Best wild caving in AL

Tumbling Rock is an incredible wild caving experience. There's so much to see and explore, and you could easily spend 6+ hours in this cave, just seeing the highlights on the way to and from Mt Olympus. I used to lead trips with UAB's outdoor program, and we'd run a couple trips to this cave every year, and it was always a favorite for trip participants. I'd definitely recommend going with a group that includes someone who's been before. This cave is massive, there are plenty of places to get turned around, and as Christian points out, it looks completely different on the way out, so always be mindful of your surroundings and make mental notes along the way as you consult a map. The Christmas Tree makes a good halfway point, where those who prefer to mostly hike or scramble and not squeeze through very tight spaces can opt to turn around. To continue beyond the Christmas Tree, you'll have to crawl through several tight spaces (one section is even called the Birth Canal). After several tight sections, with extended crawls, the passage will open up to massive chambers, where the cave ceiling is over 100 ft high in places. The scale is truly amazing. More scrambling will eventually get you to the base of Mt Olympus, and a very steep and muddy climb will get you to the top of what many consider to be the final turn around point (although technically you can veer right before Mt Olympus and get to a section called Tigers Teeth, but I've never done this and I've heard it's tough to find). At the top of Mt Olympus, be sure to sign the 'summit' notebook. And be very careful on your way down. One really awesome chamber to try and find is called the Inner Sanctum. Branching off the main passage somewhere between the Christmas Tree and Mt Olympus (near the opening where the final tight section opens up to a large main passage), reaching the Inner Sanctum requires a tight steep climb that will open up into a massive room. If there's a lot of water in the cave, there's even a small waterfall at one end of this room. You can continue climbing up several levels of the Inner Sanctum to enjoy the scale of this room. The waterfall in the Topless Dome is also referred to as King's Shower. You may want to wait to climb up the entrance to this giant shaft until you're on your way out of the cave, because you can easily get soaked here depending on the water levels. But it's well worth it. Definitely wear a helmet, and definitely bring a minimum of 3 light sources with extra batteries. Let someone know when you plan to enter and exit the cave. Keep in mind that although it's only about 2 miles into the back of the cave, any serious injury would require a very involved rescue that could take a full day or possibly more. This is a really incredible place to explore, and it feels like such a hidden gem. Be prepared and have a great time!

John Sides

over 1 year ago

Epic, but be prepared

Longs Peak is one truly epic 14er. As RMNP's only 14er, this peak gets a lot of attention, and as a result a lot of traffic. Go on a weekday to avoid the crowds. If you're a non native to Colorado like me, be sure you know what you're getting into before you attempt to reach the summit. Getting from the trailhead to the Keyhole is a very strenuous hike, and it's from this point to the summit that the route becomes more technical with a good deal of exposure in some places. Pace yourself and bring plenty of water. When we first started planning to climb Longs Peak, I found this article pretty helpful: https://rootsrated.com/stories/10-thing-know-hiking-longs-peak

Scenic solitude

My wife and I hiked to Bluebird Lake as a long day hike, taking our time and stopping off at Ouzel Falls and Ouzel Lake on the way. By the time we reached this epic alpine lake, it was late afternoon and we had the whole place to ourselves, even with Labor Day weekend crowds all throughout other parts of RMNP. We scrambled around the side of Bluebird Lake and on up to Lark Pond. I wish we'd had more time to see Pipit Lake and scramble to the top of Ouzel Peak.

Best way to see the Taipei skyline

Elephant Mountain offers a quick nature escape from the city with some of the best views of the Taipei skyline and particularly the impressive Taipei 101 (formerly the tallest building in the world). This is a great short hike but you can also connect to a larger network of trails if you want to make it a day trip. When we did this hike in January, the skies were unusually hazy which just makes me want to go back the next time I'm in Taiwan when it's better weather (and after seeing this post, I'd love to go at night!). If you're visiting Taipei, you should add this quick hike to the bucket list.

