Hiking the Blood Mountain Trail in Blairsville, GA

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Reaching the picturesque summit of the Blood Mountain trail felt very much like conquering a mountain, both literally and metaphorically.

The strenuous uphill climb continues to get more challenging as you make your way to the top, with the promise of a spectacular Blue Ridge Mountains view like the dangling carrot-on-a-stick to keep you going.

Although I was suitably wowed by the dynamic scenery once I crested the peak, my biggest take away from the trek actually came from the other hikers I passed as they were descending the mountain.

Hiking Blood Mountain is one of the most popular things to do in North Georgia . And, as someone who generally seeks serenity and solitude in the woods, it would’ve been easy for me to feel rattled by the sheer number of hikers I saw on the trail.

However, each one of them, without fail, encouraged me as they passed. “It’s worth it, keep going!” they said. “You’re almost there!” “I see you have your camera out already– you’re going to love it up there!”

That positive energy of encouragement is an infectious thing. Instead of seeing other hikers as a distraction, I began to see the beauty of our collective journey, to overcome the obstacles that lie between us and our goals.

Read on for a detailed guide to hiking the Blood Mountain trail, including some history of the area, a description of the 4.3-mile round-trip hike, and driving directions.

Blood Mountain Flower Lined Trail

The Wildflower-lined Blood Mountain Trail

Blood Mountain Info

ADDRESS: Byron Reece Trailhead, Blairsville GA 30512

PHONE: 706-745-6928

COST OF ENTRY: Free

WEBSITE: www.fs.usda.gov

HIKING TRAIL: 4.3 miles round-trip, rated Strenuous

AMENITIES: None

Love Hiking North Georgia? Check out these great guides!

Blood Mountain Shelter

Historic Blood Mountain Shelter

Blood Mountain History

The Blood Mountain Trailhead is located on the border of Lumpkin County and Union County, in the Chattahoochee National Forest.

Historians are divided on the origin of Blood Mountain’s name.

Some believe it came from a bloody battle between the Creek and Cherokee people , while others suggest it may have been named for the red lichen, Catawba Rhododendrons, and other North GA wildflowers that grow near the summit.

All of the area surrounding the mountain was originally inhabited by the Cherokee, who were forced to give up their land and head west on the Trail of Tears after the signing of the Treaty of New Echota in 1835.

The area’s growth boomed after the 1829 discovery of gold near Dahlonega GA , which set off the Georgia Gold Rush.

Lumpkin County (named after Georgia Governor Wilson Lumpkin) was officially established in 1832, when it was carved out of parts of Cherokee , Hall, and Habersham Counties.

Union County, which was also founded in 1832, experienced a similar population explosion after gold was discovered in Dukes Creek .

The Rocky Trail up Blood Mountain

The Rocky Trail up Blood Mountain

In 1921, noted conservationist Benton Mackaye (who co-founded The Wilderness Society) proposed to create the Appalachian Trail, of which the 4,459-foot Blood Mountain is the highest peak in Georgia.

By 1925 he had enough support to organize the Appalachian Trail Conference, with the mission to present more specific plans to rally support in creating the world-renowned hiking trail.

The Blood Mountain shelter was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, offering thru-hikers a place to rest before continuing on their 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail trek to Maine.

In 1937, Judge Arthur Perkins, who ran the Appalachian Mountain Club, took over the reins of the ATC in order to speed up progress.

Thanks to the efforts of federal admiralty lawyer Myron H. Avery, construction of the epic trail along the eastern seaboard began soon thereafter. By the summer of 1937, the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia was completed.

In 1968– 47 years after Mackaye first proposed the concept– the National Trails System Act was passed, making the Appalachian Trail the first National Scenic Trail in the USA.

Fern lined trail to Blood Mountain

Fern lined trail to Blood Mountain

Hiking the Blood Mountain Trail

There are a couple of different ways to access the mountain, but all of them end up merging with the Appalachian Trail. The most commonly used Blood Mountain trail begins at the Byron Reece Trailhead near Neels Gap.

