The Blue Ridge area is not known for hiking trails as well as other parts of north Georgia, due to the heavy development of the area (Blue Ridge has become a popular getaway for folks who own a second home in the area but live most of the time outside of the mountains). The Aska Trail System near Blue Ridge has the longest interconnected set of trails in the region, and in fact, these trails are open to bikers in addition to hikers. The Aska Trails meander across the slopes of Rocky Mountain, Davenport Mountain, and Green Mountain, providing good views when the leaves are off the trees. One of the trails also provides access to the shoreline of 3300-acre Lake Blue Ridge. This hike occurred on Saturday, February 4th, 2017. My plan was to hike the east side of the Long Branch Loop Trail and then the Long Branch Connector Trail to the Green Mountain Trail. From there, I would first hike the Green Mountain Trail east out and back to the Lake Blue Ridge Trailhead, and then, I would hike the Green Mountain Trail west to Deep Gap, looping it with the Lower Green Mountain Trail. I would conclude the hike by retracing my steps along the Long Branch Connector and following the west side of the Long Branch Loop.
R/T Length of Trail: 10.5 Miles
Duration of Hike: 6:00
Type of Hike: Y-Configuration with Interior Loops
Difficulty Rating: 5 out of 10
Total Elevation Gain: 2284 Feet
Pros: Well-signed trail junctions
Cons: Mountain biking use can be disruptive; a portion of the Green Mountain Trail passes through a residential area; the upper (north) portion of the Green Mountain Loop is no longer maintained
Points of Interest: Views of Lake Blue Ridge; Summit of Green Mountain with winter views
Trail Blaze Colors: Long Branch Trail - Lime Green; Long Branch Connector - Lime Green; Green Mountain Trail - Lime Green (and Yellow Diamonds)
Best Seasons to Hike: Winter
Beginning Point: Long Branch Trailhead
Directions from Blue Ridge, GA: From the intersection of Old US 76 and Aska Road in Blue Ridge, follow Aska Road South for 5.9 miles. Then, turn left onto Shady Falls Road, and continue for 0.1 miles to the signed gravel parking area at the Long Branch Trailhead to the left.
Click here for more information and to download this trail map to view in Garmin Basecamp.
There are many ways to hike the trails in the Aska Trail System, and there are also numerous trailheads. The most common starting point is Deep Gap Trailhead, from where three trails - Green Mountain Trail, Stanley Gap Trail, and Flat Creek Loop - leave. My plan was to make my route more unique by beginning the hike at a less common starting point: Long Branch Trailhead.
The only trail that leaves the Long Branch Trailhead is the Long Branch Trail. Pick up the green-blazed trail beside a trailhead kiosk at the far end of the road. Before long, the trail picks up an old roadbed and reaches the signed beginning of the Long Branch Loop at 0.2 miles. To hike the east side of the loop first, bear right and downhill on the well-groomed trail. At 0.4 miles, the trail crosses Long Branch, which is a stream small enough to be culverted under the trail. After this, the trail begins an easy ascent east of Long Branch (generally out of sight of the creek), reaching the junction with the Long Branch Connector Trail at 0.9 miles. The Long Branch Loop bears left, but you'll hike it later; for now, to connect to the Green Mountain Trail, bear right on the connector trail. The connector trail ascends along the lower slopes of Green Mountain at easy to moderate grades, passing through some mountain laurel thickets. The connector trail ends at a signed intersection with the Green Mountain Trail at 1.35 miles. Note that the mileage sign, which indicates that the length of the connector is 0.7 miles, is inaccurate. Turning left on the Green Mountain Trail leads to the summit of Green Mountain and to Deep Gap, whereas turning right on the Green Mountain Trail leads to Lake Blue Ridge. I chose to turn right first.
After the right turn, follow the Green Mountain Trail northeast and downhill towards Lake Blue Ridge. Initially, some of the best winter views on the hike will be to the right, facing south and east toward the Toccoa River and the south end of Lake Blue Ridge. At around 1.6 miles, there is also a great winter view northeastward, with portions of Lake Blue Ridge visible through the trees. After this, the trail descends into a residential area, where it appears that the trail is under conservation easement. At 1.8 miles, the trail crosses a forest road that leads to a large cabin, and then, the trail descends below the cabin, to the left of another cabin, and to a paved residential road at 1.85 miles. Pick up the trail across the road as it passes right next to and to the left of a third cabin, leaving the residential area shortly thereafter.
