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Thread: Best Hikes In The Appalachian Mountains

  1. #1
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Best Hikes In The Appalachian Mountains

    I may have to drive to Newport,TN for work in 2 weeks (East of Knoxville) and was thinking maybe I'd take my hiking gear and try to do a few day hikes if weather is decent on the way back. Several years ago when I was down there I came back on parts of Skyline Drive and it seemed like there are some pretty decent places to catch a summit or two.

    Anyone have any input on "must do" hikes in the Appalachians between Tennessee and Pennsylvania? One hike I had flagged for the future awhile back was the Roan Highlands. Guess it has several "balds" with rolling fields and mountain views. There was a similar area I vaguely remember like this that I saw in a "Best Hikes" article somewhere but it escapes me. Also thought it would be a neat novelty to hit Mt Mitchell, the tallest peak on the East Coast. But I'm open to just about anything with views. If anyone can recommend anything let me know.
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    Junior Member JToll's Avatar
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    Mt Rogers at Grayson Highlands is the highest point in Virginia. It is on the AT.

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    The PITA in the south is the logistics. Not many loop trails so your choices are limited unless you do out and backs.

    The southern balds are worth a visit as they are open but definitely not like above treeline in the Whites. The best comparison is hiking through a field surrounded by woods. Most of the ridgelines are hardwoods, so getting a view can be a challenge. Much of the AT down south is a "green tunnel". If you are looking for drive up summits, Max Patch is one of the nicest southern balds but finding your way up the forest service roads especially from the west side is a challenge. Its easier from the East side but still requires navigation.

    Roan Mtn is worth a visit and there are couple of hostels on US 19E that can give a shuttle. Its a bit less remote then Max Patch but the total acreage is probably larger then Max Patch. The above treeline stretch over Hump Mountain is probably the nicest stretch for hiking. Its been awhile but there is nice day hike where you get dropped off near the summit and then a long stretch of open bald over Hump before heading down and back to US 19E. There is state park south of there which also has some open areas which I think are really popular when the rhododendrons are in bloom. The trail bed and grades may remind you of hiking the old railroad grades in the whites. If you have chance check out Overmountain shelter. Its at the head of long valley.

    Note the elevation is higher than you would expect and it can get cold and have occasional snow. Make sure you have some cold weather gear. The Roan Mountain approaches are state highways but realize the usual approach to snow and ice is to let it sit on the roads until it melts. I would not suggest driving up Max Patch in marginal conditions as it mostly gravel forest service roads from either side.
    Last edited by peakbagger; 11-07-2018 at 06:06 AM.

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    Senior Member Stan's Avatar
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    Mitchell and Clingman Dome are among the highest peaks in the area and do offer terrific views but as far as a hike goes, you drive nearly to the summit. This time of year they probably shouldn't be too crowded and with some imagination you can do a short loop at Clingman. It might be good leaf peeping time, too.

    If you have the time, I recommend return via the Blue Ridge Parkway ... you can return to I-81 at various points when speed becomes more important than the hikes. Here are some of our favorite hikes if you don't have a lot of time to spend there.

    LeConte Mountain. This is a 13 mile loop plus a road walk to close (or start) it out. The draw for us was the Lodge but the scramble (preferably up for us) and the casual return was pleasant. At the time we did it there was a trail washout which had a cable assisting passage.

    Grandfather Mountain. This is a privately owned park which has a nice loop with several ladders to ascend. We called it chutes and ladders. There is also a nice wild animal park and "Mile High Bridge" ... well, it's actually a mile above sea level but only a couple hundred feet above grade ... still, it's part of the adventure.

    Hawksbill and Tabletop are two peaks with good reward for modest effort. It is part of Linville Gorge and a visit to Linville Falls is worthwhile.

    Continuing onto the Shenendoah Parkway you will find lots of short hikes to break up the drive. The AT closely parallels the parkway so several peaks or prominences are easily accessed.

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    Mt. Rogers area is about as close as you'll get to expansive, Whites-like, above-treeline views. Although the summit of Mt. Rogers is tree-covered, the surrounding miles are very open, craggy in places, and it has the benefit of a wild pony population that's usually friendly.

    As peakbagger said, there are few multi-day loops available in the southern mountains, so out-and-back or shuttle are the primary options. One notable exception is a little south of where you'll be. It's the Nantahala Headwaters loop. It's a 24-mile loop that can be done as a one- or two-night trip. There are about a half dozen clear viewpoints, including a fire tower on on Mt. Albert. At this time of year, you'll also get some views through the trees while you're hiking on the ridgeline. The closest town is Franklin, NC. That will give you an idea about whether that's too far from where you will be.
    It's a lot like fun, but different.

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    Loop hikes in Shenandoah National Park are always great. IMHO, some of the best hiking there is off the ridge and off the AT.

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    Mcafee Knox is popular

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    Senior Member blacknblue's Avatar
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    Roan Highlands along the TN/NC border is a fantastic stretch, arguably the best stretch of AT south of New England. South of Asheville, the Black Balsam area of the Blue Ridge Parkway is a nice, uncrowded alternative, but still 6000' high.

    Mt. Rogers and Grayson Highlands is also open and somewhat rugged. Unlike the others, you can make a really nice two-day loop out of it.

    Lots of day hiking options from Roanoke to Harpers Ferry along the BRP/Skyline Drive. MacAfee Knob is about 3 miles up and 3 back, just outside Roanoke and a classic AT vista. Otter Peaks are easy, just north of Roanoke. The Priest is a substantial climb and without leaves should offer decent views. In Shenandoah NP, there's lots of hiking trails with waterfalls and some mountain views. Old Rag Mountain on the east side of the park is a classic day hiking loop.

    If you're zipping up I-81 on the way back, there's a nice outlook along the AT just north of Harrisburg, PA, starting from the trail town of Duncannon. Hawk Rock is an easy hike (1-2 hours roundtrip), but offers nice views of the Susquehanna River.
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    I seem to remember there was a loop hike up and over the Priest with a blue blaze that loops back to the beginning. I think its right off the BRP. The best time of year for views tends to be with the leaves down but keep in mind the elevation means very different weather at the top then at the base.

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    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    I think I've settled on Mt Mitchell and the Black Crest Ridge Trail. Saw a few YouTube videos of it and it looks like a pretty impressive ridge line with numerous outlooks and open areas depending on exactly how much of the ridge you take and big mountains across the steep valleys in either direction. Just need to figure out which trail to ascend on and get the most of the views with the short days. Been dealing with a persistent cold the past 2 weeks too so my hiking stamina is probably not 100% right now so having a route with lesser summits to climb in the event I can't do the whole thing is a nice option.

    Definitely have Mt Rogers, the Roan Highlands area and Grayson highlands on the radar for future trips. That whole section of NC/TN seems to have some pretty good hiking. Thanks to all for the suggestions.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 46/48; NY 46: 5/46

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