lookin for an easy "beginner trip" here in north carolina. we are pretty centralized in the state so anywhere is probably ok.
what we are looking for...
1) by beginner i mean a hike where we can hike maybe 2-3 miles to a place to set up camp and stay for a few days. that way if we have catastrophic gear failure we can just pack up and walk back to the car. we are still in the testing phase.
2) actual directions and/or map of said hiking place would be awesome.
in short we keep getting told essentially "oh NC... youre right by the AT you have plenty of places to go" and thats literally the end of the conversation. no actual recommendation of a place to go that fits what we are needing. the honest answer is that at this time we are fat and out of shape and would like to start hiking more to help us have a more active lifestyle. so jumping on a section of the AT for the weekend probably isnt the best for us. oh also we dont have a bunch of friends so through hiking with someone to pick us up at the other side doesnt work particularly well for us either. so literally just a there and back weekend deal would be awesome. something that maybe if you were a boyscout troop leader you would take the younger kids on this one. that level of difficulty.
I'm not familiar with NC (I live and hike in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana, with the occasional Isle Royale or VA AT trip.)
The Roan Highlands on the AT always gets thumbs up, according to one of my buddies. However, I'm not sure that's what you're looking for.
Here's something to consider: pick a state park you like, and go there. Camp in the public campground - most have a tent-only area where it will be quieter and less "illuminated." ("Lit up" referring to both the area and the neighbors.) You may even find a park with a walk-in campground a quarter or half mile in (just as good as 3 miles, for what you want.)
Arrive around mid-day, and put your packs on, loaded for the weekend. Lock the car. Now go hike a 2 or 3 mile loop that ends up back at your campsite. Using what's in your packs, set up camp, eat supper, and go to bed. The next day, pack everything up and go hike all day (6-10 miles - don't worry about the exact length; you're trying to figure out how far you can comfortably hike in a day at your current fitness level. Start low, and add miles as you can. End up at your car again - and repeat the previous night (set up, cook, etc.) In short, simulate a backpack trip with a good safety net. Also, use the campground bathrooms and water spigots - you can practice filtering water while you hike, and you can dig cat holes, etc., but you don't have to rely on those as your only options - again, you're practicing.
I was a Scoutmaster, and this was exactly how I introduced 12 - 14 year olds to backpacking. (At least one went on to thru-hike the AT) I still simulate backpack trips this way, particularly if I'm trying out new gear. Just because the car's there, doesn't mean you have to use it to camp - but, if things do go catastrophically wrong, it's there.
Do a few of these trips and you'll be ready to try those AT trips. You do have some beautiful country down there.
Send me a Private Mail (PM) if you have any specific questions you don't want to post here. (By the way, we all believe there are no dumb questions. We all started from scratch, too, and had the same questions you have, so don't be embarrassed to post them here for all to see.)
thanks yall. i will definitely look into a hiking club. i just miss that little bit of the pnw where you can park somewhere and wander into the woods. it doesnt seem to exist out here. im actually from vancouver washington i just somehow managed my way out here.
Was hoping some locals would give you advice, but like others I can only tell you how I would look for places to backpack in an area I haven't been too. I'd find an area I am interested and then start looking at maps.