Every week in our GetHiking! enewsletter — which is delivered free every Thursday afternoon — we have a main story, a rundown of all the upcoming hikes in our eight GetHiking! chapters in North Carolina and Virginia, a gear recommendation, a media review, a hiking tip. We also list a favorite resource, sometimes one we find invaluable in planning our hikes, sometimes one that leads us to information that can help enhance our time on the trail, and sometimes one that’s just fun, entertaining, quirky.
Today, we offer some of our favorite resources and explain why. Links to these resources are included.
Scouting, planning, execution
alltrails.com — Where we start when looking at a new trail or area to explore. Of all the crowd-sourced trail sites, we’ve found this one to be the most extensive and most accurate (though not 100 percent so). The free version provides access to the database of trails, including maps and elevation profiles. Go Pro and you can print out maps and download them to your mobile device for GPS tracking in the field. It also lets you map your own route.
Trail status, road conditions
Especially this time of year, when venturing into the high country it’s important to check ahead and make sure the trails, and the roads leading to them, are open. Here are some of the more prominent locations where you may find yourself seeking such information.
- North Carolina State Parks
- Croatan, Nantahala, Pisgah and Uwharrie National Forests
- Virginia State Parks
- Appalachian Trail
- Blue Ridge Parkway
- N.C. Department of Transportation
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- North Carolina State Parks
- North Carolina National Forests (Croatan, Pisgah, Nantahala, Uwharrie)
- Virginia Department of Transportation
- Shenandoah National Park
- Virginia National Forests (George Washington and Jefferson)
- Virginia State Parks
sunrise-sunset.org — Plug your location into the site and you can find, by date, the start of twilight, sunrise, sunset, end of twilight, day length, solar noon, and the start and end of both nautical twilight and astronomical twilight.
Leave No Trace — Most of us know the basic seven principles of Leave No Trace: 1. Plan Ahead and Prepare; 2. Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces; 3. Dispose of Waste Properly; 4. Leave What You Find; 5. Minimize Campfire Impacts; 6. Respect Wildlife; 7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors. But do you know what these seven principles entail? Be a better outdoorsy type by becoming better versed in the specifics of Leave No Trace, at the Center for Outdoor Ethics’s Leave No Trace website.
Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail — Looking to hike a portion of the 1,175-mile MST, which runs the length of North Carolina from Clingmans Dome on the Tennessee line to Jockey’s Ridge at the coast? The Friends site includes online guides to the entire trail, guides that tell you, mile by mile, where you can get on and off the trail, where there’s water, what the terrain is like and more. Some recommended day hikes are included.
Fire Weather Intelligence Portal —Developed by the State Climate Office of North Carolina, the Fire Weather Intelligence Portal provides current fire danger ratings throughout North Carolina for 13 states in the Southeast. It assesses fire danger by looking at relative humidity, air temperature, and wind speed and direction.
Campsite Assist — Finding a campsite at the last minute can be a tedious task, especially considering that campsites can be reserved up to a year an advance. But a lot of those reservations get canceled at the last minute, and when they are you can find them on Campsite Assist, a part of CampsitePhotos.com. In fact, they’ll even send you an alert for campsites you express an interest in.
A Virtual Wildflower Garden Across Time — Right about now’s the time spring wildflowers start popping up in the Piedmont. And if you don’t know a trout lily from a trillium, you need to bookmark this site. It helps you identify wildflowers by color, location and by when you’re most likely to see them. Invaluable for any lover of spring.
Skywatching — Is there anything more enthralling than the night sky? You gaze to the heavens on a clear, moonless night and realize — you have no idea what you’re looking at. Unless you have access to space.com‘s Skywatching page. What planets are visible, the constellations, the space station’s path — it’s all here.
General hiking information
Volunteer Vacations — Intrigued by the notion of a “vacation” where you work your behind off to improve the outdoor experience? If so, here’s good news: there are lots of opportunities out there and you can find them on the American Hiking Society’s Volunteer Vacations page.
American Hiking Society — A good resource for all things hiking, especially if you’re just starting out and find yourself full of questions.
National Trails Day — The first Saturday in June — that would be June 4 this year — we give back to the trails we love, through hundreds of projects nationwide designed to celebrate and enhance our trails. Start checking this site in May for an NTD event near you.
Hiking the AT for $400 — Thinking about hiking the Appalachian Trail? Then you likely have a few questions, questions that likely can be answered on the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s FAQ page.
Got a few minutes to kill?
fastestknowntimes.com — Until two years ago, FKTs — Fastest Known Times — were limited to the likes of the Appalachian Trail, the Mountains-to-Sea Trail … the big boys. Then the pandemic hit and people found themselves with a lot of free time and the only safe place to spend it outside. Outside, on the trail, going really fast, apparently, because now just about every trail you know has an FKT, which is likely documented here.
* * *
Interested in subscribing to our free weekly enewsletter? In it, you’ll find a man story examining some aspect of trail life, what hikes are upcoming in our eight GetHiking! chapters in North Carolina and Virginia, as well as gear recommendations, media reviews, hiking tips, and even more resources. Sign up by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.