Top Ten Day Hikes in the Mid-Atlantic - Page 2
|Assateague Island National Seashore (US Army Corps of Engineers)|
5. Tea Creek Mountain Loop
10-mile loop in the Tea Creek Backcountry, WV
This longer-haul route plunges you into a mountainous mass of meadows, brawling streams, spruce woods, and rocky peaks. Leave Little Laurel Overlook, elevation 4,000 feet, on West Virginia's snaking 43-mile Highland Scenic Highway, joining the Right Fork Trail, bisecting a vista-laden meadow, and entering a forestland of spruce, birch, and cherry trees. Mosses and ferns grow on anything not moving. Look for beaver dams forming charming meadows below. The path then gently curves around the mountainside, while the Right Fork Creek dives for the lowlands. Meet the North Face Trail at mile 3.5. Here, it is a half-mile to the confluence of the Right Fork and Tea creeks, the latter staying with you for the rest of the Right Fork Trail. A trail shelter, sunning rocks, and dipping pools await those inspired to cool off. The loop then joins the North Face Trail, traversing a gentle grade to meet Tea Creek Mountain Trail at mile 6.7. Turn left here, making a steep half-mile jump through beech forest and stunted spruce woods. Open boulder fields reveal views of the Williams River Valley. Top out at 4,500 feet before completing the loop.
Check out our profile of Tea Creek Trail—and add to it—in our Trail Finder Wiki
4. Natural Bridge State Resort Park
3-mile loop in Natural Bridge State Resort Park, KY
Take a short, feature-crammed circuit through a geological wonderland that includes the huge arch of Natural Bridge, views from Lover's Leap, Balanced Rock, Needle's Eye Stairway, Rockhouse Cave, and Fat Man's Misery—all cut into the Cumberland Plateau. Leave the park activities center on the Balanced Rock Trail, passing the shelter of Rockhouse Cave. Stone steps lead to Balanced Rock, an ecological illusion where it seems a larger rock stands atop a smaller one. Next, head to 65-foot-tall Natural Bridge, where time and the elements have created the mother of all arches, with a total span of 78 feet. Rock steps lead under the stone viaduct for a bottom-up view. Next, squeeze through Fat Man's Misery, where two colossal boulders grant begrudging passage. Ahead, the Needle's Eye Stairway takes you to the overlook at Lover's Leap. Pick up the Laurel Ridge Trail, where you can view Natural Bridge in all its glory at yet another overlook (slackers come to this view by sky lift). Return via foot power on the Original Trail.
3. Assateague Island National Seashore
12 miles one-way in Assateague Island National Seashore, MD
Have you ever hiked a wild beach? This primitive sandy trek offers the perfect opportunity. Start your hike at Assateague Island's North Ocean Beach, quickly leaving the sun worshippers behind. Travel any length of 12 oceanfront miles extending to Virginia, with the song of waves drifting into your ears as you follow the curve of the shoreline. Bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen for walking this untamed sliver of land. Beyond hiking, this oceanside jaunt includes beachcombing for abundant shells and dolphin-watching. Birders, bring your binoculars. Look for four-legged land creatures, too, since wild ponies and deer roam Assateague, especially on the tree-dotted bay side. Avoid walking on the dunes and avoid the mid-summer—biting insects can prove troublesome then. Be apprised that walking on sand can be exhausting. Try to find firmer crystals near the water. And lastly, hike as far as you please, but allow ample time for your trek back, or plan on an overnighter.
Check out our profile of the trails in Assateague Island National Seashore—and add to them—in our Trail Finder Wiki
2. Rocky Mountain Loop
10.1-mile loop in Shenandoah National Park, VA
This scenic but longish circuit brims with multiple highland overlooks and intimate streamside scenery, all on a national-park scale. Start on Brown Mountain Trail, passing over Rocky Mountain to meet Shenandoah National Park's largest watercourse, Big Run, and then follow Big Run back into the high country. The hike leaves Brown Mountain Overlook at milepost 76.9 on Skyline Drive. Brown Mountain Trail emerges at a giant quartz outcrop at mile 1.6, where the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Brown Mountain stand across the gulf of Rocky Mountain Run. Then switchback among pine and mountain laurel down the face of Brown Mountain while absorbing views of Rocky Mountain, Rockytop, Big Run, Massanutten Peak, and the Shenandoah Valley. At mile 4.9, the white noise of Big Run, a classic Appalachian stream, resonates from below. Pick up Big Run Portal Trail, rock-hopping Big Run numerous times. Join Rocky Mountain Run Trail at mile 6.7. Step over Rocky Mountain Run twice. The trail steepens before returning to Brown Mountain Trail at mile 9.5. Then backtrack a half-mile to Skyline Drive.
1. First Peak Trail to Bearpen Trail
6-mile loop in Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, VA
The high country of Mount Rogers National Recreation Area is known for open meadows where wild ponies roam, rock ridges that afford rolling panoramas, and blueberry fields that attract bruins and backpackers alike—and we encourage you to pluck all the fruits this hike offers. It all starts at the Scales trailhead. Take First Peak Trail as it climbs through open meadows to a wide vista on Stone Mountain. Navigate a patchwork of clearings and woods, entering Little Wilson Creek Wilderness. The Kabel Trail leads you through a land of deep northern hardwood forests and tumbling mountain streams on a user-friendly old logging grade. Swing past Little Wilson Creek, still above 4,000 feet, before returning to open terrain on the Big Wilson Creek Trail. The Bearpen Trail visits a high-elevation bog before rejoining the open slopes of Stone Mountain with sweeping views of Pine Mountain and the high country stretching to the back of beyond. Occasional stone outcrops make mini-vista points of their own. Your final path is the Scales Trail, which leads you through more open rock and grass mountaintops before descending to the gap at Scales.