Texas

Big and Proud
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Big Bend National Park

How Long: 19 miles
Found In: Chihuahuan Desert, TX
Which Is: Pretty far from everything, actually
Reader Story: Big Bend National Park is just about my favorite place…except maybe a hundred miles north in the Davis Mountains. I graduated from Rice University (B.S. Geology) and just started the PhD program at UT Austin. I thought, before I got going, that it’d be nice to take a solo trip in mid-June. It lasted about two weeks. I got lonely after a while, pinging around Ft. Davis, Alpine and Big Bend. Here are some photos from the trip. I shot them with a Holga 120 on Fujicolor Pro 400H because I’m an idiot and think it makes things look pretty.

I guess I’m kind of cheating, putting in two trails. Casa Grande is the big rock overlooking the Chisos Basin and the grassy looking one. It’s a straight hike up a talus slope and tons of fun. The century plant is the South Rim, because it’s famous and fun. The picture of me at the ranger station is after my very long day, where I did Pinnacles, Emory Peak, Northeast Rim, Southeast Rim, Southwest Rim and Laguna Meadows. Around 19 miles. I had an ice cream and tea to celebrate and was violently sick because I ate them too fast. The smile is because in that moment I felt great, the woman whom I asked to take a photo of me was very pretty, and I had no idea what was going to hit me in 15 minutes.
– Max Daniller-Varghese

Arkansas

The Natural State
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Eagle Rock Loop

How Long: 26.8 miles
Found In: Ouachita National Forest, Hot Springs, AR
Which Is: 2 hours 15 minutes west of Little Rock
Reader Story: Hello. I live in North East Texas, but for me and my buds, the best hike around is the Eagle Rock Loop in the Ouachita National Forest, Arkansas. It takes two to three days and is beautiful and challenging. It’s in a National Forest, so campfires are allowed near trail as long as it is dead wood. There’s trout fishing, the trail is remote for excellent stargazing (not near smog or cities), trees are aplenty for hanging hammocks and there are rock formations, waterfalls and great views.
– Charles Harding

Georgia

Home of the Masters
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Pine Mountain Trail

How Long: 23 miles
Found In: Pine Mountain, GA
Which Is: 90 minutes south of Atlanta
Reader Story: Growing up in the mountains of North Georgia it’s surprising that one of my favorite hikes is in the middle part of my state. The trail follows a ridge line that spans the length of FDR State Park. Lovely little waterfalls and excellent views of the flatland run along the entire length of this trail. At 23 or so miles, it’s a bit long for a normal day hike, but there are plenty of short and long loops to do. I hike the entire length normally in two days, as seen in the pictures with my wife, but if you are a quick hiker it can easily be done in a day (since you’re following a ridge the whole way there isn’t an enormous elevation gain).
– Zach Barbre

North Carolina

Home of the Research Triangle
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Hanging Rock State Park

How Long: 1.3 miles for the view
Found In: Danbury, NC
Which Is: About an hour north of Greensboro
Reader Story: Neither Mike or I have lived near the mountains, so first up on our list was to explore the Blue Ridge. I wanted to find an epic view and Hanging Rock offered that.

The day was hazy, but not warm. It felt as if it was the first cool day in the mountains in quite a while. Everything was lush from a lot of rain and humidity, but the air had that first wave of fall on it. It was perfect. The mist rose above the edge of the mountains. By the time we reached Hanging Rock the mist was subsiding. After visiting the falls we put the dogs back in the car so we could hike to the epic hanging rock view. We were worried about letting them explore too much because of the cliffs. It is an environment they are not used to because it is different from northern Michigan.

Mike and I began the 1.3-mile hike up the mountain, which was absolutely one of the best hikes I have done in a while. It was rugged and really fun to leap between rocks and walk along the cliffs. The rock formations along the wall were gorgeous. As someone who is incredibly in love with the Earth and how it was formed, I was loving the textures and colors coming from these formations. I just kept stopping to just take it all in (and catch my breath). Poor Mike thought I was crazy.

When we finally reached the top I felt overwhelmed by the beauty of North Carolina. The view was out of this world and may only be topped by our time in Cape Town when we hiked Lion’s Head. The colors were something only North Carolina can offer with the blue haze over the mountains, the lush green below, and the multilayered quartz under our feet. It was one of the most inspiring things I have seen this year.
– Mike and Megan Gilger via their blog

New Hampshire

Hike Free or Die

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Trails at Franconia Notch

How Long: Various
Found In: Flume Gorge, Lincoln, NH
Which Is: 90 minutes north of Manchester
Reader Story: Here’s my entry for the Franconia Notch, White Mountains, NH day hike. Awesome.
– Kunal Kapur

St. John, US Virgin Islands

Unincorporated Territory of beautiful beaches
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Reef Bay Trail/L’Esparance Trail Loop

How Long: 4.8 miles
Found In: St. John, USVI
Which Is: 90 miles east of San Juan, Puerto Rico
Reader’Story: Great 4.8-mile loop from near the highest point on the island to the sea and back up to another high point. Ancient petroglyphs, sugar mill ruins, and beautiful ocean views.
– Casey Carnes

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