The *Best* Hikes in the South For Strong Women
The South takes their trails very seriously, with a sense of pride and strength that spans from Appalachia to the Everglades. Southern hospitality doesn’t factor into the equation when it comes to day hikes in the region because the trails in the South are not for the faint of heart. Instead, they are rough and fiery and embody the essence of Cajun and barbecue culture.
Although it’s underrated, hiking in the South offers gorgeous mountain vistas, numerous waterfalls, and lush landscapes that are sure to change your mind. These trails are more than just checkboxes; they are tests of stamina and courage that will take hikers to mountain peaks and solid rock outcroppings. 💪
To convince you even more to conquer the trails of the Southern US, we asked travel bloggers to share their favorite hikes. Here’s where they’re pushing through in the South.
Waterrock Knob Trail in North Carolina
Recommended by Jolayne of Simply Jolayne
Have you ever hiked in the clouds? On a recent trip to North Carolina, my husband, Chris, and I had the chance to hike to the Lookout from Waterrock Knob. Known for its beautiful long-range views of the Appalachian Mountains, the challenging hike is great for viewing sunrises and sunsets. It was our first time visiting the state, and the fall color was amazing.
The 1.0-mile round trip hike along the Waterrock Knob Trail began at the Waterrock Knob visitor center where we got a trail map. It was a moderate to strenuous climb that started immediately with a brisk incline. On this overcast day, the view was shrouded by clouds that had descended over the mountain. After 45 minutes of hiking, Chris and I reached the Lookout. The sun broke through the clouds, and we were rewarded with a stunning view of the Great Smoky Mountains.
Pro-tip: Arrive at the visitor center in the early morning hours or evening for a dramatic 360° view of the sunrise or sunset. It can get chilly on the trail though, so dress warmly.
Mount Mitchell Trail in North Carolina
Recommended by Natasha of The World Pursuit
The Mount Mitchell Trail is a hiking trail located in beautiful North Carolina, not too far from Asheville, Craggy Pinnacle Trail, and Grandfather Mountain. Mount Mitchell boasts the record for being the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. It is considered one of the hardest hiking trails in North Carolina as the elevation gain reaches 3600 feet over five and a half miles (11 miles round trip). It typically takes anywhere from 6-10 hours to complete – depending on fitness.
Plenty of steep inclines and rocky terrain are guaranteed to get your heart rate up. However, all that is well worth it as hikers are rewarded once reaching the top as spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and forests await.
The finale of the trail is the summit of Mount Mitchell, which stands at an impressive 6,684 feet above sea level. There is an observation deck and a visitor center located at the summit, so you can take your time here and enjoy the facilities.
If you decide to tackle this trail in the spring, it’s best to bring waterproof hiking shoes as the trail can become very wet and muddy. Don’t forget your camera for those summit photos!
Check out other activities in North Carolina
Boardwalk Loop Trail in South Carolina
Recommended by Taylor at TayTrum Travels
You can find the Boardwalk Loop Trail within Congaree National Park. This trail is special because, unlike most hiking trails in national parks, you are allowed to bring your dog on this 2.4-mile walk through the park. The trees here in South Carolina are also within one of the world’s tallest forests. Another great reason to walk this trail is that Congaree National Park is one of the least visited national parks in the country, meaning you likely won’t be fighting crowds.
At first glance, this area may seem like a swamp, but it is in fact a floodplain forest. It is a wilderness area rich in biological diversity. There are many animals and cool insects along the trail. I saw several snakes, lizards, skinks, turtles, large colorful spiders, and more. It is good for novice hikers since it is an easy hike, at a relatively short distance and nearly flat throughout the whole journey. If one were to walk without stopping, the hike would take less than an hour.
However, I found myself frequently stopping because there were so many things to see. The raised boardwalk is practical for when it floods, but it is also a great feature of the trail because it brings you higher up into the canopy. Bug spray and a light raincoat are highly recommended. Spring is the best time to go.
Yellow Branch Falls in South Carolina
Recommended by Natalie of Camping Kiddos
Head to the trails in the mountains of South Carolina to discover a beautiful day hike on the Yellow Branch Falls trail near Walhalla, SC.
Located across SC Highway 28 from Issaqueena Falls and Stumphouse Tunnel, the Yellow Branch Falls trail winds its way gently through the oaks, maples, and pines of the Blue Ridge mountains.
Highlights include pretty streams that cross the trail, scenic wooden bridges, and, of course, the falls themselves at the end of the trail.
The out-and-back trail is mostly easy with gentle inclines, and the 2.6-mile round trip should take about two hours, depending on how quickly you hike. Hikers do need to be willing to climb down a series of rock stairs just before the falls—and then back up again!—but these should be easy to navigate for most.
Pack a snack or even an entire picnic, and enjoy by the falls. While there aren’t any great places for swimming, bring your water shoes to splash around in the small pools at the base.
