Written by Charlotte native, Jonah Swinson
There has always been a desire for people to see what has not yet been seen. From the discovering of the new world, to the westward expansion of the United States, and onto putting men on the moon, people have always wanted to explore the unknown.
That being said, everyone seems to put a major emphasis on travelling to far away places. I am not trying to condemn going abroad or visiting the other side of the country to see some famous landmark or even to just go someplace new.
All I am saying is that people tend to put so much stock into taking large trips that cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars and neglect the amazing sites they could see for the thirty bucks it costs for a tank of gas and some lunch.
Hiking is a good option to take when searching for incredible sites in your own backyard. It’s cheap, it’s easy, and most of all, it’s extremely rewarding. You can also determine the length of the trip. There are many easy trails that can be completely explored in just a few hours, but there are also some trails, like the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail that take months to complete.
Below are five trails to get you started:
It is not a coincidence that McAfee’s Knob is the first trail on this list. Part of the Appalachian Trail, McAfee’s Knob is located in Catawba, Virginia. The hike begins at the parking area and is roughly four miles to the summit and four miles back to the parking area. While the hike to the summit is mostly a steady uphill climb, it is not particularly difficult.
Since it is part of the Appalachian Trail, the trail is well marked and easy to follow. The only downside to this hike is the fact that there is not a lot of solitude, but the incredible view at the top makes it worth the visit.
Just a couple miles down the road from McAfee’s Knob is the trailhead for Dragon’s Tooth. Like McAfee’s Knob, Dragon’s Tooth is a part of the Appalachian Trail, so it is well marked and sees a lot of visitors. The trail earns its name because at the summit, there are large rocks jutting out of the ground that actually look like teeth.
Starting at the parking lot, it is roughly three miles to the summit and three miles back to the parking lot. Out of the five trails listed, this is probably the most strenuous hike because you have to climb over large rocks as you get closer to the summit. But, it is by no means an extremely difficult hike, and the views at the top make it well worth the trip.
House Mountain is an interesting hike, and a good one to start with if you do not usually go hiking. House Mountain is located in Lexington, Virginia. Approximately a mile from the start of the trail, you come to a large, open field known as the saddle.
At this field, the trail actually forks off into two trails leading to different summits known as the Big House Mountain and Little House Mountain trails. Starting at the parking lot, to hike to the saddle, explore both summits, and travel back to the parking lot is only about eight miles in full.
From the saddle, it is a short, steep hike to each summit, but neither is particularly difficult. Both summits have amazing views and you will have a relatively high amount of solitude. Interestingly, there is a goat that lives on the Big House Mountain trail. Though some hikers have had the goat join them, I did not see the goat when I hiked this trail.
At a height of 6,684 feet, Mount Mitchell is the highest point in the east coast of the United States. Mount Mitchell State Park is located just outside of Asheville, North Carolina.
Unfortunately, this peak has been turned into somewhat of a tourist attraction. At the summit, an observation deck has been made less than a half-mile from the parking lot.
Luckily, a hiking trail was made that still ends at the summit, but in more of a scenic route. The Mount Mitchell trail is only five and a half miles, but is extremely beautiful. The summit provides one of the most impressive views that North Carolina has to offer.
Hanging Rock State Park
Hanging Rock State Park is located in Danbury, North Carolina, and is an interesting place to spend the full day. The actual main trail at Hanging Rock State Park offers a short, and simple trail to a picturesque summit.
The main problem with this trail is that it has become extremely touristy. At the main overlook, you will most likely encounter dozens of people into a relatively small area, but if you are looking for a short, easy trail to get you to a beautiful view, then this is the trail for you.
However, if you are looking for more of a longer, less crowded hike that still leads to some impressive overlooks, then the state parks also offer multiple other trails.
Personally, my favorite trail is called Cook’s Wall. It is approximately four miles from the parking lot, to the overlook, and back to the parking lot. The Cook’s Wall Trail offers a relaxing and scenic hike with a relatively high level of solitude.
All of these trails listed can easily be hiked in a single afternoon and are easy to follow. While travelling great distances to see major landmarks is always exciting, it is foolish to neglect the adventures and sites that are in your own backyard.
For more of Jonah’s work, visit the site, Red Cadet.