When you talk about great hiking opportunities you might think of the west coast or states like Colorado and Utah. However, you’ll find some of the best hikes in the Southeast US might just be some of the best in the country. Nothing against those states out west or anything.

When hiking in the Southeast the spring and fall are by far the best times to go, but winter and summer have their own benefits as well. Just be prepared since the weather changes with the drop of a hat no matter what season you visit in.

Of course, I haven’t been able to visit all the Southern states and go on lots of hikes so I’ve asked some other travel bloggers what their favorite hikes have been.

Great Channels of Virginia (VA)

In Southwest Virginia, the 6.6-mile round-trip hike to the Great Channels of Virginia at Channels Natural Area Preserve is worthy of a place on any hiker’s bucket list. This wondrous hike guides visitors along the Brumley Mountain Trail to a breathtaking 20-acre maze of sandstone slot canyons.

Take it slow on your way to the unusual slot canyons or you may miss one of the most spectacular vistas in Virginia. At the 3.0-mile mark, a hidden overlook lies tucked away just behind rocks and brush. Step out onto gigantic rocks to revel in wide-open views of Mount Rogers and Whitetop Mountain, Virginia’s two tallest peaks.

Continue on, walking under a massive fire tower, to reach the quizzical slot canyons. Get ready to crawl, squeeze, duck and climb with child-like curiosity as you explore this sand-floored labyrinth atop rugged Clinch Mountain. This other-worldly sandstone maze was allegedly formed by ice wedging and permafrost 10,000 years ago, much to the delight of present-day visitors.

A word to the wise. Leave a water bottle or backpack at the entrance to the slot canyons as a marker to help you find your way out when you’re ready to return to your car. It’s remarkably easy to get turned around inside these fascinating and mysterious slot canyons. Also, plan to arrive early for this hike. There are just 10 parking spaces and they get snatched up quickly.

  • Length: 6.6 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Type of Hike: Out & Back
  • Trailhead Address: Channels Natural Area Preserve, 4250 Hayters Gap Road, Saltville, VA 24370

Contributed by Erin of Go Hike Virginia

Sandstone Falls (WV)

While Sandstone Falls in New River Gorge National Park may not be the most impressive waterfall in existence, it’s very much worth the drive and short hike to see.  Sandstone Falls is the largest waterfall on the New River, spanning 1,500 feet across the river while only dropping 10-25 feet.  The falls are dotted with islands and water rushing around them.

The longest part of this hike will be the drive to the trailhead, which is way out of the way of everything but very worth it.  It’s one of the most scenic drives in the park right along the river.

On the way, be sure to stop at the Sandstone Falls Overlook, hundreds of feet above the falls that you can hear rushing below.  The hike to the falls is a short 0.5-mile boardwalk but if you’re comfortable walking on wet, uneven rock, continue past the boardwalk to the edge of the falls.

Do be careful if you do this though, especially at the edge because people do drown here.  The view is totally worth the extra walk so you can enjoy the falls up close and in solitude.  Along the boardwalk and off-trail section (there is a sort-of path leading to the end of the falls) you’ll be able to see a couple of smaller falls.

  • Length: 1 mile round trip
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Type: Out-and-back
  • Address: Sandstone Falls Boardwalk, New River Road, Shady Spring, WV 25918

Contributed by Megan of Red Around the World

Clingman’s Dome (NC)

Hiking to the top of Clingman’s Dome is one of the best things to do in Smoky Mountain National Park. It is one of the most popular points along the Appalachian Trail. The trail boasts beautiful views of the Smokies from the top of the lookout tower.

The shortest way to the top of the lookout tower is via US-441 to Clingmans Dome Road. You can park at the Forney Ridge Parking area and there is a short walk to the top. It is a paved trail, but it is really steep.

Clingmans Dome is the tallest stop in Great Smoky Mountain National Park. On a clear day, you can see up to 100 miles. This road is open from April through November.

If you are looking for a longer hike, you can access Clingmans Dome via the Noland Creek/Forney Ridge Trail. This makes the hike about 12 miles. The hike starts at the Noland Creek Trailhead. The lower trail is wide but as you get onto the Forney Ridge trail, the hike does get more difficult. The highlight along this trail is Andrews Bald, the highest grassy meadow in the Smokies.

