It’s never too early to start planning. Gear up for 2018 and beyond with this year-long calendar of must-do adventures in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic.
Jackie Merritt, Atlanta, Ga.
Hails from: Middletown, Maryland
Would rather be: trail running
First ran an ultra: in 2009 at the JFK 50
Crushed the 2017 competition at: Mountain Mist 50K (first); Mount Mitchell Challenge (first); Quest for the Crest 50K (first); 2017 Georgia Death Race (second)
Works by day as: a physical therapist, neuroscientist, and biomechanist (PhD)
Run or hike the A.T.
Born and raised in rural Maryland just one-tenth of a mile from Washington Monument State Park, Merritt’s favorite section of the Appalachian Trail is the 15-mile stretch from her home to the C&O Canal. “I love that section of trail,” she says. “It plays to my strength with the downhill and the little bit of technical. It holds a special place for me. The JFK was my first ultra, and that’s always my bread and butter run whenever I go home.”
Grab a brewski.
Showcasing over 20 beers on tap and Mid-Atlantic food, Dan’s Tavern in Boonsboro, Md., is a great stop after a run on the Appalachian Trail.
Run the Mountain Mist 50K.
With nearly 4,000 feet of climbing crammed into just 31 miles, this race might not be for every reader, but if 2018’s the year you’re looking to step up to the 50K distance, consider heading south next January. Set amid the rocky terrain of Monte Sano State Park in Huntsville, Ala., this race is widely regarded as a butt buster. The course is muddy, technical, and steep, while the weather is unpredictable at best. Now heading into its 24th year, the Mountain Mist is a popular race with runners venturing from near and far.
Join the fun at the PHUNT 25K and 50K.
Organized by the Mid-Atlantic’s very own Carl Perkins, this race is the excuse we all need to stay active through the holidays. Located at Fair Hill Nature Preserve in Maryland, the course is relatively gentle with manageable, rolling climbs. The challenge here is the weather, which can range from 8 degrees and snowing to 42 degrees and sunny.
Get off the couch for GUTS’ (Georgia Ultrarunning and Trailrunning Society’s) Atlanta FatAss 50K. Free for GUTS members, chili cook-off afterward.
Explore the trails at Stone Mountain Park.
Just 30 minutes outside of downtown Atlanta, Stone Mountain Park is home to 15 miles of walking and hiking trails. “I’ll go out there and do hill repeats or meet friends to run the singletrack trail loop around the base of the mountain,” says Merritt. If hill repeats aren’t for you, there is also a 363-acre lake and a treetop adventure course to explore.
Work Atlanta’s brunch circuit.
Get wrecked at Vogel State Park.
“The trails from there are incredibly challenging in terms of their elevation and the steepness of the climbs and descents,” says Merritt. Try the 12-mile loop, which features the punishing climbs of the Duncan Ridge Trail’s Dragon Spine. “Backpackers might spend the entire day doing this 12-mile hike, but we’ll go out and run it and it’ll still take a good three hours to do. That’s my go-to training trail. It’s beautiful up there.”
Chip Chase, Canaan Valley, W.Va.
First strapped on a pair of Nordic skis: in 1975
Always skis with: a camera
Shares: the shotski
Believes in: world peace
Prefers when the weather is: snowy
Get the kids geared up with cross-country skis.
Kids grow like weeds. White Grass Ski Touring Center has an exceptionally awesome program that lets families trade in and upsize their kids’ White Grass ski gear ever year as their children grow.
Rally for the Dolly Sods Groundhog Day ski.
Each year, the Tucker County, W.Va., crew sets out on skis for an epic epic (that’s right, a double epic). Make sure to bring extra food, layers, and a hefty dose of patience. Expect to get sweaty, cold, and bone-achingly tired, and all the meanwhile, says Chase, “discovering secrets of the rest of winter while getting semi lost…up and over crazy crooks and crannies.”
Get on board with Robbie’s Rad Adventure.
Every Sunday, and posse of regulars and out-of-towners alike crowd behind their fearless leader, Robbie Linthicum. “We eventually ski every trail in Canaan Valley and beyond with a traveling circus of friends,” says Chase, which does sound like a pretty rad way to spend a Sunday.
Drop knees at night on Timberline Resort’s slopes.
This down-home resort is the stomping grounds of many of the Mid-Atlantic’s best telemark skiers, and for good reason—the terrain and snow are some of the best in the region. Turn till your quads burn, and then hit Timbers Bar & Grill for the late-night party.
