Your East Coast Nature Destinations
Dupont State Forest — Cedar Mountain, NC
Located near Brevard, North Carolina, at the edge of Transylvania County is Dupont State Forest. Home to Triple Falls, High Falls, and Hooker Falls, the Dupont State Forest is full of easy trails and relaxing pools where you can swim, hike, and explore. This mountain area is popular for tourists and locals alike during the summer,so come early if you want a parking spot. I recommend this place if you like to swim, as the base of the falls has plenty of shallow space to wade (but watch out for rocks) and cool off on a hot day. The trails are dog — and horse — friendly, too, so don’t worry about leaving your fur babies behind.
If you have extra time, Pisgah National Forest is a popular stop too and is just a short drive from Dupont State Forest. Pisgah is home to the famous Sliding Rock, which is open year-round during daylight hours. It’s just how it sounds: a natural water slide formed in a huge rock formation. The water is cold, but the thrill is worth the chill.
Rock City/Ruby Falls — Lookout Mountain, GA &
While you’re in the mountains, why not make a stop at Lookout Mountain on the Georgia/Tennessee border? Ruby Falls (left) is an underground walking tour beneath Lookout Mountain, and while you’re down there you can see the original explorers’ path beneath the mountain, along with the awe-inspiring underground waterfall at the end of the tour. It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
After Ruby Falls, make your way to the top of Lookout Mountain to enjoy Rock City! Intricate stone pathways and adorable gnome villages await you in the Rock City Gardens and Fairyland Caverns. There are breathtaking views and wonderfully inventive fairy tale sculptures here, along with small shops and a mountaintop restaurant. This place is perfect for kids and adults alike, and just a short drive from downtown Chattanooga.
Cumberland Island National Seashore — St. Mary’s, GA
If you’re not one for mountains, then Cumberland Island is the place to be. Located off the coast of St. Mary’s, Georgia, this national seashore is your ultimate stop for hiking, biking, sight-seeing, or camping. Cumberland Island has a long history and is now a protected property in order to preserve its landmarks and environment. Home to feral horses and a popular stop for manatees along its shores, Cumberland is a haven for wildlife. Visitors are welcome to walk/bike freely around the island (except where people still live on the island), or take group tours to the major landmarks, including an interior tour of the grand Plum Orchard Mansion and a stop at the wharf to look for dolphins and manatees along the shore. Ferries travel daily between St. Mary’s and Cumberland Island during the summer season, so reserve your seats ahead of time, it’s a gorgeous place and worth a day trip.
Myrtle Beach — Myrtle Beach, SC
As the hub of the Grand Stand, a 60-mile string of beaches on the east coast, Myrtle Beach is not only a gorgeous spot to relax but a vibrant tourist area as well. With the Skywheel (below) right along the beach and unique restaurants, arcades, and shops up and down the boardwalk, there are plenty of things to do to stay busy while visiting. The beach has plenty of space for the whole family and soft
sands to stretch out and catch some sun. And Myrtle Beach provides beach-accessible wheelchairs if needed, so there’s no excuse to not enjoy the sun and sand here.
Taughannock Falls State Park — Ithaca, NY
Last but not least on this list is a bit further north, in Ithaca, New York. Taughannock Falls State Park is truly a wonder, spanning 750 acres and home to Taughannock Falls, which towers at 215 feet high. If you like hiking, this is the place for you (and your dog). Taughannock offers gorge and rim trails, along with camping, swimming, and even skiing in the winter. There’s no limit to what you can see and do here, and the streams and ponds are gorgeous in the cold months when everything has frozen over. They even have cabins overlooking Cayuga Lake, if roughing it isn’t your style. So grab your friends, your family, or just yourself and take a drive up north and become one with nature (or just escape for a while).
Originally published at TravelPRIDE.