Planning your Appalachian Trail Road Trip (INFOGRAPHIC)
Road trips are an American institution - pile your friends and family into the car with a map and a playlist and set out on an adventure. A tour of the Smoky Mountains, on the iconic Appalachian Trail, provides sublime scenery and plenty of opportunities for hiking.
This road trip will deepen your knowledge of American history and geography. The Appalachian Trail passes through 14 states, including Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Maine, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. But the best driving routes are the Skyline Drive in Virginia, and the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina.
Skyline Drive is a 100-mile route located between Interstates 66 and 64. It will take you through the northern portion of Virginia and runs along the crest of Shenandoah National Park. You can end your ride along this scenic route at Calf Mountain where you can take in panoramic views of the national park.
For a lengthier road trip, check out the Blue Ridge Parkway. It spans 469 miles in western North Carolina from the Blue Ridge to the Black Mountains. The end of the road stops at Great Smoky Mountains National Park located at the state border between North Carolina and Tennessee.
You can cruise easily from the Blue Ridge to the Black Mountains in your vehicle, but if you're dreaming of hiking the entire Appalachian Trail, be aware that the distance is the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest 16 times! Less that 15,000 hikers have completed the task.
You may want to go for the adventure of scaling the peaks of Mt. Rogers or Mt. Katahdin. Or take a different kind of trip: Seek out kitschy roadside attractions, like Dinosaur Land in White Post V.A., or if you prefer high culture, stop for a tour of an American stately home, the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C. And if you're in need for inspiration for road trip games or songs, look no further than our guide to planning the ultimate Appalachian Trail road trip.
More details on the must-see stops:
Put your wilderness skills to the test with a hike along the Appalachian Trail. Be sure to go climbing at Tallulah Gorge where you can also take in canyon views.
The gorge is 2 miles long and nearly 1,000 feet deep. You can really get your adrenaline pumping by taking a walk across the suspension bridge that hangs 80 feet above the rocky bottom. There's a path in Tallulah Gorge State Park that follows an old railroad bed, making it a perfect stop if you have a little one in a stroller that you want to take out for an adventure. Mountain bikers can access a challenging 10-mile trail in the park.
One sight that everyone should see in their lifetime is the site of the Battle of Gettysburg where Union and Confederate soldiers fought during the Civil War. Gettysburg is where President Abraham Lincoln gave his famous "Gettysburg Address." It was the bloodiest battle of the Civil War and is often known as the "High Water Mark of the Rebellion."
Asheville is has a thriving culinary scene and an artistic community. There are a variety of eateries located in Asheville that range from Mediterranean to Southern cooking that are sure to satisfy any foodie's palate.
The trendy city's culinary culture is one-of-a-kind and the farm-to-table movement will have you craving more. There are more than 250 independent restaurants, cafes and bakeries. The blossoming beer scene in Asheville has earned the city the nickname "Beer City, USA." Be sure to visit any one of the 18 craft breweries in Asheville including the Highland Brewing Company.
One site that should be on your list of things to do in Asheville is a visit to the Biltmore Estate. This large private estate was home to the Vanderbilt family and is a massive mansion with 250 rooms. You can tour the grounds and learn more about the family that once lived there.
Your trip along the Appalachian Trail will take you through northern Virginia where you should stop and dive into the prehistoric past at Dinosaur Land. This popular attraction in White Post boasts more than 50 dinosaurs and allows visitors to take a closer look at what the world was like when dinosaurs roamed.
Be sure to take the trip to the top of Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeastern U.S. It stands at 6,288 feet and is a home to the Mount Washington Observatory. Don't forget to get the popular bumper sticker to prove you ventured to the top of the peak that's been inhabited by the U.S. Signal Service and Mount Washington Observatory since 1870.
When you're in Maine, take a hike up Mount Katahdin at Baxter State Park. The mountain is the highest peak in the state at an elevation of 5,269 feet and is the centerpiece of the park. There are nine trails on Mount Katahdin, and Hunt Trail is located on the Appalachian Trail, so you won't be diverted too far from your route when you stop for a hike.
And dont forget to perfect your playlist...
Music lovers shouldn't go on a road trip along the Appalachian Trail without the perfect country playlist. Be sure to add these Applachian themed songs to your list
• Allman Brothers - "Southbound"
• Willie Nelson - "On The Road Again"
• Lucinda Williams - "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road"
• Dolly Parton - "My Tennessee Mountain Home"
Rentals in the North Carolina Mountains