Go Take a Hike: 12 Great Trails of North Georgia

Go Take a Hike:  12 Great Trails of North Georgia

I do not like setting fitness goals (afraid I’ll fail), and yet, at almost 44 years of age, the idea of a health-oriented resolution holds a certain relevance I can’t seem to shake.   In the past year, I began working a desk job full time, and where I once held meetings with people at Meeks Park or the Nottely Reservoir Trail, I now find myself stuck in zoom sessions.  Though mentally stimulating, this job has done nothing for my physical health. Data indicates physical fitness remains the top New Year’s resolution with losing weight and eating better coming in at numbers 3 and 4 respectively. Statistically, most people tend to fall off the “New Year, New Me” wagon quickly with Americans giving up as early as mid-January.  Recently, an article I read on Bloomberg.com struck a chord. “Fitness gurus will tell you that the key to getting in shape is to form new habits, ones that involve moving more.”  Move more.  That’s it.  Just move more.  How hard could that possibly be?  I am literally sitting at a desk most of the day.  I just need to get up and move.  That got me thinking, what if we all said, “This year, we are going to purposefully move more.”?  What if we set a goal to move 12 times more than last year?  Once a month.  That’s it.  So, here is what my family is going to do in 2021.  We are going to take a hike . . . 12 to be exact. 
Blairsville-Union County is absolutely packed with scenic hiking options.  Within a daytrip of Atlanta, Greenville, Chattanooga, Asheville, and even Birmingham, a distanced hiking trip is the perfect option not just for locals, but for those looking to get out of the city and into some fresh, open air.  The facts that our trails feature waterfalls, the highest peak in Georgia, scenic vistas, swinging bridges, creeks, rivers, historic novelties, petroglyphs, rock-outcroppings, and exquisite flora and fauna make this area the perfect spot to get moving.
Want to join us?  Here’s how you can be a part. 

  • Check out the list of trails below and hike one a month. 
  • Take a selfie on the trail and tag us on social media using #hikethe12
People who finish the hikes in December will receive our signature Blairsville, Georgia t-shirt (while supplies last).  We highly recommend you download the “All Trails” app on your smartphone for additional info, a convenient filter feature, and lots of photos from fellow hikers.

