Backpacker Magazine just announced their Reader’s Choice picks for the best hikes of 2011. Since I am most familiar with the Southeastern U.S. – I’ll focus on the top picks in this area:
1. Ramsey Cascades, Great Smokies, TN – I’ve hiked countless miles in the Smokies and did a 30+ mile trip starting at Elkmont and ending at Laurel Creek Road, but the Ramesey Cascades have somehow escaped me. Guess it’s time to check this one out. You can follow this link for maps of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park: Smokies detailed map, Smokies park map, Smokies trail map.
2. Mt. Rogers NRA, VA – If you can stand the crowds, the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area is among the most scenic in the Southeast – no question about it. Not only does it have Virginia’s highest peak in Mount Rogers, but it also has the Grayson Highlands State Park and herds of wild ponies that roam the grassy wild open areas along the A.T. in this area. Just pitch your tent with caution. The ponies will stick their head in your tent looking for a handout.
3. Max Patch Bald, NC – Well, it could be the shortest hike for the best view in the southeast, but Max Patch Bald is a beauty. Mix in a day or overnight hike on the Appalachian Trail and even better.
4. Clingmans Dome to Silers Bald, TN – If you have ever hiked the Appalachian Trail in New England – then this hike will remind you of that terrain in the Northeast. Like Maine and New Hampshire (and on occasions Vermont), there is no shortage of spectacular views and fir trees on this trek. While New England can boast fantastic scenery on the A.T., it is North Carolina and Clingman’s Dome that logs the highest point on the entire Appalachian Trail. So, I have to agree that this is a great hike in the Southeast. Just beware of Smokies crowds in the summer – particularly around Clingman’s Dome and along the A.T.
5. Thru-hike the Florida Trail – I have yet to log a single mile on the Florida Trail. Shameful, I admit, but I hope to remedy that soon.
6. Raven Ridge – Blackbird Knob Loop, Dolly Sods Wilderness, WV – I’ve heard a lot about the Dolly Sods Wilderness but it’s a long way from where I live in Atlanta, and I’ll have to get there on a long weekend some time. It must be a great place, because I hear about it time and time again.