Trip Finder: Southeast

Your favorite Southeast trips—from dayhikes to weekenders to multiday trips.

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WILDLIFEWetlands Trail Circuit, FL

Locals claim to see more gators and Florida red-bellied turtles in a day at Hillsborough River State Park than during a week in the Everglades. Find out for yourself on a seven-mile circuit connecting the Rapids, Baynard, Florida, and Wetlands Restoration Trails. Walk beneath a crown of live oaks, palms, and magnolias so thick they can block the sun. Best time for wildlife: March through May. Look riverside for fallen trees and rotting logs—they make ideal gator-sunning spots.

SUMMIT VIEWSBackbone Trail, LA

“This is a must for hikers living in South Louisiana,” says Travis Blair (above). “You’ll find rugged hills, rock outcrops, and a beautiful sandy stream at the Kisatchie Bayou trailhead.” Follow the 7.6-mile point-to-point over some of Louisiana’s hilliest terrain, crossing sandstone bluffs with views of wilderness pine forest. From the rocky ridge, the trail drops to the clear waters of Bayou Cypress and passes through swampy creek drainages.


At its confluence with the Chattooga River in the Chattahoochee National Forest, Dicks Creek Falls pours through notches in the wide, rocky streambed and gathers in shallow pools. The falls then plunge 60 feet over stair-stepped boulders into an Olympic-size swimming hole. From the south side of GA 28, this 9.1-mile, one-way hike winds along the hilly, rhododendron- and mountain laurel-draped banks of the Chattooga River to the roaring falls.


WILDLIFEPine Mountain Trail, GA

Pine Mountain rises to 1,395 feet from the low-rolling Piedmont in F.D. Roosevelt State Park, and the park’s lush, chestnut oak-covered ridges lure the scarlet tanager and ovenbird from farther north. Hike the 23-mile Pine Mountain Trail from GA 190 to the WJSP-TV Tower on GA 85W. Camp at Big Knot (mile eight) and Brown Dog (mile 17). Birding tip: Tanagers have bright-red bodies and dark-black wings, but like plenty of cover. Listen for a series short chik-burr calls.

SUMMIT VIEWSFoothills Trail, SC

The 14.1-mile hike from Table Rock State Park to Laurel Valley crosses South Carolina’s highpoint on Sassafras Mountain (3,554 feet). From the summit, gaze across pristine forest and spy 6,000-foot peaks lying on the horizon. On the approach, skirt outcrops at Bald Rock and see Table Rock Mountain looming to the south. The trail also crosses Drawbar Cliffs, with panoramas of Lake Keowee set amid rolling hills. Camp at the remains of the Cantrell homesite near Hickory


Nicknamed the “Land of 1,000 Waterfalls,” Sipsey Wilderness holds 25,000 acres of sinkholes, caves, and hidden cascades surrounded by ancient Southern hardwoods. Begin at Randolph trailhead for this 15-mile circuit. Hike along Thompson Creek and past tucked-away Auburn Falls to make camp at mile 4.5, in Whiteoak Hollow. On day two, close the loop along Bee Branch and detour to Falls Creek Falls; it tumbles 40 feet from a ledge in the secluded canyon.


WILDLIFE Black Creek Trail, MS

Head into the De Soto National Forest for a 41-miler on Mississippi’s longest trail, where you’ll travel rolling pine ridges to swampy bottomlands along the Black Creek floodplain. Find primitive camping near sandbars and oxbows that form beside the rushing creek. As you ramble, look for blue herons fluttering between longleaf pines and red foxes darting among the magnolias. Slot the trip for mid-February, when water is plentiful and mosquitoes aren’t.

SUMMIT VIEWS Pinhoti Trail, AL

With rough and tumble stretches that could test a mountain goat, Talladega National Forest’s 335-mile Pinhoti Trail hovers at 2,000 feet as it follows the Appalachian Mountains’ spine. “You need solid routefinding and stamina,” says Terah Shelton (above). “The trail gets rugged and often fades.” For a sampler, hike 44.4 miles from Porters Gap to US 431, scrambling over boulders to vistas on Talladega Mountain. Camp at mile 14 and mile 28 in the Blue Mountain Shelter.


Hike in the Panhandle highlands of Blackwater River State Park on a 42.2-mile point-to-point winding through lofty cedars, past spring-fed cascades, and over 75-foot bluffs. Start near Harold and hike north on the Jackson/Wiregrass Trail through longleaf pines along Juniper Creek, where deep eddies form head-high swimming pools. Connect with the Florida Trail before meeting the Alabama Hiking Trail at the state border.


For Travis Blair, 31, the Kisatchie National Forest is a lifesaver. “Being a Louisiana hiker means that it’s 10 hours to decent hiking,” he says. “The Backbone Trail is my escape.”

Terah Shelton, 32, an Alabama-based writer and BACKPACKER map contributor, has hiked the southern Appalachians since 1996. She’s currently trekking the trails of the Caribbean.