The trail follows a low ridge and then begins a moderate descent to Lake Blue Ridge at 2.2 miles. The descent ends at 2.5 miles, where the trail crosses a small stream. There are views of a finger of Lake Blue Ridge to the right. Next, the trail bears right and crosses an ATV road as an access trail to FS Road 711 goes straight. At 2.7 miles, the Green Mountain Trail reaches a campsite and a notable open view of Lake Blue Ridge at the meeting point of two lake fingers. This is the best view of the lake on the hike. After this, the trail meanders over small hills and in and out of drainages that feed into various fingers of the lake. Following several more lake views through the trees, the Green Mountain Trail ends at its lower (north) trailhead at FS 711 at 3.6 miles. There is room for several cars here, but this trailhead is used a lot less than any of the other trailheads for the Aska Trail System.
The end of the Green Mountain Trail is a good place to turn around; retrace your steps to the Long Branch Connector Trail junction, returning to it at 5.85 miles. If you're feeling like getting a few more miles in, continue straight on the Green Mountain Trail, ascending towards Green Mountain. The ascent becomes rather steep for a short period of time, before becoming easier towards the top of the ridge. At 6.35 miles, where the trail reaches the top of the ridge, there is an intersection. Here, the Lower Green Mountain Trail bears left and downhill, while the abandoned Upper Green Mountain Trail bears right. Even though it is no longer maintained, I still suggest hiking the Upper Green Mountain Trail at least to the summit of Green Mountain, from where there are great views both northward and southward in winter. I am not sure of the reason for the closure of the Upper Green Mountain Trail, although I suspect it might be due to private property concerns near Deep Gap. To hike to Green Mountain, pick up the abandoned Upper Green Mountain Trail, which follows the spine of the ridge westward. There are some trees felled across the trail, but the ridge is easily followed. Some old white blazes seem to mark the route to the top of Green Mountain.
At 6.45 miles, the trail passes over a small knob. The letters "GM" are nailed to a tree on the knob. While these letters may stand for Green Mountain, this is not the true summit. Continue following the spine of the ridge, reaching the true summit of Green Mountain at 6.7 miles. In summer, there are few views from this point, but in winter, the views are fairly good. To the right (north), a portion of Lake Blue Ridge is visible far below. A "Green Mt" sign marks the summit. You will also know you're at the summit, when you see a thermometer attached to a tree at the summit (if the thermometer is still there). From the summit, there is also a good view of Davenport Mountain rising up ahead.
You can simply retrace your steps from the summit of Green Mountain - in fact, that is what I recommend doing - but it is also possible to continue to Deep Gap and then hike back along the Lower Green Mountain Trail. if you do so, make sure to avoid private property on the ridge near Deep Gap. Hiking toward Deep Gap, it is best to follow the ridge for about another quarter-mile, after which you should simply bushwhack (or try to locate the old trail) south-southwest down the slope of Green Mountain, without approaching the houses that are visible up on the ridge. If you follow this route, you'll reach Deep Gap and Aska Road at about 7.15 miles. The Deep Gap parking area is across the road, but to continue the hike, turn left onto the wide Lower Green Mountain Trail. This trail follows an old roadbed back up to the Upper Green Mountain Trail junction, ascending at an easy grade the entire time. You'll return to the junction at 8.2 miles. Here, continue straight on the Green Mountain Trail to the Long Branch Connector, and then follow the connector trail back down to the Long Branch Loop at 9.15 miles.
To spice up the return route a bit, turn right onto the Long Branch Loop to hike its west side. The trail descends to and crosses Long Branch via a footbridge at 9.25 miles. On the other side of the creek, a brief ascent brings the trail to the same old roadbed that the trail followed closer to the Long Branch Trailhead. From this point onward, the trail follows the nearly level and mostly nondescript roadbed southward all the way to the end of the loop, closing the loop at 10.3 miles. From here, simply continue southward on the final leg of the Long Branch Trail, reaching the trailhead and concluding the hike at 10.5 miles.
0.0 - Long Branch Trailhead
2.7 - Lake Blue Ridge Viewpoint
3.6 - Lake Blue Ridge Trailhead
6.7 - Green Mountain
7.15 - Deep Gap Trailhead
10.5 - Long Branch Trailhead
Hike out and back to Green Mountain from Long Branch Trailhead (including both sides of Long Branch Loop) - 4.85 Miles
Hike out and back to Green Mountain from Lake Blue Ridge Trailhead - 6.2 Miles
There are other hiking variations and possibilities in the Aska Trail System. The Aska Trails Map is a great tool for planning a hike here.
One of the more notable points of interest along the Aska Trail System is Fall Branch Falls. This double-tier 30-foot waterfall is accessed from Stanley Creek Road via an easy half-mile hike along the Benton Mackaye Trail.
Year 1: 540.0 Miles
Year 2: 552.3 Miles
Year 3: 518.4 Miles
Year 4: 107.2 Miles