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Top 3 Perfect Substitute National Forests

Get national park-caliber scenery without crowds (or entry fees!) in these dead ringers for Great Smoky Mountains, Zion, and Yosemite.
august 09 top 3 dixie nf 445x260Dixie NF, UT (Whit Richardson)

NANTAHALA NF, NC
Hike to a deserted bald.
If you want iconic Smokies scenery–an orange sun lighting the famous haze
in shades of purple and blue–without sharing, the comparatively people-free,
531,000-acre Nantahala National Forest awaits across Fontana Lake to the south.
Ninety miles from the park border lies Tusquitee Bald, a grassy, 5,200-foot
crown where you can spy the folded ridges of the Nantahala Mountains stretching
into the clouds. Get there via a calf-busting five-mile out-and-back under a
canopy of red oak so thick the sun rarely touches bare ground. Take the Far
Bald Spring Trail and gain nearly 2,000 feet in 1.9 miles to link to the Fires
Creek Rim Trail. You’ll track half a mile through thinning forest to the Chunky
Gal Trail and a short scramble to the summit, the tallest of three balds on
a two-mile-long open ridge.

Refuel
Area hikers rave about the lemon- pepper local rainbow trout at Cottage Deli
in Hayesville. (828) 389-8473

The Way
From Hayesville, make lefts onto Tusquitee St., then Fires Creek Rd. Then go
4.5 miles to a right on SR 1344, which leads to the trailhead.

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