Kentucky is a beautiful state full of scenic trails and the occasional backwoods distillery. Unfortunately, Black Mountain, Kentucky’s highest point, is not scenic or flowing with moonshine.
Black Mountain is in a coal mining area of the state. Industry has taken over this destination. It doesn’t bother me though. In fact, I got a nice elevated view of the landscape sculpture that is surface mining.
As this is not a nature destination, there really aren’t any trails to the summit. I drove a (quite fun) twisty windy road up to the top. You know you are there when you can see the Virginia welcome sign (and if you turn around, you’ll see the Kentucky welcome sign).
At the top is a little history lesson on a man that worked to put a tower at the top of Black Mountain way back in the day. He succeeded! Sorry to blow the ending…
Another state high point along the Appalachian trial is Virginia’s Mount Rogers. This peak rises 5,729 ft above sea level yet it is still covered in a dense spruce-fir forest which typically doesn’t exist at that altitude.
I chose to approach Mount Rogers from the Massie Gap, approximately four miles away. The highlands scenery was quite different than the other Appalachians I had climbed. The land was scattered with large boulders and less dense vegetation.
As I made my way towards the summit, I was joined by a few wild ponies. We hiked together for a while before parting ways as the trail passed through a fence.
I kept walking and started to hear a light raining sound. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, so I was a bit confused and looked around to see where the noise was coming from. It turns out a frost from the night before had covered a cluster of bushes. The light raining sound was actually the ice falling from the bushing and rattling around as they fell to the ground.
The trail continued on and passed one of the numerous Appalachian Trail shelters. There I ran into a group of outdoor enthusiasts inhaling the ambiance of the mountains. I said a quick hello to the mellow hikers and continued on to the summit.
The side trail to the summit was a short and unchallenging walk through a dense and mossy spruce forest. At the top, I found two markers.
North Carolina is home to the highest peak in the Appalachian mountains, Mount Mitchell. This freakin’ sweet mountain is 6,684 feet high and is also the highest point east of the Mississippi River.
To summit this peak, I chose an approach of 5.6 miles with a gain of 4,000 ft. While not the lengthiest hike I did in the Southeast, it was by far the most vertical gain.
I was pretty sore from Clingmans Dome the day before, and preparing my mind for a painful and laborous grind to the top. I stopped in to the ranger station before I got going and the ranger assured me that it was going to be worth the effort. He even went so far as to brag about him doing the same trail to the top in just over 2 hours.
The trail to the top was refreshing. It was just a steady uphill hike for the entire 5.6 miles. No giving back elevation or sections of overwhelmingly steep boulders. Just nice and easy.
Spectacular shots from the top!
While eating lunch and enjoying the view from the summit, I noticed a man with a dog and some cool shades set off on the trail down the mountain. I caught up to him and we got to chatting.
His name was Trevor and he told me all about his hiking adventures including the entire Appalachian Trail, Mt. Katahdin, Mt. Whitney, and many more amazing achievements. He gave me great tips for some of my upcoming adventures including climbing routes and some gear ideas that would make the trips more enjoyable.
Anyway, we probably walked 2-3 miles down the mountain before parting ways.
Oh, I forgot to mention that Trevor is blind. Check out his website! He’s accomplished so many impressive feats!
Next on my list of Appalachian mountains was Clingmans Dome in Tennessee. This peak stands at 6,643 ft and is the highest point in Tennessee.
I decided to approach Clingmans Dome from the Newfound Gap, a cozy 7.9 miles from the summit. At 15.8 miles round trip, this was certainly my longest day in the Appalachians.
The Appalachian trail in Tennessee is absolutely fantastic! The thick mossy forests made for a cool enjoyable stroll for the first 5 miles of the hike. After that, the trail got a bit rocky with extended portions of ascending and descending. While the overall elevation gain from the Newfound Gap was only 1,600 ft, the length and undulations of the trail made it feel like a much more difficult hike.
At the top of Clingmans Dome is this really cool looking flying saucer.
And the view from the saucer is amazing!
The hike back started out great, but about 12 miles into my day and my feet were begging for mercy. There was no mercy to be found as I hiked the remaining 3.8 miles…
The day after my 12 miles in Georgia, I headed to South Carolina to tackle its highest point, Sassafras Mountain. My hasty research said this would be less than 5 miles round trip, so I though it would be an easy refreshing day. As it turns out, my hike was 4.7 miles to the top: a 9.4 mile day.
