisher Falls.
Caesars Head State Park/Mountain Bridge Wilderness: Naturaland Trust Loop, Cleveland, South Carolina
The west half of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness is encompassed by Caesars Head State Park, named for a prominent rock outcrop with striking views of the South Carolina Upstate. One of the area's main highlights is Raven Cliff Falls, a majestic waterfall on Matthews Creek that is cited to be 420 feet high. Among the wilderness's most scenic trails, the Naturaland Trust Trail provides direct access into the Matthew Creek gorge, passing views of Raven Cliff Falls after crossing an elegant suspension bridge at the waterfall's top. Several other trails in the park can be used to create the 12-mile loop Naturaland Trust Loop, which is not only among South Carolina's top hikes but also a very strenuous one. An added bonus for hiking the full loop, however, is optional access to two more gorgeous waterfalls on the property of Asbury Hills Camp: Moonshine Falls and Confusion Falls. This hike occurred on Saturday, January 20th, 2018. My plan was to hike the Naturaland Trust Loop clockwise from the Raven Cliff Falls parking area, although I came away with the feeling that hiking the loop counter-clockwise is better.
Pigeon-Crockford Mountain Wildlife Management Area: Chamberlain Trail to Nash Pit Falls and High Point, LaFayette, Georgia
Chamberlain Trail is one of only two trails that ascends the east side of Pigeon Mountain from base to top. This lesser-known trail climbs at an easy to moderate pace through Atwood Gulf before meeting up with the Atwood Trail atop the mountain. While there aren't any notable attractions along the trail itself, a fantastic natural sight lies off-trail in Atwood Gulf: Nash Pit Falls. Have you ever heard the words pit and waterfall in one sentence? At Nash Pit Falls, a small stream flows out of a cave and instantly drops over 70 feet into the Nash Pit, a small but deep hole in the ground. In addition to the stunning Nash Pit Falls, this hike also visits a pair of McLemore Cove vistas on High Point - the highest point on Pigeon Mountain. This hike occurred on Saturday, January 13th, 2018. My plan was to hike the Chamberlain Trail from Chamberlain Road to Atwood Trail, making the bushwhack to Nash Pit Falls along the way. Next, I would follow the Atwood Trail to the Pocket/Bluff Trail. I would then follow the Pocket Trail and Bluff Trail in conjunction to the views on High Point. I would retrace my steps the same way.
Cumberland Trail: Edwards Point Loop via Mushroom Rock, Blue Trail, Orange Trail, and Bee Branch Trail, Signal Mountain, Tennessee
The Cumberland Trail, a work in progress that will be a 300-mile trail when completed, has its southern terminus at Signal Point in the Chattanooga metro area. One of the Cumberland Trail's most spectacular sections is its very first one as it traces the rim of the Tennessee River Gorge, visiting outstanding views at Signal Point and Edwards Point as well as a unique geological formation known as Mushroom Rock at the edge of the Suck Creek Gorge. Beside the Cumberland Trail, several lesser-used trails give hikers the option to turn a hike to Edwards Point into a full-day loop with additional sights. Most notable is a spectacular half-mile section of the Orange Trail as it follows a remote and rugged bluff line in the Middle Creek Gorge. This hike occurred on Saturday, November 25th, 2017. My plan was to hike a loop from Signal Point that would follow the Cumberland Trail past Edwards Point all the way to Mushroom Rock, from where I would follow the Mushroom Rock Trail, Blue Trail, Orange Trail, and Bee Branch Trail back to Signal Mountain. After coming out at Ohio Avenue, I would conclude the hike with a short roadwalk through the town of Signal Mountain to Signal Point.
Chattahoochee National Forest: Duncan Ridge Trail from Mulky Gap to Rhodes Mountain View, Blairsville, Georgia
There's something about the Duncan Ridge Trail that sets it apart from most other trails in Georgia: its sheer difficulty. This unique trail constantly follows Duncan Ridge with its sharp knobs and deep gaps that present constant obstacles along the trail. The rollercoaster fashion of the Duncan Ridge Trail will give you a tough workout, and that's exactly why most people hike it - for there are no spectacular waterfalls anywhere on the trail. The trail is best hiked in the winter when bare trees allow continuous views in both directions from the ridge. Even though there is only one year-round view - on Rhodes Mountain - of any significance along the west part of the trail, seasoned hikers will still find it an enjoyable peaceful hike. This hike occurred on Thursday, November 23rd, 2017. My plan was to hike out and back along the Duncan Ridge Trail from Mulky Gap to the Benton Mackaye Trail Junction just past the view from Rhodes Mountain.
The Valley and Ridge area of Northwest Georgia is not known for waterfalls, unlike almost every other mountainous section of the state. Most of the available hikes in this area simply follow low ridges like Horn Mountain, Johns Mountain, and Taylor Ridge that separate similar valleys. The Keown Falls Scenic Area is unique to the region, as it is home to the area's two only publicly-accessible waterfalls: South Keown Falls and Keown Falls. Both waterfalls are accessed easily by the Keown Falls Trail, but it's worth extending the hike along the Johns Mountain Trail, which has great winter views from Johns Mountain. There are some other opportunities to extend the hike, such as following the Pinhoti Trail along Johns Mountain Road and past Pilchers Pond - although hikers may not find that part of the trail particularly exciting. This hike occurred on Saturday, November 11th, 2017. My plan was to hike a loop with the Keown Falls Trail, Johns Mountain Trail, FS 208, and the Pinhoti Trail past Pilchers Pond, starting at the end of FS 702. Unfortunately, the quality of this longer loop hike was degraded by a rather ugly logged area on the north side of Johns Mountain Road.
