Since our first or second year living together (in Atlanta, at the time), Dan and I have tried to have an overnight backpacking trip at least once in the Spring and once in the Fall. We’ve mostly stuck to that.
In Georgia, the north Georgia mountains were within a couple hours’ drive and included great trails for backpacking, such as the Appalachian, Benton MacKaye, and Duncan Ridge Trails. The Smoky Mountains were a little more of a drive.
In Maryland, I’ve had a little more trouble. There are lovely places in Virginia and West Virginia, like Shenandoah and Dolly Sods, that I would love to spend more time in and explore more, but they’re a little far for a weekend trip: 3-4 hours. The AT goes through a narrow part of Maryland, but it’s a short section (which we’ve done now) and not very remote. We’ve also been to Michaux State Forest just across the border in Pennsylvania. The AT runs through it as well, and backcountry camping is allowed anywhere in the forest (so are pets!). So we’ll definitely want to go back there. But it’s kind of just rolling hills. Alas – we’ll have to keep exploring, and maybe take some three-day weekend trips to points south.
Our preferred method is to invite all our friends, drive to the general area on Friday afternoon/evening and car camp at a campground, and then set out hiking on Saturday for an overnight (ideally a loop, but out and back works too), returning to the cars and then home on Sunday.
Over Easter weekend in early April, which was still quite chilly, we hiked Fridley Gap in the George Washington National Forest in Virginia. It rained Friday night, so we drove down early on Saturday. We had a lovely time, and it was super-relaxing and not too cold.
For the Fall, I entirely planned a trip to Michaux State Forest, reserved campsites for Friday night, and convinced some new folks to join us… and then Hurricane Patricia swung by with a ton of rain. So we canceled the trip :-(.
However, Dan and I got our fix on two other trips – one to Glacier National Park (3 days, 38 miles, beginning and ending in Many Glacier) and the other to the Grand Canyon (down South Kaibab trail and returning via Bright Angel, camping overnight in Indian Garden). Neither trip, unfortunately, included #campingwithdogs but were otherwise pretty fantastic.