8 Outdoor Adventures in the South
From yoga and beer tasting to a hidden South Carolina waterfall, rafting through Atlanta, an underwater playground and antebellum bike trail, these creative activities take advantage of beautiful spring weather.
After a colder than normal winter and rainy spring, we expect many Southerners are suffering from cabin fever. As May flowers begin to bloom, this month is the time to head outdoors and enjoy the last of those cool temperatures before we launch full-speed into summer. We realize that hardcore activities like biking, camping, hiking and running aren’t for everyone — although the South has its share of great spots for these — so we researched some more creative options for getting the heart pumping while also enjoying some sunshine.
North Carolina is known for its hiking and biking, but also its brews. In Asheville, you can combine beer tasting with a bit of exercise in what might be the most enjoyable form of activity we’ve come across. Bend and Brew at four area breweries (Highland, Wicked Weed, Hi-Wire and Catawba) combines beer tasting with an hour of yoga each month. Sips are provided, but bring your own mat.
In Atlanta, two new riverside adventure centers make it possible to float the Chattahoochee River between Buckhead and East Cobb. Half and full-day rentals are available for tubing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, rafting and inflatable kayaks. The “Hooch” also runs through uptown Columbus, Georgia, with rafting ranging from mild to Class V and named one of the Top 12 Man-Made Adventures in the World.
Going under water, divers can now go out near the shore in Orange Beach, Alabama, to explore Poseidon’s Playground, three Greek mythological statues that now rest at the bottom of the sea. Poseidon, Apollo and Venus were placed 3 miles off the coast of Gulf Shores in December and are ready for divers this summer. More experienced divers can also head out to The Lulu, a 271-foot intact freighter sunk 20 miles offshore with a bottom depth of approximately 115 feet.
If it’s higher thrills you’re looking for, the Hugh Kaul Beanstalk Forest at Red Mountain Park in Birmingham, Alabama, is a sure challenge. This aerial rope course includes 20 obstacles that make for an hourlong self-guided tour. While at the park, there’s also the option of a 1,000-foot zipline from the Kaul Adventure Tower, eight lanes of rappelling, traditional rock and vine climbs.
Now a Bike Friendly Community, Ridgeland, Mississippi, is home to a multi-use 14.76-mile scenic trail that travels among wildlife and foliage near the Natchez Trace Parkway. Side trails bring bikers into the city’s shopping areas, like the Jackson Street District in Olde Towne, the Mississippi Crafts Center and Ross Barnett Reservoir, where you can cool off on 105 miles of shoreline.
Another scenic bicycle route winds through Georgia’s Antebellum Trail, a 170-mile trek through the state’s most beautiful antebellum towns — all spared by Sherman’s burning march. Athens and Macon are the largest stops on the route, with options for dining, shopping and nightlife, but Flannery O’Connor’s home of Milledgeville and home of Uncle Remus in Eatonton shouldn’t be missed. The majority of the trail’s bike lanes are in the city limits, so you’ll be riding among grand homes (some open as museums), art galleries, Civil War history and rolling hills.
Just off US 76 and Chattooga Ridge Road in Oconee County, South Carolina, lies the hidden Reedy Branch Falls. This 30-foot waterfall is a short walk from the roadway, but you have to know what to look for. There’s no sign or trailhead, just a pull-off with a stone wall and columns. Keep an eye out for the U.S. Forest Service placard on the iron gate and you’ll know you’re in the right spot. From there, walk around the gate and down a gravel road to the remains of a concrete bridge. Look left for a trail through the woods, and you’re just a 5-minute walk to the falls and a shallow pool.
Go back in time eight centuries after Egyptian laborers dragged huge stones across the desert to build the Great Pyramids at Poverty Point World Heritage Site (pictured at top) in North Louisiana. A complex array of earthen mounds and ridges overlooking the Mississippi River flood plain on over 400 acres remains today, dating between 1700 and 1100 B.C. Learn about the inhabitants extensive trade network and sophisticated methods of importing stone and ore over great distances in the interpretive center, then hike the 2.6-mile trail.
FOR FUEL: Newnan, Georgia, adventure food company Greenbelly is now taking pre-orders for its Meal Bars in flavors like Cranberry Almond, Dark Chocolate Banana and Peanut Apricot. Expected to ship in June, the product was created by runner, biker and hiker Chris Cage, who can boast hiking the entire Appalachian Trail.
Photo credits, from top: Poverty Point World Heritage Site courtesy of Louisiana Office of Tourism; rafting in Columbus courtesy of Columbus CVB; biking the Antebellum Trail courtesy of Milledgeville-Baldwin Convention & Visitors Bureau; Reedy Branch Falls courtesy of DiscoverSouthCarolina.com; and Green Belly Bar by Deep South.
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