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American Landscapes: Southern Parks

Swamps, mountains, caves, and hot springs in the South!

  • 18
  • 61:04
  • $392
  • 3,684 mi

Created by Airstream - January 13th 2016

The South conjures up images of small towns and quaint traditions, but there's more to this part of the country than its distinctive culture: There's also endless beauty to be found here. From the swampy forests of Florida's Everglades to the endless, misty terrain in Tennessee's Great Smoky Mountains to the mysteries waiting to be discovered within Kentucky's Mammoth Cave, the South's charm can be found in more than just its hospitality!

4.0

Hopkins, SC

Promoted to National Park status in 2003, Congaree National Park is one of the newer units in the Parks system. People have been campaigning for its protection since the late 60s, though, and there's a good reason why: There's not a ton of swampland left in South Carolina, and with swampland comes all kinds of incredible stuff you can't find anywhere else in the country, like glowing mushrooms, wild pigs, and canoe trips through lush greenery.

1
Mistletoe State Park Campground

Mistletoe State Park Campground is located on Clarks Hill Lake, which provides loads of water-related fun. If you just need a quick place to stay the night, you can rent out one of their campsites or cabins; drift off to sleep while listening to the water lap against the lakeshore. If you have a little extra time to spend here, take in a hike through the forest, or rent a canoe for some bass fishing!

2
Cheaha State Park

Located in the woodland beauty of the Talladega State Forest, Cheaha State Park offers hiking and some of the most stunning scenic overlooks in the country. If you stop here, make a point to take the trails to either Bunker Tower or the overlook at Bald Rock Trail. You'll also find campsites and even a hotel with private chalets for rent, if you're feeling fancy.

3
Graceland RV Park & Campground

You can't drive past Memphis without stopping at the city's most famed attraction: Elvis Presley's Graceland. Luckily, there's a RV park and campground located within walking distance of the icon's former home. After you've explored the estate of the legendary musician, come back to the campground to swim in the pool, make use of the free Wi-Fi, or just roast some s'mores while having an Elvis sing-a-long around the campfire!

4
Pinnacle Mountain State Park

Whether you want to take it easy and stroll along the Arkansas Trail through the Arkansas Arboretum, or you'd rather take one of the two trails that ascend the peak of Pinnacle Mountain, this state park provides loads of gorgeous views. It's one of Arkansas's most popular spots for a day of hiking, and it's not hard to see why!

5
4.1

Hot Springs, AR

Hot Springs National Park is easily one of the country's most unique National Parks. It's located in an urban area in the city of Hot Springs, Arkansas. You can find the hot springs in the "Bathhouse Row" area in downtown. The park was established in the 1920s, about 100 years after the city of Hot Springs had popped up to turn the more than 40 geothermal pools into a tourist destination. You can still soak in some of the springs, or hike through the forests, or simply enjoy the old architecture of the bathhouses and the site's fascinating history.

6
Burgess Falls State Park

There's nothing more rewarding than a hike to a waterfall, and the trail 136-foot Burgess Falls in Tennessee is no exception. The waterfall for which the park is named isn't the only waterfall to be found in the state natural area, either: The Falling Water River offers several falls, which you can view from the 1.5-mile trail through the park.

One of the country's most popular National Parks, the Great Smoky Mountains is also one of the country's most beautiful. Rolling mountains, serene valleys, and cozy historic cabins abound, so whether you're hiking to Clingmans Dome or cruising around Cade's Cove, the views and the feeling of serenity are unbeatable.

8
4.4

Brownsville, KY

Who would have guessed that the world's longest system of caves would be in Kentucky, a state mostly known for horse racing and bourbon? Mammoth Cave National Park encompasses a system of caverns more than 400 miles long, and the NPS offers various tours, which provide different ways to experience the beauty of the caves. Below the surface, you'll find frozen waterfalls, dripstones, crystals, stalactites, stalagmites, and tons more... not something you get to see every day!

9
New River Gorge Bridge

West Virginia, also known as the Mountain State, is loaded with rugged, wild beauty. One place where man has managed to tame the wilderness is at the New River Gorge Bridge. At 876 feet tall and 3,000 feet long, it offers quite a view from the top. The bridge is so cool that it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places after only 36 years; most locations on the NRHP don't earn a spot until they're at least 50 years old. Either drive across the bridge and soak in the surroundings, or book a tour with the New River Gorge Bridge Walk, which takes you onto the catwalks inside its steel frame.

10
4.5

Luray, VA

Visiting the mountains of Shenandoah National Park never gets old. The Virginian hills are filled with history and hidden gems that make them exciting to explore. It's simultaneously peaceful and exciting, just like the feeling you get after hiking to the top of a mountain and looking out over the valley (which you can and should do while visiting the park). Stony Man Mountain, Skyline Drive, and Old Rag Mountain are some of the best ways to explore the park's stunning scenery.

11
Chimney Rock State Park--Rumbling Bald

Chimney Rock State Park's main attraction is the magnificent, 315-foot mountain formation that gives the park its name. The 25-minute hike to the top along the Outcroppings Trail (also known as the "Ultimate Stairmaster") features 491 steps, but the effort is all worth it once you reach the peak, called Exclamation Point (so punny!). From the top you can take in the breathtaking views-- you can see 75 miles of pure Blue Ridge beauty here. The rock also hides a secret 26-story elevator inside, in case you're not up for the hike but don't want to miss the scenery.

12
Santee Lakes Campground

Located on the shores of South Carolina's lovely Lake Marion, the Santee Lakes Campground is the perfect place to spend a day relaxing while exploring the natural beauty of the South. Shady sites, modern amenities, a giant pool, and a boat ramp make this an ideal spot to set up camp.

13
Walkabout Camp & RV Park

Walkabout Camp and RV Park has a super awesome location, near notable spots such as Amelia Island, Cumberland Island, and Okefenokee National Park Wildlife Refuge, among other places. Visit whatever you want during the day, and then spend the evening swimming in the pool or strolling along the trails at night before you tuck into your tent or RV for the night!

14
Blue Spring State Park

Florida is home to more than just beaches... if you head inland, you'll find a collection of freshwater springs that are perfect for swimming! Blue Spring State Park itself contains a few springs, and is a fantastic spot for canoeing, tubing, boat tours, manatee-spotting, and hiking through the forests.

15
Carver's Cove RV Resort

Carver's Cove RV Resort is right on the Banana River, and is located a quick drive from Cocoa Beach, Disney World, Universal Studios, and tons more. Plus, if you're skilled with a rod and reel, you can catch your own dinner from their fishing pier and cook it over a campfire. If the thought of fishing doesn't reel you in, the dock is a great place to relax and take in a gorgeous Florida sunset.

16
Bill Baggs Cape Florida Park

Bill Baggs Cape Florida Park has all of the ingredients to be one of the state's prettiest parks: white sand, a view of Biscayne Bay, and a scenic lighthouse. Plus, it's far enough away from South Beach and Miami that it's relatively quiet compared to other beaches in the area!

4.6

Homestead, FL

The Everglades is the best place to spot wildlife in the country. The tropical wilderness, marked by rivers, wetland, and stands of mangroves is home to crocodiles, panthers, alligators, manatees, dolphins, coral, herons, turtles, and loads more. Take a hike on one of the boardwalks, rent a canoe, or book an airboat tour to experience this one-of-a-kind landscape!

Whether you're conquering a mountain peak in the Smokies, soaking in a pool of geothermal relaxation at Hot Springs National Park, or paddling through the lush greenery of the Everglades, the South boasts many different ways to enjoy its varied views.

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