Summit Bald Knob.
It’s a challenge-by-choice ski to the 4,308-foot mostly treeless summit. You can take your time and weave gradually for miles before arriving on Baldie, or you can take the steepest, shortest, and most direct route straight to the top.
Snowshoe through Narnia.
Tucker County’s snow-laden spruce tree boughs set the stage for some of the most scenic snowshoeing in the region. Peaceful yet active, you can wander the Canaan Valley Wildlife Refuge trails yourself or let ol’ Chipper be your guide. The Sunday Nature Discovery Snowshoe Walks are free for all and explore the natural history and characteristics of the Valley.
Dance the night away.
The Purple Fiddle in Thomas, W.Va., has an impressively eclectic lineup year-round and is packed most every night of the week. Live music can also be found nearby at Mountain State Brewing Company and the White Grass Café.
Plan a President’s Day holiday ski trip.
Seem counterintuitive? Most people want to avoid the holiday masses, but you haven’t experienced Tucker County, W.Va., until you’re crammed shoulder-to-shoulder in the White Grass lodge or throwing back a shot-ski with four of your new best friends in the warming yurt. If there happens to be a ski hash on the calendar, you’re in for one of the most memorable weekends of your life.
Just because it’s winter and there’s 10 inches of snow on the ground doesn’t mean you have to hang up the chamois. Ride a rental fattie straight out of Blackwater Bikes in Davis, W.Va., and hit the trails at Blackwater Falls State Park for a slip-slidin’ good time.
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Lindsey Carpenter, Harrisonburg, Va.
Dreams of: being outside, riding or fishing, puppies, what to cook for dinner
Kicked ass at: 2017 Pisgah Stage Race Enduro (first); 2017 Massanutten YEE-HA! Downhill Mountain Bike Race (first in Cat 1); 2016 “Full Pull” of Massanutten
Wishes she could ride like: Sue Haywood, my dad, my boy Sam
Jams out to: ‘90s rap, Beyoncé, classic rock
Fuels up mid-ride with: bacon or tuna, fruit cups, dinner leftovers, Route 11 potato chips
Ride the rocks at Lookout Mountain.
“The warmer days and early daffodils give me spring fever, and the only cure is to ride my bike and watch the green come back,” says Carpenter. “With more daylight and less cold toes, my friends and I plan more frequent rides and time spent outside.” The 13.1-mile Lookout Mountain loop near Stokesville, Va., traverses ridgelines, descends fast through technical rock gardens, and even takes riders past incredible overlooks of the North River area and Shenandoah Valley.
Join a local group ride.
It’s hard to stay motivated when the weather is still chill. Fortunately Harrisonburg, Virginia’s cycling community is one of the most active and dedicated cycling groups in the region, no matter the weather. On Mondays, hook up with the Social Mountain Bike Ride on the Massanutten Western Slope Trails at 5:30 p.m. On Thursday nights, cruise the Valley’s pavement with Rocktown Bicycles’ Steady Road Ride at 5:30 p.m. And finally, kick off the weekend early with the Friday Fatty Mountain Bike Ride, which leaves from Shenandoah Bicycle Company at 2 p.m.
Climb Reddish Knob.
It’s paved, it’s steep, and it’s long (8 miles to the summit), but it’s well worth the panoramic views and killer descent.
Satisfy your caffeine fix.
Test your mettle at one of Virginia’s premier bike events.
“The Stokesville 60/40K and the Stokesville Strade—Gravel Grinder have great courses that showcase some of the best spots to ride outside Harrisonburg,” says Carpenter. And with a low-key, inclusive vibe, even the most novice racer will feel comfortable pushing their limits.
Embrace the snow, if and when it comes.
“Winter is not always over come March,” says Carpenter. “The occasional snowy weather makes for late season ski trips to White Grass Ski Touring Center or Massanutten Resort.”
One easy way to do that in Harrisonburg is by getting your groceries from the Friendly City Food Co-Op, which features food and added value products from across the Shenandoah Valley.
Commute to work.
For Carpenter, work is a 15-mile ride away to Massanutten’s Bike Park. “One of my favorite small adventures is riding my mountain bike to work via country roads and then via trail up and over Massanutten Mountain to the resort. The ride to and from is usually about 30 miles, with 10 miles of singletrack!”
Land a lunker.
