Alabama: Cheaha Mountain (2,407 ft)
Cheaha Mountain is one of the easiest peaks to “bag” in the south. With a historic Civilian Conservation Corps observation tower within Cheaha State Park, visitors can drive right up to the top. The tower is accessible by an enclosed stairway only so it may not be ideal for those who experience mobility limitations. Located about halfway between Atlanta and Birmingham, visitors to the park can enjoy amenities such as a restaurant, pool, lake, tent sites, and recreational trails. Cheaha is a great access point for area ATV trails and is in good proximity to Talladega Speedway. Day-use visitors will incur a slight fee but those electing to stay overnight can avoid this charge. While the views from the tower leave something to be desired, the views from the restaurant are fantastic.
Arkansas: Mount Magazine (2,753 ft)
The 1.5-mile Signal Hill trail will take you to Arkansas’ highest peak. When you reach the top you’ll find a 400 square foot stone map of the state. After you’ve bagged your peak take advantage of what else Mount Magazine State Park has to offer. The lodge has 60 rooms, a restaurant, a heated indoor pool, and a fitness center. With the unique opportunity to rock climb or hang glide, this is a great destination for adrenaline junkies.
Georgia: Brasstown Bald (4,784 ft)
Georgia‘s highest peak gives visitors several options for getting to the top. A shuttle service runs from the Visitor’s Center to the top and is included the $5 entrance fee. Also leaving from the Visitor’s Center is the Summit Trail which takes hikers 0.6 miles straight to the top of the mountain. The trail is paved so is technically wheelchair or stroller accessible but be aware it is quite steep. Those looking for longer hikes to the top can approach from nearby Young Harris College along the 5.8-mile Wagon Train Foot Trail or via Track Rock Gap along the 5.5-mile Arkaquah Trail. At the top is an interpretive center with exhibits and a small theater that plays a 14-minute movie every half hour.
Kentucky: Black Mountain (4,139 ft)
Located not far from the Kentucky/Virginia line outside the town of Lynch sits Black Mountain. Accessible off KY-160, a 1.5-mile winding mountain road will bring you to this unassuming peak. If you elect to visit the top you’ll need to sign a waiver since the land is technically privately owned by a coal company. As such you’ll see the impacts of coal mining in the region via strip mine scars. Don’t be put off, this area and the adjoining Cumberland Mountains are some of the prettiest in the country. If you are looking for some of the amenities of the other peaks on this list, check out nearby Kingdom Come State Park.
North Carolina: Mount Mitchell (6,684 ft)
The highest peak east of the Mississippi can be reached via the Blue Ridge Parkway or several different trails. Each trail that reaches the peak (from Deep Gap, Black Mountain Campground, Colbert’s Creek or Montreat) is long and intense but well worth the effort to spend time in the spruce-fir forest. Primitive camping is found throughout these approach trails or more established sites can be found seasonally within the State Park or down at Black Mountain Campground. A museum and snack bar are found just down from the peak and a restaurant is just down the road. The observation deck affords views in all directions but be aware that the peak is constantly covered in clouds and snowfall has been recorded every month of the year.
South Carolina: Sassafras Mountain (3,553 ft)
Straddling the border between North and South Carolina, Sassafras Mountain has a brand new observation tower that opened in the spring of 2019. With a mobility-centric approach, any visitor can enjoy views of three states. Although the peak is more of a pop in destination, the nearby Foothills Trail travels 77 miles and connects Table Rock and Oconee State Parks.
Tennessee: Clingmans Dome (6,643 ft)
Located within Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Clingmans Dome is the highest peak in the park and along the Appalachian Trail. Turning off Newfound Gap Road, visitors will travel 7 miles down Clingmans Dome Road to the overlook parking lot. From there a paved 0.5-mile trail takes you to the observation tower. Unfortunately, this final stretch is too steep for wheelchairs but numerous overlooks along Clingmans Dome Road afford similarly sweeping views. Also along the road are a number of longer trails that take hikers deep within the national park.
Virginia: Mount Rogers (5,729 ft)
Located in the scenic southwest area of the state, Mount Rogers can be reached via Grayson Highlands State Park on the 4-mile one-way hike from Massie Gap along the Rhododendron Trail. The area is covered in balds thus affording limitless views and habitat for the feral ponies that roam the area. Because of the open exposure, be aware of sudden weather changes. If you have extra time, hike along the Appalachian Trail as it weaves through the area. Nearby you’ll also find the Virginia Creeper Trail and the quaint city of Abingdon.