Best Southern Escapes for Scenery, Solitude, and Adventure
What’s the ideal mountain getaway? For some, it’s sleeping in a tent by a creek. Others prefer a rustic lodge with running water and picturesque views from the porch. “There’s no right or wrong answer,” said Tim Murphy, owner of Emberglow Outdoor Resort in North Carolina. “Everybody has their own relationship with nature.”
We agree. So we tracked down some of the most unique, adventure-ready lodging options in the region. From backcountry bunkrooms reached via trail to glamping sites with comfy amenities, explore these top options for your next excursion.
For the Hikers
Ranger Outpost Cabin
Camp Creek, W.Va.
Go deep into the mountains of West Virginia for a stay in the Camp Creek Ranger Outpost Cabin, a remote destination reached by 3.3 miles of hiking on the Farley Ridge and Almost Heaven trails. While bunk beds, mattress pads, a fire ring, cooking grate, and picnic table are provided, guests need to pack their own bedding, lights, water, and food for their stay.
Things to Do: Camp Creek State Park and Forest is known for its waterfalls, trout streams, and multi-use trails for adventurers of all abilities. Thirty minutes away, Pipestem Resort State Park offers even more activities like ziplining, rock climbing, and mountain bike excursions.
Booking: Call the West Virginia State Park Call Center at 1-833-WV-PARKS.
Len Foote Hike Inn
Located in Chattahoochee National Forest, the Len Foote Hike Inn is a backcountry lodge—only reached via trail—with 20 bunkrooms surrounded by towering trees. Starting at the top of Amicalola Falls, hike the five miles to the inn as you cross streams, ridges, and mountain laurel and rhododendron stands. Between the stunning views and family-style breakfast and dinner, you’ll mix a bit of Southern hospitality with backwoods seclusion.
Things to Do: Follow the approach trail to Springer Mountain and the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail for more miles of hiking. At the end of the day, relax on the wraparound porch or partake in after-dinner programs like nature talks, backpacking essentials, and local history.
For the Paddlers
Carolina Heritage Outfitters
St. George, S.C.
Meander along the Edisto River, past cypress forests, great blue herons, and egrets, to a private treehouse by the water. Carolina Heritage Outfitters provides the canoe rentals and shuttle service to get you to your evening’s accommodations. The 23-mile trip is broken up into a 13-mile paddle to your treehouse the first day and a 10-mile paddle to the pickup location on the second day. Each of the treehouses comes with cooking utensils, hammocks, camp chairs, fire pits, and a screened sleeping area.
Things to Do: Relax on the 100-acre private wildlife refuge with walking trails and 1.5 miles of riverfront views. Fall asleep surrounded by the sounds of the forest and the river.
The Cabin on Coney Island
Hinton, W. Va.
If you’re looking for serious seclusion, look no further than the Cabin on Coney Island. Located at the confluence of the New and Greenbrier Rivers, you will have the entire seven-acre island to yourself. With the cabin fully stocked with linens, towels, and breakfast, you just need a boat to get yourself there. If you don’t have a watercraft of your own, the property managers can direct you to an outfitter in town for rentals.
Things to Do: The island sits just south of the country’s newest national park, the New River Gorge, with miles of hiking and biking trails, world-class whitewater, and classic climbing routes within reach. Check out the Guest House’s other rental properties for prime locations close to outdoor adventure.
For the Anglers
South Holston River Lodge
Just about every detail of your stay at the South Holston River Lodge is taken care of before you arrive. On the bank of a world-class trout destination, the lodge’s all-inclusive fly fishing packages include a stay in one of the riverside cabins, professionally guided float and wade trips on the South Holston and Watauga Rivers, and delicious meals. They’ll even spot you any gear you might have left at home, and provide complimentary beer and wine during your stay.
photo courtesy of South Holston River Lodge photo by John Stunkard
Things to Do: Nearby attractions include hiking in Cherokee National Forest, mountain biking at Steele Creek Park, and nightlife in downtown Bristol. Flatwater paddlers will enjoy exploring the many islands and coves of South Holston Lake.
Fort Lewis Lodge & Farm
Tucked away in the mountains of George Washington and Jefferson National Forest, Fort Lewis Lodge & Farm is a scenic mountain retreat. Choose from the main lodge, rooms in the silo, reconstructed historic log cabins, and private houses for your quiet stay. Situated on the Cowpasture River, you’ll have access to miles of water for smallmouth bass, rock bass, and rainbow trout fishing. In the warmer months, splash around in the nearby swimming hole, float down the river, or take in an afternoon paddle.
photos courtesy of Fort Lewis Lodge & Farm
Things to Do: The lodge is surrounded by outdoor opportunities, from hiking and biking trails to the onsite farm and garden. At night, check out the unobstructed views of the night sky from the stargazing platform.