Brave the frigid waters of central Virginia and you’ll be rewarded with some of the best fly fishing in the region. “March is an excellent time for fishing, with trout and musky happy to bite, and the bass waking up,” says Carpenter. “The Shenandoah River is great for float trips, and Mossy Creek, Dry River, and Beaver Creek are popular fly fishing spots.”
Take a road trip south.
Whenever March decides to rear its cold, wet, and nasty head, it’s time to hit the road. “My dad and I take some friends to Georgia sometime during March for a Spring Break Training Camp. We spend four days riding road bikes out of Athens, usually covering at least 300 miles total during the trip.”
Ty Caldwell, Asheville, N.C.
Grew up on the banks of: the Nantahala
First got in a boat at the age of: six
When not kayaking: would rather be biking
Fears: girls, snakes and spiders. They are all the same…icky.
When paddling downriver, likes: to connect rapids in the smoothest way possible
Camp on Lake Santeetlah.
Go ahead and do a Google image search on this one. You won’t need much convincing after that. Surrounded by layers upon layers of North Carolina ridgelines, camping here will feel like the destination, though paddling the class IV-V Cheoah River is the real adventure you’re after. This 9-mile stretch of mostly continuous whitewater begins at Santeetlah Dam and is one of the Southeast’s most classic runs.
Get down at the Nantahala Outdoor Center’s Spring Fling.
Gear demos, downriver races, and freestyle surf competitions are just a few of the events that take place in this action-packed river weekend. There are also special releases for the Cascades and Upper sections of the Nantahala.
Tag the Tallulah.
Beginning in April, class IV paddlers can hit the Tallulah Gorge, a rowdy and remote run on the South Carolina-Georgia state line. The scheduled release dates can be found online at gastateparks.com/TallulahGorge.
Slide down the West Fork of the Tuckasegee.
Even if you’re not ready to tackle the class IV-V run, the put-in itself is well worth a visit. “The put-in for the West Fork of the Tuck is magnificent,” says Caldwell. “After a short hike through the woods the gorge opens up to High Falls, towering almost 100 feet. Venture behind the drop to find gravity defied as the wind travels up and the falling water droplets are held in place, floating in front of your eyes. Caution—this is more class V than the gorge itself.”
Get lost in Linville Gorge.
Okay, don’t actually get lost, though this 11,651-acre chunk of rugged canyonland is a federally designated wilderness area, so that certainly wouldn’t be hard to do. Come prepared for any excursion into Linville—the signs are few and far between, and the trail markings, non-existent. Grab a permit if you’re camping on the weekend and descend to the riverbank some 2,000 feet below Linville’s tallest point, Gingercake Mountain (4,120 feet). If you’re a solid class V paddler, the gorge’s namesake river is a 16-mile stretch of committing boulder-strewn whitewater that rivals any of the big runs out west.
Cruise and booze in Pisgah.
If you eat baby head rocks for breakfast and roots for lunch, Pisgah might very well be heaven on earth. Hit the legendary Black Mountain Trail for a rippin’ 1,400-foot techy descent in just 2.5 miles. Afterwards, head down the road to grab an adult beverage (or fix your bike, depending on how the ride went) at The Hub and Pisgah Tavern.
Ride Big Ivy.
Escape the crowds at one of Asheville’s lesser-known biking destinations, Big Ivy. There are over 30 miles of singletrack here, and with Forest Service Road 74 bisecting the area, it’s an easy place to set shuttle.
Try all of the sports at U.S. National Whitewater Center.
An adventure sanctuary for Charlotte, N.C., this impressive facility has over 30 miles of running and mountain biking trails on its 1,300-acre campus as well as a manmade river, canopy tour, zipline course, bouldering area, and the newly finished deep water solo climbing area.
Rise before dawn to catch the sunrise on Black Balsam.
Treeless balds are rare in the Southeast, especially ones with 360-degree views, which is why this part of Pisgah National Forest is so spectacular. Though you can be on a bald within a half-mile hike of your car, we recommend linking up a five-mile loop via the Art Loeb Trail to make the most of your dawn patrol outing to Black Balsam.
Sign up for a western North Carolina suffer fest.
Trust us, there are plenty of them. Held at the end of the month, Jerry’s Baddle is a dual sport race of epic caliber. Competitors must be experienced enough to paddle four miles through the Green River Narrows (class V) as well as strong enough to tackle 4,000 feet of climbing in the 26-mile road ride.
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Gordon Wadsworth, Roanoke, Va.
