Authored by Zubin Panday of Going Locations
The Appalachian Mountains are a place that I know far too well as I have lived in this region my whole life. I have traveled up and down the region several times and have seen some of the Appalachian Mountains’ best spots, that’s what I’ll be covering today.
The Appalachian Mountains are a mountain range that runs through 14 states along the East Coast of the United States. The easiest way to experience the mountain range is through the Appalachian trail, a 2,190-mile hike that runs from Maine to Georgia.
Many of the spots on this list involve the Appalachian trail, while others are only a few miles off. This list covers mountain towns, ski resorts, national parks, waterfalls, and even the world’s largest cave system.
So without further waiting, let’s jump right into the best places to visit in the Appalachian Mountains.
12 Great Places to Visit in the Appalachian Mountains
There’s no better way to start this list than by a small mountain town at the heart of the Smoky Mountains.
Gatlinburg Tennessee is arguably my favorite place in the Appalachian Mountains because of its charm and proximity to so much. This small town receives over 12 million visitors per year but still maintains its secluded and iconic feel.
The main attraction in the town is the Gatlinburg Skybridge, which is the longest suspension bridge in the United States. The bridge spans over 1,800 feet in length and suspends 140 feet over the forest floor.
Gatlinburg also boasts nearby ski slopes, a mountain coaster, scenic points, and zip lines. The town is under an hour away from Pigeon Forge with Dollywood, and under ten minutes from the Great Smoky Mountains, which we’ll cover below.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Under a mile from Gatlinburg will get you to the Great Smoky Mountains, a 522,000-acre national park receiving over 10 million visitors each year.
Hiking is the main thing here with over 150 trails spanning over 800 miles. Venture into the park to reach Clingmans Dome, one of the East Coast’s tallest peaks complemented by a huge circular-like structure.
Cades Cove on the west side of the park is one of the park’s few valleys and was home to many settlers before the national park’s formation.
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Shenandoah National Park is a place I’ve visited countless times. I’ve grown to love this place and all its scenery.
The park is within 75 miles of Washington DC, meaning that a day trip here is possible. Skyline Drive runs straight through the park and connects all of the best viewpoints by car.
The Blue Ridge Mountains stretch 600 miles and run through Shenandoah National Park, the mountains look blue from afar and are iconic. Luray Caverns is a must-see place to discover, four million years of evolution have created this cavern, the largest on the east coast.
Massanutten is a place I’ve visited countless times, this resort is home to ski slopes, hiking trails, a zipline, and even one of the largest indoor waterparks in the country.
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, Kentucky
Cumberland Gap is a spot filled with history, it was the first gateway to the West for the settlers with a history that dates back to the 1670s.
This spot brings you to the center of the Appalachian Mountains with the best views. The national park is split between three states: Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
Inside the park are many viewpoints including Pinnacle Overlook, a great chance to see the surrounding area. If you plan on visiting in the fall, overlooks like these will be just that much better.
New River Gorge National Park & Preserve, West Virginia
New River Gorge feels like a hidden gem in the heart of West Virginia. The national park backs onto New River and is famously known for one thing.
Just outside of Fayetteville is the New River Gorge Bridge, an incredible arch bridge spanning over 1,700 feet in length and 876 feet in height.
Of course, driving on the bridge is a highlight but viewpoints such as Long Point Overlook and Tunney Hunsaker Bridge provide even cooler views of the bridge.
Ithaca, New York
Ithaca feels like a small charming town centered right on the Finger Lakes. This town is in the heart of Upstate New York at the south edge of Cayuga Lake.
Cornell University is the most iconic part of the town, the University is ranked 12th in the nation and has stunning 1800s architecture.
Take a short drive to Watkins Glen State Park and hike Gorge Trail, the rock formations are crazy with stunning waterfalls.
Asheville, North Carolina
Whether you visit in winter, spring, summer, or fall, Asheville, North Carolina has got it all. This small charming town attracts over 10 million visitors every year eager to see the town and the surrounding Appalachian Mountains.
Several ski resorts are located under an hour’s drive from Asheville, a fantastic way to ski without the need to go north. The town is close to Pisgah National Forest, home to Mount Mitchell.
This is the tallest mountain on the East Coast at nearly 7,000 feet. The best part about this mountain is that you can drive up it, so the spectacular views from the top can be seen by everyone.
We can’t talk about the Appalachian Mountains without mentioning skiing. Stowe Mountain Resort is often considered the best ski resort on the East Coast. You have 40 miles of ski slopes spread out among 116 trails.
Stowe gets a crazy amount of snow per year meaning that most of the slopes consist of natural snow. The views from the top of the ski lifts are insane as the entire area is covered by a blanket of snow.
Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced skier, Stowe Mountain Resort is sure to give you a great time.
Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky
The name speaks for itself, Mammoth Cave National Park is the world’s longest cave system with over 400 miles explored. Take a tour and see this incredible underground marvel for yourself.
Lights are scattered throughout the cave with paved trails so that everyone can enjoy this place, you’ll be blown away by the size of this cave.
That’s not all at this park, as 70 miles of above-ground trails take you straight through the Kentucky forests. Mammoth Cave National Park is a great scenery change from mountains and is one worth visiting.
White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire
If you’ve ever heard about how beautiful New Hampshire is and want to experience it for yourself, this is the spot to visit.
White Mountain National Forest contains 750,000 acres of forests, mountains, ski resorts, and waterfalls, truly the best of New Hampshire. Mt Washington is the third tallest mountain on the East Coast at over 6,000 feet and is located inside of this National Forest.
Several hiking trails run up the mountain but what’s even better is that there’s a cog railway that leads to the mountain summit.
Just a short 10-minute drive from the park is Flume Gorge, an easy two-mile hike along the Pemigewasset River with stunning rock formations and waterfalls.
Natural Bridge State Park, Virginia
I originally was going to cover Natural Bridge State Park under the Shenandoah tab, but further thinking led me to give this incredible place a separate spot on our list.
Everyone visits here for one thing, to see the 215-foot-tall natural bridge. You can see this bridge up close and even go under it, the bridge looks the coolest at night when it glows with the lights.
This limestone structure was formed by the collapse of a cavern and further eroded by Cedar Creek. Cedar Creek trail starts from Natural Bridge and extends 36 miles providing an awesome hike. You’ll have a great time between these two activities.
Bear Mountain State Park, New York
Many of these places listed above aren’t really near any major city and often require a lot of effort and time to reach, that’s where Bear Mountain State Park comes in.
The park is under an hour and a half from the center of New York City, meaning that you can experience the Appalachian Mountains without the need to drive far or stay overnight. The state park is over 5,000 acres and backs onto the Hudson River.
Drive or hike up Bear Mountain to reach Perkins Memorial Tower, this place allows you to see 360-degree views of the park, Hudson River, and even New York City on a clear day.
The views are arguably my favorite on the entire East Coast as you can get views of the city and Appalachian Mountains at the same time.
As I’m writing this, some of the trails are closed due to a major storm so keep that in mind. If you want to visit an incredible spot in proximity to the largest city in the United States, Bear Mountain State Park is one I highly recommend.
I hope this blog post convinced you of how amazing the Appalachian Mountains are, it’s an underrated natural wonder. Whether you want to visit north or south, this mountain range is there waiting for you. So give the Appalachian Mountains a visit, I hope to see you there!