The Appalachian Trail is one of America’s greatest hikes, running over 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine. It takes hikers many months and plenty turn around shortly after starting.
But you can still “hike the AT” without committing to its entire length. Check out one of the many day hikes near the Appalachian Trail that you’ll find in Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia.
Expect to camp at a site nearby or at one of the hiker hostels and lodges found throughout the region. These day hikes are the perfect way to explore at a safe distance.
Amicalola Falls to Springer Mountain
As the starting point of the Appalachian Trail, the approach trail is the first obstacle hikers have to overcome before starting their journey. It includes the 600 stairs to the top of Amicalola Falls and then another few miles to the top.
It’s over 15 miles in total, so a long day, but is possible. If you don’t want to spend the entire day, you can also book a night at the Len Foote Hike Inn, a backcountry lodge.
Blood Mountain is one of the best hikes in Georgia, located not far from Blairsville. It’s located on the Appalachian Trail and is said to be named for a battle between Creek and Cherokee tribes. The trail is about 4 miles and, although strenuous, takes a few hours.
There’s a Civilian Conservation Corps cabin at the top. On the way back down, stop by Mountain Crossings, a hostel and outfitter in another CCC building. It’s also the only place that the trail passes through a building. If you can’t grab a spot there, spend the night at Getaway Chattahoochee.
Neels Gap to Hogpen Gap
Over the course of sixteen miles, hikers can experience a well-traveled part of the Appalachian Trail. This stretch can be done with a guide, who can point out the many plant species along the way.
Hiker Hostel at Barefoot Hills near Dahlonega is the perfect retreat with bunk beds and shuttle services. There’s also a hotel with more luxurious hotel rooms and cabins. Cedar House Inn & Yurts is another option with Mongolian-style tents.
Raven Cliff Falls Trail
The trail to Raven Cliff Falls is great for beginners at only 5.8 miles near the Alpine community of Helen. Located not far from the AT, the trail requires a $5 fee and ends with views of a stunning waterfall.
Unicoi State Park is the best place to stay, with multiple accommodation types including campsites, barrel cabins, traditional cabins, and motel-style rooms.
North Carolina Hikes
Cited as one of the best hikes in North Carolina, Max Patch is a popular detour from the Appalachian Trail. The bald west of Asheville has incredible views without great distance. From the trailhead, it’s only one mile.
It’s easy to spend hours on the bald with a picnic or frisbee. Stay nearby in the town of Hot Springs at the beautiful Laughing Heart Lodge, which boasts cozy fireplaces and daily breakfast.
Sam’s Gap to Big Bald
Set in Pisgah National Forest, the around 13-mile round-trip hike from Sam’s Gap to Big Bald is a ridge climb with stunning views along the way.
After a long day of hiking, relax at a converted Airstream in Mars Hill. It comes with two bedrooms, a flat-screen television, and a kitchen.
Clingmans Dome is the highest point in Tennessee, located within Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There’s a half-mile paved path from the parking lot to the observation tower as well as longer trails ranging from 10-30 miles.
Camp LeConte is a short drive from downtown Gatlinburg as well as the entrance to the national park. They have many ways to glamp in the Smokies including luxury treehouses, safari tents, and traditional campsites.
The Gregory Bald Trail is an 11-mile round-trip journey that runs along the Tennessee and North Carolina state line. It’s open year-round and offers views of the Smokies.
In nearby Townsend, Camp Grits has a rustic cabin, three vintage trailers, and a teepee. The cabin comes equipped with a wood stove, vintage furnishings, and a compost toilet. There’s also a nearby bathhouse and propane stove.
While it’s one of the best hikes in Tennessee, Roan Mountain is also accessible from the North Carolina side of the border with multiple trails ranging from an easy quarter of a mile to a difficult two-mile route.
As the name would imply, Roan Mountain State Park is the best place to stay for hiking the mountain. The park has traditional campsites for tents and RVs as well as cabins on the Doe River.
Grayson Highlands and Mount Rogers
Feral ponies that roam the area and the Appalachian Trail as it weaves through the area. Nearby you’ll also find the Virginia Creeper Trail and the quaint city of Abingdon. The Martha Washington Inn offers trail shuttles and luxurious rooms.
Start outside of Roanoke to access McAfee Knob, one of the most photographed spots on the Appalachian Trail. The nearly nine-mile trail takes around five hours and can get very crowded on weekends so go early.
Woodchuck Hostel and SongPeddlar Rest in nearby Damascus is a ten-bed hostel hosting hikers from the Appalachian Trail and Creeper Trail with hearty breakfasts, WiFi, and shuttle services to the trails.
Brush Mountain is popular for hiking and mountain biking for its proximity to the Appalachian Trail and the town of Roanoke. The 7.6-mile hike starts at Trout Creek and passes a memorial to a World War II soldier.
After a long day of hiking, splurge on a night at the Hotel Roanoke, an 1882 Tudor building with over 300 guest rooms, a spa, restaurant, and a coffee shop.