       1.  January:  Duncan Ridge Trail—Difficult, 4 miles

If you hope to see some wildlife, this 4 mile out and back offers critters and scenic views.The initial 1.25 miles is relatively flat with the final mile being a significant climb landing it in the difficult category though overall, it is moderate.You’ll enjoy Coosa Bald via the Coopers Creek Wildlife Management area known for wild hogs, bears, and incredibly diverse flora and fauna. Do bring your dog, but keep him on a leash.(Pro Tip:If you enjoy camping, there is a site at the summit. See Also--Duncan Ridge Trail and go to All Trails for full information.)
Duncan Ridge Alternate:Sea Creek Trail—Easy, 0.5 miles
Offering the reward of a waterfall view, this relatively easy and super short hike is great for kids and grandparents too.It is a muddy trail at points, so dress accordingly.In summer, it’s a great spot for wading in Sea Creek.You’ll enjoy Rhododendron and Sweet Shrub blossoms and the pungent fragrance of Ginseng as you hike.
  1. February:  Bear Hair Gap—Moderate, 4.1 miles
Park at the Vogel State Park Visitor’s Center for this 4.1 mile loop with a half mile diversion taking you to the scenic Lake Trahlyta overlook.Trekking poles will be an asset as there are a couple stream crossings, and if you’re lucky, the occasional bear.Taking you through Suches, Georgia, this trail features incredible wildflowers, birds, and is dog-on-a-leash friendly. Heavy Rhododendron, a wooden bridge, tumbling creeks, and views of small waterfalls make this a classic North Georgia hike with incredible photo-ops. (Pro Tip:Pack a picnic to enjoy.)
Bear Hair Gap Alternate: Butternut Creek Loop at Meeks Park—Easy, 0.7 miles
Though you could tack on the entire trek through Meek’s Park including the dog park across the road giving you almost 4.5 miles of trail, you can simply enjoy the wide, partially paved path along Butternut Creek where it meets the Nottely River.A peaceful, highly traveled trail through Meek’s Park, this is a great option for families with little children with ample opportunity for wading, picnicking, frisbee, playground time, and more.(Pro Tip:No dogs on this loop and look up info on the historic Tate Mill before coming, then be sure to get photographs with it while there.)
  1. March: Mill Shoals Trails—Moderate, 3.4 miles
Beginning at the Cooper Scenic Area parking lot, this almost 3.5 mile hike ends at Shope Gap.Featuring a unique one log bridge and creek frontage, this shaded hike offers a lot of interest when it comes to flora and fauna.Mushroom enthusiasts will particularly enjoy this hike.Make sure you download the All Trails App and hiking info ahead of time as the blazes for this trail can be confusing.Keep Frodo on a leash. (Pro Tip:You can make this a 6.6 mile loop if you include Yellow Mountain. Look for wild Iris, Sarvis Trees, and Wild Cherry Trees in bloom.)
  1. April:  Wolf Laurel Top—Moderate, 4.2 miles
This 4.2 mile out and back via the Appalachian Trail takes you through the National Forest in Raven Cliffs Wildnerness from Tesnatee Gap west over Cow Rock Mountain to the Wolf Laurel Ridgeline.This trail offers lovely wildflowers in spring, a great camping spot with a view, and 1 reliable water source halfway from Cow Rock to Wolf Laurel.Dogs may come, but keep them leashed.Be prepared for a tough climb at the outset followed by a more moderate finish.(Pro Tip:Watch for Trillium blossoms, Mountain Laurel, and the rare Lady’s Slipper blooms.)
Wolf Laurel Top Alternate: Sosebee Cove—Easy, 0.4 miles
The most biologically diverse area in the state of Georgia, this short trail is often overlooked because it is so short.However, if you are into flora and fauna, birding, or want to see some of the largest, oldest trees in Union County, this is a must stop.Stay on the trail here because everywhere you step, there are rare, sometimes endangered species.(Pro Tip:Bring your birding and plant books along and enjoy trying to identify the rich offerings of nature. Right off Georgia 180, watch close for the pull-off.It is easily missed.)
  1. May:  Dockery Lake Trail—Moderate, 7 miles
With a beautiful stream paralleling this trail in several spots, this nearly 7 mile out and back trail located near Suches in Union County features Dockery Lake.Though there are a few rocky slopes, this trail is relatively easy to travel despite being longer than some.Enjoy time with your pooch on a leash.There’s a nice picnic area at the Dockery Lake Recreation Area where you park, so pack your sandwiches for this one. Keep your eyes peeled for Flaming Azalea, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, and Rhododendron blooms. (Pro Tip:If you are feeling adventurous, you can go all the way to Preacher’s Rock via the Appalachian Trail from this access point stretching the hike to almost 11 miles.)
Dockery Lake Alternate:Lakeshore Trail—Easy, 0.6 miles
This handicap accessible trail circles Dockery lake in the Chestatee Wildlife Management Area and loops in at just over half a mile.Enter at the Dockery Lake Recreation area, and travel to the opposite end for picnicking.Offering footpaths to fishing and a platform located off the dam, though easy, this trail still affords some beautiful views and the promise of fresh air making it a great alternative to more strenuous hikes.
  1. June:  Logan Turnpike Trail—Moderate, 4.1 miles
Venture through the Raven Cliffs Wildnerness once traveled and written about by John Muir. Dogs on a leash will enjoy this somewhat rigorous hike accessed at Tesnatee Gap.Enjoy some rocky outcroppings and babbling Town Creek along the trail.This former toll road from the 1800s accesses Raven Cliffs Wilderness and the Appalachian Trail at Tesnatee Gap and out and back totals around 4.1 miles.  (Pro Tip:Watch for artifacts on this hike and make sure you download All Trails to navigate this trail.)
Logan Turnpike Trail Alternate:Lake Winfield Scott Trail—Easy, 0.9 miles
