A rocky peak that towers over the Stekoa Creek valley and Clayton, Pinnacle Knob provides a 270-degree vista that is one of Northeast Georgia's best. The view from the top includes an attractive foreground of valleys and mountains with a beautiful background of fading lines of ridges. Two different hikes provide access to Pinnacle Knob: a longer hike from Warwoman Road and a shorter hike from Pinnacle Drive near US 441. While the longer route has the added benefit of passing two pretty waterfalls, the shorter route via the Courthouse Gap Trail is convenient for folks who are looking for a great payoff without a full-day hike. Furthermore, the side trail from the Bartram Trail was to the top of Pinnacle Knob was recently rerouted and lengthened to allow easier access to Pinnacle Knob's clifftop views. This hike occurred on Saturday, May 27th, 2017. My plan was to hike out and back to Pinnacle Knob via the Courthouse Gap Trail, Bartram Trail, and Pinnacle Knob Trail, starting at Courthouse Gap Road.
Southern Nantahala Wilderness: Holden Cove Trail/Appalachian Trail/Bly Gap Trail Loop to Oversoul Falls, Ravenrock Cliff Overlook, and Fall Branch Falls, Tate City, Georgia
The Upper Tallulah River splits the Southern Nantahala Wilderness's lower region into two nearly separate parts. To the east of the Tallulah River, some of the wilderness's most famous landmarks are situated, such as Standing Indian Mountain, High Falls, and Denton Creek Falls, each of which is reached by well-used trails. The rugged terrain to the west of the Tallulah River tells a whole different story, however. Few official trails traverse this remote area, but a pair of unofficial footpaths provide access from the bottom of the valley all the way to the ridgetops. A beautiful waterfall called Oversoul Falls is found along the unmaintained Holden Cove Trail, and a difficult trek away from the Bly Gap Trail will lead an experienced hiker to Fall Branch Falls, a long series of steep cascades and slides. Even the Appalachian Trail in this area is used lightly compared to many other sections of the AT, and you're not likely to meet any people along the way to the breathtaking Ravenrock Cliff Overlook. This hike was occurred on Saturday, May 20th, 2017. My plan was to begin the day with a surprisingly difficult bushwhack from the Bly Gap Trailhead to Fall Branch Falls. Then, I would move on the main hike of the day, placing a second car at the Holden Cove Trailhead and hiking the Holden Cove Trail past Oversoul Falls to the Appalachian Trail and to Ravenrock Cliff Overlook. I would finish the hike by following the AT to Bly Gap and then hiking the Bly Gap Trail back to the first car. Folks without the option of taking two cars for the hike would have to make a final 2-mile roadwalk to complete the loop.
Torreya State Park: Torreya Loop via Gregory House, Weeping Ridge Trail to Waterfall, and Rock Creek Loop (Torreya Challenge Trail), Bristol, Florida
Three thousand feet of elevation gain on a hike in the mountains is fairly common; three thousand feet of elevation gain on a hike in Florida is unheard of. Florida is well-known for its flat terrain, but exceptions do exist. Located on the east side of the Apalachicola River in the middle of nowhere, Torreya State Park - one of Florida's most interesting natural areas - features dozens of steephead ravines, limestone bluffs, sharp hills, and even a waterfall. In fact, it is safe to say that the park's hiking trails are the most rugged in Florida. Torreya State Park also boasts a collection of rare plants and animals, including the extremely rare Florida torreya tree, that are not typically found this far south. You'll get quite a workout on this hike, ascending dozens of hills and visiting many scenic mini-canyons carved out by small streams that feed the Apalachicola River. Also, you'll view the Apalachicola River from blufftop overlooks in several places. This hike occurred on Sunday, April 16th, 2017. My plan was to hike the Torreya Loop Trail counter-clockwise starting via the Gregory House east access trail. Along the way, I would make side trips to Weeping Ridge Falls and to Rock Bluff Overlook, and additionally, I would hike the Rock Creek Loop counter-clockwise.