The mossy creek-lined path and stone stairs you’ll find in the forest on the Byron Reece Trail offer a beautiful and challenging start to this 2.1-mile ascent, which climbs some 1400 feet in elevation along the way.

At about the 0.8-mile mark, the trees begin to open up, offering you your first glimpse at the spectacular view that is waiting for you once you reach the summit.

This is when the hike turns right at a signed trail intersection, where you’ll see the Appalachian Trail cutting through. Here you’ll join the hardy thru-hikers making their way to the summit of Blood Mountain.

As you make your way up the increasingly strenuous Blood Mountain trail, you’ll alternate between hiking beautiful fern-lined paths, scrambling over boulders, and climbing what feels a bit like a rock ladder.

Blood Mountain view framed by foliage

Blood Mountain view framed by foliage

At around the 2-mile mark, you can tell you’re reaching the top as you begin to climb over grooved rock slabs covered in lush lichen and moss.

You’re clearly in high elevation forest now, with hardwood trees, mountain laurel, rhododendrons, and other wildflowers all around you.

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If the feeling of climbing 1,400 feet doesn’t leave you breathless, the staggering summit views (which look like the most hyper-realistic Bob Ross painting ever) will.

These are the sort of jaw-dropping views you can only see when you reach 4,459 feet of elevation, making Blood Mountain the Appalachian Trail’s highest elevation in Georgia, and the state’s 6th highest summit.

The Stunning View From Atop Blood Mountain GA

Stunning View From Atop Blood Mountain

The View Atop Blood Mountain

You’ll likely find yourself tempted to stop climbing once you reach the mountain’s first scenic vista, because it is simply so breathtaking.

But if you continue to hike along the mountain laurel-lined paths, you’ll find several other panoramic spots from which to take in different perspectives of Blood Mountain’s otherworldly views.

From the top of this massive rock slab, you can see the peaks of Mount Yonah, Tray Mountain, Lake Winfield Scott , and Slaughter Mountain.

Climbing up the massive boulders next to the Blood Mountain shelter offers another stunning view made even more potent by knowing you’ve shared it with thousands of AT thru-hikers who have walked this trail before you.

As I reached the top of the mountain, I found myself truly overwhelmed by the expansive vistas before me (not to mention the realization that I had completed one of the most challenging solo hikes I’ve ever attempted).

But the warm, welcoming people I met there were equally noteworthy, as we all gasped and exchanged comments on how beautiful everything was.

I listened as a family marveled at the different green shades of the fresh spring growth on the trees, and a teenager commented on how one tree glowed like gold when the lighting hit it just right.

Their insights really helped me to absorb and appreciate the sensational beauty I was witnessing while sitting on top of this massive rock formation.

It was an incredible communal experience I won’t soon forget– one that only served to enhance my passion for exploring the natural beauty of the great outdoors.

Rock Outcrop Atop Blood Mountain GA

Rocky Outcrop Atop Blood Mountain

Blood Mountain Directions

Directions From Atlanta GA

Take I-85 North to GA-400, then continue on GA-400/Greenville for 6 miles until you reach US-19 North/Gainesville Hwy.

Take US-19 North/Gainesville Hwy for approximately 64 miles, noting that the road will change names numerous times along the way.

The Byron Reece Trailhead will be on your left.

Directions From Blue Ridge GA

From downtown Blue Ridge , take 76 E for 20 miles, then turn right onto the Blue Ridge Highway. Follow that for 0.1 miles, then turn left onto Blue Ridge St.

In 0.3 miles, take a right onto Hunt Martin St, then follow it for 0.3 miles and turn right onto Cleveland St.

Take Cleveland St for 0.4 miles, then continue on US-129 S / US-19 S for 11 miles.

The Byron Reece Trailhead will be on your right. –text & photos by Hope Cross

Leave No Trace logo

We encourage anyone who loves the Blue Ridge region to learn about the Leave No Trace principles of responsible environmental stewardship.

Stay on marked trails, take only pictures, pack out your trash, and be considerate of others who share the trails and parks you explore.

Remember that waterfalls and rocky summits can be dangerous. Never try to climb waterfalls or get close to a ledge to get a selfie.

