READER EXPERTS Kelly Stewart Nashville, TN
Kelly has a simple solution to beating the crowds. “I take long-ass hikes. Most casual daytrippers don’t venture too far from the trailhead.” Favorite hike Honey Creek Trail, Big South Fork NRA, TN
Scott Sanders Atlanta, GA Favorite hike Jacks River Trail, Cohutta Wilderness, GA
Charlie Wood Arlington, VA Favorite hike Red Creek Trail, Dolly Sods Wilderness, WV
1. Favorite multiday: Tricorner Loop
This 31-mile Smokies trek is an instant classic. It rises from dense, colorful undergrowth—ferns, trilliums, and rhododendrons—through Christmas-scented firs to the tops of 5,000-foot ridges. Hone your map skills: You’ll bushwhack to eight peaks taller than 6,000 feet. Tip: Thru-hikers crowd trails in April.
3. Best wildflowers: Art Loeb Trail
Take a long weekend in mid-May to backpack this rolling 30.1-mile point-to-point through freshly blooming dogwood, magnolia, azalea, and trillium. Camp on grassy Black Balsam Knob. No fastpacking allowed.