  • Length: 1.2 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Type of Hike: Out and Back
  • Trailhead Adress: Clingmans Dome Rd, Bryson City, NC 28713

Contributed by Candice of CS Ginger

Craggy Pinnacle (NC)

Located along the Blue Ridge Parkway, hiking to Craggy Pinnacle is a short but sweet southeast USA hike that has a big payoff!

In just 0.7 miles each way (1.4 miles round trip), the Craggy Pinnacle trail will deliver you to 360-degree views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. You’ll be treated to a beautiful view of a slice of the Blue Ridge Parkway as well.

The trail is mostly shaded, and heads upward along an easy-to-follow trail lined with rhododendrons (if you happen to be visiting when they bloom in the spring, consider it a major bonus).

As you approach the peak, there are a few very short spin-off trails that you can add to your hike to enjoy quieter views without the crowds–but when it comes to the view itself, nothing compares to the view at the top of Craggy Pinnacle.

Finding the trail and parking is fairly simple: when driving north along the Blue Ridge Parkway, you’ll drive through a small tunnel just after the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center. Right after the tunnel, the paved parking lot will be on your left.

The Craggy Pinnacle trail is just 40 minutes north of Asheville along the Blue Ridge Parkway, making it an excellent addition to a weekend getaway in Asheville!

  • Length: 1.7 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Type of Trail: Out and Back
  • Address: 3641 Blue Ridge Pkwy, Barnardsville, NC 28709

Contributed by Kate of Our Escape Clause

Black Balsam Knob/Tennet/Ivestor Gap Loop (NC)

Black Balsam Knob — one of the highest mountains east of the Rockies — is a scenic and challenging hike through one of the most biodiverse places in the U.S.

Start this four-mile loop from the parallel parking where the Art Loeb/Mountains to the Sea Trail crosses Black Balsam Rd. You’ll climb through the pine forest to Black Balsam Knob — a grassy bald with 360-degree views of Middle Prong Wilderness, Mt. Pisgah and Graveyard Ridge.

Next, continue to the rocky summit of Tennent Mountain. Finally, the trail drops steeply to Ivestor Gap and its rhododendron blooms. The Ivestor Gap Trail (to your left) takes you back to your car.

Since this hike is in a wilderness area, it’s unmarked — not a problem in clear weather, but in the frequent fog, you will get lost. The best navigation tool is a GPS app, like AllTrails or Gaia, that you can use offline (there’s no cell service). Rescue squads are frequently called for lost hikers here, rescues often take a day or more, and the risk of hypothermia after dark is real between September and May.

Additionally, the trail is not maintained. Experienced hikers will find Black Balsam easy, but the descent of Tennent is steep, muddy, usually flooded, eroded, covered in thorny bushes and has places where you’ll need hands and feet.

  • Length: 3.9 miles
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Trail type: Loop
  • Address: Art Loeb/Black Balsam Knob Trailhead, Black Balsam Knob Rd, North Carolina 28716

Contributed by Carrie of Trains, Planes, and Tuk Tuks

Babel Tower (NC)

The Babel Tower trail in the Linville Gorge is a challenging hike but so worth the reward. The Linville Gorge Wilderness is most well known for Linville Falls but there are so many other hikes that make this area great.

Babel Tower begins on NC 105 and takes you down the canyon to the Linville Gorge Trail which follows the river. Going down isn’t so bad, but be prepared to take lots of breaks when coming back up.

This trail is narrow in places and lined with more rhododendrons than you can imagine. Watch out for snakes in the summer – I saw four when we took this trail. Babel Tower ends at a tall tower of rocks, but you can go right or left on the Linville Gorge Trail.

Pack a picnic lunch and your hammock so you can set up by the river for a little while to rest before you head back up the steep mountainside. It’s such a different perspective when you get to see the river up close instead of from the top of the canyon.

  • Length: 2.4 miles round trip (can be more if you follow the Linville Gorge Trail)
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Trail Type: Out & Back
  • Address: Old NC Hwy 105, Newland, NC 28657

Contributed by me at Stuck On The Go

Carvers Gap to 19E (TN/NC)

One of the most scenic hikes in the southeast is the 14 mile stretch on the Appalachian Trail from Carver’s Gap to 19 East. This section of trail has 4 balds, mountain crests with no trees, offering incredible views of the surrounding area.

The hike is strenuous and not recommended for beginners. There are several climbs and the trail is mostly exposed. You’ll find little break from the sun and heat so be sure to stay hydrated and pace yourself.

