Healthy Living, Fitness

Easy Hikes on the Southern Appalachian Trail

Hiking Appalachian Trail
Published on October 19, 2014

AAWhen looking for exhilarating Smoky Mountains events to do this fall foliage season during your property search, why not try an easy hike on the Appalachian Trail to get to know the region better? There are a number of Great Smoky Mountains National Park trails that wind throughout Georgia mountain properties and in Western North Carolina. 

The entire A.T. trail runs from Springer Mountain in Georgia and winds up 2,200 miles later at Mt. Katahdin in Maine.  Georgia has 75 miles of trails on the Appalachian Trail including the southern point of Springer Mountain with an elevation of 3,280 feet.  Seasoned hikers can enjoy the challenge of Blood Mountain at the peak of the trail with an elevation of 4,461 feet.  Novice hikers may find more pleasure enjoying the scenery at more relaxed elevations including great hiking with waterfalls. Bring a camera. Photography schools provide excellent courses in nature photography.

North Carolina has 88 miles of trails on the A.T. with altitudes ranging from 1,725 to 5,498.  The Appalachian Trail often referred to as "A.T." or "atc" is managed by the National Park Service and the not-for-profit Appalachian Trail Conservatory with 99% of the trail is on public property.   The AT also features 250 campsites for those who are looking for a day of hiking followed by a dinner by campfire and a night of restful sleeping under the starry skies of this great region.

While "thru hikers" typically complete the entire trail over a period of 90 days, novice hikers are offered many options to explore this beautiful and uninterrupted terrain from Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Amicalola Falls State Park. Wildlife and natural habitat embody the course and provide hikers not only a great workout but a picturesque view of the magnificent scenery that the properties offered in both Georgia and North Carolina have to offer. Specifically, Springer Mountain and Blood Mountain offer challenging "round trip day hikes" from both Big Canoe and Currahee Club,  two well known gated mountain communities with beautiful rustic mountain homes.

Big Canoe located in Jasper, Georgia not only offers close access to easy hikes on the Appalachian Trail, but also a fabulous place to live set in a forest while enjoying the beautiful backdrop this community has to offer and hiking with waterfalls.  For many looking for the perfect outdoor haven, Big Canoe is just the right fit offering 22 miles of hiking trails along with amenities that surpass any resort in the area including the following:

  • 24 Hour Manned Gated Entrance
  • 27 Hole Championship Golf Course designed by Joe Lee 
    • 9 Hole Creek Course overlooking Lake Sconti
    • 9 Hole Cherokee Course with dramatic elevations
    • 9 Hole Choctaw Course accented by waterfalls and rushing creeks
  • Lodge-style Golf Clubhouse overlooking Lake Sconti
  • 16,000 Square Foot Fitness Center
  • Indoor Heated Saline Swimming Pool
  • Resort-style Outdoor Swimming Pool bordering the Beach
  • Wildcat Recreation Center with Outdoor Swimming Pool and Kids Pool
  • Ball fields - Soccer, Baseball, Basketball and Bocce Ball
  • Ten Lighted Tennis Courts
  • 22 Miles of Paved and Gravel Hiking Trails
  • Three Private Lakes stocked with Trout, Bass, Bream and Crappie
  • Community Boat Docks and Marina Store
  • The Villages Market
  • Three Dog Parks 

Another scenic mountain community found in the area is Currahee Club in Toccoa, Georgia.  While hiking in this region or at Great Smoky Mountains National Park trails, folks will discover this is an excellent place to find new Georgia mountain properties. With panoramic views of both the Blue Ridge Mountains and Lake Hartwell, this upscale development and Southern Living Inspired Community offers sophistication and the ultimate in "outdoor adventures" unmatched by others in the area.  Amenities offered insure that daily living will never be dull. Living life to the fullest is easy at the Currahee Club with the extras available here:

  • 24 Hour Manned Gated Entrance
  • 18 Hole Championship Golf Course designed by Jim Fazio
  • Practice Facility and Putting Greens
  • 48,000 Square Foot Golf Clubhouse with indoor and outdoor dining
  • Currahee Club Amenity Campus with resort-style Swimming Pool, two Tennis Courts and Fitness Center
  • Children’s Playground and Ball Courts
  • Currahee Club Lake Park and Covered Community Boat Docks

When looking for easy hikes near Smoky Mountain events and the Appalachian Trail in northern Georgia, the trails located at the Amicalola Falls State Park offer plenty of options near the Georgia mountain properties:

  • The Spring Trail is a 0.4 mile course and connects the West Ridge/Falls Access Trail to the Mountain Laurel Loop Trail.
  • The West Ridge Falls Access Trail is 0.3 miles and is also wheelchair accessible and offers some of the most scenic views from this easy trail hike.
  • The Creek Trail is 0.6 miles and is considered moderate.
  • The Lodge Fitness Loop is 0.25 miles and is rated "easy" and also provides wheelchair accessibility.  The trail is also lighted for both early morning and evening hikes.
  • The East Ridge Trail (Old Appalachian Approach Trail) is a one mile hike that leads from the Visitor Center to the top of the waterfall.

