There are few better ways to become one with Georgia’s beautiful landscape than to venture out on foot. One of nature’s treasures in Georgia is the southern terminus of the iconic Appalachian Trail, which has some of the state’s most stunning vistas and views.
Hike This Way
Part of the beauty of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia is that it really has something for everyone. Whether you’re trained to thru-hike the entire trail, a section hiker looking to add more mileage or a novice outdoor enthusiast, your hiking thirst definitely can be quenched.
For thru-hikers making the trek the entire way to Maine’s Mount Katahdin (2,185 miles from Georgia to Maine), starting at Springer Mountain is a must (plus, signing the trail register is a wonderful tradition). The trail is peppered with more than 250 backcountry shelters, which are free on a first-come, first-served basis. For the majority of the trail, a road is rarely more than a day’s hike away, so it’s simple to stock up on supplies as you go. The trail tends to be the busiest March through May.
Section hikers piece together bits of the trail — often over many years — covering miles as they can, with a goal of hiking it in its entirety. One great strategy, for those who have companions, is to leave one vehicle at the end of the stretch of trail you’re planning to hike; that way, you’ll be able to maximize your sight-seeing time, without needing to double back.
For a novice hiker, shorter trips can whet the appetite for a long-distance hike. In general, parking is available at the major paved road crossings, such as Woody Gap (GA Hwy. 60), Unicoi Gap (GA Hwy. 75) and Hogpen Gap (GA Hwy. 348). For more information, visit the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club.
Sights to See
Georgia’s beauty is on full display from the peaks along the Appalachian Trail. One must-visit is Springer Mountain in Fannin County. As the trail’s southern terminus, it offers a gentle and rolling start to the hike through a hardwood forest, and its 3,780-foot summit gives you stunning views of the surrounding mountains. Another standout is Blood Mountain, which is the trail’s highest peak in Georgia (4,456 feet to be exact) and the sixth-tallest mountain in the state. The panoramic views of Brasstown Bald and Lake Burton are certainly worth the moderately difficult climb, which has an elevation change of 4,300 feet. Fun fact: if you hike to Blood Mountain from Neels Gap, you’ll cross under the stone arch at the Walasi-Yi Center, the only place where the Appalachian Trail passes through a manmade structure.
Finally, make time to see the majestic Long Creek Falls, the 50-foot drop of water that flows even in the dead of summer. Insiders say the easy-to-moderate climb is best undertaken on a weekday, because crowds descend on weekends.
Stay in Style
Options for overnight stays abound along the trail’s Georgia length. If sleeping outdoors isn’t your speed, the conservation-conscious Len Foote Hike Inn in the Chattahoochee National Forest might be the ticket. A night’s stay comes with a hot shower, home-cooked dinner and breakfast. The inn is just a five-mile hike from the top of Amicalola Falls, so it’s a cozy place for serious thru-hikers or hobbyists who want to commune with nature.
Vogel State Park, which is near Blood Mountain, offers 103 campsites and 35 rustic cottages, some of which overlook the park’s 22-acre lake (a refreshing place to take a dip in Georgia’s warm weather).
No matter what kind of outdoor enthusiast you are, Georgia’s Appalachian Trail has something for you. Happy trails!