Explore the Secret Smokies
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which straddles the ridgetop border of Tennessee and North Carolina, gets some 9 million visitors annually. Luckily, the vast majority sticks to the easy-access sights, leaving a whole lot of peace and quiet in the park's 522,000 acres for anyone willing to ditch the pavement and hit the trail. There's plenty to explore, from the rolling ridgelines, rivers, and lakes to the old chimney stacks, abandoned cabins, and ghost towns from a stretch of Appalachia's pre-park days. The best approach is from a lofty vantage point. We like Mount LeConte: At 6,600 feet, it's the park's third-tallest peak and home to the highest guest accommodations in the East, the LeConte Lodge. You'll have to hike five miles in and out, but you won't need to carry much: Supplies, including fresh linens, are packed in by the lodge's llamas. "Most people are just blown away," says general manager Tim Line, who's made the roundtrip hike perhaps 1,400 times. "If you walk above the lodge and look to the south, you see nothing but mountains down to North Carolina and Georgia."