The Appalachian Trail traverses 2,184 miles from Georgia to Maine. Every year, a few thousand people attempt to walk the entire trail. For those of you who don’t have time to walk across fourteen states, here’s nine spots that are great to hit on a section hike.
1. Blood Mountain, Georgia
Blood Mountain is the highest point on the Appalachian Trail. While the hike up the mountain is challenging and the views from the top are stunning, the mountain is respected for its history. According to the Cherokee legend, the mountain earned its name because of a battle between two Native American tribes. The tribes were fighting over land, and the battle is said to have been so brutal that the creeks ran red down the mountain.
2. Max Patch, North Carolina
Max Patch is the largest bald that the Appalachian Trail traverses. What makes Max Patch special is that there aren’t very many other places like it. Since there are no trees on the bald, hikers can see in all directions. It’s a mellow, pleasant hike to the top. You should go in the morning to see the sunrise or in the evening to see the sunset.
3. The Roan Highlands, Tennessee
The Roan Highlands are made up of a series of grassy balds: Round Bald, Jane Bald, and Grassy Ridge Bald. While the highlands are just as difficult as any other Tennessee mountain, hikers don’t have to wait for the summits to be rewarded with photo ops. Since the balds are treeless, the highlands offer two miles of uninterrupted views.
4. Grayson Highlands State Park, Virginia
Grayson Highlands State Park is best known for its herds of wild ponies. The ponies are not confined by fences and are extremely friendly. They’ll try to lick the salt from hikers’ sweaty skin and sniff hikers’ packs to locate snacks. The Grayson Highlands itself has fairly easy trails.
5. Dragon’s Tooth, McAfee Knob, and Tinker Cliffs, Virginia
This multi-day hike hits three unique rock formations. Hikers will first reach Dragon’s Tooth, which is a series of stone monoliths that jut out from the earth. Hikers can climb up the rocks to see views of the valley below. Twelve miles on from Dragon’s Tooth is McAfee Knob. The knob looks like a real life version of Pride Rock from “The Lion King”. It extends out past the cliff and has a drop off of several hundred feet. Six miles beyond McAfee Knob is Tinker Cliffs. The trail runs along the edge of the cliffs, offering views the whole way.
6. Mount Killington, Vermont
Mount Killington’s lush, green flora make the hike up this mountain pleasant, despite its difficulty. Hikers have to veer off of the Appalachian Trail, up a side trail, to reach the summit. The trail to the top is rocky and steep, but short enough that it’s a fun ascent. There’s a lean-to with campsites just below the summit, so hikers can watch the sunset from the mountaintop before turning in for the night. Mount Killington also has a gondola that is open year round, and long-distance hikers are allowed a free ride.
7. Franconia Ridge, New Hampshire
Franconia Ridge is located in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Many hikers choose to climb the more famous Mount Washington, but Franconia Ridge shouldn’t be overlooked. The ridge is above tree line, and the trail stretches for over two miles with panoramic views. Hikers can see the Presidential Range from Franconia Ridge. The ridge is at a lower elevation than Mount Washington, so hikers have a greater chance of having a clear sky with views.
8. Mahoosuc Notch, Maine
Mahoosuc Notch is said to be the most challenging or the most fun mile on the Appalachian Trail. It’s a one-mile long boulder field, settled deep in a valley and surrounded by precipitous mountains. Plan to make this hike an over-nighter because Mahoosuc Notch alone takes hours to complete. Expect to crawl over boulders, leap between rocks, and shove your pack through crevices. The notch is immediately followed by what many claim is the second most difficult mile on the Appalachian Trail.
9. Mount Katahdin, Maine
Mount Katahdin is perhaps the most revered mountain amongst Appalachian Trail hikers, since it is the northern terminus of the trail. It takes an entire day to complete, and hikers have to start first thing in the morning in order to make it back down before nightfall. Round trip, the hike amounts to ten miles. It’s a steep hike up; parts of the trail are reinforced with rebar to allow hikers to climb up vertical rocks. Upon reaching the tabletops, two miles below the summit, the trail levels out and the remainder of the hike is above tree line. Part of the fun of reaching the summit is seeing joyous thru-hikers finish their 2000-mile journey to Mount Katahdin.