The Appalachian Trail is one of America’s most incredible long-distance hikes, spanning over 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine. It typically takes hikers at least five months and changes elevation as it hits some of the east coast’s highest peaks. Like with the Pacific Crest Trail, it’s a bucket list experience.
But the journey isn’t for the faint of heart. Some never make it out of the Peach State before turning around. Prepare yourself with these hikes near the Georgia starting point of the Appalachian Trail that will get you used to the terrain before committing to the months-long journey.
Amicalola Falls to Hike Inn (5 Miles Each Yay)
Located north of Atlanta in Dawsonville, Amicalola Falls State Park is the official gateway to the Appalachian Trail. It’s where many hikers come for practice hikes and where they start at the base of Georgia’s tallest waterfalls, making the steps up the wooden platform to the approach trail.
But it’s also the starting point for the five-mile trip to the Len Foote Hike Inn, an eco-lodge only accessible by foot. Visitors spend the night in bunkrooms and enjoy communal meals and nature talks. You only need enough for an overnight trip, easily packed into a duffel bag.
Reservations fill up quickly, so book early. This is also a hike that is appropriate for older kids.
If you’re up for the challenge, you can continue to Springer Mountain, the official start point of the Appalachian Trail. It’s another 4.4 miles from the inn but is a great day trip. If you’re feeling the trail angel love, bring some goodies for the weary hikers. Don’t bring anything too heavy though, it should fit into a waist pack or small day pack.
Neels Gap to Blood Mountain (4 Miles Round Trip)
There are many ways to access the summit of Blood Mountain, which is the Appalachian Trail’s highest point in Georgia. But the most popular is the Byron Reece Trail from Neels Gap, which connects to the Appalachian Trail. The Reece trail is named for a writer who called the area home.
It’s not a great distance, but it is tougher in terms of terrain. You also might have to deal with crowds if you go on weekends. But the view from the top is unmatched. During fall months, you can see the changing colors of the leaves.
Pick up any essentials you might need at Mountain Crossings, a popular stop for AT hikers with a store and bunkroom. There’s a tree where hikers throw their boots when they’re finished. The 1930s Civilian Conservations Corps building is the only place where the trail passes through a structure.
Jacks Knob Trail to Brasstown Bald (Around 3 Miles One Way)
Brasstown Bald is the highest peak in Georgia, at nearly 5,000 feet above sea level. While you can make most of the drive to the top, hikers can also start elsewhere for an increasingly steep climb. One option is the Jacks Knob Trail, which climbs over 2,000 feet in three miles.
Prepare yourself for switchbacks and a tough first mile before the terrain evens. The trail continues into the parking lot of the visitor’s center, which is a good spot to stop for water and a restroom break. From there, the last mile is on a paved path but prepare for the intense grade.
Upon reaching the top, hikers can visit an observation tower often coated in fog, or walk through the small museum, which has a film about the area’s animal and plant life. It’s all downhill from here as you’ve officially “bagged” Georgia’s highest peak.
If these are among your first hiking experiences, remember to prepare before setting out. Consider hiking with a buddy, and always let someone back home know your planned route.
Stash Waist Bag
Migrate Duffel 60L
Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):
A Beginner’s Guide to Hiking
6 Tips For Hiking With School-Age Kids
Trekking The Trail of the Moment: What to Pack for Pacific Crest