Another of my stomping grounds is Linville Gorge. I resisted visiting there for some years after moving to North Carolina. I think my reason for steering clear of the place was that I'd heard that it was often crowded (it is, on summer weekends); plus the fact that it's not as high as some of the country nearby. And when I hit the mountains, I generally like to climb the highest peaks I can find. In western North Carolina, this means hiking to peaks that exceed 6,000 feet in elevation. The highest peaks around the rim of Linville Gorge are 4,200 feet or so.
What I never realized until I got a chance to go hiking there was that this gorge is one of the most spectacular geological formations on the east coast of North America. Parts of it are more than 2,000 feet deep. On a clear day the views are stunning. The terrain is as rugged as it gets in the East, and the trails are spectacularly rugged.
Furthermore, miles and miles and miles of exposed rock line the gorge and cap the peaks. Such expanses of mountainsides unadorned by the South's exuberant trees and shrubs is a rarity, and it's surprising for the average citizen of this part of the nation to come upon so much of it packed into the length of this place.
There are also many groves of virgin timber in the gorge. Much of it was hemlock groves, and all of the hemlocks in there are now dead. But there are still spectacular stands of pines and hardwoods to be found in this place that was so rugged that even the greediest of timber barons couldn't figure out how to profitably extract the wood. The place is also prime bear habitat, although I've never encountered one there. But that's just a matter of time.