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RECOMMENDATIONS

 

If this is your first visit to our website, you might be a bit overwhelmed. Where to begin? If you're interested on information for a specific area, click on hiking or paddling trip reports. Then, select the specific state that includes the area you're looking for information on. If you're interested in entertainment, I suggest sticking with my more recent trip reports. I like to think that my writing has improved over the years. Here are some specific recommendations:

If you're looking for a good laugh, try the following reports:

A group backpacking trip to the Cataloochee region of the Smokies in May of 2001.
The trip Dave and I took in May, 2003 to canoe in the Boundary Waters Wilderness Area in Minnesota.
Our trip in April, 2003 to the Outer Banks.
Our trip in January, 2003 to canoe in Florida.
Our trip to the Rockies in July of 2003.
Our dayhike to Greybeard Mountain in August of 2003.
An early report of a week-long backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon.
My backpacking and wine drinking trip with Bob and Joel to Burkes Garden.
My backpacking trip with Brian in Washington's Enchantment Lakes.
Our backpacking trip with Bob and Laura in Panthertown Valley.
My dayhike with our new puppy, Boone, on an ice-covered Quehanna Trail in Pennsylvania.
My dayhike with Dave to Rainbow Falls in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness, followed by an amusing trip to Dairy Queen.
My solo dayhike to several waterfalls in upstate South Carolina.
Our trip to Cozumel, Mexico for Christy's first Ironman.

For more humor, please check the FAQ's or The Funny of the Month.

Perhaps you're the morbid sort that likes reading about disasters? If so, try reading about:

A real fiasco canoeing on the Meherrin River in southeast Virginia.
Our dayhike near Hot Springs, which required crossing the French Broad River on a heavily used railroad bridge, May 1998.
Our May, 2004 backpacking trip to Panthertown Valley, where we survived a flash flood.
Our trip on the Clarion River in June 2003, which included canoeing AND swimming!
A trip report with a similar theme as we canoed the Uwharrie River.
Getting lost on a dayhike on the Cedar Mesa in Utah in April, 2001.
Taking out at the wrong place on a canoeing trip in Florida and missing our ride, January 2003.
Getting our car stuck in a swamp in the Croatan National Forest of NC, April 2003.
Fungirl falling down Mount Jefferson in New Hampshire, August 2001.
Truly hideous weather on the Black Mountain Crest in July of 1999.
Our trip to the Rockies in the summer of 2006 featured a whole series of little disasters.
A miserable bushwhack on the Rockjock "Trail" in Linville Gorge in April of 2007. That trip featured an impromptu night spent in a small cave!
It's hard to beat the sensation of falling in a river in February!
A miserable night car camping before hiking with Jack to an obscure waterfall in the Davidson River headwaters.

If you'd like to read about an exciting adventure, try:

Our trip to the Rockies in July 2003, especially the part in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness of Colorado.
Our climb of Mount St. Helens in July 2002.
Our exploration of Canyonlands National Park in April, 2001.
Our climb of Mount Katahdin by way of the Knife's Edge, July 2001.
My solo backpacking trips in the Smokies in November and December of 2002.
A group climb of Three Top Mountain in Ashe County.
Our exploration of Windy Falls in May of 2001 and March of 2003.
Our exploration of the Toxaway River in August of 1999.
"Discovering" Rock Creek Falls in March of 2000.
A hike through The Narrows of the Virgin River in Zion National Park in Utah in October of 2005.
A backpack along the length of the Wind River Range in Wyoming in July of 2006.
An off-trail backpacking trip through Floral Park and along the Sperry Glacier in Glacier National Park in Montana in August of 2007.
Backpacking in The Valley of 10,000 Smokes in Katmai National Park in Alaska, July 2009.
Dodging grizzlies while backpacking in the Upper Teklanika River Valley in Denali National Park in Alaska, July 2009.

 

Frequently people ask me for my favorite hikes, or for suggestions on places to go. These are difficult questions to answer, but I will attempt to do so here. First, I'll list my top 10 all-time favorite backpacking trips. Hopefully I won't overlook one!

10 Favorite backpacking trips (in no particular order).


1) The Four Pass Loop in the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness, Colorado.     Photos
2) The Sol Duc, Seven Lakes Basin, and The Hoh in Olympic National Park, Washington.     Photos
3) The Na Pali Coast to Kalalau Beach, Kauai, Hawaii.     Photos
4) A traverse of Banff National Park and Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park in Alberta, Canada.     Photos
5) A 3-day trip to Berg Lake and Snowbird Pass in Mount Robeson Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada.     Photos
6) An off-trail overnight trip to Hidden Lake, Floral Park, and the Sperry Glacier in Glacier National Park, Montana.     Photos
7) A loop trip combining Copper Ridge and the Chilliwack River in North Cascades National Park, Washington.     Photos
8) A 3-week thru hike of the John Muir Trail in the Sierra Nevada's of California.     Photos
9) A 4-day trip in the Valley of 10,000 Smokes in Katmai National Park, Alaska.     Photos
10) A 3-day trip in the Upper Teklanika River Valley in Denali National Park, Alaska.     Photos

