Since this is my last week in the South, I'm taking some time to look back at all the things that I've enjoyed about living in this part of the country. Something that tops the list for Cam and I is definitely all the hiking we've been able to do in the past year!
Hiking is great because a) it's an activity that we both enjoy b) it allows for both Lola and us to get exercise (which we both need!) c) you get to be outside, experience nature, and see some spectacular views and d) it's free! (Well depending on where you hike you sometimes have to pay $2-$3 for a permit...and I guess you have to pay for the gas...but it's still cheaper than a lot of other activities!)
Greenville is located really so close to the mountains, which makes it easy to jump in the car, take a scenic drive, and spend the whole day exploring a new trail. Another nice thing about hiking in the South is that you can hike all year long because it usually doesn't get super cold here. I actually think that the winter is the best time to hike here because all the leaves are off the trees so you get great views the entire way up to the top. (Plus it's much more comfortable to hike when it's 45 degrees versus 95 degrees!)
I know that I've touched on hiking in quite a few of my other posts (so a lot of these pictures may look familiar), but I wanted to do one last recap of our favorite hikes in the Carolinas from the past year :)
-Table Rock, SC: This is probably my favorite out of all the hikes we've done because you pass some really pretty waterfalls along the way in addition to the stunning views you get at the top.The hike is a little over 7 miles total, and it's strenous enough to feel like you're getting a great workout, but not so bad that it's torture or anything. We've actually done this hike a few times, these pics are from our most recent trip there at the end of April.
-Grandfather Mountain, NC: Grandfather Mountain is a great place to visit for the day because you can drive along the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway to get there from Greenville. If you're not into hiking, you can park in the parking lot and walk up to right to the Mile High Bridge and take in the view without having to walk very far. However, if you're looking for a challenge, there is a trailhead that goes from that same parking lot to a short but very intense trail up the mountain. At the end of the hike there is a series of cable climbs and ladders to get to the top, and it is probably the most terrified I've ever been on a hike. As you can see from the photos, if you were to fall off near the end of the hike, you'd literally fall straight down. SO. SCARY. But we did it, the views were great, and I felt like a really faced a fear. (Even though I kid you not my palms are SWEATING right now as I type this paragraph. Seriously.)
-Looking Glass Rock, NC: This is a nice 6 mile hike with some great views at the top. It was actually the very first hike we took Lola on when she was a puppy! Looking back at the pictures, I can't believe how much she's grown and changed in the past few months.
-Mt. Pisgah, NC: This was originally supposed to be a 5 mile hike that turned into an 11 mile hike when part of the Blue Ridge Parkway leading up to the trail head was closed. We made the best of it and took advantage of the great views along the vacant parkway before hiking the steep trail to the top.
-Raven Cliff Falls, SC: This was one of the first hikes that we did after we moved in and we ended up getting totally soaked because it started pouring rain about halfway through our hike. It was still a very pretty, very physical trail (not in the sense that it was super steep, there were just a lot of boulders and things you had to climb up/over). The only bad part is that the trail we took went to a bridge over top of the falls, so we didn't really get the best view.
-Mt. Mitchell, NC: This is the tallest peak west of the Mississippi, and unfortunately on the day we went we didn't have a ton of time, so we only did a fairly easy 4 mile hike. However, you can basically drive right to the top of the mountain and get some great views, and then there are also longer trails you can take as well.
-Paris Mountain, SC: This is a big spot for mountain biking, and we only did a short hike on the day we went. You can see from these pictures how much of a better view you get when you hike in the winter with no leaves on the trees! It's not as impressive as some of the other trails, but it's only about 20 minutes from our apartment whereas the others are further into the mountains.
-Jones Gap, SC: We an 11 mile hike at Jones Gap, and while I don't remember exactly which trails we took, I remember that there were some beautiful waterfalls along the trail. (Also, I'm pretty sure that we did this hike in February and I love that means tank top weather here in SC!)
-Graveyard Fields, NC: This was a camping trip with a little hiking mixed in. We camped in the Davidson River Campground in the Pisgah National Forest near Brevard, NC (really pretty campsite if you're looking for one). I don't remember how long of a hike we did through Graveyard Fields, I just remember that there were lots of wild blueberries along the way and we ended up picking a bunch!
If you live in the Upstate or are interested in hiking in Western SC/NC, I'd highly suggest this book Hiking the Carolina Mountains by Danny Bernstein. It's got a lot of really great hike with very thorough descriptions of each trail. Happy hiking everyone! :)