The South's Best Outdoor Experiences
Collected by Caroline Eubanks, AFAR Local Expert
One advantage the southern USA has over other parts of the country is the age of the mountains. This makes them ideal for beginner hikes and casual Sunday walks. From the Blue Ridge Mountains in northern Georgia to the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina and the Shenandoah in Virginia, not to mention the Appalachian Trail, there's hiking and camping for every experience level, as well as kayaking, canyoning and trail running.
Asheville, NC, NC, USA
Autumn is the best time of year to visit the many overlooks of the Blue Ridge Parkway as it passes through Asheville, NC area. This is only one view from the parkway to a valley below. Bring your coat and camera as temperature drops as altitude...
9200 Old Dominion Dr, McLean, VA 22102, USA
Just a few short miles off of the Capital Beltway, nestled along a winding wooded road, Great Falls National Park is a nearby haven for nature-seeking Washingtonians. Here, the Potomac River floods into the Mather Gorge, creating breathtaking...
101 Cave Hill Rd, Luray, VA 22835, USA
The Luray Caverns are located in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. This US National Landmark offers a mile-long guided tour that will take you more than 300 feet underground, viewing stalagmites and stalagtites, formed by seeping...
Newfound Gap, Tennessee 37738, USA
Driving through the Great Smoky Mountains between North Carolina and Tennessee is a tease for the outdoors-lover who enjoys experiencing the land by foot. Lucky for you, the Appalachian Trail intersects US Hwy 441/71 at Newfound Gap where you can...
Brevard, NC, NC, USA
Looking for adventure between the eats and treats of Asheville, NC? Want to really 'experience' a waterfall? After a moderate hike through Cold Mountain Gap lays Greenland Creek falls approximately 45 minutes southwest of Brevard, NC - the site of...
2555 Sea Island Pkwy, St Helena Island, SC 29920, USA
This beachfront state park features camping spaces, trails, ample fishing spots, and a functional lighthouse. Bike rentals are also available just before the bridge onto the island. Pack a picnic lunch and beach chairs if you visit for the day. On...
3300 Evans to Locks Rd, Martinez, GA 30907, Martinez, GA 30907, USA
Trees by the river, draped in Spanish Moss--never gets old; each time I visit Georgia, my favorite place to go for a run is on the trails between the Savannah River and the Augusta Canal--this is an ecological convergence zone, where the...
100 National Park Rd, Hopkins, SC 29061, USA
Few old-growth forests remain in the U.S., making this swampy wonderland a gem that's ripe for exploration. There are miles of hiking trails, but the best way to see the park is via canoe or kayak, either on a day trip or an overnight camping...
601 S Main St, Greenville, SC 29601, USA
This little gem is located in the heart of Greenville's downtown area. A lovely suspension bridge stretches over a waterfall, and the trails that meander throughout the park are perfect for a run or family walk. In the fall, the park glows with...
Highlands, NC 28741, USA
...before the weekend crowds arrive, a bit of leaf-peeping in and around the town of Highlands, North Carolina: at just over 4000', this is one of the highest towns east of the Mississippi. My wife and I had flown back east for family medical...
3042 Frank Pkwy, Roaring Gap, NC 28668, USA
Rising out of dense forest in North Carolina are massive granite outcroppings: stone mountains. Solid, dramatic, and rounded, you can walk down the curve until it's so steep you will fall off if you're not careful, like walking around on a giant...
Dry Falls, Highlands, NC 28741, USA
Get ready for crowds in October in western North Carolina; leaf-peepers from all over the Southeast converge in these mountains, when the Blue Ridge erupts into red and gold...Come during the week, though, and you won't have to fight for a parking...
Chimney Rock, NC, USA
After a rigorous walk on the rails coupled with countless, grueling steps.... Cool down at the Hickory Nut Falls. Make sure to bring extra clothes because the temptation to stand at the bottom of the waterfall as the refreshing water cascades over...