10 Favorite dayhikes (again in no particular order).


1) Cirque Peak in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.     Photos
2) Wilcox Pass in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada.      Photos
3) Cascade Pass and the Sahale Glacier in North Cascades National Park, Washington.     Photos
4) Navajo Knobs in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah.     Photos
5) The Virgin River Narrows in Zion National Park, Utah.     Photos
6) Virgin Falls on the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee.     Photos
7) Grassy Ridge in the Roan Highlands on the North Carolina / Tennessee line.     Photos
8) A hike to the Harding Icefield in Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska.     Photos
9) A hike to Shortoff Mountain in the Linville Gorge Wilderness, NC.     Photos
10) The Dolly Sods High Plains in West Virginia. Specifically, I recommend a loop in the scenic area north of the Wilderness, including Harmon Knob, Rocky Knob, and Raven Ridge.     Photos


10 Favorite waterfall hikes (again in no particular order). Note - this isn't a list of my 10 favorite waterfalls. It's a list of my 10 favorite hikes with waterfalls. Waterfalls that can be driven to are not included! Some of these may also appear in the list of favorite dayhikes or backpacking trips.


1) A tour of the southwest portion of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, including Union Falls and Colonnade Falls.     Photos
2) A 3-day trip to Berg Lake and Snowbird Pass in Mount Robeson Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada, including Emperor Falls.     Photos
3) A dayhike in Yoho Valley in Yoho National Park, Alberta, Canada, including Takakkaw Falls.     Photo
4) A hike to the waterfalls in the Waipio Valley and the Waimanu Valley on the Big Island of Hawaii.     Photos
5) Waterfalls along the Eagle Creek Trail in the Columbia River Gorge, Oregon.     Photos
6) Waterfalls on a short hike along St. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park, Montana.     Photos
7) A tour of Bushkill Falls in the Pocono Mountains of eastern Pennsylvania.     Photos
8) A visit to the disappearing rivers and waterfalls of the Virgin Falls Pocket Wilderness in Tennessee.     Photos
9) A hike to waterfalls on the Whitewater and Thompson Rivers in the Jocassee Gorges of North Carolina.     Photos
10) A hike to waterfalls on the Horsepasture River and Bearwallow Creek in the Jocassee Gorges of North Carolina.     Photos


10 Favorite summit hikes (again in no particular order). Some of these may also appear in the list of favorite dayhikes or backpacking trips.


1) Cirque Peak (9,819') in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.     Photos
2) Half Dome (8,842') in Yosemite National Park, California, during our thru-hike of the JMT.     Photos
3) Mount Whitney (14,496') in Sequoia National Park, California, at the culmination of our thru-hike of the JMT.     Photos
4) Mount St. Helens (8,365'), our first active volcano, in Washington.     Photo
5) Mount Buckhorn (6,988')in Olympic National Forest, Washington.     Photos
6) Rio Grande Pyramid (13,821') in the Weminuche Wilderness, Colorado.     Photos
7) Mount Oxford (14,160') by "the back way", in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, Colorado .     Photos
8) Mount St. Vrain (12,162') in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, Colorado.     Photo
9) Mount Katahdin (5,267') .     Photo
10) Cold Mountain (6,030') .     Photos

Valley hikes

Where do you go when the weather is cloudy or foggy or rainy or hazy? I usually opt for a valley hike. Aside from the waterfall hikes listed above, there are a number of options. The Wilson Creek area is full of great valley hikes, especially along Harper Creek and North Harper Creek. Hiking along the Linville River is a great way to spend a day or two, and offers a totally different experience from the trails along the rim of the gorge. Near Hot Springs, the trail along Big Laurel Fork is one we've done over and over again. Finally, almost every valley in the Smokies offers a great hiking opportunity. My favorites in the Smokies include Big Creek, Deep Creek, Bradley Fork, Noland Creek, Forney Creek, Abrams Creek, and Road Prong.

Cliffs

There's nothing quite like being perched at the edge of a sheer cliff. Such places are rare in our part of the world, but they do exist. Both rims of Linville Gorge feature sheer cliffs. Table Rock, Hawksbill, the Chimneys and Shortoff are thrilling, but the cliffs on the west side of the gorge are wilder and every bit as scenic. Nearby, the craggy peaks of Grandfather Mountain would seem more appropriate in the Rockies. Hiking to those summits would be extremely challenging if it weren't for all of the ladders and cables! Farther south, granite domes like Whitesides Mountain and Chimneytops Mountain offer some impressive drops. The western United States is full of fantastic cliffs. The best might be in the Grand Canyon and the Canyonlands area of Utah.

