Are you ready to leap from a casual hiker to a full-fledged backpacker? Blue Ridge is full of accessible escapes that are far enough distance to make your first foray into the backcountry overnight. From spruce groves in the mountains to isolated wetlands near the coast, here are some beginner-friendly destinations with easy-to-understand routes and minimal elevation changes.
Explore Alpine Meadows at Spruce Knob, West Virginia-Seneca Creek Backcountry
The Spruce Nobu Seneca Creek Backcountry on the side of Mt. Spruce, a tributary of the Allegheny Mountains in West Virginia, is a wonderland for backpackers. Crowned at 4,863 feet Spruce knobThe state’s highest backcountry stream, Swath, has more than 60 miles of interconnected trails that wind through high-altitude spruce groves, alpine meadows, cherries, birch, and maple mixed hardwood forests. I am.
Where are you going: For a bite-sized taste in the backcountry The Seneca Creek Trail and Judy Springs Trail create a backcountry full of spectacular backcountry campsites. Depart from Seneca Creek Trail Head on Forest Road 112, about 5 miles south of Spruce Nobu, and continue on the Seneca Creek Trail, which embraces the stream, until the trail merges with the Judy Springs Trail. Near the trail junction is a short spar trail to a rock-covered natural hot spring. The 0.7-mile Judy Springs Trail then strips into mountain meadows with plenty of quiet spots for stakeout for the night. After sunset, listen to the competing calls of barred owls and coyotes.
See the stars at SkyMeadows State Park
Fixed to colonial farm debris, Virginia’s SkyMeadows State Park preserves patchwork of trail thread forests and meadows in the Crooked Run Valley, just east of Blue Ridge. Designated as an International Dark Sky Park last year, the protected area is an ideal place to see the universe and is a great trip to get started with backpackers. Open all year round, the park’s backcountry campgrounds have 15 individual campgrounds, spaced enough to provide the night forest-like mystery of the backcountry. But it doesn’t make it pretty rough. Backpackers have water, firewood and drop toilets, and the campsite has a picnic table and a ring of fire.
Where are you going: Backcountry campgrounds are just 1.6 km (1 mile) from overnight parking, through the popular meadows of eastern bluebirds and swallowtails, and thanks to family trekking along the Hadou Trail. Longer loops are possible. The park has a total of 22 miles of trails, extending 2.3 miles along the winding Appalachian trails along the lush ridges that follow the northern end of the protected area.
Find a Stream in South Mountain State Park
South Mountain State Park, North Carolina, is an ecologically rich transition zone between Piedmont and Blue Ridge, Carolina, a wonderland for new backpackers. North Carolina’s largest state park, the protected area, is covered by South Mountain’s hump-filled peaks, crowded with trout streams rolling down waterfalls, all exhibited along a 49-mile trail network. And for backpackers, there are seven different backcountry campgrounds scattered throughout the park.
Where are you going: For South Mountain samplers, head to the Sawtooth Campground. Combine the Chestnut Knob and Sawtooth Trail from the Hemlock Nature Center for a 3-mile hike with lush views of the 80-foot High Shoals Falls. You also have the option to tackle the 0.2 mile super trail to the Chestnut Knob Overlook. Enjoy the vast views of the Jacob Folk Valley. There is no access to water, but the lawn campsite has a ring of fire and a table.
Find Coastal Isolation in Fallscape State Park
Covering a mile-wide sand spit between the Back Bay ocean and the Atlantic Ocean, Falsescape State Park may be Virginia’s furthest state park. The nearby isthmus, which resembles Cape Henry, once had a fatal tendency to lure sailors into shallow waters and nickname them fake capes. Even today, coastline ribbons still feel wild. Seasonal trams run from April to September, but the park can only be accessed by foot, bike or boat. To reach the protected area, you must cross the adjacent Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). This is a sanctuary studded with wetlands for migratory birds. Still, four backcountry campgrounds offering bayside and surfside spots, an isolated park with water taps and toilets are an easy trip for inexperienced backpackers.
Where are you going: For an easy-to-navigate night, park at Little Island Park, just outside Back Bay NWR, and head to the dunes-covered Barber Hill Campground. It’s close enough to the sea and you can fall asleep in the waves. There are two trails in the shelter, but backpackers are along the beach as these inland routes are closed from November 1st to March 31st to provide space for birds to overwinter. You need to hike. In total, it’s a 6.9-mile hike along the evacuation trail to Barber Hill Campground and a 5.7-mile slogan along the beach route. Keep in mind that it is easier to walk at low tide if it is clogged with sand.
Go long on the Big South Fork
Shared by Kentucky and Tennessee Big South Folk National Recreation Area Covering the historic belt of the Cumberland Plateau, it preserves a landscape of prehistoric hunter-gatherers, a wide range of Cherokees, colonial houses, and river carvings shaped by coal miners. Today, recreational areas with long walkways such as the Shelter Wheat Race and the John Muir Trail have much to offer to experienced backcountry travelers. However, there are many beginner backpackers as well.
Where are you going: Trekk the Grand Gap Loop for panoramic river views and ancient geological wonders of the Big South Fork. Starting from the trailhead of Alfred Smith Road, the trail interweaves a mixed hardwood forest studded with cotton-like American shakunage and cave ledges, skirting the western end of the river thread canyon in the center of the recreation area. Surrounded by a loop that forms 6.8 miles. The elevation of the route is minimal, but there is no water along the highland loop, so plan a two-day replenishment.
Cover photo: Spruce knob is the pinnacle of West Virginia.Photo by Marie Woot