The Black Mountains encompass North Carolina’s highest peaks, including Mt. Mitchell (6,684 feet) and Mt. Craig (6,645 feet), the two tallest summits east of the Mississippi River. On the 12-mile (one-way) Black Mountain Crest Trail (a 2 ½-hour drive from Charlotte), Craig is just one of a half-dozen peaks over 6,000 feet climbers get to bag. Leave the Mt. Mitchell State Park through a forest of hemlock, spruce, and pine, and within a mile, you’ll be atop Craig. This is the start of a magical ridge walk among ferns, blackberry bushes, moosewood, spruce, and fir as you climb up and down the serrated crest of the Blacks. Small gaps separate the peaks, where surging streams come tumbling down the dense vegetation. It’s best to take this path with a buddy and leave a second car at Bowlen’s Creek, the trail’s end.
Steve Jermanok As a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, adventure travel expert at Budget Travel, and regular contributor on outdoor recreation for Outside, Men’s Journal, Health, and Sierra, Steve Jermanok has written more than 1,000 articles on the outdoors.He’s also authored or co-authored 11 books, including Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England and Men’s Journal’s The Great Life. His latest book is Go Now! Put Your Life on Pause and See the World. He’s currently an adventure travel expert at Away.com and blogs daily at Active Travels.