When you’re exploring the wilderness, it’s better to be safe than to be a statistic!

Blood Mountain: hiking the Appalachian Trail from Neels Gap

Blood Mountain: hiking the Appalachian Trail from Neel Gap

Hike to the Blood Mountain summit on the Byron Reece Trail and Appalachian Trail, catching stunning views from the AT’s highest summit in Georgia.

? Your mileage may vary! Accuracy of your GPS device, weather conditions, and stops along your route will affect your own recorded distance.

georgia hiking trails: moderate to difficult more
difficult

? Our difficulty estimate , based on distance, terrain, elevation change, & ease of wayfinding. May vary daily due to weather, trail reroutes, downed trees, etc.

georgia hiking trails: dog-friendly Dog-
friendly

? Leashed dogs are allowed on this trail. We’ve loved hiking this route with our trail-loving Labrador Retrievers! Check out more of our favorite dog-friendly trails in Georgia for a great hike with your pup.

LOCATION: on the Appalachian Trail near Hiawassee, Georgia

OFFICIAL MAP: Appalachian Trail, Trails Illustrated Map (find it at Trailful Outdoor Co.)

The views on this route to the Blood Mountain summit are just outstanding, with long-range vistas opening along the Appalachian Trail throughout the ascent to the peak. This hike follows the Appalachian Trail to the summit via the scenic Byron Reece Trail at Neels Gap, climbing through a lush, mossy creek valley to the towering summit and catching view after stunning view.

This mountain is one of North Georgia’s most popular day hikes, and it’s the highest-elevation summit on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia. Stunning views. A heart-pounding workout on the relatively steep ascent to the Blood Mountain summit. It’s one all-around fantastic hike.

While the views from Blood Mountain are fantastic year-round, this route’s busiest season is autumn. North Georgia’s hardwoods explode in vibrant fall leaf color, painting the surrounding mountains and valleys in vivid, colorful beauty. This is an extremely popular route to the summit, though, and parking at the trailhead is extremely limited, so be sure to hit the trailhead early on weekends and in peak seasons. An early morning drive on North Georgia’s winding roads and a cup of coffee at the mountain’s summit: the perfect way to start a weekend of adventure.

Blood Mountain on the Appalachian Trail: the hike

The adventure begins at the Byron Reece Trailhead near Neels Gap (view maps and driving directions), diving into a rhododendron-filled creek valley and beginning to climb the mountain’s lower elevations. The blue-blazed Byron Reece Trail crosses a creek bed and ascends stone stairs as it switches back, gaining elevation.

Hike the Appalachian Trail to the Blood Mountain summit, the highest mountain on the AT in Georgia

The trail meets the Appalachian Trail at Flatrock Gap at .7 mile after an ascent of over 400 feet. The hike turns right at the signed trail intersection, following the white-blazed Appalachian Trail westbound.

The forest canopy opens suddenly. The Appalachian Trail hikes through the first of many rocky clearings at .8 mile, catching a preview of the stunning views on the mountain’s higher elevations. The clearing’s grooved rock slabs and boulders contrast brilliantly with the vibrant green moss and smoky green lichen that covers their surface.

The climb intensifies at one mile as the AT meanders through tight switchbacks along a boulder-dotted slope. The trail exits the switchbacks at 1.4 miles, leveling at a clearing before scrambling over several large boulders. The hike reaches sweeping, vast views at 1.7 miles.

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Blood Mountain on the Appalachian Trail

The trail climbs over lichen-covered outcrops and boulders at 2 miles, entering a high-elevation forest of mountain laurel, moss, wind-swept pine, and rhododendron. The hike reaches the Blood Mountain summit at 2.15 miles, having climbed 1400 feet elevation from the Byron Reece trailhead. At 4459 feet, the mountain is the Appalachian Trail’s highest-elevation ascent in Georgia.

A rock building at the summit, constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, offers shelter for through-hikers on the Appalachian Trail during their 2000+ mile, epic-length hike from Georgia to Maine. The views at the Blood Mountain summit are outstanding, especially from the massive outcrop that towers beside the shelter.

