Best Nature Trails in The Mid-Atlantic and Southeast and What to Bring


Over the last several months, we’ve all had our fair share of being cooped up at home and watching way too many Netflix or Hulu series.  But, if you are like us here at The Good Stuff Unlimited, you’ve been trying to find as many opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors as you can.  One sure way to enjoy the splender and to “get your soul right” is to take advantage of a local nature preserve walk or a trail hike.  Hiking through the wilderness is not only a perfect way to see new parts of your home state but it is a wonderful way to improve both your mental and physical health.  Several studies show that a good nature walk or hike is scientifically proven to reduce stress levels and improve your mood.  According to the American Heart Association, a good walk in the woods can provide an array of benefits for:

  • Stress & Anxiety: Nature presents scenes that gently capture your attention instead of suddenly snatching it, calming your nerves instead of frazzling them.
  • Self-Involved: If you are stuck working through a problem and your mind is spinning, a walk through a meadow might put the brakes on the thought train circling through your head. Research shows that a 90-minute walk in nature lowers activity in the part of the brain linked to negative thoughts.
  • Fatigue: With all of the demands on our attention these days, your prefrontal cortex can only take so much distraction before it needs a recharge. Luckily, time in nature has been shown to restore mental abilities like short term memory and processing information.
  • Lack of Inspiration: Changing the scenery is a great way to get the creative juices flowing, and nature offers stimuli that you won’t find while staring at a screen. Some studies show that spending a few days in nature can improve problem-solving skills by 50%.  If you haven’t found a way to tackle that next big project at work, or an obstacle that’s impeding your personal goals, try noodling on it in the great outdoors.
  • Feeling Antisocial & Disconnected: Time in nature can help with your personal relationships and builds on your sense of belonging to the larger world at large.  Natural beauty also results in more prosocial behaviors, like generosity and empathy.
  • Angst: Especially in these crazy times, you might feel lost, and begin to wonder what life is all about. A dose of awe might remind you just how wondrous the world is.  

Another benefit is that most trails are free or very low cost to access accommodating any tight budget in these difficult times so money is not a good excuse for getting off your screen and out in to the “Big Man Upstairs'” splendor.  Do note that some of these trails, parks and nature centers rely of donations for a chunk of their budgets so please be generous if you are able.  Plus, you never know who'll you'll run in to.

So, whether it is for a much needed mental health cleanse or just a chance to enjoy some fresh air with family and friends, find a trail, get outside and hike!!  Putting in a little effort to explore new nooks and crannies in this beautiful blue ball we’re all on is certainly The Good Stuff! 

Where to go?

We found AllTrails to be a good online resource for exploring nature walk opportunities in places new to you across the country.  This site (and app) provides important details for each trail (i.e., distance, difficulty, facilities, fees (if any), etc) to help you select the right trail or walk for you and your crew. 

For those of us in the Mid-Atlantic to the Southeast, there are an amazing number of opportunities all around major towns just waiting to be explored.  Below, we highlight a few of our favorites or highly rated trails and nature walks near some of the region’s larger towns (we realize this only scratches the surface and doesn’t include some wonderful outdoor opportunities so consider this just a sample).  

Atlanta

Birmingham

Charlotte (click here for a great resource guide of over 1,600 miles of trails that are part of the Catawba Lands Conservatory)

Chattanooga (hard to pick from so many great options (over 150 miles of trails) so we’ve just listed a few)

Jacksonville

Nashville

What to Wear

One key step is to check the weather forecast before you decide what you’ll wear.  Seems simple enough but if you wait until the last minute, you may be scrambling to pull together the right apparel.  The two main variables to plan for are of course temperature and precipitation.  Below are some of the various outer wear options that should provide you the necessary choices for most conditions you’ll face, at least in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast. 

  • Outer wear: Good hiking layers are moisture-wicking, which means they dry quickly and move sweat away from your body and are typically made of polyester, nylon, or wool.  It’s best to avoid cotton and other heavy fabrics, like jeans, that are heavy and slow drying.  So, if you are like me, you’ll be soaked in sweat if you chose poorly here.  Go for comfort, breathability, and staying dry when you expect conditions to get a little wet.  For some highly rated, popular selections see links below: 

If you are planning on a longer walk / hike, we recommend taking a few essentials to include:

2020 has thrown us all a lot of curve balls to say the least and we all need our fair share of peace and tranquility.  So, take advantage of what Mother Nature has to offer and get outside – take a hike!!


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