Along the way, you’ll climb to the top of the balds, enjoy feeling like you’re on top of the world, and you’ll leave satisfied by the challenge of the terrain.

Even if you’ve visited the trail before, try it again in a different season. It goes from lush green in the spring to bright yellows and browns in the winter. Every time I go, I see it in a new light and none of my photos are the same.

While the hike can be done in a day, it’s best as an overnight.  You can camp in the meadow outside of Overmountain shelter.

The best way to start is to park at 19 East and grab a shuttle to Carver’s Gap.  You’ll then hike back to your car. 

  • Length: 14 miles
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Trail type: Point-to-Point
  • Address: Roane Dr, Bakersville, NC 28705

Contributed by Alison of Exploration Solo

Sams Gap to Big Bald (TN)

While the North Carolina mountains get most of the tourist love, little-visited Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee has just as good views with none of the crowds. Case in point — the 13-mile hike to Big Bald.

This hike begins at Sam’s Gap, on the NC/TN border. There’s a small parking area where the Appalachian Trail crosses the road.

Pick up the white-blazed AT on the opposite side of the street, going north. You’ll start with a two-mile hike through forest before coming to an open meadow with a view of Big Bald.

From here, the hike gets a little steeper and more rugged. It’s 4.5 miles to the 5,000-foot bald, with panoramic views. Facing north, the Black Mountains — the highest peaks in the East — are to your right. In front of you are the Roan Highlands, famous for the Carvers Gap to 19E backpacking trip. To your left, the last ridge in the distance is Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The summit is a lovely place for a picnic. When you’re done, return the way you came.

You won’t have cell service once you’re off the highway, but it’s impossible to get lost. Just follow the well-marked AT the whole time. You may encounter deer and bears, and you’ll see an incredible diversity of birdlife.

  • Length: 13 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate-difficult — If it weren’t for the distance, this would be quite an easy hike. It’s well-maintained and there are no steep sections.
  • Trail type: Out-and-back
  • Address: Pisgah National Forest, 4460 Flag Pond Rd, Mars Hill, NC 28754

Contributed by Carrie of Trains, Planes, and Tuk Tuks

Alum Cave to Mount LeConte (TN)

The Mount Leconte Trail is one of the most popular hikes in Great Smoky Mountain National Park and for a good reason, it’s spectacular. You’ll have to make it up 2,800 feet and up 5 miles, but from the top you’ll get stunning panoramic views of the Smokies. 

There are two ways to the top, but the best one will take you by Alum Cave. This cave has large cavernous walls and is a great place to sit and take in some views. Many people just hike to the cave and back, but getting to the top is worth it.

If you plan in advance, you can stay at the LeConte Lodge that sits on top of the mountain. The only way to get there is to hike up the mountain. However, it’s also a great place to buy snacks and drinks for tired hikers. 

Summer and fall are the most popular times of year to visit the Smokies, so you’ll see more crowds then. Try to get there early to get a spot in the parking lot or you’ll have to park along the roadside.

Don’t forget to lookout for wildlife like black bears as you hike up this incredible mountain. I hope you choose to do this trail, because it’s truly unforgettable!

Contributed by Lita of Lita of the Pack

Bethel Springs Nature Preserve (AL)

Bethel Spring Nature Preserve is one of the most recent additions to the Land Trust of North Alabama’s extensive network of trails. Here you’ll find two different trail options, both leading to the largest waterfall in Madison County.

The hike through North Alabama’s gorgeous hills is wonderful. But the payoff of the waterfall is truly spectacular, especially on a hot day when the mist feels so refreshing!

There are two ways to get to the waterfall. You can take the Mill Trail (1.5 miles out and back), which is a moderate to difficult trail with some somewhat steep inclines. The other option is to take the longer route of Carpenter Trail and Falling Sink Trails, which is a little over 2 miles out and back with a more gradual incline.

Both trails are out and back trails, although you can go up one way and down the other, essentially making a loop trail that is just under 2 miles.

If it has been raining recently, be cautious about taking Mill Trail, as it can get pretty muddy and slippery. Also, be sure to have a trail map handy with you; phone service here is sparse and the turnoff to take Falling Sink Trail from Carpenter Trail can be easy to miss. The good news: there is a parking lot at Bethel Spring for easy parking!