Chimney Rock, NC, USA
500 steps to a destination promised to be 'worth it', but I felt like I was going to die before getting to experience the view. I wanted to fight the good fight and persevere, but it was a fight I thought I would lose.... Just kidding! Though the...
Sam Knob, Cecil, NC 28716, USA
This is the best camping spot I've found so far. A little more than a mile into the hike from the parking lot, the tree and shrub lined trail opens up into a grassy bald with amazing mountain views all around. We stopped here for the night because...
Not a terribly exciting photo but a really cool - literally - place. We visited in summer when it was very hot and we went down to this spot several times because of the constant cool air that came out of the cave here. Also it was hard to get any...
Lake Charles, LA, USA
In the early 1800's, French pirate Jean Lafitte had a rocking business plundering ships and smuggling the cargo into needy areas of New Orleans, like Robin Hood with a soupcon more swashbuckling. Lafitte was alternately hunted and utilized by the...
Peavine Falls, Pelham, AL 35124, USA
One of the most beloved picnic, hiking, and scenic places in Central Alabama, Peavine Falls is located in Oak Mountain State Park. You can hike here, or drive your car up the mountain and work your way down the clearly marked trails. Oak Mountain...
1285 Petit Jean Mountain Rd, Morrilton, AR 72110, USA
If you like hiking, Arkansas is paradise. One of my favorite trails goes deep into a canyon at Petit Jean State Park and ends at Cedar Falls. When it rains in the spring, the falls change from a trickle to a cascade.
300 Anastasia Park Rd, St Augustine, FL 32080, USA
St. Augustine is one of my favorite places in the US and Anastasia State Park is a very beautiful and clean beach. It is quiet but popular with tourists. Even so, it feels like you are still in a small town with easy going people, delicious...
Titusville, FL, USA
Just in case having a chance to watch a Space Shuttle launch wasn't enough to get the adrenaline pumping, a couple of days later we went kayaking through the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Surrounding the Kennedy Space Center, this...
7300 Ginnie Springs Road, High Springs, FL 32643, USA
Every year for Mother's Day, my family and a huge group of friends descend on Ginnie Springs in N. Central Florida for a weekend of camping, tubing and BBQing. Ginnie Springs is one of Florida's best kept secrets, a privately owned park...
Old Rag Mountain, Robertson, VA 22743, USA
We leave D.C. early in hopes of beating the crowds of hikers who swarm the trail by mid morning. Old Rag may be the most popular hiking destination in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but for good reason. The challenging Ridge Trail starts with grueling...
Greenbrier River, WV, USA
If you are spending a few days in West Virginia, take the time to bike a long the Greenbrier River trail. It is about 72 miles of trail that winds along the river in a ravine, allowing you to be surrounded by nature. It is an old rail road trail,...
Ansted, WV 25812, USA
We're crazy about waterfalls, and rarely give up a chance to see one. 2011 had been a hot, dry summer in West Virginia. There was a chance that Mill Creek Falls would not be flowing. Along the rail trail leading to the falls, we passed an old...
Blue Ridge Pkwy, Lyndhurst, VA 22952, USA
Humpback rock offers spectacular views of the Blue Ridge mountains and Virginia. The hike up Humpback is fairly straightforward, although essentially a 30 minute climb straight up. The hike is popular among students from UVA in nearby...
Thompson Hollow Rd, South River, VA 22610, USA
Overall Run Circuit offers a beautiful springtime hike in the Shenandoah. This trail leads through dense wooded canopies, cascading streams lined by ferns, and beautiful displays of wildflowers. The path slopes gently through the valley, but gets...
A new adventure. An 1800 mile trip from Phoenix to Knoxville, the Smokies were calling us. Living and breathing for camping, hiking, and exploring, we finally made it to the gateway of the Smoky Mountains. A little drive through the backroads...
Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia 30060, USA
Very few places in the country can boast having a nearly 3,000-acre Civil War battlefield, but Kennesaw Mountain is just that. The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain was a part of Sherman's 1864 Atlanta Campaign, which ended in 3,000 Union casualties and...
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