Ridges

Trails usually follow valleys or ridges, so there's no shortage of great ridge hikes. In the southeast, the most famous might be the crest of the Smokies from Mount Cammerer to Gregory Bald. The Appalachian Trail follows another significant ridge further north as it traverses Roan Mountain. The Art Loeb Trail follows the popular Shining Rock Shelf across the balds of Black Balsam and Tennent Mountain and on to Cold Mountain. Meanwhile, the Granddaddy of ridges in the southeast is the Black Mountain Crest, running south from Celo Knob to Mount Mitchell and beyond to Blackstack Knob and the Craggy Mountains. In Virginia, the hike along Garden Mountain above Burke's Garden is a favorite. There's a virtually limitless range of possibilities for ridge hikes out west. My favorite so far is the Lizardhead Plateau in Wyoming's Wind River Range.

Scrambles and Bushwhacks

I love a good off-trail adventure. My favorite place for that type of exploration is Jocassee. It's a great thrill to find a route from the nearest trail to a hidden waterfall. This is what Jocassee is all about. Meanwhile, Linville Gorge offers thrilling climbers trails that lead to exciting vantage points on the cliffs. Out west, we mainly stick to established trails. However, on our Collegiate Peaks backpacking trip in July of 2003, we went off-trail, climbing 14,151' Mount Oxford by way of its east ridge.

Best place to hike in the snow

The tricky part of hiking in the snow is usually getting to the trailhead. Mountain roads are notoriously poor, and only get worse in bad weather. However, some areas are fairly easy to access. If you can make it to Mount Rogers, hiking in the snow is ideal thanks to the gentle terrain. Areas adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway, like Cone Park and Price Park, are also nice if the parkway isn't closed. If the Parkway is closed, hiking or skiing on the snow-covered road is a pleasant option.

Best place for a workout

If you're looking to damage your relationship with a friend or spouse, bring them on one of the many killer hikes in the southeast. To this day, Fungirl refuses to hike the Bartram Trail after I took her up section 6 from the Nantahala River to Cheoah Bald. One year we dayhiked from the west rim of Linville Gorge, down to the river, up to Shortoff Mountain on the east rim, and back again. We permanently lost some group members that day. For a nice grunt, try the dayhike from Andrew's Geyser near Old Fort up Heartbreak Ridge to the Pinnacle. Nearby, the Black Mountains offer many difficult hikes. The climb to Deep Gap from Carolina Hemlocks is serious, but the rough route farther north up Woody Ridge to Horse Rock is worse. The ladders and cables on Grandfather Mountain eliminate the technical challenges, but the hike from the Parkway to the Swinging Bridge and back is still a grueling, all-day event. There are a number of tough hikes in the Smokies. The hardest is probably from Big Creek to the summit of Mount Sterling. New England might feature the toughest hiking in the contiguous United States. Mount Katahdin by the Knife's Edge is the toughest single day of hiking I've ever endured. There's plenty of challenging hiking out west. In the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, our full-day traverse of Mount Oxford was a monster, but the climb from Pine Creek across Mount Harvard's east ridge wasn't much easier.

Best Place for a Family Hike

Short, safe, scenic hikes are abundant in the southeast. Consider Stone Mountain State Park, Linville Falls, Table Rock, Grassy Ridge in the Roan Highlands, Black Balsam and Tennent Mountain, Whitesides Mountain, and Grayson Highlands State Park near Mount Rogers.

Favorite Car Campground

I prefer primitive (read free) car camping. However, I'm not going to provide a list of such places, as they often fill up on warm weather weekends. We have stayed at a few public campgrounds that I recommend. For a quiet camping experience, try Rocky Creek Campground near Hot Springs, NC. Two of our other favorites are on the Parkway near Grandfather Mountain. Price Park Campground offers a number of wooded sites, as well as a lake and hiking trails. Linville Falls Campground is smaller but more open, with easy access to Linville Gorge and surrounding areas. In West Virginia, I strongly recommend the Spruce Knob Lake Campground, which is cheap and quiet. If you're headed for Utah, you won't be disappointed with the campground at Dead Horse Point State Park, nor the private Needles Outpost, just outside of the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park.

Best Hiking Close to Home

If you live in Charlotte like we do, your options are rather limited unless you're willing to drive. Still, there are some nearby options. Crowders Mountain is nearby and scenic, though often crowded. If you can drive a little farther, consider South Mountains State Park south of Morganton. It offers scenic views and waterfalls. Lake Norman State Park has a hiking trail and a mountain biking trail that are nicer than you might expect. To the east, the Uwharrie Mountains have several options for dayhiking, mountain biking, and canoeing. In Fort Mill, the Ann Springs Greenway offers trails for hiking, mountain biking, and even horseback riding.

If you live in the Triad, head west towards Doughton Park or Stone Mountain. Both parks have dayhiking and even backpacking opportunities. Farther north, Hanging Rock and Pilot Mountain State Parks provide additional options. If you can drive a little farther, consider Rock Castle Gorge or Pinnacles of Dan near the Parkway in southern Virginia.

If you live in Asheville, you can get to all kinds of great places in an hour, but you probably didn't need this website to tell you so.




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