  • Length: 2 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Type: Out and back (or loop depending on your route)
  • Address: 2641 Cherry Tree Road, Gurley, AL 35748

Contributed by Erin of Flying Off The Bookshelf

Brasstown Bald (GA)

Brasstown Bald is about a two hour drive from Atlanta, nestled within the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. Since it’s the highest point in Georgia, and located within a forest, it’s a must-visit. Your eyes won’t believe that you’re still in Georgia. 

Upon arriving, you have to pay a $5 entry fee per person 16 and older. Parking was readily available right in front of the entrance of the trail. The website does mention that they only allow sixty cars at a time but there were probably only 20 cars or so when we were there on a Sunday afternoon in August 2020. 

Despite the trail only being half a mile, the incline is pretty steep, with the peak almost 4,800 feet above sea level. The positive side is the trail is paved, making it accessible to strollers, wheelchairs, etc. Please note there are a few stairs to get from one level to the next. 

When you finally arrive at the top of the observation deck, you won’t believe that you are in Georgia.  The 360° view of the lush greenery that expands throughout four states- Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina- is breathtaking. It is absolutely perfect!

The entrance also allows access to other, longer trails:

  1. Arkaquah Foot Trail: 5.5 miles
  2. Jacks Knob Foot Trail: 4.5 miles 
  3. Wagon Train Foot Trail: 5.8 miles
  • Trail length: 0.6 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy but very steep
  • Trail type: Out and Back
  • Address: 2941 GA-180 Spur, Hiawassee, GA 30546

Contributed by Marquita of Marquita’s Travels

White Blaze Canyon Loop Trail (GA)

With over 10 miles of hiking trails at Georgia’s Providence Canyon State Park near Lumpkin, Georgia, the 2.5 mile White Blaze Canyon Loop Trail will cover viewing nine of the most impressive canyons within the park in a weaving loop.

This easy to moderate trail, depending on soil conditions, is popular among all groups but especially for taking the kids. Winding through the trail to view each of the canyons is the best way to get up close to the colorful magic of the layers of Georgia’s little grand canyon but the top rim portion of the trail provides unique views as well. 

While the trail can be completed in under 90 minutes, visitors taking their time to explore each canyon could spend half a day on the trail followed by a picnic lunch at the designated area near the parking lot and visitor center.

To support your enjoyment, ensure you wear proper footwear, the base of the canyon can be very muddy and a proper waterproof hiking shoe is essential. The trail also often becomes quite crowded and hot in the afternoon so a morning visit when temperatures are cooler or visiting in the winter months is highly advised.

Do be sure to keep your feet on the muddy earth, the canyon walls are extremely delicate and visitors are not permitted to climb the walls or along the very ridge of the canyon. 

  • Length: 2.6 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy 
  • Trail Type: Loop
  • Address: 8930 Canyon Road, Lumpkin, GA 31815

Contributed by Brittany of FivePax

East Palisades (GA)

When looking for places to hike near Atlanta, Georgia, check out the Chattahoochee River Trails. They are run by the National Park Service and include about 66 miles of trails along the river and through forested areas. 

One of the best Chattahoochee River Trails, located just north of Atlanta, is East Palisades. Not only is it quick and easy to reach from the city, but it also is a scenic hike. Like all of the Chattahoochee Trails, East Palisades is well marked. While it is one trail, there are many trail junctions and different directions to choose. At each numbered trail junction a posted map will help orientate yourself.

The route along the river is the busiest, but it offers the best views and also a scenic overlook. The inner paths through the woods are not as heavily trafficked. They also have some steeper sections.  

What really draws hikers to the trail is the bamboo forest. You won’t believe you are still in Atlanta when you step into the small forest with 30 foot bamboo stalks. To reach the bamboo forest head towards EP 26 on the map. 

  • Length: 5.57 miles (including all segments of the trail)
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Type: The trail has many different intersections and directions to choose. 
  • Addresses: The Indian Trail entrance is at 1425 Indian Trail NW, Sandy Springs. You can find the Whitewater Creek entrance at 4058 Whitewater Creek Rd NW, Atlanta. Parking is available at both but can fill up quickly. 

Contributed by Elizabeth of The Fearless Foreigner

Corkscrew Sanctuary Swamp (FL)

The Audubon Corkscrew Sanctuary Swamp in the western part of Florida’s Everglades is one of the best hikes in the Southeast US. Other than heat and humidity during the wet season, the hike along 2.25 miles of elevated boardwalk is fairly easy. The Sanctuary is just a 30-minute drive from Naples, Florida.