Blood Mountain Wilderness: Steeltrap Knob Vista Trail, Appalachian Trail to Preachers Rock, and Dockery Lake Trail to Twin Falls and Martha's Falls, Suches, Georgia
Preachers Rock is a well-known destination along the Appalachian Trail on Big Cedar Mountain that features a great view of the Blood Mountain Wilderness. A couple of other trails in the area can be utilized to create a loop hike from either Chestatee Overlook (on Highway 60) or Dockery Lake, visiting one other vista as well as up to three waterfalls. The unofficial Steeltrap Knob Trail provides a useful connection between Chestatee Overlook and Woody Gap, at the same visiting a spectacular view of the Georgia Piedmont from little-known cliffs on the side of Steeltrap Knob. Meanwhile, the Dockery Lake Trail travels through the Pigeon Roost Creek Valley between Dockery Lake and the Appalachian Trail. While no waterfalls are right on the trail, visiting Martha's Falls, Twin Falls, and Dockery Lake Falls will require only short off-trail diversions. This hike occurred on Sunday, October 29th, 2017. My plan was to hike a loop from Chestatee Overlook, starting with the Steeltrap Knob Trail and stopping by the Steeltrap Knob Vista along the way. I would then take the Appalachian Trail over Big Cedar Mountain and to the Dockery Lake Trail, stopping by several views from Big Cedar Mountain along the way, including Preachers Rock. Next, I would take the Dockery Lake Trail to Dockery Lake, visiting Twin Falls, Martha's Falls, and Dockery Lake Falls along the way. I would conclude the hike with a walk up Dockery Lake Road back to Highway 60 and Chestatee Overlook.
Brasstown Wilderness: Arkaquah Trail to Buzzard Roost Ridge View, Rattlesnake Bluff, Chimneytop Mountain View, and Brasstown Bald, Young Harris, Georgia
The Arkaquah Trail has always been one of Georgia's most famous trails thanks to its difficulty and its approach to the tallest peak in the state. Of the three different trails that summit Brasstown Bald, the Arkaquah Trail is undoubtedly the most scenic. In fact, whereas the crowded summit of Brasstown Bald with its large observation tower may not be alluring to wilderness hikers, three other vistas can be found near the Arkaquah Trail. The view from Chimneytop Mountain in particular is arguably one of the state's most jaw-dropping views with its 180-degree panorama! Even more remarkable is that this view remains largely unknown to the hiking community despite its proximity to the Arkaquah Trail. With the two other beautiful overlooks plus the Brasstown Bald summit accessible via the trail, the Arkaquah Trail is one of the most scenic hikes in North Georgia. This hike occurred on Saturday, October 21st, 2017. My plan was to hike out and back along the Arkaquah Trail to the summit of Brasstown Bald, making side trips to the three views along the way.
Chattahoochee National Forest: Little Cedar Mountain Vista and Waterfalls of Canada Creek via Highway 60 Trailhead, Suches, Georgia
While the views atop Big Cedar Mountain along the Appalachian Trail are well-known, its lower brother Little Cedar Mountain on the other side of the quaint community of Suches is far more obscure. Despite this, a good trail leads to Little Cedar Mountain, where a set of cliffs provides a great view into the Canada Creek valley. The picturesque view is only the beginning though - a connecting trail leads deep into the Canada Creek valley, where a set of four breathtaking waterfalls await. Ranging from only 15 to over 50 feet high, all four waterfalls are fairly easy to reach thanks to an intricate network of unofficial trails along forest roads and fainter paths up and down the Canada Creek watershed. This hike occurred on Saturday, October 7th, 2017. My plan was to hike from Highway 60 to the vista atop Little Cedar Mountain. From there, I would scout out one route down into the Canada Creek valley and another on my way back (as I learned, only one route had a trail). Once in the valley, I would follow trails to Big Falls, Second Falls, and Third Falls, and if time permitted, Fourth Falls too.
Tallulah Gorge State Park: Gorge Floor - Sliding Rock - Rim Loop to Hurricane Falls, Oceana Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Inspiration Point, Tallulah Falls, Georgia
Tallulah Gorge is an anomaly in Georgia. The cliff-lined gorge through which the Tallulah River flows is nearly 1000 feet deep in places, and there's no other gorge of this magnitude anywhere else in the state. Tallulah Gorge State Park encompasses all of the gorge below Tallulah Falls Dam and has a number of hiking trails that provide access into the gorge. While some trails follow the rims with breathtaking views of the gorge, a different trail descends hundreds of steps to Hurricane Falls deep in the gorge. From there, one can follow a rugged and rocky footpath known as the Gorge Floor Trail along the river and past two other waterfalls, but a Gorge Floor Permit is necessary for this - and only 100 are issued per day. The extremely steep climb back out along the Sliding Rock Trail is an exciting rock scramble with more views of the cliffs. Lastly, before concluding the hike, you'll have the chance to stop by Inspiration Point - a sweeping panorama that is arguably the best view of Tallulah Gorge. This hike occurred on Saturday, September 30th, 2017. My plan was to hike the Gorge Floor Loop clockwise, later making a side trip to Inspiration Point.
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