Departing the summit, the hike retraces the outbound route in reverse to return to the trailhead. The AT reaches the Byron Reece Trail intersection at 3.5 miles, turning left to follow the blue-blazed BRT through the Flatrock Gap Valley. The hike reaches the Byron Reece Trail trailhead at 4.3 miles, completing the view-packed adventure.

Trailful Appalachian Trail Shirt

More hiking and backpacking adventures at Blood Mountain

Up for more mileage on this hike? From the mountain’s summit, continue following the AT to the Freeman Trail, hiking the Blood Mountain Loop through the mountain’s middle elevations in a rocky forest. Or check out our Blood Mountain hiking, backpacking and camping guide for more adventure inspiration in this scenic North Georgia wilderness. And for more fantastic day hikes on the AT, visit our complete collection of Georgia Appalachian Trail hikes for more white-blaze-chasing adventures.

After the adventure

Keep soaking up those fantastic North Georgia mountain views! Make a short drive into Hiawassee to visit our new hiking outfitter store, Trailful Outdoor Co. Our Atlanta Trails crew is in the shop every day giving out free tips and info on our favorite local trails and adventures, and our favorite places to grab a celebratory after-hike bite to eat. We’ve stocked the shop with our favorite, trail-tested outdoor gear and apparel, including Osprey, KUHL, Ruffwear, Kelty, BUFF and ENO, as well as our full line of Atlanta Trails shirts and hats. And we stock our favorite camping and backpacking essentials like camp stove fuel, backpacking meals, tents and sleeping gear, a bunch of locally-made outdoorsy gifts and goods. Come say hello, we’d love to meet you!

Leave No Trace: Atlanta Trails, Asheville Trails and Trailful are official Leave No Trace partners

Please Remember

Always leave no trace, pack out everything you pack in, and if you see trash, pick it up and pack it out.

Stay on the marked trail, tell someone where you’re going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, and don’t rely on a mobile phone to find your way. Please always practice good trail etiquette. And before you go, always check the trailhead kiosk, official maps, and the park or ranger office for notices of changed routes, trail closures, safety information, and restrictions.

Blood Mountain on the Appalachian Trail Map, Directions & Details

This map shows our approximate route while exploring this trail, but does not replace an official trail map. Please refer to the official trail map for the most current and accurate route.

Love the trail?

This trail is maintained thanks to the hard work of countless volunteers and donations from supporters of the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club. Please support them by making a donation or joining a volunteer day. Let’s work together to keep these fantastic trails maintained and open for use!

Driving Directions

Parking

Free (but limited) parking is available at the Byron Reece trailhead.

GPS Coordinates

34.741433, -83.922850 // N34 44.486 W83 55.371

Elevation Profile

Blood Mountain on the Appalachian Trail: Elevation Profile

Eric Champlin is a creative director and photographer who loves to explore southeast. He’s the co-owner of Trailful Outdoor Co, a locally-owned hiking outfitter shop in Hiawassee in the Georgia mountains near the Appalachian Trail. He’s also the co-founder of Atlanta Trails and Asheville Trails, digital magazines that highlight the South’s best outdoor adventures. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.

Visit Trailful Outdoor Co, a hiking outfitter shop near the Appalachian Trail in the North Georgia mountains

ABOUT US
THE ATLANTA TRAILS FAMILY
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© 2009 – 2020 Trailful Outdoor Co. // Made in the mountains of Hiawassee, Georgia.
Trailful Outdoor Co. and the Atlanta Trails logo are registered trademarks of Summit19 Studio LLC.
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Blood Mountain loop: hiking the Appalachian Trail & Freeman Trail

Blood Mountain Loop: hiking the Appalachian Trail and Freeman Trail

Hike a six mile loop to Georgia’s highest Appalachian Trail summit, climbing the AT and Byron Reece Trails to beautiful views at the Blood Mountain summit before looping back through a fern-filled forest on the Freeman Trail.

