North Carolina hiking backpacking

A young girl hiking Angels Landing in Zion National Park.

The 25 Best National Park Dayhikes

By Michael Lanza America’s most stunning landscapes are protected within our 59 national parks, and some of the very finest scenery within our national heritage can be reached on dayhikes. Some of these hikes you may not have done yet or heard of. Others are famous, but there’s a reason for that: They are mind-blowingly gorgeous, so they stand out …

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Backpackers on the Wonderland Trail west of Sunrise in Mount Rainier National Park.

The 10 Best National Park Backpacking Trips

By Michael Lanza Olympic, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Glacier, Zion, Grand Teton, Mount Rainier, Canyonlands, Sequoia, Great Smoky Mountains. To backpackers, these names read like a list of America’s greatest cathedrals in nature—and no surprise, because these parks harbor some of the most scenic wilderness trails in the country. Hike any of them and it will earn a spot on your …

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A view from the Appalachian Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

In the Garden of Eden: Backpacking the Great Smoky Mountains

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, deep in the backcountry of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I haven’t seen another person all day. Solitude in the mountains exerts many effects, small and large, on us, including that we instinctively listen more attentively. Our rational minds cannot erase from primal memory the instinctive knowledge that, in the primitive brains of some woodland creatures, we represent a boatload of calories.

I stop abruptly and stand perfectly still—listening intently, waiting. And then I hear it.

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Crabtree Falls, along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Pisgah National Forest, N.C.

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

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 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).

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A hiker on the Black Mountain Crest Trail up Mount Mitchell, N.C.

Roof of the East: Hiking North Carolina’s Mount Mitchell

By Michael Lanza

At 6,327-foot Celo Knob, on North Carolina’s Black Mountain Crest Trail, I stand in bright sunshine and a chilly October wind gusting to 40 mph or more, staring at the long ridge stretching for miles ahead of me. It’s both stunning and daunting. Several more summits that top 6,000 feet, and others nearly that high, form a forested, earthen rollercoaster, culminating at 6,684-foot Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi. There are a few ways one can climb to the roof of the East. I’ve chosen the longest, hardest, and most scenic.

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