Thursday, 12 April 2012 6:21 PM
Holidays to the USA need not be all about the bright lights of the big cities, as the country is home to some stunning wilderness areas that are perfect for outdoor pursuits. One of the best is the Appalachian Mountains, where you can see towering peaks, lush forests, tranquil lakes and unusual wildlife.
The range carves a path through the east of the nation and each year thousands of people attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail, which runs from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. A 2,184-mile route is not ideal for holidays because of the time involved in completing it, but you can organise a break that enables you to explore some of the most beautiful sections of it.
You will discover some parts of the path are gentle enough to be suitable for inclusion in family holidays to America, while others will give even the most experienced walkers a genuine challenge. You can even combine a week or ten days in the great outdoors with visits to New York and Boston, if you wish to see both sides of the USA.
Before looking for the perfect itinerary for this sort of trip, make sure you give some thought to when you wish to travel. The weather means it is not safe to head out into the mountains during the winter, but conditions are much more favourable in the spring and summer. For the best views of the New England countryside, book your getaway for the autumn when the foliage is at its most spectacular.
One of the highlights of this type of walking holiday in the USA is a visit to Baxter State Park. There are lots of protected wildernesses in the country, but few can rival this one for the sense of solitude you will feel while exploring its forests, lakes and mountains.
There are paths for hikers through much of the park, but many of them are rarely used and quite rough underfoot. It is sensible to stick to the more popular ones – although there is no guarantee you will see any humans other than those in your party during your time here.
The route to Mount Katahdin forms one end of the Appalachian Trail and will take you to the highest point in the park, from where you will have great views of the unique scenery. If you wish to take things a little easier, try the path alongside the banks of the Nesowadnehunk Stream, which will lead you to the Big and Little Niagara waterfalls.
No outdoor holiday in North America would be complete without spotting some wildlife you could not see at home, and Baxter will not disappoint nature lovers. Although the local black bears like to keep their distance from humans, you may well encounter moose, deer, bobcats, martens and chipmunks.
Another section of the Appalachian Trail worth visiting is the stretch that runs through Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont. The terrain is not quite as rugged here and there are paths through wooded valleys and rolling hills that are ideal for gentle strolls.
The most testing route in the area takes in the 3,940 ft Stratton Mountain. A favourite with local hikers, who love the views, it forms part of both Vermont's Long Trail and the Appalachian Trail itself. As well as stunning scenery, you will see lots of birds, including wild turkeys and ruffed grouse.
Before you head back to the big city, make sure you spend at least a day walking in New Hampshire's White Mountain National Forest. Mount Washington is the most famous landmark in the area, but the 6,288-ft peak is notoriously difficult for climbers and walkers, so you may prefer to restrict your experience of it to taking photos.
There are, however, a number of summits you can realistically tackle here, including those on the Franconia Ridge Hike, which is part of the Appalachian Trail. The route will take you over Mount Lafayette and Little Haystack, together with the 5,089-ft Mount Lincoln, which is higher than anything hikers will encounter in the UK.
If you are ready to do something a little less energetic by the time you reach the White Mountains, try a ride on the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway. The views from the cable car stretch as far as Maine, Vermont and Canada if you visit on a clear day.