Just under a mile, this beautiful lakeshore path takes you around Lake Winfield Scott with ease.Lovely seasonal flowers, and in autumn, a gorgeous reflection of leaves in the lake make this hike one worth repeating.Take the kids, the dog (on a leash), and even the grandparents for this one.(Pro Tip:Bring your fishing poles and stop along the way to try your hand at catching dinner. North Georgia mountain fresh water trout are simply the best fried with butter, cracked pepper, and lemon.)
  1. July: Preacher’s Rock—Moderate, 1.9 miles
A shorter hike through the Blood Mountain Wilderness, this out and back offers incredible birding opportunities in addition to lovely wildflowers. The trail is easy at first with a bit of a rocky, uphill finish earning it a moderate label.The view is breathtaking, and you can bring your dogs, your family, and a picnic to enjoy. (Pro Tip:Watch for the yellow flash of New World Warblers, the red of a Red-bellied Woodpecker, and the blue of an Indigo Blue Bunting)
  1. August:  Reece Heritage Farm to Vogel—Moderate
This is a moderate but short loop taking you along Wolf Creek whose refreshing water makes for a great way to cool off mid-hike in the August heat.Begin at Reece, and hike 3 miles to Vogel State Park for the short 3 mile trek with only one mildly strenuous uphill.From birds to Queen Anne’s Lace blossoms, this hike offers the sanctuary that inspired the enduring poetry and fiction of Byron Herbert Reece. (Pro Tip:Plan to run shuttle with a friend to keep this hike short.If you want to stretch it to 6 miles, pack a picnic to enjoy at Vogel, and then return the same way you came.)
  1. September: Freeman Trail--5.7 miles, Moderate
Complete with water crossings, lots of rocky outcroppings, and the occasional snake, you’ll enjoy lovely views when the leaves are down.From hardwoods to Mountain Laurels and Rhododendrons, plenty of canopy provides protection for birds making this a great spot for avid bird watchers.Bring your camera to capture the dramatic vistas atop Flatrock Gap.This trail has less people than Blood Mountain making it more ideal on weekends.(Pro Tip:From the Byron Recce Connector, look for the trailhead off to the south. Be aware of snakes on this one.)
Freeman Trail Alternate:Nottely Resovoir Trail—Easy, 2.5 miles
This 2.5 mile loop is situated on the shores of Lake Nottely in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest.The trail is easy and affords lovely views and picnicking spots.Additionally, it is a pet friendly trail with easy parking.Bring your suit and a towel if you fancy a swim!If you hike in the evening, you’ll enjoy a bit of relief from September heat and a sensational sunset.
  1. October:  Blood Mountain Via Byron Reece Trail--Difficult, 4.3 miles
With one of the most incredible views in the entire state where you can literally see the skyline of Atlanta on a clear day, this strenuous hike is more than worth the effort.Incredible rock outcroppings make this an ideal spot for climbers or folks looking for showstopping scenic vistas.Atop the mountain is a Civilian Conservation Corp stone shelter both cool to look at and great if you plan to overnight camp.Though there is one small creek, plan to bring water and keep pup on a leash.(Pro Tip:Trekking poles are a must, and you may need to park across the road if the access area is full.)
Blood Mountain Alternate:Desoto Falls—Easy, 1.9 miles
While you may want to plan a camping trip to make this one last longer, this hike clocks in under 2 miles and offers two lovely waterfalls as the reward for a relatively easy hike.With ease of parking, heavy rhododendron, and mountain laurel canopies, and lots of hardwoods, this is a great spot for enjoying birds as well as capturing waterfalls on camera with a terrific platform for viewing.Bring the kids and the dog on this trek, and you’ll leave with great memories.
  1. November:  Arkaquah to Brasstown Bald—Hard, 11 miles (5.5 one way)
An out and back trail clocking in just over 11 miles, this trail is not for the faint of heart.That said, you can schedule someone to pick you up at Brasstown Bald and cut your distance in half.The views are worth the difficult climb.Beginning at Track Rock Gap, there is a great lunch spot around 4.5 miles in.Additionally, Buzzard’s Roost affords lovely vistas for photos.The final views at Brasstown Bald combined with the birds, flora, fauna, and even camping spots make this a great option for outdoor lovers.(Pro Tip:Bring plenty of water.Only one potential spot for filtering along the route. Arrive early, and just across the road off Track Rock Gap are the petroglyphs for viewing.) 
Arkaquah Alternate: Brasstown Bald Trail--Easy,1.4 mile
If you are seeking tri-state area views without the aggressive hike from town, consider this paved, alternative option.The wildflowers along the path are lovely, and the view atop is perfect any season provided the day is clear.
  1. December:  Wagon Train Trail—Moderate, 6 miles
Nearly 6 miles of hardwoods, stunning winter views of the Bald and Brasstown valley, and a relatively easy climb in comparison to Arkaqua, this hike from Young Harris College reaches the highest peak in Georgia, Brasstown Bald, where you’ll be able to see for miles in all directions.Plan for pick-up at the summit and enjoy the visitor’s center atop the mountain.Dogs are welcome, and plan for a few slippery/muddy spots where water seeps from rock outcroppings. (Pro Tip:If you want a serious hike, plan for almost 12 miles by hiking back down the mountain.)
Wagon Train Trail Alternate:Cooper’s Creek Trail Loop—Easy, 1.7 miles
Quiet and peaceful, you’ll want to dress warm for this hike through the Coopers Creek Wildlife Management Area.A loop that explores wildflowers in spring and summer, and gives a tranquil look at the North Georgia mountain woodlands any season, you can bring your kids and your dogs on this trek. In December, this spot is so quiet it is almost like a sanctuary. (Pro Tip:this trail is located directly across the road from a large parking lot along the creek.)

(We ask that all who join us in the mountains respect and reguard all social distancing regulations.)

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