Another point of access to the AT can be found at Clingman's Dome near Knoxville (this is the highest point of the trail at 6,625 feet).  This 7.5 mile drive to Clingman's Dome from Newfound Gap gives visitors easy access to Clingman's Road Drive. While in this region, check out Tellico Village, a friendly waterfront retirement community less than 45 minutes from Great Smoky Mountains National Park trails. Winner of Community Finder's 2014 Bliss Award for Happiest Community of the Year, Tellico Village has an active hiking club who can share their secrets about the park and hiking with waterfalls. Known for its wellness amenities and golf courses, Tellico Village is made up of eight neighborhoods and features:

  • Three 18 Hole Championship Golf Courses
  • Lakefront Yacht Clubhouse with dining
  • Three Golf Clubhouses with dining
  • 26,000 Square Foot Wellness Center
  • Indoor and Outdoor Swimming Pools
  • 10 Tennis Courts
  • 8 Pickleball Courts
  • Full Service Marina with Boat Slips
  • Community Parks
  • New Library 

While hiking the AT trail in Western North Carolina, the Max Patch Mountain offers yet another region to explore with views of the Great Smoky Mountains from the northwest and the Black Mountains to the east.  This 2.4 mile trail can be completed in a couple of hours and is considered moderate with a peak elevation of 4,630 feet.  Living in this "hidden piece of paradise" is something to consider while hiking through this magnificent terrain.  To the south, Sunset Falls at Bald Creek is a private mountain community with a unique "neighborhood" feel and gorgeous rustic mountain homes.  Falling in love with the descending waterfalls is easy while enjoying the hiking trails intimate neighborhood has to offer.  It's not just a home, it's an adventure living with great folks and socializing with neighbors that relish the pleasures and long range mountain views this community has to offer.

Another hidden secret near the trail is Balsam Mountain Preserve located in Sylva, North Carolina.  Luxury living is uncompromised at this gated mountain community where exclusivity is the norm.  Elevations here range from 3,000 to 4,700 feet which offers some of the most spectacular mountains views in this small density development with only 400 homes planned.  With over 30 scenic miles of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding, having a home here represents prestige yet offers the amenities that allow residents to never have to leave this resort lifestyle. Balsam Mountain Preserve offers rustic mountain homes and the following first-class amenities:

  • 24 Hour Manned Gated Entrance
  • 18 Hole Championship Golf Course designed by Arnold Palmer
  • Award Winning Equestrian Center - Full Service
  • Ruby Valley Sports Complex
  • Resort-style Heated Outdoor Swimming Pool
  • Two Har-Tru Tennis Courts
  • Fitness Center
  • The Boarding House Restaurant
  • 30 Miles of Hiking Trails
  • Dark Ridge Camp 

In addition to enjoying the exciting journeys the A.T. has to offer, folks can also reap great health benefits from participating.  In addition to improving cardiovascular well-being, hiking also improves muscle tone and strength, can lower the risk of heart disease and stroke as well as high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes.  Additionally, hiking can slow the loss of bone density and actually can improve bone density.  It can also reduce stress, improve overall well being and improve coordination.  And of course, if maintaining or losing weight is a goal, the average 154 lb. person will burn an average of 370 calories per hour.  As with all exercising, it is wise to consult a family physician if newly re-entering the fitness arena.  Always start slowly and remember to stretch before and after working out.

One more trend seasoned hikers enjoy is "forest bathing", not the kind with a water and soap. Originating in Japan and known as Shinrin-yoku (森林浴) in Japanese, this relaxation and stress management technique involves visiting a forest for relaxation and breathing in volatile substances, called phytoncides (wood essential oils), which are antimicrobial volatile organic compounds derived from trees, such as a-pinene and limonene.  Developed in 1982 "forest bathing" has become a popular form of stress relief in Japan and is no doubtly enjoyed on the Appalachian Trail or on Great Smoky Mountains National Park trails.

So the next time somebody says "take a hike", say I'd love too! Beeline to the Appalachian Trail for easy hikes and to take a "forest bath" to alleviate the stress of the day. Photography schools can help you capture these outdoor experiences on film.

If you're exploring the mountains for relocation during events in the Smokies, ask about being our guest at one of these fine gated communities by writing