Good lookin’ scenery
Located an hour outside of Greenville, Sassafras Mountain is 3,553′ above sea level. Again, there are shorter, less strenuous approaches to the top, but that takes away from the experience in my opinion.
I set out mid-morning for this expedition. It was a lovely, cool and sunny spring day. The trail was well maintained and easy on the feet, making the journey very enjoyable. The entire trail to the top was through tall wooded forest with the occasional rock outcrop.
Not much to see from up here
After 4.7 miles, and 1,900′ of elevation gain, I reached the top.
Who’s that at the top? #1!
Even though it was nearly 10 miles on the day, the trail was very easy. I made very good time without much effort. This is a great day hike for adventurers of all levels!
Following my mountain topping campaign in the lower Appalachians, I made my way back to Houston. On the way I stopped at my buddy’s new box, CrossFit Warped, in Vancleave, MS.
This box has only been opened for a few weeks and it’s amazing! Their setup is fantastic and the owners, Drew and Beverly, really define Southern hospitality. It was a welcoming (and sweaty!) experience.
Beverly and Drew
20 min AMRAP
21 Air Squats
3 Power Cleans (155#)
The workout was fantastic, and just what I needed after my hiking excursion. Drew and I busted our butts for 20 minutes. He edged me by a few reps. I was just being nice
Anyway, I’m very excited for the future of this box! They have a solid foundation of community and coaching and will certainly put Vancleave, Mississippi on the map!
At 4,784 ft above sea level, Brasstown Bald is Georgia’s highest point. This Georgia giant was named based on a misinterpretation of the native name that translates to ‘new green place.’ I saw lots of green on the mountain, but no brass.
To tackle is mountain, I decided to take the Arkaquah Trail that leads 5.5 miles to the parking lot of Brasstown Bald. Then I followed the 0.6 mile trail to the top with a total elevation gain of 2,500′. So that makes for a nice 12.2 mile round trip!
The trail started off with a lengthy series of steep switchbacks to ascend the ridge. From there, the trail marches up and down for 4 miles and through a thick and lush rhododendron forest before reaching the Brasstown Bald parking lot. The trail itself was well maintained and easy to follow, but still took a toll on me. By the time I reached the top, I was ready to drop my pack and take a nap.
I snapped some pictures of the surroundings from the observation deck and watched a short video on the mountain in the theater at the top.
The observation tower on top
Lookin out from the top
My way back was through a thick and lush rhododendron forest, followed by downs and ups and finally, a steep switchback trail down to my car. (ie, I took the same trail back).
Next in line on my “Dominate the Southeast” tour was Alabama. Cheaha Mountain, the highest point in Alabama, can be reached via car if you like. If not, there is a 1.5 mile trail that leads from Cheaha Lake, up 1000′ in elevation, and to the observation tower at the top.
Some idiot got his finger in the way of my picture
At 3 miles round trip, it’s not very long, but part of the ascent is over steep boulders. Among the boulders are some very nice climbing and rappeling areas. From the top of these cliffs you can see a spec of blue. This is the Cheaha Lake, the starting point of my hike.
The views from the observation tower are pretty sweet. The elevation of Cheaha Mountain is 2,407′, but it has the feel of a much higher mountain.
Definitely a good warm up for the Appalachian giants!
Please notice that elevation is not on this list. In fact, Florida’s highest point is the lowest of all 50 states. At 345 ft, Britton Hill at Lakewood Park, is nothing more than a rest stop on the highway. That is why I treated it like a rest stop. I relieved myself, snapped a few pictures, and hit the road.
Many thanks to the Walton County Board of Commissioners and the Florida Recreation Development Assistance!
In the backwoods of northern Mississippi lies Woodall Mountain. At 806 ft of elevation, it is the highest point in the state. This high point has a road that goes up the “mountain”, so no hiking was needed.
At the top was this lovely ring of tall grass, high point marker, and boulder. Like other non-mountainous high points, Woodall Mountain is covered in trees and there really isn’t any scenic view from the top. The mountain has quite a few communications towers on it actually.
Anyway, I climbed on the boulder for shits and giggles. You’ll notice that I’m keeping it quite classy with my boat shoes and sweat pants.
There was a sign next to the boulder saying ‘no climbing unless you are wearing Sperry’s and sweat pants.’ I didn’t get a picture of this sign, so you’ll just have to take my word for it…