Considers the King and Queen of two wheels to be: still out riding—don’t look for them on Strava, but @ultraromance has it pretty dialed.
Prefers when bike rides are: long and usually a little dirty
Looks best in: short shorts and Pit Viper shades
Has yet to finish: his next blog post…
Had childhood ambitions of: being lost in the woods with friends, which is pretty fittingly where he still has ambitions of being.
Find your way out of Pisgah.
The Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventure Race (or PMBAR as it is most commonly known), is part mountain bike race, part navigation-challenge-from-hell. Do not expect aid stations on this 50-80 mile (or more, if you get lost) course. Do expect a full day in the saddle climbing upwards of 15,000 feet of elevation and wrestling all of the roots, rocks, and rhodo that Pisgah is loved and hated for.
Take an adult playcation.
In the Mid-Atlantic, we call that The Trans-Sylvania Epic Mountain Bike Race. Based out of State College, Penn., this five-day stage race highlights some of the best riding in Pennsylvania, including Bald Eagle and Rothrock State Forests. Despite the long, hard days on the bike, this event is a blast, “like singletrack summer camp for bike racers.”
Get pumped to be stoked in Stokesville.
The two-wheeled revival here is on account of Virginia cycling legend Chris Scott’s unquenchable energy. Head to Scott’s Stokesville Lodge and Campground for the Stokesville Stoopid 50 Backcountry Race. You’ll get a taste of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests’ most pristine singletrack, as well as a welcoming atmosphere and kickin’ party to boot.
Try to finish the PISGAH 111K.
That’s right: 111 kilometers of Pisgah’s most grueling (but awesome) gravel roads and trails. You’ll be tackling over 11,000 feet of climbing along the way, but unlike PMBAR, there are no navigational skills required and aid stations will be frequent and well stocked. “If the Doc told me I had one more bike ride left in me before the lights went out, I’d go and ride the Pisgah 111K route,” says Wadsworth.
Do it all at Dominion Riverrock.
From mud runs to trail runs, bouldering comps to air dog comps, there’s something at this multiday, multisport, Richmond-based event for all.
Eat lots of strawberries at the Roanoke Strawberry Festival.
This festival is testament to the bountiful history of the Roanoke area. These sweet red fruits are best eaten on shortcake, dipped in chocolate, or picked straight from the vine. Eat till your fingernails are red, and then hit the trails at Mill Mountain for a perfectly divine day in Roanoke.
Visit Floyd, Virginia.
Virginia is for lovers, and the unique community of Floyd is for lovers of bluegrass, barbeque, storytelling, and mountains. Get all of that in one weekend at the Chantilly Farms Bluegrass & BBQ Festival. According to Wadsworth, “snappy bluegrass and hot spicy BBQ, nothing could be better on a warm May Day.”
Hike among the mountain laurel blooms.
Nothing says Virginia like the pink-and-white of mountain laurel in bloom. Hike along the Appalachian Trail over Roan Mountain for plenty of laurel-choked miles and epic Blue Ridge views.
SUP the Roanoke River.
The Southeast’s spring paddling season is absolutely incomparable. For an easy to access, intimidation-free, and scenic stretch of water, try the Roanoke River just outside of town.
Adriene Levknecht, Greenville, S.C.
First paddled a: Red Epic Kids Sea Kayak
Kayaks best when: people don’t let her scout and she has to run everything blind.
Had the worst beatdown of her life: in the hole at the Juicer on the North Fork of the Payette.
Has yet to paddle: the Stikine
Lives and breathes the mantra: “Happiness is a choice”
Paddle the Green River.
Whether you’re floating the Upper (class III-IV) or running the Narrows (class IV-V), the Green is a cool place to be when the Southeast’s summertime temps climb high. “It’s like a jungle in there in June,” says Levknecht.
Cruise Paris Mountain State Park.
Fun, fast, and flowy, this park is well used by Greenville, S.C.-area trail runners and cyclists looking for a quick adventure.
Get your flow on with Zanti Power Yoga.
Starting in the spring, this Greenville-based yoga studio offers “Yoga in the Streets” the first Thursday of the month. Namaste, y’all.
Grab a pint at The Community Tap.
Get a locally crafted beer or wine for here or to go. You should probably stay. With free tastings and weekly events, this is a pretty sweet spot to hang out and make some new friends.
Shred DuPont’s singletrack.