? Your mileage may vary! Accuracy of your GPS device, weather conditions, and stops along your route will affect your own recorded distance.

georgia hiking trails: difficult most
difficult

? Our difficulty estimate , based on distance, terrain, elevation change, & ease of wayfinding. May vary daily due to weather, trail reroutes, downed trees, etc.

georgia hiking trails: dog-friendly Dog-
friendly

? Leashed dogs are allowed on this trail. We’ve loved hiking this route with our trail-loving Labrador Retrievers! Check out more of our favorite dog-friendly trails in Georgia for a great hike with your pup.

OFFICIAL MAP: Appalachian Trail, Trails Illustrated Map (find it at Trailful Outdoor Co.)

The Blood Mountain summit is one of Georgia’s most popular hiking destinations, and for a good reason: the views from the summit are lofty and stunning. Rising high over the surrounding southern Appalachians, the legendary mountain towers above the surrounding peaks, climbing to 4459 feet. The mountain is the highest point of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, and home to a historic stone AT shelter at its summit.

While the out-and-back hike on the Appalachian Trail to Blood Mountain is most popular ascent route to the summit, this hike explores some of the mountain’s quieter stretches on a scenic six-mile loop. From the Neels Gap trailhead, the loop hikes the mountain’s eastern elevations on the Byron Reece Trail, climbing from a mossy, fern-filled stream valley to the Appalachian Trail. The hike climbs to the mountain’s summit on the AT, scaling broad rock outcrops and catching near-summit views. From the summit, the hike grabs some solitude on the mountain’s lesser-traveled western slope and then turns to loop through a beautiful, boulder-filled forest on the Freeman Trail.

Read Post  How Much Does It Cost to Hike the Appalachian Trail

Blood Mountain Loop: the hike

The hike departs from Neels Gap on the Byron Reece Trail (view maps and driving directions), hiking southwest and following blue trail blazes through a cool, mossy stream valley filled with rhododendron and fern. The trail gains elevation steadily under a young forest canopy as it approaches the Appalachian Trail, carving through several sharp switchbacks as it climbs.

The Byron Reece Trail reaches the Appalachian Trail at .7 miles at Flatrock Gap. This route turns right at the trail intersection, following the Appalachian Trail’s rectangular white blazes westbound to the summit. (A left turn at Flatrock Gap follows the AT eastbound, climbing to the scenic peaks of Cowrock Mountain and Wolf Laurel Top on the Appalachian Trail. It’s a fantastic 13-mile adventure, and a great backpacking trip, too.

The hike rapidly gains elevation as the AT crosses a series of vast, expansive rock outcrops and carves through a number of switchbacks. Views extend on the left from the outcrops, offering increasingly beautiful views of the surrounding hardwood-covered summits of the Chattahoochee National Forest.

Blood Mountain Loop: hike the Appalachian Trail through a rocky, rhododendron-filled forest to the highest summit on the AT in Georgia

The elevation gain intensifies as the hike meets a series of tight switchbacks, scrambling over boulders and climbing rock stairs at 1.1 miles. The trail reaches a clearing at 1.6 miles, and the tree canopy opens to reveal a generous vista of Georgia’s southern Appalachian mountains. Views are especially beautiful in fall when the forest’s hardwood trees explode in a colorful array of color.

The hike dives through a canopy of mountain laurel and pine, nearing the summit. Vibrant green mosses and steel-blue lichen thrive on the high-elevation rock outcrops near the mountain’s peak. At 2.15 miles, the hike reaches the Blood Mountain summit, where a massive rock outcrop offers outstanding, sweeping views from its jagged brink. Alongside the summit, a historic, stacked-stone AT shelter offers rustic accommodations for thru-hikers on their epic, 2000+ mile journey from Georgia’s Springer Mountain to Mount Katahdin in Maine.

Departing the summit, the hike continues following the Appalachian Trail northwest, following the AT’s white rectangular blazes. The hike drops elevation, diving through a dense tunnel of gnarly, twisted rhododendron and passing massive, gray boulders covered in lichen and moss.

The hike follows the AT through a series of switchbacks at 2.3 miles, rapidly dropping elevation. The trail meets the junction with the Duncan Ridge Trail at 2.6 miles. (The Duncan Ridge Trail descends to Vogel State Park via the Coosa Backcountry Loop and Bear Hair Gap Trail – our favorite alternate route to the mountain’s summit when the Neels Gap parking area is full.) The hike passes a blue-blazed side loop trail leading to campsites before passing a junction with the Slaughter Creek Trail, which leads to Lake Winfield Scott, at 3.05 miles.

