For those humping it on the Appalachian Trail from Springer to Katahdin, this small, mountain community of about 560 outdoor-minded folks serves as the first real trail town. It’s in Hot Springs that many A.T. thru-hikers, less than 1/8 of the way into what they hope will be an eventual exodus of some 2,180 miles, emerge from the woods for the first time, eager to reacquaint themselves with the previously overlooked luxuries of the civilized world. The A.T. literally passes right through downtown, where a host of hiker-friendly restaurants, pubs, and hotels await. The French Broad River also runs straight through the heart of town, offering class III-IV whitewater, and the hot springs for which the town is named offer a soothing spot to soak after a long day of adventure.

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DID YOU KNOW? Hot Springs won the first annual Blue Ridge Outdoors Top Towns contest in 2012. Will they claim the outdoor crown again in 2014?

Vote now at blueridgeoutdoors.com!