Great Smoky Mountain Sunset Landscape Panorama. Sunset horizon over the Great Smoky Mountain. Image credit erhlif via Shutterstock.

Appalachian Mountains States

The Appalachian Mountains states region, also called the Appalachia or the Appalachian region, is a 205,000-square-mile region that follows the Appalachian Mountains from southern New York to northern Mississippi. Though the mountainscape stretches from Alabama to Canada, the Appalachia refers to the central and southern portions of the range.

There are 13 Appalachian Mountains states: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

While each of the states in the Appalachian Mountains states region offer their own unique attractions, beautiful small towns, and scenic views, they all have one thing in common: access to the picturesque Appalachian mountainscape. Though the mountains themselves are a popular tourist destination, there is plenty to see and do across the region, no matter the time of year or which state visitors choose to visit.

How the Appalachian Mountains States Region Got Its Name

Sunset in the mountains of Tennessee
Sunset in the mountains of Tennessee. Image credit DanaForeman via Shutterstock. 

The Appalachian Mountains states region got its name from the Appalachian Mountains, which stretch through the 13 states of the region. The Appalachians themselves earned their name from the Apalachee, which was a Native American tribe from what is now modern-day Tallahassee, Florida. The term was perhaps born from the term palachee abalahci, meaning "other side of the river," or or Hitchiti (Muskogean) apalwahči, which means "dwelling on one side."

The Appalachian Mountain states region was officially recognized in the 19th century. Built round the same time, a railroad system runs through the area, reaching every county through either a main or branch line.

Notable Geographical Features of the Appalachian Mountains States

Brilliant light atop Hawksbill Mountain
Brilliant light atop Hawksbill Mountain. Image credit Serge Skiba via Shutterstock. 

The Appalachians are some of the oldest mountains on earth. They consist of marine sedimentary rocks and volcanic rocks, formed between 1.1 billion and 541 million years ago. Unlike their eastern counterpart, the Rocky Mountains, the Appalachian Mountains are soft with less notable peaks, featuring slopes, valleys, and forests. 

The mountainscape is composed of two ridges: the Blue Ridge and the Valley and Ridge, which are hundreds to thousands feet higher than the surrounding valleys. The valleys of the area are home to many towns and cities, boasting flowing rivers and bodies of water such as the New River.

The Appalachians have a mixed forest, boasting a variety of deciduous broadleaf trees, as well as hosting a number of animal and plant species. Also, the mountainscape is a rich source of coal, as well as petroleum and natural gas. 

Must Visit Places in the Appalachian Mountains States

With so much square-milage, there are endless opportunities when visiting the Appalachian Mountains states. Learn about some of the most popular spots in the region and what makes them worth the visit.

Chimney Rock

Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park in North Carolina
Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park in North Carolina. Image credit Sean Pavone via Shutterstock. 

The small town of Chimney Rock is home to Chimney Rock State Park, which lies just outside of Asheville, North Carolina. There are numerous hiking trails and lookout points, including the Devil's Head balancing rock and the sparkling Hickory Nut Falls. The 315-foot "Chimney Rock" is the most popular attraction, which visitors can hike to or take an elevator to. Enjoy panoramic views of the park and picturesque countryside here!

Laurel Falls

Laurel Falls in Smoky Mountains National Park
Laurel Falls in Smoky Mountains National Park. Image credit Shriram Patki via Shutterstock. 

Laurel Falls sits in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a scenic place home to over 800 miles of hiking trails, ideal for watching wildlife and enjoying the beauty of nature. Laurel Falls Trail is a popular hiking trail in the national park, leading past the cascading 80-foot high Laurel Falls and towards the Cove Mountain summit and the Cove Mountain fire tower. The trip to and from the waterfall is about two hours in total. 

Charlies Bunion Summit

Hiker reaching the top of Charlies Bunion Summit.
Hiker reaching the top of the Charlies Bunion Summit in the Smoky Mountains. Image credit Modern Nomads via Shutterstock. 

The Charlies Bunion Summit also sits in the Smoky Mountains, with the trail beginning from the parking area at Newfound Gap. It is a wonderful spot to visit in the springtime as wildflowers including violets, spring beauty, and trout lilies line the trail and valleys below, offering beautiful views from the lookout points. Originally known as Fodderstack, Charlies Bunion is a boulder-like protrusion at the summit of the mountain. The story goes that Charlie Conner revealed his very own bunion, resembling the boulder, on a hike one day, and the story left a mark in history. The summit boasts scenic views of the surrounding mountains, including Mount Kephart and Mount Guyot.

Amicalola Falls

Amicalola Falls, Georgia, in autumn season
Amicalola Falls, Georgia, in autumn season. Image credit Sean Pavone via Shutterstock. 

Nestled in North Georgia's Chattahoochee National Forest lies Amicalola Falls State Park. Located just 8 miles from the Appalachian Trail. It is home to the 729-foot Amicalola Falls, which are every nature-lover's dream, boasting picturesque views, exciting camping and lodging sites, not to mention amazing hiking trails. The state park offers an abundance of exciting opportunities, whether to enjoy a stay at the Amicalola Falls Lodge or zip-line through the trees. In winter, trek to the cliff of the falls and watch the white water flow through the area. Visitors may also learn all about birds of prey and wildlife in the area on a guided tour.

Watkins Glen State Park

Watkins Glen State Park waterfall canyon in Upstate New York
Watkins Glen State Park waterfall canyon in Upstate New York. Image credit Mihai_Andritoiu via Shutterstock. 

Situated in Upstate New York, Watkins Glen State Park is just outside of the small town of Watkins Glen. The state park offers plenty of opportunities to explore the great outdoors, whether you want to swim and fish at Seneca Lake, hike through the beautiful woodlands, or explore the 400-foot cliffs and lush valleys. There is also a campground if you would like to extend your stay. The town is a great place to visit if you also have an interest in racing events, boasting easy access to the beautiful state park as well as the charm of the small town.

Humpback Rocks

View of Shenandoah Valley from the Humpback Rocks overlook along the Blue Ridge Parkway
View of Shenandoah Valley from the Humpback Rocks. Image credit Jordan Kercheff via Shutterstock. 

The Humpback Rocks are a scenic spot on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, offering scenic views of the Shenandoah Valley. The area is chock full of hiking trails, as well as picnic areas, and even exhibits and a gift shop. Some parts of the Humpback Rocks trail are also part of the Appalachian Trail, breaking off towards other adventures and views.

Visit the Appalachian Mountains States

The Appalachian Mountains states are home to one of the most beautiful mountainscapes in the world, but also a number of state parks, flowing rivers, enchanting summits, and scenic views. Of course, there are plenty of small mountain towns to visit, boasting easy access to everything that the region has to offer. Consider a visit to any (or all!) of the 13 Appalachian Mountains states to discover the unmatched beauty of the area!


More in Places