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August marks the start of the 80th anniversary year of the Appalachian Trail, an iconic, 2,190-mile-long footpath that traverses through 14 states: Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. The Appalachian Trail is one of the longest continuously-marked footpaths in the world.

RELATED: Here’s your perfect Blue Ridge Parkway road trip

Fortunately for those of us who aren’t prepared to dedicate six months to thru-hiking the trail, day hikes are easily accessible through hundreds of access points along its route. In fact, the Appalachian Trail is within a few hours’ drive for millions of Americans. We took a look at some of the many iconic spots along the Appalachian Trail, as well as nearby places to stay the night and  leave even more time for hiking.

Georgia

Slow shutter speed of Amicalola Falls in Georgia in Summer

Springer Mountain: The start, or the end—depending on how you look at it—of the Appalachian Trail is at the summit of Springer Mountain, one of Georgia’s most popular hiking destinations with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The summit is easily accessible via a short one-mile hike from the mountain’s parking area, or a longer hike along the Appalachian Trail from Amicalola Falls State Park, where you’ll find the state’s tallest waterfall at more than 720 feet.

Amicalola Falls State Park & Lodge: Just about two miles from the park is a 57-room lodge to put your feet up. Opt for a room with a mountain view for inspiration for the next day’s hike. In addition to offering guided hikes to the falls, the lodge offers a number of adventures, from archery to ziplining.

 

North Carolina

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Scenic Sunrise Landscape at Oconaluftee Overlook between Cherokee NC and Gatlinburg TN

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Straddling North Carolina and Tennessee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers so many ways to experience the outdoors in addition to hiking that it’s no wonder it’s America’s most-visited National Park. Waterfalls, old-growth forests and overlooks with views for miles can all be found here, take your time to find your own spot to enjoy.

Shady Lawn Lodge: Family-owned and operated for nearly 50 years, the Shady Lawn Lodge in Newland is surrounded by fun in the outdoors, from hiking on the Appalachian Trail to fly fishing, golfing and even skiing in the wintertime.

 

Tennessee

Clingmans Dome mountaintop observatory in the Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, USA.

Clingmans Dome: The highest point along all of the Appalachian Trail and within Great Smoky Mountains National Park is found in Tennessee, at Clingmans Dome. At 6,643 feet, it’s also the third highest mountain east of the Mississippi River, and offers stunning 360-degree views of the Smoky Mountains. On clear days, you can see upwards of 100 miles!

Glenstone Lodge: Just a half-mile from the entrance into Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and another 22 miles from Clingmans Dome, Glenstone Lodge offers comfortable accommodations to suit every need and budget, and is just a two-block walk to downtown Gatlinburg for a bit of city life away from the trail.

 

Virginia

Grayson Highlands State Park: In close proximity to Virginia’s two highest mountains—Mount Rogers and Whitetop Mountain—Grayson Highlands State Park provides year-round access to the Appalachian Trail, as well as views of alpine-like peaks of more than 5,000 feet. Hiking paths lead to the park’s waterfalls and overlooks for some terrific photo ops.

General Francis Marion Hotel: On the edge of the park is the General Francis Marion Hotel in Marion, Virginia. The hotel was named one of National Geographic’s Top 150 Hotels in North America, and is a terrific option to lay your head for a night or two. After two years of renovations, the 1920s hotel now has all of the comforts, convenience and amenities of a modern hotel, but with all of its original charm. After all, it’s always nice to indulge, even when you’re on the A.T.

 

West Virginia

Town of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in West Virginia as seen from Maryland looking across the Potomac River in autumn.

Harpers Ferry Historical National Park: The mid-point of the Appalachian Trail is found within Harpers Ferry Historical National Park in West Virginia, considered one of the best walking parks in the U.S. Hikes along the A.T. and the other of the 20 miles of trails within the park range from easy to difficult, and can even include historical highlights such as the the 1862 Naval Battery (via the difficult Maryland Heights Trail) and Civil War cannons (via the easy to moderate Murphy-Chambers Farm hike).

