Our Favorite Southern Mountain Ranges for a Getaway Any Time of Year
Set out on a road trip across the South, and you'll soon find that the landscape is filled with variety. Rivers wind through forests. Valleys open up to rolling hills. Waterfalls plunge through rocky gorges. Deserts drift into the distance. Beaches wash their way along the coast, the sands dotted with umbrellas and sunbathers. And, most dramatically, mountains rise, revealing vistas that stretch for miles. The South is home to mountain ranges and subranges that are favorite vacation destinations at any time of year. They're home to our favorite mountain towns, which always tempt us to stay awhile. The lush forests turn technicolor in autumn, and in spring and summer they offer all kinds of outdoor adventure. There's hiking to overlooks, of course, but there's also fishing, kayaking, and boating in the ranges' rivers and lakes. Chart a course for the South's storied hills for unforgettable adventures.
One of the three major mountain ranges in the U.S.—the others being the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains—the Appalachian Mountains stretch along the East Coast from Georgia to Maine. To experience the range in all its glory, set out along the Appalachian Trail, a 2,180+ mile long public footpath that runs from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine.
The Alleghenies are part of the Appalachian Mountain Range and extend 400 to 500 miles from Pennsylvania to southwest Virginia. They also rise in parts of Maryland and West Virginia. Its highest point is atop Spruce Mountain in West Virginia, and other peaks include Mount Davis, Gaudineer Knob, and Bald Knob.
Great Smoky Mountains
The Smokies are a subrange of the Appalachian Mountains that are located along the North Carolina-Tennessee border. They're covered in forests that give the range its name; the vegetation emits vapors that appear as fog or smoke rising above the mountains.
Blue Ridge Mountains
The Blue Ridge Mountains make up another section of the Appalachian Mountain Range. They extend northward through Virginia and southward into North Georgia. One of the South's favorite drives, the Blue Ridge Parkway, winds through the range and offers views of verdant mountain vistas along the way.
The Cumberland Mountains are also located in the Appalachian range. Found in western Virginia, southwestern West Virginia, eastern Kentucky, and Tennessee, the range's highest point is High Knob, and there are many lakes and rivers in and around the region.
This mountain range rises through Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma, and it covers an extensive 47,000 square miles in the area. Along with the Ouachita Mountains, it's part of a region known as the U.S. Interior Highlands. The area is a hub for travelers visiting small towns like Fayetteville, Bentonville, and Eureka Springs. It's composed of smaller ranges including the Boston Mountains, Courtois Hills, and Saint Francois Mountains, as well as several plateau regions.
Part of the Ozark Mountains, this subrange rises 200 miles through northwest Arkansas and northeast Oklahoma. It comprises the highest areas of the Ozarks and are bounded by rivers: the White River to the north and the Arkansas River to the south.
Unlike most of the country's other mountain ranges, the Ouachita range runs east to west. It's located in Ouachita National Forest, which covers 1.8 million acres of land in western Arkansas and southeastern Oklahoma.
The Guadalupe Mountains are located in West Texas and extend in to New Mexico. They're surrounded by Guadalupe Mountains National Park and are home to Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas, which rises to an elevation of 8,751 feet, as well as El Capitan, the 10th highest peak in Texas.