Tag Archives: Mountains to the Sea Trail

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

In the Garden of Eden: Backpacking the Great Smoky Mountains

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

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 →

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 →

October 17, 2016 View from the Appalachian Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Photo Gallery: Fall Hiking and Backpacking in the North Carolina Mountains

In Backpacking, Hiking, National Park Adventures   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   6 Comments

By Michael Lanza

In a light mist drizzling from the fog embracing the mountains along the Blue Ridge Parkway in western North Carolina, I followed a well-worn trail downhill through a mixed deciduous forest just beginning to show its fall colors. A mile and a half down that path, I stood on rocks in the stream below Crabtree Falls, which plunges a nearly vertical 70 feet over numerous, shallow ledges. The photogenic waterfall seemed an auspicious start to a week of exploring one of America’s hiking meccas, the mountains of western North Carolina.

My trip culminated in backpacking a 34.3-mile loop in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (the lead photo, above, was taken along the Appalachian Trail in the park). In between, I dayhiked the rigorous, 12-mile Black Mountain Crest Trail, over 13 named 6,000-footers, to the summit of the highest peak east of the Mississippi River, 6,684-foot Mount Mitchell; hiked to numerous beautiful waterfalls from the Blue Ridge Parkway to Gorges State Park and the tallest in the East, 811-foot Whitewater Falls; explored mystical corners of the Southern Appalachians like Moore Cove; and hiked to glorious views of the Pisgah National Forest’s lush mountains at Looking Glass Rock and 6,214-foot Black Balsam Knob on the Art Loeb Trail. Continue reading →

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