Waterfalls, rock gardens, sprawling North Carolina mountain views. What’s not to love? “Grinding up the balds of DuPont in the middle of the day only to get hit with an epic rainstorm when we get to the top,” is, according to Levknecht, the ultimate DuPont experience. A totally dry ride would almost be a letdown.
Rehydrate at Ecusta Brewing Company.
Located in Brevard, N.C., and just a stone’s throw from DuPont, not stopping for a post-ride beverage would almost be an insult.
Dawn patrol run up Table Rock.
This is a beast of a run—3.6 miles one-way with 2,000 feet of climbing to the summit of this colossal granite dome.
Catch the ThoroughFARE’s kitchen-on-wheels.
This popular food truck is the Upstate’s longest running food truck. Owners Neil and Jessica Barley pride themselves on using quality ingredients sourced from the region.
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Sue Haywood, Davis, W.Va.
First got on a bike: as a kid
Douses all food with: HaySue’s Salsa
Loves West Virginia’s: craft beer
Finds happiness: in mossy forests
Thinks everyone should ride: without a chamois once
Tour de Burg.
For 23 years running, this six-day stage “race” is more of a party than a race. Featuring some of the best mountain biking and road riding in the greater Harrisonburg area, this event is the perfect complement of a group ride with a friendly competitive touch. “The format is pleasure pace to timed sections, race, regroup, repeat,” says Haywood. “These are long days on the bike way out in the George Washington National Forest complete with long rest stops and an eclectic group of bike weirdos.”
Celebrate the Fourth Thomas, West Virginia-style.
“Small towns are the essence of America to me,” says Haywood. “It’s so heartfelt to see the homespun arts and recreation revival this town of 500 has had over the last decade.”
Camp out in the backyard.
This might not seem like an ultimate bucket list adventure, but for somebody who’s never gone camping before, or a child with an insatiable wanderlust, pitching a tent (or a hammock) outside mid-week can be just what the doctor ordered. “It’s easy and free and the best way to see those summer stars,” says Haywood.
Grind gravel up West Virginia’s highest point.
The best way to do that is to sign up for the Gravel Race Up Spruce Knob, which takes place in early July. Based out of the Mountain Institute’s Spruce Knob Mountain Center, this event offers competitive and non-competitive routes in distances ranging from 24 miles to 72 miles.
Get down at the Deep Roots Mountain Revival.
Last year, this three-day event brought in big name acts like Brandi Carlile, The Steeldrivers, Yonder Mountain String Band, and Dr. Dog.
Ride the trails at Snowshoe Mountain Resort.
Cross-country and downhill trails abound here. In fact, the riding at Snowshoe is so good that USA Cycling decided to make it the location of both the 2017 and 2018 Mountain Bike National Championships. Watch the country’s best riders rip it up for the sought-after stars-and-stripes jersey.
Celebrate all things bikes at Dirt Rag Dirt Fest.
Traditionally held at Raystown Lake in Pennsylvania, in July 2017 Dirt Rag Magazine combined efforts for the first time ever with Big Bear Lake Trail Center in Bruceton Mills, W.Va., to host a second multiday mountain bike festival. Big Bear’s trails are the perfect combination of West Virginia rooty-rocky goodness and purpose-built flow trail.
Load up on blueberries in Canaan Valley.
If you see Haywood sprawled out on the ground, and the blueberry season is in, don’t be alarmed. “I’ll go on a bike ride and purposely fall over in a blueberry patch and start eating!”
Hunt for secluded swimming holes.
In West Virginia, this ain’t hard to do. Find a creek and start walking up it. “West Virginia water is so chilly that I have to wait until July to take the plunge,” says Haywood. “There are some known holes that are great, but I’ll search out the hidden gems to work up a sweat.”
Gerry James, Ky.
As a child, thought the outdoors was: a magical place where I could disappear from the woes of living in a civilized society and be alone to wonder in nature’s beauty and heal.
Wants Kentucky to be known as: the next great American outdoor recreation frontier.
Was last seen: being among the few since Lock & Dam No. 6 has been removed to paddle the Nolin River through Mammoth Cave National Park.
Is especially excited for: the Kentucky Waterman Series, Kentucky’s first-ever paddlesports racing series created by the Explore Kentucky Initiative.
Powers every adventure with: old-fashioned H20 and a will to learn and be challenged.
Race a Dragon SUP.
It’s the ultimate test of friendship—can you and three of your friends maintain balance on a 22-foot stand-up paddleboard barely wider than your shoulders? Without killing each other? There’s an event on the Ohio River that’ll let you find out for yourself.