Lily Garden Bed and Breakfast: You can’t get much closer to the A.T. in West Virginia than at the Lily Garden Bed and Breakfast—right next to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters and about three blocks from the trail itself. Hikers will have their filling country breakfasts delivered to their rooms in the morning (Tuesdays through Sundays), and can even bring their four-legged hiking buddies with them—this B&B is pet-friendly.

 

Maryland

Photo courtesy of Antietam Overlook Farm

Weverton Cliffs: A popular spot to hike the A.T. in Maryland is Weverton Cliffs, 500 feet above the Potomac River in South Mountain State Park. Aside from gazing at the river below, you’ll also be afforded views of Buzzard Rock, which stands at 1,183 feet, and Short Hill Mountain, which stands at 1,424 feet; both are in the neighboring state of Virginia.

Antietam Overlook Farm: A 20-minutes drive from Weverton Cliffs is Antietam Overlook Farm in Keedysville, Maryland. The six-room B&B, housed in a 19th-century country manor not only offers comfortable accommodations to rest after a day on the trails, but exceptional food to refuel, too. The three-course breakfast will leave you full through lunchtime, leaving plenty of time to soak aching muscles in the spa tubs.

 

Pennsylvania

Photo courtesy of Fallen Tree Farm

Pine Grove Furnace State Park: At the northern tip of the Blue Ridge Mountains is Pine Grove Furnace State Park, through which the A.T. passes. Not only that, but the Appalachian Trail Museum is found here, showcasing tributes to the trail-builders and their commitment to conservation. Aside from the museum, the park also features two mountain lakes and rail trails for biking.

Fallen Tree Farm Bed & Breakfast: The four-room Fallen Tree Bed & Breakfast is an easy 10-mile drive from Pine Grove Furnace State Park—close enough for convenience yet far enough away to leave the trail behind for a night. Believed to be built in the late-1700s, the B&B has all the modern conveniences to make your stay comfortable, including stocked mini-fridges and complimentary Internet to ‘gram your A.T. hiking photos.

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New Jersey

Sunfish Pond | Flickr CC: dvs

Sunfish Pond: The A.T. to Sunfish Pond in Worthington State Park in Columbia, New Jersey, can be a bit rocky, but is the destination ever worth  your while! The glacially-carved pond is encircled by a trail, and is a wonderful spot to enjoy a picnic or snack before heading back to the trailhead.

Alpine Haus: When you’re finished hiking for the day, drive an hour or so from the park to the Alpine Haus in Vernon, New Jersey. The historic, 1885 Federal-style home is inviting and comforting; be sure to snag a homemade cookie and cup of coffee upon check-in. The next morning, dive into the four-course breakfast!

 

New York

Bear Mountain State Park: A.T. enthusiasts will want to be sure and hike at least a little in Bear Mountain State Park, about an hour’s drive from New York City (depending on traffic, of course). After all, this is where the first part of the trail was completed back in the 1920s. Stop along your hike at the Perkins Memorial Tower for spectacular views of the park.

Overlook Lodge at Bear Mountain: In addition to 24 comfortable rooms and a filling breakfast buffet, what may really appeal to you after a day of hiking on the A.T. is the full-service spa at Overlook Lodge at Bear Mountain within Bear Mountain State Park! Afterwards, cozy up beside the fireplace in the lobby and soak in the panoramic views of the Hudson River. Or, if you bring your four-legged hiking buddy with you, cozy up with her; the lodge is pet-friendly.

 

Connecticut

Rand’s View: The Rand’s View hike in the Hudson Valley is perfect for those who are up for climbing a mountain for an amazing reward. 5.3 miles up and back, the hike’s highlights include  not only the mountain, but a gorgeous meadow with views that are out of this world. It’s well-worth the 1,395-foot ascent, taking hikers to 1,480 feet above sea level.

