Participate in Family Hiking Day to preserve, learn about the Appalachian TrailJoin a guided hike Sept. 28
Here in Western North Carolina, residents are fortunate to have a wide variety of hiking trails to discover and explore. There is the Mountains-to-Sea Trail that stretches more than 900 miles from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks; there is the Art Loeb Trail that meanders 30 miles through Pisgah National Forest; and there are countless shorter trails that enable hikers to see beautiful scenery, whether it is just for a few hours or on a longer backpacking trek.
Yet Madison County is unique because it has something that no other county in North Carolina has — approximately 60 miles of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.), the nation’s most famous, and first, footpath.
The A.T. stretches from Georgia to Maine and is about 2,180 miles in length. It is certainly made famous by the “thru-hikers” who attempt to complete the trail in its entirety in a single season, but the trail is also there for those who cannot commit to living in the woods for four to six months. There are plenty of opportunities for day and section hikes along the trail, whether you are a seasoned backpacker or you want to take your children on a short hike.
In fact, getting kids out there on the A.T. is one thing that is extremely important to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC). The ATC invites families to take a hike on the A.T. during the third Annual Family Hiking Day Saturday, Sept. 28. Held on National Public Lands Day, Family Hiking Day is a program developed by the ATC to introduce families to the A.T. and the benefits that come from spending time outdoors.
“The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is proud to host Family Hiking Day,” said Julie Judkins, community program manager for the ATC. “We are excited to engage families with the outdoors and invite them to experience the A.T.”
I’ll be leading a hike beginning at 10 a.m., departing from the Welcome Center in downtown Hot Springs. We will walk through town, head north on the A.T. to the top of the rock outcropping called Lover’s Leap and will then take the Lover’s Leap Trail to meet back up with the A.T. again. Along the way, we will get to walk beside the French Broad River and check out the views of the town from Lover’s Leap. The loop hike is only 1.6 miles, but there is a moderate-to-strenuous climb to the top of Lover’s Leap.
There is also a guided hike planned for the same day in the Max Patch area in Madison County. Scenery will include open meadows, shaded forests and the 360-degree views that Max Patch Bald is famous for. This hike will be a four-mile loop with a 500-foot elevation gain at the beginning to get to the top of the bald.
If you’d like to join the hike in Hot Springs, contact me at 380-9547. If you’d like to join the Max Patch hike, contact Kate Fisher at 606-9315 or Jan Onan at 606-5188 to sign up or for more information. There will be several carpools departing from the Asheville area.
Please consider taking advantage of one of these hikes on Family Hiking Day, or, if you’d rather plan your own route, there are countless trails in Western North Carolina to take advantage of. Family Hiking Day — or any day — is an opportunity to spend some time outdoors, create lasting memories and come to appreciate the protected public lands that we all too often take for granted.