The Yellow Branch Falls hike comes highly recommended for anyone visiting the South Carolina Upstate, Foothills Trail, Table Rock State Park, and Oconee State Park.
Anna Ruby Falls in Georgia
Recommended by Alanna from Periodic Adventures
Located in North Georgia, Anna Ruby Falls makes for a great day hike with an even greater payoff with a gorgeous multi-tiered waterfall that spills over multiple sides of a cliffside.
The trail to Anna Ruby Falls is in Unicoi State Park, so it’s easy to combine your hike with other things to do nearby. The hike is easy as it’s only a 0.9-mile out-and-back type trail, which only takes about 30-45 minutes to complete. On the trail, you will follow a small stream, so it’s an incredibly peaceful trek.
Locals love to do this hike regularly, especially in spring, summer, and fall, as the rainfall changes the waterfall’s force.
The number one tip for this hike is that the trail can get very crowded on weekends during the fall in Georgia because nearby is a popular Oktoberfest celebration in Helen, Georgia.
Check out these other adventures in Georgia:
Clingmans Dome in Tennessee
Recommended by Kristen of Yonderlust Ramblings
Clingmans Dome in Tennessee is at the top of the list of day hikes in the state, literally! There are a lot of reasons this hike is special, but a few of the highlights is that it is one of the tallest peaks in the Great Smoky Mountains, the highest point on the Appalachian Trail, and the tallest peak in the Blue Ridge Mountains and the entire state of Tennessee! So you know the panoramic views are going to be unmatched!
Clingmans Dome may be a relatively short hike at 1.3 miles roundtrip, but it is a surprisingly challenging trail that packs a lot in over a short distance.
Clingmans Dome is rated as a moderate trail due to the somewhat steep uphill ascent, so you will definitely want to bring sturdy hiking shoes or trail runners, and plenty of water!
What makes this one of the best hiking trips is the open expanse that leads to a scenic overlook of the majestic Smoky Mountains. The trail leads you to the summit with the unique circular viewing platform that offers 360-degree views! This hike takes between 30 to 60 minutes to complete, depending on the number of breaks you take. It is a very popular trail in Smoky Mountains National Park, so the earlier you can arrive, the better parking you will find. Also, dogs are not allowed on the Clingmans Dome trail.
Although I have only hiked Clingmans Dome once, in my quest to summit all 50 U.S. state high points, it is easily a favorite trail of mine and one I would repeatedly do if I lived closer because it is a great workout, and you simply cannot match the views!
Check out these outdoor adventures in Tennessee:
Dismals Canyon in Alabama
Recommended by Stephanie of The Unknown Enthusiast
One of the best hiking trails in Alabama, undoubtedly, is Dismals Canyon.
On this trail, you’ll follow boardwalks, dirt trails, stepping stones, and bridges throughout the canyon. There are a lot of fun features! From the huge boulders and cliff faces that create a series of “rooms” in the Witch’s Cavern, to the boardwalk of the Grotto, to waterfalls and narrow passages, you’ll never lack cool spots to explore on this trail.
I would classify this hike as easy, and it’s very kid-friendly. If you plan for two hours, you’ll have plenty of time to explore the interesting jut-offs and features. This is a hike we plan to revisit multiple times!
My top tip is to come back for the night tour during the spring and fall when the glow worms, or “dismalites,” are active. They are cousins to rare glow worms in Australia and light up the canyon walls like constellations!
Robbers Cave in Oklahoma
Recommended by Ashlee of The Happiness Function
When most people think of Oklahoma, they think of the flat tallgrass prairie. However, eastern Oklahoma is home to rolling hills and the Ouachita Mountains, the largest mountain range between the Rockies and the Appalachian Mountains.
Robbers Cave State Park is nestled in the Ouachita Mountains near the sleepy town of Wilburton and is one of the best day hikes in Oklahoma state parks! The state park has awesome hiking spots and it is home to the famous Robbers Cave, which was a hiding spot for wild west outlaws such as Jesse James and Belle Starr. Visitors can do a short hike and follow the trail through beautiful rock features to see Robbers Cave!
Robbers Cave is a strenuous hike; though it is a short 1-mile loop trail, there are steps and rock features to climb around on. The top tip for visiting is to go into the cave for the best photo – take pictures facing out of the cave! Visit Robbers Cave during the week to beat the crowds at the state park and make sure to enjoy the views of the mountains from up high.
The Pinnacles in Kentucky
Recommended by Apryl Thomas
Around 40 miles from Lexington, Kentucky, on I-75 South, sits the town of Berea. Best known as the “Folk Arts and Crafts Capital of Kentucky” and home to Berea College, it is also where one of the best hikes in the state, The Pinnacles at Berea College Forest, aka “The Pinnacles,” is located.
