Climb through mossy groves of giant spruce and Fraser fir to rhododendron-lined ridgelines with distant Blue Ridge views on a 4.7-mile dayhike in Mt. Mitchell State Park. En route to Blackstock Knob (6,325 feet), gain 2,000 feet hiking some of the tallest mountains east of the Mississippi. Trip ID36476
Swamp Fox Passage
This 8.2-mile hike—part of the 425-mile Palmetto Trail—tracks through spooky cypress swamps. It’s named for Francis “Swamp Fox” Marion, the Revolutionary War general who waged guerilla attacks against the Brits here. Trip ID20785
Benton MacKaye Trail
In 1921, Benton MacKaye conceived the Appalachian Trail, now the country's best-known long path. Pay homage to his vision on this 7.1-mile shuttle hike along the 300-mile Benton MacKaye Trail, starting at Springer Mountain. Hike among hardwood forests to rocky Blue Ridge overlooks, and gain what reader Scott Sanders describes as “seclusion hard to find on the AT.” Trip ID368718
Pinhoti Trail (Print & Go)
Cheaha Resort SP Loop
Ford creeks and hike past rocky overlooks on this 17.6-mile loop along Alabama’s 335-mile Pinhoti Trail. In late spring, when the dogwoods and wild azaleas are blooming, this trip turns into a stop-a-minute tour of flora close-ups. Camping options are plentiful, but streams are dry by mid-June, so pack plenty of water if you go after that. backpacker.com/pinhoti Trip ID59954
What Florida lacks in relief, it makes up for in biodiversity. Take this 8.8-mile out-and-back on the 1,400-mile point-to-panhandle trail to hear red-cockaded woodpeckers thumping pines, see carnivorous pitcher plants growing densely in marshes, and maybe run into Florida black bears roaming the underbrush.
Trip ID 1022783
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MATING GATORS, NESTING CROCS
Everglades National Park, FL
PayoffA three-day paddle into the Everglades backcountry reveals a maze of mangrove-lined creeks, water birds by the thousands, and solitude that’s absent on motorized waterways. You’re likely to see not one, but two species of giant reptiles (crocs and gators) in the world’s only place where they coexist.
TimeApril and May attract about a third fewer visitors than peak winter months, but you’ll still be early enough to avoid summer’s heat, humidity, and insects. Plus, now’s the time male gators bellow their guttural mating call and crocs (lighter colored, slightly larger and toothier than alligators) make mounded nests on the coast.
PlaceGrab a permit ($10 plus $2/person per day), NOAA chart #11433, and a canoe ($40/day) at Flamingo. Paddle 11 miles across Snake Bight to the Alligator Creek campsite. Day two, follow PVC markers on a 10-mile out-and-back to West Lake through a mangrove labyrinth; watch for waders like roseate spoonbills and woodstorks. nps.gov/ever