10 Amazing Places to Visit in the South
Whatever your travel preference, you will get to experience true Southern charm and beauty in these breathtaking locations.
The South is home to many fascinating, attractive and unusual destinations. Because the Southern states occupy a significant portion of the United States, anybody planning extensive travel in the country will inevitably find themselves in the region sometime. Once you arrive, you will be in for a real treat.
The South is definitely worth the journey, no matter what takes you there: a road trip, state exploration or a vacation to a national park. There is so much to see and do in this region, from bustling cities with deep histories to picturesque, natural settings.
Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina
With five miles of unspoiled beaches and sweeping paths, Hunting Island State Park provides a prehistoric camping experience amid a maritime forest of palmetto, palms and pines. It’s almost as if dinosaurs could be lurking around the tropical vegetation.
Climb to the top of the lighthouse—the only one in the state open to the public—for a great view of the island and saltwater lagoon. A hundred campsites include all the usual amenities, with access to the beach. If you like islands, plan a trip to Ireland or the Philippines, destinations that also make for a great road trip.
Bluffton, South Carolina
Bluffton, South Carolina, is a tiny, Southern town overflowing with lowcountry charm. It has an intriguing Civil War history due to nine pre-war structures that exist from Sherman’s pyro-friendly campaign across the Southeast.
Bluffton is also home to the East Coast’s only working oyster factory, and the Garvin-Garvey House on the banks of the May River was used as storage for the Bluffton Oyster Factory for years. Tour the house on Tuesdays and Thursdays or just stroll the tranquil streets of Old Town, lined with period-appropriate boutiques, galleries and restaurants. You can also visit the farmers market on Thursday afternoon for off-the-boat seafood, flowers, produce and more.
Folly Beach, South Carolina
Folly Beach is Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms’s alienated, hip, rule-breaking elder brother. You do not travel to Folly to flaunt your new designer beachwear or attend a social event. You go there to drink beer, eat fish tacos and lounge in the Bert’s Market parking lot. Most importantly, you surf.
Ruffner Mountain, Alabama
Ruffner Mountain, perched on a peak overlooking downtown Birmingham, is one of the largest urban nature parks in the country, covering 1,036 acres. The 7.5 kilometers of paths are mostly covered in red dirt because of the mountain’s iron ore reserves.
When there are iron ore resources, you’ll often find mining history, as evidenced by the extraordinarily lush woodlands near Ruffner, strewn with hidden quarries and interesting industrial remnants and furnaces.
The route becomes an exceedingly well-kept section of smooth double-track on the top ridge, suitable for trail runners. From one of the overlooks, there are some excellent views of the city skyline. (Keep in mind that trails are closed on Mondays.)
DeSoto Falls, Alabama
DeSoto Falls, located on the western brow of Lookout Mountain just outside the picturesque community of Mentone, was designed to be photographed. A 104-foot waterfall creates a passage through the surrounding sandstone basin, then smashes the pool below with a series of loud, irregular claps, evocative of a massive natural rain.
To reach the bottom of the falls, visitors must go down a rough slope, but getting to the beach below is well worth the effort. Hikers can skip boulders, take photographs and even take a plunge. DeSoto State Park offers mountain chalets, rustic cabins and a campground for overnight visits.
Ijams Nature Center, Tennessee
Ijams Nature Center is an urban wilderness area that Knoxville residents should be ecstatic to have in their back yard. It has water-filled quarries, 10 miles of clean, single-track paths and a freshly disclosed crag with 10 climbs. The trail running and mountain biking scenes in this area are especially noteworthy, since the trails are fast, flowing and very accessible.
Pick up a trail map at the visitor center and check out the gallery of local work. Ijams has something for every age, from hiking to biking, paddling and swimming or just playing.
Percy Warner Park, Tennessee
Percy Warner Park, located just nine miles from downtown Nashville, is a large and friendly natural environment with unexpectedly lush, densely covered woods and deceptively aggressive roller coaster tracks that trail runners can blast down.
The Mossy Ridge Trail, in particular, is a favorite of many Nashvillians seeking a well-balanced 4.5-mile loop that has high climbs, quick descents and lack of a difficult single track. The Natchez Trace also runs through here if that’s on your bucket list.
Cummins Falls State Park, Tennessee
Cummins Falls, located just outside Cookeville, is generally recognized as one of the top swimming places in the nation. The climb down from the parking lot is steep and once at the river, there is almost a mile of rock jumping and water crossings. However, you will be rewarded with a real central Tennessee oasis, complete with a magnificent waterfall cascading over a series of shelf-like ledges into a deep, emerald green pool below. This is Tennessee’s eighth largest waterfall in volume of water!
Picnicking, beginner hiking and fishing are also available at Cummins if a strenuous hike down to a watefall is not your thing. (Keep in mind that gorge access permits are required.)
Foster Falls, Tennessee
Foster Falls is located 45 minutes west of downtown Chattanooga in South Cumberland State Park and has a sport climbing crag with 179 routes of varying grades and heights suitable for climbers of all abilities. Little Gizzard Creek can be seen from the cliff wall, mainly composed of vertical to overhanging sandstone. The approach climb affords spectacular views of Foster Falls, which is 80 feet tall.
An easier, less-than-a-mile hike crosses a swaying span bridge for an up-close view of the waterfall and is appropriate for beginners. Foster Falls Campground also has 25 rustic campsites.
Black Balsam Knob, North Carolina
Bald can be attractive, especially when referring to Black Balsam, a grassy bald. On this high-country experience, a short stroll through a fragrant grove of Balsam Fir trees exposes tourists to magnificent vistas atop the Great Balsam Mountains. A scenic journey along the Blue Ridge Parkway ascends from the rich French Broad River Valley to the Pisgah National Forest’s mountains, providing breathtaking 360-degree vistas.
The ease of access, neverending vistas and the short summit trek of less than a mile make this a mountain worth revisiting.
By now, you’ve discovered that the South is home to many fantastic destinations to explore! There are so many great cities, national parks and landscapes just waiting to be discovered on your next trip.