Undammed for nearly two hundred miles until Lake Blackshear near Cordele, the Flint River is one of central and south Georgia's most beautiful large rivers, flowing through several swamps from its headwaters in metro Atlanta. One of the highlights of the river is Sprewell Bluff, a 150-foot bluff towering above the Flint near Thomaston. Other hills and bluffs form a surprisingly narrow and deep gorge on the Flint River in the next few miles upstream. In the 1960s, the splendor of the Flint River in the vicinity of Sprewell Bluff and Thomaston was threatened by the Army Corps of Engineers' proposal of building a dam at Sprewell Bluff, but thankfully, the dam construction proposal was vetoed in 1974 by President Jimmy Carter. The area around Sprewell Bluff became a Georgia State Park in the early 1990s, and today, it is managed by Upson County. Today, a well-developed trail system, gorgeous roadside overlook, campground, and trading post are to be found in Sprewell Bluff Park. This hike occurred on Friday, April 14th, 2017. My plan was to hike the entire Upper Flint River Trail out and back from Sprewell Bluff Road, although I had to shorten my hike due to a late start.
Pigeon-Crockford Mountain Wildlife Management Area: Hogjowl Trail, Allen Creek Gorge Rim, and West Brow Loop to Allen Creek Falls and Rocktown, LaFayette, Georgia
Everyone knows about Rock City. But what about Rocktown? No, Rocktown is not a miniature version of Rock City; Rocktown is an area of natural bizarre rock formations on top of Pigeon Mountain, popular with rock climbers and hikers. A network of lesser-traveled trails lies in the vicinity, providing access to Allen Creek Falls - a small but picturesque waterfall on Allen Creek - as well as winter views from Pigeon Mountain's west brow. Another such trail, Hogjowl Trail, provides a rarely-used route from McLemore Cove to the top of Pigeon Mountain. This hike occurred on Saturday, February 18th, 2017. My plan was to hike the Hogjowl Trail from west to east as the first leg of a balloon loop. Then, I would take the Bluff Trail south to Rape Gap, from where I would follow a series of forest roads to potential viewpoints of the Allen Creek Gorge (later discovering that it was not worthwhile). After this, I would return to the Atwood Trail and follow it to Allen Creek Falls, after which I would take the Hood Trail and then a short connector trail to Rocktown. I would follow the Rocktown Trail from Rocktown out to the Rocktown Trailhead. Following a brief roadwalk to Sawmill Lake, I would pick up the Hogjowl Trail and hike it west back to McLemore Cove.
Appalachian Trail: Byron Herbert Reece Trailhead to Neels Gap and to Hogpen Gap via Levelland Mountain and Cowrock Mountain, Suches, Georgia
One of Georgia's most scenic hikes is along the Appalachian Trail from Neels Gap to Hogpen Gap. Along this section of the AT, the famed long-distance footpath passes over several summits that offer outstanding long-range vistas. Along the way, you will first walk along the only piece of the AT that passes under a building, at the Walasi-Yi Interpretive Center. Afterwards, you will hike across Levelland Mountain, Wolf Laurel Top, Cowrock Mountain, and Wildcat Mountain, each of which has its own breathtaking view (or several). This hike occurred on Saturday, February 11th, 2017. My plan was to hike the Byron Herbert Reece Trail from US 129 to the Appalachian Trail. There, I would pick up the Appalachian Trail and follow it through Neels Gap and to Hogpen Gap. Along the way, I would make side trips to views on Levelland Mountain and Cowrock Mountain. I arranged to have two cars for this point-to-point hike: one car was placed at the Byron Herbert Reece Trailhead and another car was placed at the Hogpen Gap Trailhead.
Lookout Mountain Battlefield: Jackson Gap Trail, Bluff Trail from Ochs Gateway to Sunset Rock and Point Park, and Gum Spring/Cravens House Loop, Lookout Mountain, Georgia
Lookout Mountain Battlefield, which is part of the Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, covers an impressive portion of Lookout Mountain, where the "Battle Above the Clouds" occurred during the Civil War. The battlefield's extensive trail system provides easy access to some of the mountain's signature features, such as Sunset Rock and Point Park, both of which have panoramic vistas. The park's most scenic trail, Bluff Trail, follows the bluff line along the west side of Lookout Mountain for several miles, connecting to other trails with more views and other points of interest such as mountain springs. This hike occurred on Saturday, January 28th, 2017. My plan was to hike the Bluff Trail from Ochs Gateway to Point Park. Along the way, I would take a side trip along the Jackson Gap Trail and also to Sunset Rock. From Point Park, I would follow the Mountain Beautiful Trail and Hardy Trail to Cravens House, from where I would take the Rifle Pits Trail to the Upper Truck Trail. Then, I would hike along the Upper Truck Trail past the ruins of Camp Demaray to the Gum Spring Trail. Lastly, I would follow the Gum Spring Trail up to the Bluff Trail, concluding the hike by retracing my steps on a portion of my earlier route along the Bluff Trail.
