6 Reasons Why The South Is America’s Most Underrated Adventure Playground

Discover the country's best-kept secret.

By: Christin Healey
February 23, 2016

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As an avid outdoors woman who grew up in the Florida Keys and has lived in Virginia for the past 7 years, I have truly learned to appreciate all the joys of exploring and playing in the South. Admittedly, I travel out west often for some epic explorations, but the beauties of the South will always have a special place in my adventure-loving heart. Here are a few reasons why…

1. Fewer Crowds

Hike to Bearfence Mountain | Photo: Christin Healey

Aside from certain iconic spots on the A.T., most places that you adventure to in the South are relatively quiet. If you head out during the winter months, this is even more true. Even the most visited National Park in the US, Great Smoky Mountains, has lots of quiet places if you are willing to walk in just a few short miles. So if quiet trails, with the sounds of birds chirping, and deer walking by to keep you company are your thing, there is plenty of this to go around in the South.

2. Less Planning

Camp at Bear Rocks | Photo: Christin Healey

Unlike many very popular places out west, you rarely need to plan in advance for a permit in the South. So not only are permits free, there are no lottery systems for overcrowded areas. You generally can just fill one out right at the trailhead, pack your bag and go. So throw some caution to the wind, rally your crew, and get spontaneous!

3. Instant Friends

Hike to Spy Rock | Photo: Christin Healey

The South is known for its hospitality for a reason: people are just plain nice! Add that to the fact that there are admittedly fewer people hitting the trails, slopes, and rivers, and this small, tight knit group of adventurers that reside in the warmer climates will usher you into the circle of trust with open arms. Plus, who doesn’t love grandma’s cornbread and lemonade served up on an inviting porch post-hike? This is a stereotype that I have experienced on more than one occasion in this lovely area.

4. Year-Round Accessibility

Explore Skyline Drive in Winter | Photo: Christin Healey

Ever waited impatiently for road access to open back up to your favorite trail or overnight? Well, head to the South and cruise on up to your go-to adventure spot any time of the year. Warmer days and less snow can have its advantages!

5. Blaze New Trails

Backpack Three Ridges Loop | Photo: Christin Healey

Let’s face it, social media channels are flooded with images of Half Dome and Maroon Bells (and really, I totally get why!), but you don’t always feel like you are exploring new territory when you are navigating these places. Even the most popular places in the South are represented far less than areas out west, so you can venture out finding new stunning locales of your very own. And what explorer doesn’t crave making their own way :)

7. Longer Backpacking Season

Backpack Rocky Mount in Shenandaoh National Park | Photo: Christin Healey

Yes, I camp in the winter. However, it is certainly not as easy or carefree as throwing on a pair of shorts, a lightweight tent, and a few layers to hit the backcountry. Most of the best spots out west have only a few months to enjoy the relaxing days of summer camping, but in the South, there are generally only a few months of truly cold weather camping. If you are headed way down south, December and January can be some of the best months for backpacking. And really, how can you argue with the maximum number of summer nights?

So next time you are submitting your name in a lottery system for that Instagram-gold image that you have been drooling over for months, or it’s just too cold to deal, consider throwing caution to the wind and discover some of the best that the South has to offer. Enjoy y’all!

Cover photo: Christin Healey

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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.