For the Glampers and Campers
The Treehouse Camp
From rustic tent sites and treehouses to cozy cottages and a hobbit house, the Treehouse Camp provides a secluded spot among the trees. Here, campers will find a piece of the simple life with a peaceful getaway. Most of the structures do not have electricity, so pack your lantern and a warm sleeping bag. You can also bring your four-legged friends to this pet-friendly campground.
Things to Do: Located on the edge of Gathland State Park and the Appalachian Trail, this campground is just minutes from hiking, river rafting, and fishing. Nearby, check out the quaint town of Harpers Ferry across the border in West Virginia or explore the scenic C&O Canal.
Emberglow Outdoor Resort
Mill Spring, N.C.
Treehouses, yurts, RV sites, tiny homes, pods, vintage campers, primitive tent sites—Emberglow Outdoor Resort has it all. It’s the perfect place for friends and families who enjoy different levels of comforts to come together in one location. On site, you’ll find two miles of trails, a pool, dog park, community fire pit, and sand volleyball court, plus trail races, live music, and movie nights throughout the year.
Things to Do: Just like your lodging options, there are plenty of choices when it comes to outdoor recreation in the area. Lake Lure covers all of your water requirements with paddling, water skiing, and pontoon rentals. Check out nearby hiking and mountain biking trails, plus three ziplines in the area for more fun.
The soon-to-open Camp Bespoke is a unique camping resort with a range of lodging options. Stay in a repurposed shipping container with a private bathroom and kitchenette, or reserve a primitive tent site with convenient access to shower and restroom facilities. If you don’t have your own camping gear, you can purchase a package that includes a tent, sleeping bags, and pillows for your stay. This is the perfect spot for anyone who wants a night in nature with a few amenities.
Things to Do: Look for a series of experience packages for the bourbon enthusiasts, culinary and arts lovers, horse aficionados, and more. Head out on Williamstown Lake for some flatwater paddling or largemouth bass fishing. Just outside of town, Kincaid Lake State Park offers some leisurely walking trails and more water opportunities.
Little Orleans Campground
Little Orleans, Md.
Tucked away in the Potomac River Valley, Little Orleans is a family-friendly campground with wooded, creekside sites and activities for kids. With RV and tent sites, as well as rustic cabins, it’s an ideal spot to crash after long days of adventure in this prime part of western Maryland.
Things to Do: Just a short drive from the campground, you can hike through the Green Ridge State Forest, bike the Western Maryland Rail-Trail, and paddle the Potomac River. A nearby outfitter has kayaks, canoes, tubes, and bikes available to rent. Explore more of the area via the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, which offers day trips through the mountains.
For the Animal Lovers
Named for the capital in The Chronicles of Narnia books, Cair Paravel offers a cozy and intimate retreat beside Shenandoah National Park. Built on the principles of peace, permaculture, and preservation, this small, family-owned farm operates to have as little impact on the environment as possible. When you stay, choose between two cabins, a yurt and a restored 1986 airstream. All guests have access to the seasonal saltwater pool and year-round hot tub.
Take in the many sights of the Cair Paravel working farm. Photos by Mia Artz Photography
Things to Do: Walk the farm trails for the DIY tour of all that goes on at this working farm, including the mushroom and bee yards, garden, orchard, and barn where you’ll see pigs, goats, ducks, and more. Take a drive through Shenandoah National Park or on the Blue Ridge Parkway for scenic overlooks and miles of trails, including the Appalachian Trail.
Fox Den Treehouse
Spend the night in the Fox Den Treehouse with epic views of the mountains and a herd of llamas grazing on the farm. The deck on this cozy two-person cabin is the perfect place to start your morning and end your night. Plus, there’s a swing by the fire pit for cooler nights. An additional two campers can pitch a tent nearby for slightly larger groups.
Things to Do: With spring in bloom, hike the beautiful Smoky Mountains with a llama at your side. The trails of Cherokee National Forest provide a range of hiking experiences with a variety of terrain, vistas, and waterfalls. Book a package featuring a friendly llama at your side, including wine and cheese parties, yoga hikes, and nature photography treks.
Cover photo: The Lewis Grist Mill at Fort Lewis Lodge & Farm. Photo by Jumping Rocks Photography