The long flat boardwalk meanders through a marshy area and ends in the largest old growth Bald Cypress forest in North America with some trees being 600 years old.

Through Audobon’s conservation efforts the area is home to lots of wildlife like alligators, turtles, panthers, and deer. The swamp is also a birder’s paradise with an amazing number and variety of songbirds, and wading birds like a variety of herons and egrets.

As you pass through one ecosystem to the next the vegetation, wildlife, and birds all change. A hike through this natural world is an amazing experience and should take roughly 2-3 hours to complete.

If your visit is during the dry season temperatures and humidity are much lower, but the water level also drops and many species of birds migrate elsewhere.

It’s a good idea to bring water, light snacks, bug spray, sunscreen, binoculars, and definitely a camera. Wear good footwear, and not flip-flops or sandals.

Parking is free, there is handicap access, cell service is weak, only service dogs are permitted, but there are no public restrooms. Water bottles, insect repellent, and binocular rentals are available in the Audubon Visitor Center.

  • Length: 2.25 mile boardwalk
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Type: Loop
  • Address: 375 Sanctuary Rd W, Naples, FL 34120

 Contributed by Lori of Naples Florida Travel Guide

Brooker Creek Preserve (FL)

Brooker Creek Preserve is a natural area northwest of Tampa which encompasses nearly 8,700 acres. The Preserve helps to protect the fragile and environmentally important Brooker Creek watershed.

It also acts as a buffer and refuge from urban development for thousands of plant and animal species, including alligators, marsh rabbit, owls, white-tailed deer, wild turkey, threatened plants, and native orchids. It’s a favorite among residents for its hiking and equestrian trails and many ecosystems which showcase natural Florida.

From the parking lot, visitors to Brooker Creek Preserve can head right to the trails or explore the nature center and boardwalks. The nature center features several exhibits which show the importance of Florida’s native species, a reading nook with floor-to-ceiling windows to observe the pine forest, and a gift shop.

A series of boardwalks wind among trees, native coffee, thistle, and other plants. Butterflies, dragonflies, and an occasional small snake visit the plants and pond around the boardwalk.

Beyond the buildings, several miles of nature trails pass through forested wetlands, pine flatwoods, oak hammocks, and cypress domes. In the summer, some of the trails are flooded.

In every season, however, they explode with natural color and the call of birds and insects. Bird watch from the bird blind. Look for alligators or birds in the creek. Sit among pine trees and listen for the wind whispering through the pine needles.

If you plan to hike during rainy season, start early before the afternoon thunderstorms arrive and wear shoes that can get muddy and wet. In any season, bring a camera for photos. Note that the furthest trails have little to no cell service.

  • Length: 0.7 to more than 4 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy though bring lots of water as the heat can be rough
  • Trail Type: Loop
  • Address: 3940 Keystone Road, Tarpon Springs, FL 34688

Contributed by Cristina of Wander Florida

Are there any hikes in the Southeast that you would add to this list?

Best hikes in the southeast US | hikes in the southern US | hiking in the south | North Carolina hiking | Virginia hiking | Tennessee hiking | Georgia hiking | Florida hiking | where to hike in the southeast | where to hike in the south | hiking destinations

10 Comments

  1. As an East Coaster, I’m always looking for fun hikes, so I’m happy to have come across this detailed post! I’d really love to check out Brooker Creek Preserve the next time I’m in FL!

    1. Oh yes, I thought the Florida ones were so unique! The landscape is so different from the mountains I’m used to hiking in. 🙂

  2. That’s a wonderful list ..the places look so beautiful and interesting .thanks for sharing

  3. That CAVE!! These look awesome. I never really thought of hikes in the south east, although I do recognise a few names from Bill Bryson’s book about the Appalachian Trail so I shouldn’t be too surprised that there are some great ones!

    1. Yes, people always think of places out west to hike but the southeast has some amazing places too!

    1. I thought the same! I love the New River Gorge area – you will have a great time. If you need any recommendations feel free to reach out, my husband goes up there for white water kayaking every year.

  4. It always blows me away how much diversity we have here in our home country. Great hikes, saving them in my back pocket! Thank you for compiling them so nicely!

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