The 5 Most Photogenic Hikes on the AT
By K.C. Cronin
Follow the White Blazes to These Picturesque Spots
Footpath for the People
The Appalachian Trail (AT) is 2,200 miles long and traverses the mountains of NC on the way to its final destination – Maine. The white blaze of the AT marks entrances into hardwood forests, fields of spring wildflowers and spectacular views of autumn’s peak performance and winter’s snowy summits.
“I discovered an America that millions of people scarcely know exists…”
― Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
Five Unforgettable AT Hikes
Approximately three to four million visitors hike a section of the AT each year. Here’s a few calling out your name:
Max Patch Bald, near Hot Springs, NC
Distance: 1.6 miles RT - moderate
Features & Description: 360-degree views of Mt. Mitchell to the east, and the Smokies to the west. Just a short hike to the top you’ll swear you can hear Julie Andrews singing “The hills are alive…”
When to visit: Spring boasts wildflowers and smaller crowds. There is spectacular color in fall but it can be hard to find a parking spot. Winter snows bring great sledding and cross-country skiing.
Carvers Gap – Grassy Ridge Bald, Roan Mountain
Distance: 5.1 miles RT – moderate, some steep portions.
Features & Description: Thru hikers (those hiking the entire AT) give a big high-five to what they consider one of the most beautiful sections of the AT. Amazing wildflowers, long range views and vast open balds. http://www.naturalbornhikers.com/trails/carversgap.html
When to visit: This is a favorite cross-country ski location in winter and is popular for wildflowers in spring.
Lovers Leap, Hot Springs, NC
Distance: 2.6 miles RT - Moderate (short but steep)
Features & Description: Lover’s Leap Ridge offers amazing views from large rock croppings. Perfect for a romantic picnic. This trail is all about the views and a short but intense aerobic workout.
When to visit: Spectacular during fall color season. Avoid winter and busy summer weekends.
Newfound Gap to Charlies Bunion, 20 miles from Cherokee
Distance: 8.1 miles RT – Moderate with some steep climbs
Features & Description: Just two-thirds of a mile into the hike you'll see why this trail demands you keep the camera out - views of the NC Smokies are breathtaking and they just keep getting better as the trail crests at over 6000 feet.
When to visit: Spring – magnificent wildflowers.
Wayah Bald near Franklin, NC
Distance: 1.2 miles RT – Easy (Continue on AT for another 3 miles to summit)
Features & Description: This is an easy day (paved path to tower) hike to a fire tower. On a clear day you’ll have panoramic views of North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina.
When to Visit: Plan a trip in early summer for rhododendron and azaleas. Trail is closed in winter.
Bragging Rights without a Hike
Would you love to say you crossed the AT but don’t enjoy a hike? The AT crosses the Nantahala River at Nantahala Outdoor Center's Founder's Bridge. You’ll be crossing the same place Thru Hikers pass before the steep climb to the north. www.noc.com