The South is home to some of the most breathtaking views you will ever find. With hotspots like the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains, it’s no wonder hikers frequently visit the region. But among these popular destinations, there are also some lesser-known gems. Here are eight hidden hiking trails and waterfalls you can visit if you’re looking for something off the beaten path (and we’ve included a tool to find even more of these hidden gems).
1535 Evins Mill Road, Smithville, TN 37166
Length: about 1 mile
As the 10th highest waterfall in Tennessee, Carmac Falls stretches 90-feet above ground and is a must-visit hiking destination. The trail is primarily uphill, so be sure to pack your swimsuit to cool off in the water at the end of your journey. The waterfall is located in Evins Mill Resort and open to the general public through a day-tripping package for $25.
Craggy Gardens to Douglas Falls
3641 Blue Ridge Pkwy., Barnardsville, NC 28709
Length: 8 miles
While a hike along Craggy Gardens is quite strenuous with plenty of twists and “crags,” or cliffs, the views alone are worth the trip. Located in the Blue Ridge Parkway and Pisgah National Forest, we recommend visits to the trail in June when the flowers are in bloom and show off vibrant shades of pink and purple. If that hasn’t piqued your interest, the trailhead also leads to a 60-foot waterfall.
Short Springs Road, Tullahoma, TN 37388
Length: 1.6 miles
Tucked away in Short Springs State Natural Area in Tullahoma, TN, Machine Falls can be reached through its 1.6-mile loop. The trail is also marked with plenty of signs, which makes it easy to follow for beginners. If you wish to lengthen your hike after Machine Falls, follow the bridge at the bottom of the waterfall. This leads to Bobo Creek, where you can hike Laurel Bluff Trail for an additional 1.2 miles.
Bear Gap Road, Tallulah Falls, GA 30573
Length: 0.4 miles
If you’re in search of a relatively short and easy hike with rewarding views, look no further than Minnehaha Falls in Tallula Falls, GA. Just under half-mile in length, the hike to this North Georgia waterfall is both relaxing and scenic as it offers close-up views of native plants like rhododendrons. The trail leads to a gorgeous 100-foot waterfall, and if you wish to take in more water views, continue along to the Lake Rabun shoreline.
Mount Sterling Road, Waynesville, NC 28785
Length: 5.6 miles
While hikers frequent the Great Smoky Mountains, Mount Sterling and its lookout tower are some of the mountains’ hidden gems. Rich in history, the mountain gets its name from a story of settlers who mistakenly believed they had found silver in the area. About three miles into the trail, hikers reach the nearly 5,000-foot summit and its old fire tower. With the highest elevation of any fire tower left in the eastern United States, be sure to visit the top of the structure for panoramic views of Tennessee and North Carolina.
Cherokee Orchard Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
Length: 5.4 miles
Also tucked away in the Great Smoky Mountains is Rainbow Falls. The hike features footbridges, inclines and picnic areas along the way, which make for a fairly moderate journey. At the end of the trail you’ll find the eponymous waterfall, where its mist creates a beautiful rainbow on sunny days. From Rainbow Falls, you can also continue for another 4.2 miles to Mount LeConte, the third-highest peak in the Smokies.
Water Falls Road, Sunset, SC 29685
Length: 0.3 miles
Just north of Greenville, SC, the Twin Falls trail follows the Reedy Cove Creek and leads hikers to not one, but two incredible waterfalls. Despite their name, the falls are not identical. The left waterfall stands about 75 feet high and falls over rocks while the other sits at an angle. A third waterfall can also be seen if you look closely between the trees on the far right. Additionally, be sure to pay a visit to the overlook at the bottom of the falls for more breathtaking views.
Walls of Jericho
Highway 79, Estillfork, AL 35745
Length: 6 miles
Named after its towering “walls,” or rocks that form amphitheater-like structures, the Walls of Jericho are located on the border of Tennessee and Alabama. The trail can be accessed through either state, but the shortest route begins at the Alabama trailhead. The hike is fairly difficult as it features a good amount of steep hills, but the views along the way make the journey worthwhile. While hiking, keep your eyes open for waterfalls and native plants and animals.
PLUS: Old-Growth Forest Network
Once you’ve added these eight trails to your hiking bucket list, check out the Old-Growth Forest Network website for even more ideas. The site offers a plethora of information on old-growth forests to enjoy and explore in more than 20 states. To begin exploring, click “Forests” at the top of the page and then “Find a Forest Network.” From there, you can click on a state in which you want to find a forest.
Here’s to your next big outdoor adventure!
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