Within Berea Forest, owned and operated by the college and one of the country’s oldest managed private forests, is the Indian Fort Trails System. The five diverse hiking trails of the lush forest include the three most popular: Indian Fort Lookout trail, East Pinnacle trail, and West Pinnacle trail. These trails are considered to be easy to moderate; and the more advanced Eagle’s Nest trail and Buzzard’s Roost trail. Each one traverses through the lush greenery to outcroppings, aka “pinnacles,” offering sweeping views.
The hiking trails range from easy to challenging, extending a little over a mile to nearly two miles one way. In total, it is about nine miles. The Pinnacles can be a 3.5-hour adventure for one or an all-day experience for those who want to take on all the trails for a longer hike. The hiking trails at The Pinnacles are popular year-round, but with winter weather uncertainty, check for closures before going.
Check out these other adventures in Kentucky:
Lost Valley Trail in Arkansas
Recommended by Jess of Unearth The Voyage
The Lost Valley Trail is one of the best hikes in Arkansas and a great hike for anyone looking to check out a couple of beautiful waterfalls along the way. One of the coolest parts of the trail is a rock scramble section where you climb through a cave-like area that can have water running through it at certain times of the year.
The trail is located just outside of Ponca in northern Arkansas. Another fun thing to do in the area is going on a float trip on the Buffalo River, which is really close to this trail. The trail takes about 1.5 hours to complete and is an out-and-back trail that’s just over two miles long and is moderately difficult.
The best part is that the trail ends at Eden Falls, which is a waterfall inside of a cave! In the month of September, it is possible to climb inside the cave past where the water comes out to see the waterfall inside. Be sure to check with a local guide before entering the cave.
Since we don’t live in the area, we have only ever done this hike once when we were visiting, but if we are ever back in the area, we’d love to do this hike again!
Santa Elena Canyon Trail in Texas
Recommended by Tavia of Big Brave Nomad
The spectacular Santa Elena Canyon is an icon of Big Bend National Park. The canyon itself is eight miles long and 1,500 feet deep and was carved by the Rio Grande River over the past 60-160 million years.
While you can raft through the canyon on the river, you can also take an easy hike into this amazing canyon. The trail is an easy 1.7-mile out-and-back trail that leads into the mouth of stunning Santa Elena Canyon. The whole hike takes about 1 hour.
This river trail is a must-do in Big Bend National park, but be prepared for the water and mud. It is advised you wear sunscreen, wear shoes that can get wet (or bring a second pair), and bring a lot of water as there are no facilities along the trail. Also, note that the trail is impassable when Terlingua Creek floods.
We absolutely love this trail and have done it on each of our trips to Big Bend National Park – it is perfect for all ages!
Devil’s Hall in Texas
Recommended by Anwar of Beyond My Door
Located in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, the Devil’s Hall hike is one of the most popular hikes in the park. The trail takes visitors through some beautiful desert landscapes, a wash (seasonal river bed), and a beautiful slot canyon (the hall).
The trail is one of the best hikes for a reason, the scenery is beautiful, it has some fun and challenging rock scrambling, and you get one of the more unique places to visit in the park.
It is considered a moderate hike and is approximately 4 miles (out and back). The hike begins near the campgrounds in the Pine Gap area of the park. Most folks complete the hike in about 2 hours.
The payoff of the hike is the beautiful high walls of the hall at the end of the hiking trail. The tricky part is the rock wall which is a pretty steep climb. It’s best to avoid the trail after or during rain. The trail is best in the fall, during the time when you can get some fall color in the park.
Pro-tip: When you get to the rock wall, the easiest way up is to stay to the left. You should also try to hike early in the morning as it’s one of the most popular trails in the park. Going early can often give you the whole place to yourself.
Cattail Falls in Texas
Recommended by Ruma of The Holiday Story
Cattail Falls is a stunning waterfall located in Big Bend National Park, Texas. It is a hidden gem that is 80 feet tall and requires a 1.5-mile hike to reach. The waterfall is surrounded by towering rock cliffs that provide isolation, making it an attractive destination. The pool at the bottom of the falls remains chilly due to the lack of dirt, which is a welcome relief from the heat.
Cattail Falls is a unique location as it is one of the least-known waterfalls in Texas. This area is home to uncommon plants such as the red stream orchid and yellow longspur columbine blossom. To fully appreciate the region’s flora, it is recommended to do a day hike with fewer people.
The trail to the falls is not difficult and can be completed in a few hours after driving to Oak Springs, a protected oasis. After reaching the falls, take some time to relax and enjoy the breathtaking scenery before returning to the parking lot. Don’t forget to bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and sturdy shoes for this unforgettable adventure.
Ready to hit the trails?
Ready to explore these hidden gems in the South? We’re kinda obsessed with trails over here. Hook up with other Explorer Chicks in your area and take the SHE-nanigans to the trails. Join us on Facebook to find your next hiking buddy!
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