There are 6 states that comprise the South region of the US – Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. It is a region that is filled with forests, swamps, and numerous waterways. More importantly, it is one of the supreme hiking/backpacking areas of the country with plenty of opportunities to choose from. The following is a break down of these states and the best areas for hiking and backpacking in this region.
Referred to as the “crown jewel of Southern hiking”, the state of Alabama offers a variety of beaches, beautiful mountain vistas, excellent rock formations, mixed wood forests, swamps, and waterfalls. You will find just about every type of hiking/backpacking and camping that you can possibly imagine being located in a single state. The best hiking/backpacking opportunities that you will find are located in 4 of the state’s national forests – Bankhead, Conecuh, Talladega, and Tuskegee.
Many local hikers and backpackers refer to the state of Arkansas as “the Land of Oz” and are making a reference to the Ozark Mountains. Others refer to their hiking and backpacking experiences in this state as nothing short of magical. The best opportunities for venturing through the outdoors are found in two national forests (Ouachita and Ozark) and the Buffalo National River (National Park).
Known primarily as the southern starting or finishing point of the renowned Appalachian Trail, the state of Georgia offers an abundance of hiking/backpacking venues to choose from. There are two National Forests, the Chattahoochee and Oconee, and three National Parks that are wilderness-related, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, and Cumberland Island National Seashore.
Although it is not considered one of the primary hiking/backpacking destinations in the south, the state of Louisiana has a number of backpacking trails that are well worth exploring. The central part of the state holds the state’s only National Forest and the best hiking opportunities. The state parks with suitable trails include Chicot State Park and Lake Fausee State Park.
You will be surprised by the hiking/backpacking trails that you find in this state. Not many Mississippi residents backpack so you may have any of the trails all to yourself. There are six National Forests in the state that hold the majority of the hiking and backpacking opportunities – Bienville, Delta, DeSoto, Holly Springs, Homochitto, and Tombigbee National Forests. So when the locals are either fishing or hunting, you’ll be able to enjoy a peaceful, uncrowded trek through any of these areas.
Of all the southern states, Tennessee is usually the first one that comes to mind for hiking and backpacking. Great Smokey Mountains National Park is where the majority of the out of state visitors flock to for backpacking, camping, fishing, and hiking. But if you talk to the locals, they will most likely tell you that you are missing the boat. You’ll want to explore the Cherokee National Forest and Tennessee State Park System which hold some little known trekking treasures for the avid backpacker and hiker.