Hike to Bad Branch Falls.
Nearly 3,000 acres of protected land encompasses the 60-foot, crystal clear Bad Branch Falls. Bad Branch itself is a designated Kentucky Wild River for its importance as a raven sanctuary. “Pound for pound, this is one of the coolest waterfalls in Kentucky,” says James.
Paddle the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River.
Largely overlooked in the world of Southeastern whitewater, this class II-IV gem in the Cumberland Plateau is a must-do if only for the outstanding scenery and remote feel. With ample camping and plenty of fun rapids, this is a great stretch of river to turn into an overnight paddling trip. “If you don’t have a boat, you can rent one from Sheltowee Trace Outfitters,” recommends James.
Go underground at Mammoth Cave National Park.
Human and natural history converge here in this 400+-mile cave system, the longest known underground labyrinth in the world. Going caving is an awesome adventure any time of year, but the consistently cool temps underground are a welcome reprieve especially in the summer.
Cruise the Sugarcamp Mountain Trails.
Eastern Kentucky is really amping up its mountain bike scene, and the 18-mile trail system near Prestonsburg, Ky., is testament to that energy. “It’s a multi-use trail system featuring amazing machine-built flow trail targeted for mountain bikers,” says James.
Climb Kentucky rock.
The Red River Gorge is of course Kentucky’s most iconic rock climbing destination, but Breaks Interstate Park on the Kentucky/Virginia border has now opened many of its cliffs to climbers looking for a more off-the-beaten-path cragging experience.
Jump from Young’s High Bridge.
Vertigo Bungee owns this bridge, a now-defunct railroad bridge which soars 283 feet above the Kentucky River in Anderson County, Kentucky. You can jump solo or side-by-side for a thrilling plunge into the abyss.
Spend a weekend at Land Between the Lakes.
“Hands down I think thisis one of the most underrated places in Kentucky,” says James. “It’s a mecca for nature viewing, paddling, biking, and fishing,” and with 170,000 acres to explore, the summertime crowds are easily avoidable.
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Gene & Maura Kistler, Fayetteville, W.Va.
First saw the New River Gorge: in 1983 at Seneca Rocks. Bruce Burgin sent a book of pictures up to Seneca showing all the route potential.
Knows Fayetteville is: the birthplace of the New Chillenium
Boogies to: anything funky
Thinks the future of Fayetteville: is now. Join us.
Hike to Long Point.
This short hike is family friendly, well marked, and ends at arguably the most iconic view of the New River Gorge Bridge. “Yep, everyone does this and tells everyone else to do it,” says Maura. “There is a reason for it and it is called A View.”
Ride the Arrowhead Trails system.
“IMBA designed and Boy Scout built, this 13-mile stacked loop trail is a terrific place to start your exploration of the NRG bike scene,” says Maura. “Add a stop at the Arrowhead Bike Farm for a post-ride brat and you are winning.”
Party down at Gauley Fest.
You have to experience it at least once in your lifetime. The Pillow Rock scene, carnage reels, and Creature Craft sh*tshows will only enrich your understanding of the Gauley tribe. This festival in particular is also American Whitewater’s largest fundraiser, so all that rowdiness is, at least, for a good cause.
SUP at Summersville Lake.
Cool mountain water. Vertical sandstone cliff faces topped with verdant green forests. Countless coves to lose the weekend crowds. Sound too good to be true? It’s not.
Walk the New River Gorge Bridge catwalk.
Spanning 3,030 feet and 876 feet high, the New River Gorge Bridge is a symbol of West Virginia. Walk beneath its steel and cement arches with Bridge Walk for a unique look into the underbelly of the longest steel span in the western hemisphere and the third highest in the United States.
Overnight the Gauley River.
No top 10 list of the best whitewater rivers in the world is complete without mentioning West Virginia’s Gauley River. Make the most of your Gauley experience by booking an overnight rafting trip with Adventures on the Gorge for 26 miles of high volume, big wave action. “In our humble opinion,” says Maura, “this is the single best trip you can do on the East Coast.”
Compete in the New River Gorge SUP Race.
Situated at Fayette Station, the last major rapid on the Lower New, this family friendly event features both an attainment and downriver race and has swelled in popularity over the years, largely due to the efforts of longtime local and water lover Melanie Seiler Hames.
Float and fish the Lower New.
