Big South Fork
Editor Kim Cross recommends a horseback ride at Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, whose hundreds of miles of trails are famous among equestrians but blissfully undiscovered by everyone else. “Southeast Pack Trips’ sure-footed steeds carried us 500 feet down into a sandstone gorge, across streams, and back up for a summit photo op,” she says.
At the end of the day, retire to one of the Laurel Fork Rustic Retreat Cabins, which are just as nice as a cabin in the Smokies but cost considerably less. (Three-bedroom cabins start at $145.) For the “best hike-in lunch deal in any neck of the woods,” try Charit Creek Lodge (reservations are required)—barbecue beef and homemade yeast rolls are cooked on a propane stove for just $8