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, 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...
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...
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...
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...
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...
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...
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...
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.
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...
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...
Straddling the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, Great Smoky Mountains is America’s most visited national park. Among the forests and ancient mountains, visitors find a vast array of plant and animal life as well as vestiges of...
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...