Kill two birds with one stone on a whitewater fishing trip. A number of local guiding companies like PRO River Outfitters will guide you down this classic class IV run in a raft while you cast for smallmouth bass, walleye, muskie, and catfish worry-free.
Ride the tram at Hawks Nest State Park.
“This is a great option for folks with less mobility,” says Maura of the enclosed rim-to-river ride. Not only that, but you’ll be steeped in the history and natural beauty that have made the New River Gorge area such a vital piece of West Virginia’s identity.
Connect with climbers at the Craggin’ Classic.
From climbing access trail maintenance to clinics, workshops, a dyno contest, and even DJ-powered dance parties, who knew climbers could have this much fun while supporting the American Alpine Club?
Andrew & Kate Gates, Ellijay, Ga.
Brags about northern Georgia’s: mountain biking trails, scenic overlooks, and tranquil creeks and waterfalls
Hears “home” and thinks about: being in the woods
Lives off of: a gravel road with hardly any neighbors and we LOVE IT!
Despises: traffic and angry people
Rides hard for: mental clarity and stress relief
Treat yourself to the ultimate adventure weekend.
Just bring your bike, or your running shoes, and an appetite for adventure and home-cooked food at Mulberry Gap Mountain Bike Get-A-Way. Based in the heart of the Chattahoochee National Forest and just minutes from the Cohutta Wilderness, this adventure basecamp gets you off the grid (literally, there’s no cell coverage here) and tuned into the natural world.
Ride the Pinhoti Trail.
The Pinhoti National Recreation Trail is right out your front door (or tent flap) at Mulberry Gap and with 167.8 miles of this 338.5 trail system cutting across the state of Georgia, the options for rides are endless. Take it a chunk at a time or load up the bike and set out for a multiday bikepacking trip.
Hike Emery Creek Falls.
When the weather turns unbearably hot, find a swimming hole. This 6.2-mile round trip features fern-lined trails, wildflowers, creek crossings, and of course, the idyllic Emery Creek Falls themselves, which pool perfectly into a crisp tub of mountain-fed bliss.
Hug the Gennett Poplar tree.
Estimated to be somewhere between 300 and 500 years old, this mega poplar is the second largest living tree in the state of Georgia. The behemoth can easily be accessed via the Bear Creek Trail, a rippin’ good time by bike or foot.
Peep and drink in Ellijay Wine Country.
Ellijay, Ga., alone has four vineyards with another vineyard in neighboring Pickens County. These wineries don’t only crank out some truly unique and savory vino but are also set against the backdrop of Georgia’s postcard-worthy mountain ranges.
Touch the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.
Hike from Amicalola Falls State Park on the blue-blazed approach trail to Springer Mountain and pose with the Appalachian Trail plaques as hundreds of thousands of thru hikers have done so before. “There are awesome views in the winter, [Amicalola is] a beautiful waterfall, and it’s steep terrain,” says Kate.
Fish at Carters Lake.
At 3,200 acres in size, 62 miles of shoreline, and 11 miles long, there are plenty of places to cast a line without another soul in sight. Head here to try your hand at landing bass, crappie, walleye, bream, and catfish.
Float the Middle Cartecay.
This class II+ section of the Cartecay River is ideal for beginner paddlers looking to step up their skills. Other sections of the Cartecay make great tubing trips and are regularly crowded when the summer heat hits.
Climb a fire tower.
The Grassy Mountain Tower at Lake Conasauga can be reached via a moderately difficult 5-mile round trip hike and offers one of the best 360-degree views of the surrounding Cohutta Wilderness. “This place is perfect for sunrise or sunset,” says Kate, so bring a headlamp (and your camera) no matter when you go.
U-Pick apples in the Apple Capital of Georgia.
Grab bushel upon bushel of Ozark Gold, Red Delicious, Jonagold, and Rome Beauty till your heart’s content. There are over 360,000 apple trees in the state of Georgia, the vast majority of which are right in Gilmer County. The 47th annual Georgia Apple Festival celebrates picking season with wagon rides, fresh apple fritters, and live bluegrass music.
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Jennifer Pharr Davis, Asheville, N.C.
First saw the white blaze: on Buck Mountain Road near Roan Mountain, Tenn. It was during a practice hike at Warren Doyle’s Appalachian Trail Institute.
Would describe ‘adventure’ as: always availing yourself to opportunity and finding the options that don’t readily present themselves.
Feels most at home: at home, or on a trail
Hikes because: it really is just the best thing!
Is currently reading: Tangled Roots by Sarah Meddlefehldt
Be a spectator at the Green Race.