With a size of over 200,000 acres, Tate's Hell State Forest is one of Florida's largest state forests. Its only official hiking trail is the High Bluff Coastal Trail, which traverses pine flatwoods and ancient sand dunes near the Forgotten Coast. In fact, one of the sand dunes is tall enough to provide an elevated view toward the southern end of the forest, where the Gulf of Mexico is just a thin blue sliver. In addition, black bears are common in Tate's Hell State Forest and neighboring Apalachicola National Forest, and on this hike, it is possible to spot this elusive creature or find evidence of its activity. This hike occurred on Monday, December 26th, 2016. My plan was to hike the High Bluff Coastal Loop in a clockwise direction. Along the way, I would take a short side trail to an elevated view of the surrounding terrain and the Gulf of Mexico in the distance.
The Tray Mountain Wilderness is perhaps the least-explored wilderness area in Georgia. The focal point of the wilderness is Tray Mountain, which is one of the highest mountains in Georgia, and the section of the Appalachian Trail that passes over Tray Mountain. South and east of Tray Mountain, however, lies a remote area that has largely been unexplored: the Left Fork Soquee River watershed, which is home to numerous waterfalls. On the south side of the watershed stands Chimney Mountain, a lower peak that has several cliffs with great views but is overshadowed by the taller Tray Mountain only a few miles away. The hike to Chimney Mountain follows an unofficial trail that leads to a panoramic vista that faces Mount Yonah and the Georgia Piedmont. This hike occurred on Saturday, December 10th, 2016. My plan was to hike the unofficial path to Chimney Mountain out and back.
Lula Lake Land Trust & Cloudland Canyon State Park: Cloudland Connector Trail from Nick-a-Jack Road to High Point, Chattanooga Valley, Georgia
Lookout Mountain is a long linear mountain ridge that stretches roughly from Chattanooga, Tennessee, to Gadsden, Alabama. Much of the ridge has a relatively constant elevation, and the highest point on Lookout Mountain is in Walker County, Georgia. Simply and appropriately named "High Point", this rise on Lookout Mountain is home to a row of sheer cliffs that provide breathtaking views east and south into Chattanooga Valley and towards Pigeon Mountain and Taylors Ridge. Thanks to the recent acquisition of various tracts of land atop Lookout Mountain by the Lula Lake Land Trust, access to High Point has now been secured, and the 14-mile Cloudland Connector Trail provides the perfect approach into the area. This hike occurred on Saturday, December 3rd, 2016. My plan was to hike the Cloudland Connector Trail from Nick-a-Jack Road to the High Point gated service road. From there, I would follow the closed road and then a short path to the summit of High Point and an excellent vista. I would return the same way.
In the Valley and Ridge Province of northwest Georgia, Rocky Face Mountain is the home of a battle from the Civil War: the Battle of Dalton in 1864. Near the north end of Rocky Face Mountain is the grave of George W. Disney, a Confederate soldier who was killed during the battle, and whose grave was discovered by a group of boy scouts in 1912. Today, the George W. Disney Trail, in memory of the fallen soldier, is a short but steep trail (that is actually referred to as the steepest short trail in the state) that leads past the grave and to a pair of rock outcrops with beautiful views into the heart of the "Valley and Ridge". This hike occurred on Saturday, December 3rd, 2016. My plan was to hike the George W. Disney Trail out and back to the vistas at the north end of Rocky Face Mountain. I would also explore the Rocky Face Mountain Ridge southward for any continuations of the trail.
