Late fall and early winter are the perfect times for hiking the storied—and in some seasons a little too popular—Appalachian Trail. Crowds are sparse. Temps are still relatively mild. And the thinning trees mean views are expanding. If you need a trail buddy, there are a number of hiking clubs around the region that would be glad to have you tag along as they explore the best of the A.T.
South Mountain State Park • November 5
Get acquainted with the rolling and rocky terrain of the A.T. in Maryland on this 6.4-mile out-and-back hike that will peak with the gorgeous fall views from Black Rock. After the hike with the Sierra Club Potomac Region Outings Program, the group will make an optional visit to nearby orchards in downtown Frederick.
Trail Maintenance and Weekly Hikes • Every Tuesday and Friday
The Tennessee Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club is one of the most active crews in the region, maintaining 134 miles of the Appalachian Trail between Damascus and Spivey Gap, N.C., including epic stretches like the Roan Highlands. The club has A.T. trail maintenance outings every Tuesday morning, as well as organized hikes every Friday. Both start at 8am.
Linden to Route 22 • November 19
Not a bad way to spend a fall Saturday afternoon. After a moderate 8.2-mile ramble on the A.T. through the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley near Front Royal, the Capital Hiking Club will then head to the nearby Pearmund Cellars winery to sample some local grape.
Wallace Gap to Deep Gap • November 25-27
Spend the long holiday weekend backpacking with the venerable Carolina Mountain Club. Over three days you’ll cover 21 miles as you hike south on the A.T. through the Southern Nantahala Wilderness Area. It’s a moderate jaunt with a total of 4,640 feet of ascent, including a climb of Standing Indian Mountain. Along the way, you’ll catch sweet views from the ridge above the headwaters basin of the Nantahala River.
Blood Mountain Summit • December 31
There’s no better way to say goodbye to the past year than standing on a mountain summit. The Georgia Appalachian Trail Club will lead a six-mile loop hike on the Appalachian and Freeman Trails that will crest the majestic top of 4,458-foot Blood Mountain, Georgia’s highest peak on the A.T.