Great day trip

This is a really cool spot for a quick day hike. We hiked around Pilot Mountain for a few hours. The Jomeokee Trail has some really nice overlooks and great views of the impressive cliffs. We passed a few rock climbers, and also enjoyed watching hawks riding the wind above the cliff tops. Climbing and camping are available within the state park with permits.

John Sides

about 2 years ago

A favorite spot at Oak Mountain State Park

If you're visiting Oak Mountain State Park, a quick hike to see Peavine Falls is definitely worth it. From the South Trailhead, you can reach the falls in a half mile. From trailhead to the top of the falls the trail is wide, with a very moderate descent. Getting down to the base of the falls, the trail is steeper but still very doable for most families. As described, the falls is often just a trickle, but I have very rarely seen it completely dried up. To find it looking like the photos above you'll need to plan your trip after heavy rains. Even when the falls have a small amount of water, the pool and creek at its base are a great place to relax. If you want to add a bit more hiking than going directly to the falls and back, you can take the Green trail from Peavine Falls parking lot. Connect to the White trail, turning back towards Peavine Falls, and you'll eventually intersect the Blue trail at the top of the falls.

Several impressive waterfalls

Waterfalls along the scenic Sipsey River make this canyon area an awesome spot to hike or camp overnight. Fall Creek Falls is one of the most impressive waterfalls, and is a great place to hike to as an out-and-back along Sipsey River trail (209). There are some nice campsites along trail 209 that are first come first serve.

A destination you've got to earn

Hiking from String Lake to Holly Lake is no joke. Fortunately Paintbrush Canyon is stunning, and the scenery will help distract you as you climb. Holly Lake is so peaceful, and would be an incredible place to camp if you manage to get a permit. I've been here in late July with a significant snowfield just beyond Holly Lake the prevented climbing up Paintbrush Divide without an ice axe, but I've also seen it in early August totally clear of snow.

John Sides

about 2 years ago

Massive

It's tough to get a true sense of scale until you're standing near the bottom of this 180 foot waterfall! I've heard that the massive boulder that sits to the left at the base of the falls came plummeting over the top with powerful floodwaters after an upstream dam broke back in the 1970s.

Stunning

Noccalula Falls is located in the middle of a park, so it's not going to have the same feel as finding a place like this in the backcountry. But views from the top are quite impressive, nonetheless, and the waterfall certainly won't disappoint! The best way to experience the falls is to hike down to the base and behind the falls.

John Sides

about 2 years ago

Add-on hike to your Clingman's Dome visit

This hike is easily accessible from Clingman's Dome, which makes it a great add-on if you're making the drive out to the lookout. We did this as a quick hike before the sunset. The open views from the bald are awesome, but I think I actually enjoyed hiking through the very scenic spruce-fir forest to get there, the most. One of my favorite features of the southern Appalachians.

Other worldly

Artist Paint Pots includes a variety of geothermal features along its boardwalk trail, including small hot springs, steam vents, and of course the paint pots themselves, which are essentially boiling mud (a warning sign on the boardwalk reads "Caution: hot flying mud!"). I'd recommend making this stop for a quick hike when driving the main loop through the park.

Easy hike that's definitely worth it!

The majority of tourists who visit Yellowstone will only see the main attractions the park has to offer, and for good reason, because this incredible place has so much to offer and it's impossible to see it all on a short trip! That means that hikes like this one are the perfect way to break up your day from the highlights that everyone else will see. Mystic Falls sits in a beautiful little canyon, and it's a lot of fun to hike up to and scramble over the rocks near the falls. If you continue hiking up past the falls, you can go another mile or so to a nice overlook that looks down on the Biscuit Basin area, with Old Faithful visible in the distance.

Ascend towards Mt. Rogers

I've done this hike twice as part of multi-day backpacking trips around Mt. Rogers, and several ponies were right beside the trail both times. I'm sure planning it just right to be here when the Rhododendron are blooming would be spectacular, but I've also heard that it gets really crowded during that time for that reason. If you're looking to hike with less crowds, I'd suggest shoulder season, like November or March, when temps will be colder and you may even see some snow!