Locust Tree Bed and Breakfast: About a 15-minute drive from Rand’s View in Canaan is the comfortable seven-room Locust Tree Bed and Breakfast, where “Our home is your home.” Guests are invited to make themselves right at home in the house built in the 1700s, whether on the hammock on the wrap-around porch after a day on the trails, or digging into a hearty breakfast. The hosts are more than happy to help you plan your hikes, or any number of activities to enjoy the area.

 

Massachusetts

In the distance stands Mt Greylock at 3,491 feet, Greylock is the highest peak in Massachusetts.

Mount Greylock: The highest point in Massachusetts sits at 3,491 feet in Mount Greylock State Reservation in the Berkshires; the point is marked by the Massachusetts Veterans War Memorial, built in 1932. Eleven-and-a-half miles of the A.T. pass through the reservation, and on clear days, hikers can see four states and five mountain ranges from the summit.

Harbour House Inn Bed and Breakfast: The historic 18th-century Georgian colonial Harbour House Inn in Cheshire, about 35 minutes from Mount Greylock, can be a sight for sore eyes, or sore muscles! After awaking to a gourmet breakfast and a day in the Berkshires, enjoy a glass of wine before dinner, and indulge in chocolates as you toast another day on the trail with a sip of brandy.

 

Vermont

Stratton Mountain: Hike to the peak of Vermont’s Stratton Mountain at 3,940 feet and on clear days you’ll have 360-degree views, and little wonder as to why James P. Taylor was inspired in 1909 to develop a hiking trail from Massachusetts to Canada, which was completed and is known as the Long Trail (273 miles). During the Long Trail’s construction, Benton MacKaye became inspired himself, and the idea of the Appalachian Trail was born.

Long Trail House: Spread out in one of the 150 condos at Long Trail House, next to the Stratton Mountain Resort and a 10-minute walk from Stratton Mountain Summit Gondola. Your body will thank you for relaxing in the sauna and soaking in the spa tub, and even more so if you make an appointment in the full-service spa-ahhhh.

 

New Hampshire

Autumn snow-capped mountains in the White Mountains National Forest in New Hampshire.

White Mountain National Forest: Just over 105 miles of the A.T. is found within White Mountain National Forest (and the Mahoosucs) in eastern New Hampshire. Within the forest, everything from mountainous hardwood forests to alpine peaks can be found, as well as mountain lakes and streams, not to mention wildlife. There are also historical sites within the forest—holes and stone walls where farm families lived and worked more than 100 years ago—so why not spend some time and really explore White Mountain?

The Bartlett Inn: Surrounded by White Mountain National Forest is the Bartlett Inn, a family-friendly—and pet-friendly!—B&B. Whether you choose a room in the inn, or a cottage for a bit more space, you’ll find a friendly and welcoming atmosphere to let your hair down. Have a seat on a rocking chair and share hiking stories, or soak your cares away in the outdoor hot tub under the stars—or both!

 

Maine

View from the summit of Saddleback Mountain in Maine on the Appalachian Trail.

Saddleback Range: Two hundred and sixty seven miles of the A.T. traverses Maine, and through Saddleback Mountain in the western part of the state. The 11.4-mile round trip hike to the summit is considered advanced and strenuous, but it’s worth the effort. Upon reaching the summit, you’ll find yourself at 4,120 feet and with terrific views north to Katahdin and south to Mount Washington.

The Rangeley Inn and Tavern: After putting forth all of that effort to summit Saddleback Mountain, drive northeast about half-an-hour and stay at The Rangeley Inn and Tavern. The comfortable 30-room inn dates back to the late-19th century, its yard overlooking picturesque Haley Pond. In addition to a filling continental breakfast, the inn’s tavern also serves dinner and has a full bar. Cheers to another day on the A.T.!

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Tagged: National Parks, New York, North Carolina, Virginia

Susan Barnes

Susan Barnes

Susan B. Barnes, aka travlin’ girl, is a freelance travel journalist whose bags are always packed and ready for her next adventure, preferably with her rescued Miniature Schnauzer, Scout, aka travlin’ pup. Follow along on Susan’s travels on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, and with Scout on Instagram.

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