Just outside of Louisville, past the suburbs and side streets, live the Appalachian mountains. Encouraged by the hills, valleys, and forests of the greater Kentucky region, generations of outdoor enthusiasts have taken advantage of the amazing camping, hiking, and biking found here. While there are many fun trails and outdoorsy destinations close to town, the true adventures lie just a few hours from the big city—the Great Smoky Mountains or out in the Big South Fork National Recreation Area. Heading outdoors during the spring is the ideal way to reconnect with nature after a long winter.
No trip from Louisville into the outdoors is complete without first stopping by the outdoor leaders at Quest Outdoors. Since 1983, this store has become a cornerstone for out-of-town outdoor adventures. Offering the best gear and customer service that is second-to-none, Quest Outdoors is the place to find everything you need to get you stoked to get out and explore.
The shop is also one of the state’s premiere Osprey Packs dealers and has Osprey’s new hydration reservoir that will keep you quenched throughout your hike or ride. Quest Outdoors also sells the Volt and Viva packs, which are the perfect bags to load up for your camping or backpacking adventures. With your new gear in tow, and helpful tips from the dedicated employees at Quest Outdoors, the world is yours for the taking.
The first trip everyone needs to take to get excited about the increasingly warm and dry weather needs to be to Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Four hours from the hustle and bustle of downtown Louisville, America’s most-visited national park is sure to intrigue your sense of adventure.
There are a ton of trails to choose from once you get here, but one of the best underrated trails is the hike to the top of Mount Sterling. The trail is steep, gaining a few thousand feet in just 2.8 miles, but it has the absolute best views in the Smokies, and during the spring becomes a wildflower wonderland thanks to putty rock orchids and rhododendrons.
Smell the sweet aroma of sassafras as you work your way up to the rocky summit and enjoy the sweeping panoramic views in every direction. Be sure you don’t miss the views from the top of the rickety old fire lookout, which was built in 1935; the views of the region are stunning and not to be missed. If you are looking for more of a challenge, you can make this a 22-mile loop hike by starting at the Big Creek Campground and making your way up and around.
Biking trails in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park are limited, but roads in the park can be quite awesome and family-friendly. The most popular biking area near the park is the Cades Cove Loop Road. At 11 miles, this is an extremely easy-to-follow biking path along one of the park’s scenic roads. The mountain views and possible sightings of deer, elk, fox, and even black bear, make the biking here hard to beat. During the spring, wildflowers give your eyes and nose a reminder that summer is just around the corner. Starting in May and lasting into September, the road is closed to allow car-free biking before 10am.
South of Louisville, in the Big South Fork River and Recreation Area of southern Kentucky and northern Tennessee, adventures abound. If you haven’t ever explored Big South, then you must trek along the 5.6-mile trail to see the beauty and wilderness at Angel Falls. Yes, you might have heard of this place since it is one of the most popular and photographed regions in the park, but it’s for good reason. Views of the waterfall tumbling down into the majestic creek are awe inspiring. For a longer hiking option, you can make this a 12.4-mile hike by following the Grand Gap Loop for 6.8 miles before it reconnects at the Angel Falls Trail.
If you’d rather travel by bike, then the park’s highlight is the 33.1-mile All 5 Ride IMBA Epic, which is made up of five different trails within the park’s 125,000-acre reserve. For all but the jaded mountain biker, this trail lives up to the name, and is 85% singletrack through rhododendrons, rock-filled forests, scenic gorges, and jaw-dropping views. Be sure to fill your Osprey Viper 13 with snacks and your camera, take your time riding along this trail, and witness the beauty of southern Kentucky and Northern Tennessee in all its splendor.
via Roots Rated