Lesser known waterfall

This spot feels like a well kept local secret. From the surroundings woods, which are mostly flat and nothing spectacular you'd never guess a 90 foot waterfall is hidden inside. The trail takes you close to the top of the falls, where a small creek plunges over the overhanging shelf. I imagine this falls would be really spectacular after heavy rains!

Great waterfall

High Falls is an impressive waterfall and a great local spot for cliff jumping. We climbed out onto some of the rocks just across from the main waterfall. If you're jumping from any of the cliffs make sure the rope's in good shape, and be sure you're jumping into the deepest sections.

Nature escape

Massive boulders, a great trail system, streams and waterfalls are all protected and hidden away in this beautiful preserve, just miles from the city. Lots of options for the whole family.

What a waterfall!

This is one of the most unique waterfalls I've ever seen. The water rushes out of cave at the top, pouring over the 100+ foot cliffs and then disappears into an underground cave below. An incredible place to hike to!

John Sides

about 2 years ago

Fun rappel

This is an awesome place for rappelling. Some nice top rope options as well. If you're at Cheaha, this quick hike to a great view is definitely worth it!

Some of the best mountain biking in the Southeast

I can too easily take Oak Mountain State Park for granted because it's in my hometown. Met some guys who drove down from Ohio for the weekend just to ride the trails here. This is seriously some of the best mountain biking in the Southeast. Favorite sections are Mr. Toads, Rattlesnake Ridge, and Lake Trail. Hope to eventually work up to some of the more technical trails like Blood Rock or Jekyll n Hyde, which I've heard are a lot of fun.

A good kind of city buzz

Sometimes it's nice to have solitude in the woods. But there's also something exciting about sharing a day outside with a bustling city. The Beltline is a great way to do that, getting outside and being active alongside fellow walkers, runners, bikers and more. We hopped on the Beltline around Midtown and walked down to Ponce City Market, which was awesome. Would love to go back and run or bike it in the future!

Rewarding views!

Just did this hike last weekend. This is a great day hike, with some really rewarding views. Shanty Spring is a nice lunch or snack stop, and is a reliable water source, if you've got a filter. Just before you get to Calloway Peak, be sure to stop off at the Watauga View overlook just .1 mile from the summit. Up at the top of Calloway Peak, the exposed rocky sections of trail and the ladders are really fun, and lead to the best views on the mountain. The hike took us about 4 hours round trip at a pretty comfortable pace.

The best way to see Grand Teton National Park

This thru-hike is full of spectacular scenery from start to finish, and takes you through some of the park's most beautiful canyons, to several pristine alpine lakes, and up and over some very challenging, yet incredibly rewarding, mountain passes. The constantly impressive views mean you really can't go wrong with choosing campsites. If you aren't pressed for time, an alternative to the Teton Village tram is to hike up Granite Canyon. You're likely to have more solitude on this less travelled trail, and while it is quite a bit of elevation gain up to Marion Lake, it's got some really nice camping options, and Granite Canyon is really beautiful. Either way, hiking from south to north is definitely the way to go. Water is available near most campsites, though there's a stretch for several miles along the Death Canyon shelf where it can be scarce. Always check with the backcountry rangers for trail conditions, as Paintbrush Divide's permanent snow field may require the use of an ice axe until late summer.

Destination hike

The round rock structure of the tower and 360 degree views from its porch make Mt Cammerer an awesome place to hike to. Unfortunately it was quite hazy when we were there due to wildfires, but a great view nonetheless. Continuing north along the AT and taking a left onto the Lower Mount Cammerer trail allows you to do this hike as a 16-mile loop, for a challenging day hike. Or for an overnight, camp at backcountry site 35. It's huge! Don't be fooled by the first small site you come to. On the other side of the trail are sites 35B, C, and D. Very flat, tons of space, and you may even have it all to yourself. Lower Mount Cammerer stays mostly wooded, so not a lot of views of the valley below, but it offers really nice solitude.