Mt. Cammerer, NC/TN 12 miles (Difficult)
Head to Great Smoky Mountains National Park for one of the South’s hardest–and most rewarding–climbs. The out-and-back up 4,928-foot Mt. Cammerer gains almost 2,500 feet, ascending slopes that drop precipitously away for views of the Pigeon River Gorge and neighboring peaks, like 6,621-foot Mt. Guyot. Start on the Chestnut Branch Trail; connect with the AT.
West Rim Trail, GA 4.8 miles (Easy)
Want awesome views for little effort? This easy loop in Cloudland Canyon State Park offers sweeping vistas of the Cumberland Plateau’s flat-topped peaks and forests. The path hugs the cliffline of a 300-million-year-old gulch, then descends through maples, oaks, and flowering dogwoods. Bonus: A .8-mile spur leads to waterfalls on Daniel Creek.
Rhododendron Trail/Mt. Rogers, VA 7.2 miles (Moderate)
Climb Virginia’s highest point, 5,729-foot Mt. Rogers, on this steep, wildly diverse round-trip. Start at Massie Gap and cross an exposed lowland bald, a dense evergreen forest, and Rhododendron Gap, which explodes with color in June. Wild ponies roam the open meadowlands.
Info (276) 579-7092
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North Fork Mountain Trail, WV 12 miles (Moderate) With steady thermals and a profusion of rocky promontories, this area of Monongahela National Forest draws numerous raptors, including peregrine falcons and bald eagles. Add expansive ridgetop (yes, bird’s-eye) views of the white-gray cliffs of Seneca Rocks, and you’ll feel like your head is on a swivel as you try to take in all the sights on this one-way hike.
Info (304) 257-4488
Red River Gorge, KY 10.6 miles (Moderate)
Score the best views of Red River Gorge’s wild geology–it boasts more than 100 natural arches–on the Koomer Ridge to Rough Trail loop. Save your lunch for the hike’s midpoint at Gray’s Arch, a 50-by-80-foot sandstone buttress. The second half includes a mix of forest hiking and rock scrambles.
Info (606) 663-8100