13 Southern Hiking Trails That Go the Distance
Lace up your boots, and put one foot in front of the other.
After being stuck indoors all winter, we’re all itching to get outside to soak up some sun and breathe in the warm spring air. When your interest in the great outdoors reaches fever pitch, and you find yourself overcome with wanderlust, take a hike—literally. With so many rocky hills and scenic valleys just begging to be explored and climbed, the only thing you have to do is decide which trails to traverse to witness the magnitude of Mother Nature at her finest. We’ve made the journey less challenging by narrowing down some of the best trails for different skill levels, in every nook and corner of the South.
And while we love the Appalachian and Antebellum Trails, they may not offer the peaceful and solitary adventure you’re seeking this summer. Even if you’ve seen a few of these paths already, we promise pictures and pullover stops don’t do them justice. No, these 13 trails less traveled are meant to be trekked up close and personal, day and night, with nothing but you, the wind at your back, and the ground beneath your feet. So grab your backpack and map, put on your hiking boots, and forge ahead.
1. Powers Island Trail - Sandy Springs, Georgia
The nearby and wildly popular Cochran Shoals Trail also offers a panoramic view of the Chattahoochee River, but you’ll long for the still waters and tranquility to be experienced at Powers Island instead. Located about 30 minutes outside of Atlanta, it’s the calm away from the storm and vibrancy of this sprawling city.
2. Honey Creek Loop - Oneida, Tennessee
Although the hike itself is pretty short, stretching just five and a half miles, it still offers a challenging descent into water-carved rock formations and creek beds.
3. Cape Henry Trail - Virginia Beach, Virginia
You'll enjoy trouncing down this six-mile flat trail, observing the wildlife, salt marshes, and swamps along the way.
4. Beacon Heights - Linville, North Carolina
This trail offers maximum results with minimum effort, and the stunning view and surroundings of Grandfather Mountain and MacRae Peak awaits you after a short climb. If you're looking for a longer hike, the Mountains-to-Sea Trail nearby extends all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.
5. Conecuh Trail - Wing, Alabama
At the end of this six-mile, hill-covered lap, you'll be met with a picturesque feast for the eyes, which includes natural wonders like streams, ponds, longleaf pines, and yes, even alligators.
6. Jacks River Trail - Epworth, Georgia
You can tell just by the name what this southeastern trail promises. It covers the Cohutta wilds and hugs the banks of the crystal-clear Jacks River. The 15-mile hike downstream allows you to go with the flow and witness the beauty of North Georgia's waterfalls.
7. McKittrick Canyon Trail - Salt Flat, Texas
At roughly 29 miles, this hike, featuring canyons and desert lands, is quite difficult for less-experienced wayfarers.
8. Torreya Challenge Loop - Bristol, Florida
Because the air typically stays warm and dry in Florida, even during winter, this circuit is perfect for exploring year-round. It extends through marshes and several moderate ridges.
9. Walls of Jericho Trail - Hytop, Alabama
The name alone makes for an interesting adventure and conversation starter. The three-mile trail, just outside of the city of Huntsville, was given the sacred title because of its 200-foot, cathedral-esque walls. You'll want to throw on your waterproof boots for this one, as the slog downhill can be wet and muddy.
10. Guignard Clay Quarry Loop Trail - Cayce, South Carolina
This off-beaten path is close to Columbia and not particularly challenging. Fortunately, it doesn't receive a lot of foot traffic, making it easier to wander two and a half miles in peace.
11. Benton MacKaye Trail - Fall Branch Falls, Georgia
It's a lengthy trail (nearly 300 miles), so it'll require some fancy off-trail footwork to reach. But getting the chance to pass through the backcountry of North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and parts of the Appalachian Mountains is well worth a few weeks of strenuous hiking.
12. Blair Spring Hollow Trail - Mammoth Cave, Kentucky
Mammoth Cave is the draw for tourists, so the above-ground trail is perfect for those who are crowd-weary and want to roam alone. The view of the magnolia trees from the lookout is truly a sight to behold.
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13. Santa Rosa Creek Trail - Santa Rosa Beach, Florida
For a little rest and relaxation away from the crowds at Disney, trek this wooded terrain, complete with trees and birdwatching, to really feel happiness and the world at your feet.