Tag Archives: hiking backpacking western North Carolina

October 23, 2017

10 Really Cool Outdoor Adventures With Kids

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By Michael Lanza

Want to guarantee that your kids are always excited about getting outdoors as a family? Find adventures that excite them. We adults tend to look for nice scenery, but that, by itself, isn’t always going to fire up a school-age child or teenager. No matter what their age, kids want to engage with the outdoors—to get dirty and wet and climb around. By thinking a little more about trip planning, parents can find places and activities that inspire everyone scenically and experientially. Continue reading →

October 9, 2017 Looking Glass Rock, Pisgah National Forest, N.C.

A Perfect Week of Hiking in the North Carolina Mountains

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By Michael Lanza

Warm rain drums lightly on the lush deciduous forest around me as I walk up a long-abandoned dirt road that has narrowed to a trail with the gradual encroachment of vegetation. The wind assaults the treetops, the outer edge of a hurricane hitting the Southeast coast right now; but here, far from the storm, it sounds like waves rhythmically lapping up onto a beach and retreating. It’s a gray, early evening in mid-October in the basement of a compact valley in the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina—a valley that, due to its tight contours, sees precious few hours of direct sunlight at this time of year—and the daylight has filtered down to a soft, dim, tranquil quality.

A bit more than a half-mile up this quiet footpath, I reach my destination—and unconsciously catch my breath at what must be one of the most lovely cascades in a corner of North Carolina spilling over with waterfalls. Continue reading →

September 18, 2017 Noland Creek in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, N.C.

In the Garden of Eden: Backpacking the Great Smoky Mountains

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By Michael Lanza

Late-afternoon sunlight tilts golden beams through the low canopy of spruce and fir trees as I hike alone up the Welch Ridge Trail, at around 5,000 feet deep in the backcountry of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I haven’t seen another person since I hit the trail early this morning. Solitude in the mountains exerts many effects, small and large, on us; but one is that we instinctively listen more attentively. Our rational minds cannot erase from their primal memory cards the instinctive knowledge that, in the primitive brains of some woodland creatures, we are nothing more than a boatload of calories.

I stop abruptly in the trail and stand perfectly still—listening intently, waiting. And then I hear it. Continue reading →

September 10, 2017 The view from Devils Courthouse, along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Pisgah National Forest, N.C.

Photo Gallery: Exploring North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains

In Hiking   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   1 Comment

By Michael Lanza

Spanning Georgia to Pennsylvania, the Blue Ridge Mountains reach their apex in a rumpled carpet of forested mountains sprawling across western North Carolina. Scores of peaks over 5,000 and 6,000 feet—the highest east of the Mississippi—host craggy summits, hundreds of beautiful waterfalls, and more plant species than any other park in the country.

And, by the way, some of the nicest hiking in America. Continue reading →

August 28, 2017 Crabtree Falls, along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina.

The 12 Best Dayhikes Along North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Parkway

In Hiking, National Park Adventures   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   1 Comment

By Michael Lanza

I’m a hiking snob—I admit it. I want all of the hiking trips I take to feature five-star scenery. And for years, I’ve done most of my dayhiking and backpacking in the American West, with its vast wildernesses and infinite vistas, so I’m a little spoiled. But a weeklong trip to the mountains of western North Carolina last fall upended my snobbery. Exploring the highest peaks east of the Mississippi, I discovered one of America’s richest stashes of stunning waterfalls and most biologically diverse forests, enough ruggedness to inspire a sense of climbing “real” mountains—and some pretty darn big vistas, too.

After considerable field research, I present to you this list of a dozen hikes along North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Parkway, ranging in length from very short and easy to a multi-summit ramble to the crown of the East’s highest summit (which I rank among America’s Best Hard Dayhikes). Continue reading →

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