The hike begins to level as it trails through a mixed pine and deciduous forest, reaching an intersection with the Freeman Trail at 3.5 miles.

Hike to the highest summit on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, following the Blood Mountain Loop on the Freeman Trail

This route turns left on the Freeman Trail, hiking eastbound in a wide arc around the mountain’s southern slope. The trail crosses through alternating stretches of boulder fields and grassy, wildflower-covered clearings, and makes some difficult scrambles over the mountain’s rugged terrain. Ferns thrive here on the mountain’s southern elevations, shaded by the dense forest canopy.

The Freeman Trail meets the Appalachian Trail and Byron Reece Trail intersection at 5.25 miles. The hike returns to the trailhead via the Byron Reece Trail, dropping elevation through the rhododendron and boulder-filled creek valley. Reaching the trailhead, the adventure completes at 6 miles.

Trailful Appalachian Trail Shirt

More adventures near Blood Mountain

Have some energy left to burn? Hike to two beautiful waterfalls at Desoto Falls just south of Blood Mountain, a relatively short and easy two-mile hike. Follow the Bear Hair Gap Trail from Vogel State Park, looping through a lush forest filled with small, tumbling waterfalls and climbing to a beautiful view from an overlook. Or check out our Blood Mountain trail and camping guide for more adventure inspiration in this beautiful, rugged wilderness.

Leave No Trace: Atlanta Trails, Asheville Trails and Trailful are official Leave No Trace partners

Please Remember

Always leave no trace, pack out everything you pack in, and if you see trash, pick it up and pack it out.

Stay on the marked trail, tell someone where you’re going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, and don’t rely on a mobile phone to find your way. Please always practice good trail etiquette. And before you go, always check the trailhead kiosk, official maps, and the park or ranger office for notices of changed routes, trail closures, safety information, and restrictions.

Blood Mountain Appalachian Trail Loop Map, Directions & Details

This map shows our approximate route while exploring this trail, but does not replace an official trail map. Please refer to the official trail map for the most current and accurate route.

Love the trail?

This trail is maintained thanks to the hard work of countless volunteers and donations from supporters of the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club. Please support them by making a donation or joining a volunteer day. Let’s work together to keep these fantastic trails maintained and open for use!

Driving Directions

Parking

Free (limited) parking is available at the Byron Reece trailhead at Neels Gap.

GPS Coordinates

34.741433, -83.922850 // N34 44.486 W83 55.371

Elevation Profile

Blood Mountain Appalachian Trail Loop Elevation Profile

Eric Champlin is a creative director and photographer who loves to explore southeast. He’s the co-owner of Trailful Outdoor Co, a locally-owned hiking outfitter shop in Hiawassee in the Georgia mountains near the Appalachian Trail. He’s also the co-founder of Atlanta Trails and Asheville Trails, digital magazines that highlight the South’s best outdoor adventures. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.

Visit Trailful Outdoor Co, a hiking outfitter shop near the Appalachian Trail in the North Georgia mountains

ABOUT US
THE ATLANTA TRAILS FAMILY
FOLLOW & SHARE

© 2009 – 2020 Trailful Outdoor Co. // Made in the mountains of Hiawassee, Georgia.
Trailful Outdoor Co. and the Atlanta Trails logo are registered trademarks of Summit19 Studio LLC.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Use

Protected By Pixsy

No photo, illustration, data, or text on this website may be reproduced, published, or distributed without prior written permission and license. All photos are copyright Eric Champlin or Summit19 Studio LLC. All rights reserved.

Source https://blueridgemountainstravelguide.com/hiking-blood-mountain-trail-blairsville-ga/

Source https://www.atlantatrails.com/hiking-trails/wooded-serenity-the-appalachian-trail-at-blood-mountain/

Source https://www.atlantatrails.com/hiking-trails/blood-mountain-loop-hiking-appalachian-trail-freeman-trail/

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