Hiking the Appalachian Trail is a popular pursuit for those of us lucky enough to live within easy driving distance of the Eastern Seaboard. But of the millions of hikers who set foot on the trail every year, only a vanishingly small percentage actually hike its full length ” some 2,200 miles. No surprise there: Turns out most employers aren’t willing to give their workers six months off to find themselves in the woods.
If you have limited time on your hands, say a day or two at most, these seven fun hikes are well within your reach. Some are hard, some are easy, and some fall in between, but all offer stunning views and the magnificent serenity of life on the trail.
1. Anthony’s Nose
This hike stretches just over two miles in New York State’s lower Hudson Valley. Beginning at the Appalachian Trail’s lowest point, the Hudson River, it traverses a steep, switchback-laden path up a towering bluff along the river’s shore. From the top, you can see the rolling mountains of the Hudson Highlands, the majestic sweep of the river itself, and ” on a clear day ” the distant skyline of Manhattan.
2. Kittatinny Ridge
Stretching for 15 miles more than 1,000 feet above the Delaware River in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Kittatinny Ridge offers stunning views of the cliff-rimmed Delaware Water Gap, the Pocono Mountains and the highlands of northern New Jersey.
3. Presidential Range
Located in northern New Hampshire, the Presidential Range is the longest alpine Appalachian Trail stretch ” 14 continuous miles above the treeline. Highlights include Mount Washington, Mount Adams and the Great Gulf, a knee-bending gap in the range. Note that the northern location and high altitude make for potentially dangerous weather conditions; high winds and low temperatures occur at any time of year.
4. Roan Highlands
Roan Highlands is a garden-like stretch of the Appalachian Trail along the Tennessee-North Carolina border. The trail traverses nearly 20 miles’ worth of balds, fire-cleared grassy summits dotted with shrubby trees. The rhododendron groves, laurel stands and spruce forests are a sight to behold, too.
5. Taconic Highlands
The Taconic Highlands straddle the border between New York and Massachusetts. The pristine northeastern forests, ample ponds and mountaintop views make for an engaging walk; there are numerous 5- to 10-mile day hikes on tap here.
6. Blood Mountain
Blood Mountain is the highest and most popular point along Georgia’s portion of the Appalachian Trail. Though the out-and-back journey is somewhat strenuous, the lush summit views are well worth the trip.
7. Rhododendron Gap
Deep in the wilds of southwestern Virginia lies Rhododendron Gap, a magnificent stretch of mid-Atlantic highland forest that pops with rhododendron blooms come spring. With so many flowering plants and shrubs to hold your gaze to the ground, don’t forget to watch for stunning mountain views through breaks in the trees.
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