Hiking: Where to beat the heat

The following is a rejiggering of a piece that originally ran Aug. 6, 2014, titled, “Summer Hiking: Beat the Heat.”

Appalachian Trail

Some of us don’t mind hiking in the heat. Switch to cotton, freeze your water bottle overnight, use your trekking poles as spider web vanquishers … . Sure, you work up a nice glow. But you’re on the trail, and really, it’s not unbearable.
We recognize, though, that not everyone is inclined to keep on hikin’ after Memorial Day. We also recognize that as August approaches, the aforementioned cool-weather hikers are starting to undergo withdrawal. You get out your phone and stare longingly at those photos from the beginning of the year, when you were bundled in fleece. Ah, the good cold days.
We can’t magically make it cold. But we can direct you to some hikes where it feels less like summer. In some cases, a lot less. As a rough rule of thumb, the temperature drops about 3.5 degrees for every 1,000 feet of elevation. So if it’s 90 in Raleigh (elevation 315 feet), it’s in the upper 60s atop Mount Mitchell (elevation 6,684 feet).
Lesson one: hike higher, hike cooler.
Lesson two: you needn’t go as high, provided you’re hiking near cool waters. Waterfalls, pools on mountain creeks, that sort of thing.
With those two guiding points in mind, we offer 10 high country spots where fair weather hikers can stretch their legs without working up a flop sweat.
You might even want to take along a fleece.
Learn more about those hikes, here. Or, consult the entries listed in either “Backpacking North Carolina” or “100 Classsic Hikes in North Carolina.”

  1. Shuckstack/Lost Cove/Lakeshore Loop, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 11.6 miles (Trip No. 21 “Backpacking North Carolina”).
  2. Harper Creek/North Harper Creek Loop, 13.6-mile loop, less for an out-and-back Wilson Creek Area, (Trip No. 9, “Backpacking North Carolina”).
  3. Huntfish Falls, 16.4 miles with shorter options, Wilson Creek Area (Trip No. 8, Backpacking North Carolina”).
  4. Clingmans Dome, 26.2 miles, Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Trip No. 19, “Backpacking North Carolina”).
  5. Shining Rock Wilderness, various lengths (Trips 14, 15 and 16, “Backpacking North Carolina”).
  6. Mountains-to-Sea Trail through Graveyard Fields, 3.2 miles, Blue Ridge Parkway (Milepost 418.8) (Hike No. 62, “100 Classic Hikes in North Carolina”).
  7. Basin Cove, Doughton Park, various from 8.5 to 20+ miles, Blue Ridge Parkway (Trip No. 11, “Backpacking North Carolina”).
  8. Pink Beds, 5 miles, Pisgah National Forest near Brevard (Hike No. 80, “100 Classic Hikes in North Carolina”).
  9. Mount Mitchell, various lengths & options, Black Mountains (Trips 1, 2, 3, “Backpacking North Carolina”).
  10. Panthertown Valley.


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