For 23 years, this esteemed class V whitewater kayaking race has brought some of the best paddlers in the world to the mountains of western North Carolina on the first Saturday of the month. Hike in to see the carnage for yourself at Gorilla, or, if you’re no stranger to the Narrows’ turbulent, steep rapids, paddle in ahead of time and post up with a cowbell.
Run, crew, or volunteer at the Mountain Masochist.
This 50-mile trail race is a brute of a course, with over 9,200 feet of climbing in a 12-hour time limit. “This is the South’s premier ultra trail marathon,” says Pharr Davis, which makes it memorable no matter if you’re suffering on trail or supporting the runners themselves.
Drink your way through Beer City, U.S.A.
“Now that they aren’t overrun with tourists,” says Pharr Davis, “consider putting together a ‘brew-thru,’ an urban hiking adventure that connects several tasting rooms. You could get in several miles and space out your beers, literally and physically, by connecting some of the best breweries in Asheville such as Burial, Green Man, the Wedge, and High Wire.”
Pay back your local trails with sweat equity.
“November is a great time to volunteer on a trail crew,” says Pharr Davis. “Instead of sweating through the heat and humidity of the summer and consistently stepping off trail for hikers, you can build water bars and scatter rogue fire pits in the cooler fall temps. Contact your local trail club, such as the Carolina Mountain Club, for opportunities to give back.”
Thru hike a long-distance trail.
The South is home to some really quality but lightly trafficked long trails such as the Pinhoti, Bartram, Benton MacKaye, and Foothills trails. Take off for a week and get to walkin’ for a hefty dose of one-on-one time with the Great Outdoors.
Experience the Southeast’s biodiversity.
No place is better for this than the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, a nearly 30,000-acre oasis for migratory birds and habitat for the American alligator and bobcat.
Andrew Kornylak, Chapel Hill, N.C.
First picked up a camera: at age 16, when I swiped my brother’s Minolta SLR
Has yet to take a photograph of: a cat
Loves the South for its: undeserved humility
Has an absurd desire to: burn all my work and start over
Gets from one adventure to the next in a: #minivan
Ice climb Hogpen Gap.
Think you can’t ice climb in the Southeast? Think again. “When conditions are just right, the ice comes in fat at Hogpen Gap near Cleveland, Georgia,” says Kornylak. Situated right around 3,400 feet in elevation with plenty of northfacing cliff faces, this is a Southeast climber’s winter oasis.
Paddle the pristine Three Sisters Swamp.
Owned by the Nature Conservancy, this magical mire is secluded deep within the 70-mile Black River system near Wilmington, N.C. Some of the region’s oldest bald cypress trees live here, including Methuselah, a particularly ancient tree dating back to 364 AD, making it the oldest tree in the eastern United States.
Just because it’s December doesn’t mean the climbing season is over. While the rest of the region becomes capriciously cold and wet, the South’s weather can stay remarkably mild and sunny. “The famed Tennessee Wall just outside Chattanooga gets all-day sun and there is something here for every level of climber, from moderate splitter cracks to high-end sport climbs.”
Winter backpack the Middle Prong Wilderness.
Reset and kick off a new year in this nearly 8,000-acre Middle Prong, which is not quite as popular as its neighbor Shining Rock Wilderness to the northeast, but offers all of the primitive feel and grassy balds that are so beloved in Shining Rock. “This is a remote wilderness experience in Pisgah National Forest on minimally maintained, but established, trails with true backcountry camping,” says Kornylak.
Solve a problem at Rocktown.
It’s about a 45-minute drive from downtown Chattanooga to this rather secluded bouldering field. With over 500 established problems, boulderers of all ability levels will have plenty to keep them pumped over the winter. “Rocktown is a little more of a drive and more spread out that most southern boulderfields, so you’re more likely to have the place to yourself for awhile when the temps are good in winter.”
Surf Folly Beach.
If you can brave the temps, you’re in for endless sets of waves in one of the coolest beach towns this side of the Mississippi. The locals are pretty rad here, too, so don’t be afraid to ask for beta. “Get an Airbnb right on the beach and bring your 4/3 wetsuit.”
Catch sunset from Mount Jefferson State Natural Area.
The longest trail here is just two miles in length, so you won’t need to hike out too far in the dark in order to keep your front row seats for sunset. Bring a camera: the endless sea of North Carolina ridgelines extend well into Virginia and Tennessee.