Known as the tallest waterfall in Virginia, Crabtree Falls is a series of slides and waterfalls on Crabtree Creek, dropping approximately 1000 feet cumulatively. A hiking trail, equipped with well-constructed switchbacks and steps, provides easy access to all of the various drops of Crabtree Falls, each one unique in its own way. As a bonus, the large rock face at the top of the falls provides a great view into the Tye River Gorge. Just make sure to do this hike on a day when the crowds would likely be thinner than they were on my visit. This hike occurred on Sunday, November 27th, 2016. My plan was to hike the Crabtree Falls Trail out and back from VA 56 to the top of Crabtree Falls. This hike was the seventh and final of seven hikes that I did during a four-day Thanksgiving trip to the mountains of western Virginia.
Virginia's "Triple Crown" hike involves a strenuous overnight backpack to three of the area's most famed vistas: McAfee Knob, Dragons Tooth, and Tinker Cliffs. All of these vistas are known for their sweeping long-range panoramas. While getting to all three of these overlooks in one hike requires serious skills and gear, hiking to any one of the three involves just a simple day hike. Out of the three, Dragons Tooth - as well as the hike to it - might be the most unusual. Dragons Tooth is a unique rock formation that towers like a spire at the southwest end of Cove Mountain. Those who are brave and skilled enough to climb to the top will be awarded with a stunning panorama that encompasses much of Catawba Valley. The hike to Dragons Tooth is no picnic either; this short stretch of the AT - dubbed as the most rugged stretch of the long-distance footpath south of Maine - involves a tricky and time-consuming rock scramble. This hike occurred on Saturday, November 26th, 2016. My plan was to hike the Dragons Tooth Trail to Lost Spectacles Gap, from where I would hike to Dragons Tooth out and back along the Appalachian Trail. After that, I would loop my return route by following the AT northeast to the Boy Scout Trail, concluding the hike along the Boy Scout Trail. This hike was the fifth of seven hikes that I did during a four-day Thanksgiving trip to the mountains of western Virginia.
The Peaks of Otter - Sharp Top, Flat Top, and Harkening Hill - are three distinct mountains in the vicinity of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Several centuries ago, it was believed by Thomas Jefferson that the Peaks of Otter - along with the Blue Ridge Mountains in general - are the tallest peaks in the United States, but of course, this was later proved wrong, although not before stones were sampled from the Peaks of Otter and sent to be part of the Washington Monument. Hiking trails lead to each of the three peaks, and two of the three peaks provide excellent views. In fact, the rocky pinnacle at the summit of Sharp Top Mountain provides a 360-degree panorama that overlooks the Virginia Piedmont and the Blue Ridge Mountains that are scattered through the area. This hike occurred on Friday, November 25th, 2016. My plan was to hike the Sharp Top Mountain Trail out and back from Abbot Lake. I would make the short side trip to Buzzards Roost - a separate rock formation and viewpoint - along the way. This hike was the fourth of seven hikes that I did during a four-day Thanksgiving trip to the mountains of western Virginia.
House Mountain Preserve: Big House Mountain Trail to Goat Point Overlook & Tabletop Rock and Little House Mountain Trail, Lexington, Virginia
Driving through the vicinity of the town of Lexington, Virginia, one cannot fail to notice two twin summits rising up sharply to the northwest of town. The distant peaks tower out of the valley farmlands as you drive along US Route 11 near Lexington, and when you drive on I-64, the peaks are still there, although their character has changed as you see them from a different angle. The peaks are none other than Big and Little House Mountain, two mountains with outstanding 180-degree to 270-degree views. The House Mountain area was preserved by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, and there are now established hiking trails to viewpoints on both mountains. In addition to the grand views that you'll see, you'll also get to visit a Big House Mountain boulder field that is home to a unique rock formation known as Tabletop Rock. This hike occurred on Thursday, November 24th, 2016. My plan was to hike to along a gated forest road to the saddle between Big House Mountain and Little House Mountain. Once there, I would hike out and back along the Big House Mountain Trail to Goat Point Overlook and Tabletop Rock on Big House Mountain. Then, I would return to the saddle and hike out and back to the vista on Little House Mountain. I would finish the hike by retracing my steps back down along the gated forest road. This hike was the second of seven hikes that I did during a four-day Thanksgiving trip to the mountains of western Virginia.
Year 1: 540.0 Miles
Year 2: 552.3 Miles
Year 3: 518.4 Miles
Year 4: 105.3 Miles