The Appalachian Trail's southern terminus is located on Springer Mountain, Georgia. As the AT leaves the mountain, it traverses a watery valley, known as Three Forks, and then proceeds to follow long, dry ridgelines for the better of the next 30 miles. This hike is a prime example of the Georgia Appalachian Trail. Expect some views and some people - and a relatively easy hike. This hike occurred on Saturday, September 20th, 2014. My plan was to follow the Appalachian Trail, from Gooch Gap, north over Ramrock Mountain, through Woody Gap, and to Preaching Rock Overlook on the slopes of Big Cedar Mountain.
R/T Length of Trail: 9.6 Miles
Duration of Hike: 5 Hours
Type of Hike: Out-and-back
Difficulty Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Lots of ridgeline campsites; nice views; well-traded trail
Cons: Rollercoaster-like hike
Water Features: None
Scenic Views: Preaching Rock Overlook - 6 stars; Overlook on unnamed knob near Liss Gap - 5 stars; Ramrock Mountain Overlook - 2 stars; Woody Gap Overlook - 2 stars
Best Season(s) to Hike: Winter
Trail Blaze Color(s): Appalachian Trail - White
Beginning Point: Gooch Gap on Cooper Gap Road
Directions: From Suches, Georgia: From the Junction of GA State Route 60 and GA State Route 180, follow GA State Route 60 South for 0.5 miles. Then, turn right onto Cooper Gap Road, and follow it for 2.8 miles. There will be a small parking area on the left.
My goal is to eventually hike all of the Georgia Appalachian Trail. It may take a few years, because I hike more in other states, but it's going to happen eventually. This hike was part of the effort to accomplish the goal.
From Gooch Gap, take the Appalachian Trail north, or in other words, the direction that goes from the same side of the road where the parking is. There are a few campsites right by the road. Just a bit down, there's a spur trail that leads to a small creek for water. After this, there is a sign with mileage until Woody Gap. The trail starts off climbing, sometimes steeply, and continues to do so for 0.6 miles, before leveling out and following the slopes of the mountain on the left. At 1 mile,the trail reached Grassy Gap and crossed an old roadbed, before continuing to follow the slopes. At 1.6 miles, the trail descended steeply to Liss Gap. An equally steep ascent followed, that topped out on a unnamed knob at 1.9 miles. This knob had a nice campsite and a nice overlook. You could see Gooch Gap and the ridgelines surrounding it, the route f the AT. It was a nice, short-range view. The trail started descending and reached an unnamed gap at 2.1 miles, before starting the ascent, via switchbacks, to Ramrock Mountain. The trail reached the summit at 2.3 miles, with a small overlook on the right, and another campsite on the left. This could have been a nice overlook, but there's a lot of growth, limiting the views to a few distant Piedmont hills.
From Ramrock Mountain, keep moving down the Appalachian Trail to reach Tritt Gap at 2.6 miles after a few switchbacks. There is another campsite here, which isn't too bad. After this, the trail skirts the slopes of Black Mountain for 1.3 miles. At first, the trail was easy to follow, until it bended around one of the ridges and a campsite. After this point, it became rockier (although still very visible) and crossed a couple of rivulets. This wasn't hard, but slow-going terrain. Around 3 miles, you start hearing the sounds of cars, and at 3.6 miles, reach Woody Gap. Woody Gap is where GA-60 crosses through, and there is a large parking area on both the left and right sides of the road. It was pretty late in the evening, but the parking was full - there seemed to be a lot of campers here! Also, there is a view here, similar to the one from Ramrock Mountain. Cross the highway and continue on the AT at the far end of the parking area. You'll see a sign, greeting you with the Blood Mountain Wilderness. In 0.7 miles (4.3 miles from the start) reach a small gap after following the slopes of the ridge. Then, begin the ascent up Big Cedar Mountain. The ascent is steep, but at least there are switchbacks. Reach Preaching Rock, a nice view at 4.6 miles. The AT turns left and becomes even steeper as it nears the summit of Big Cedar Mountain, but Preaching Rock is the endpoint of this hike. The overlook is being taken over by some growth, but it is still a very nice view, with all of the mountains in the background, looking north. I would say this is the best view out of the various overlooks on this hike.
From the overlook, retrace your steps back along the rocky tread all the way to Gooch Gap.
In summary, this hike doesn't have much more than a route for more dedicated hikers. There's no big reason to do this hike, other than to add up some miles, see the views,and know you're one step loser to completing the Georgia AT. Below are my pictures and videos. I forgot to charge my Nikon camera, so had to use my videocamera. I have not included many pictures, because most of them look bad - I included only a few that look fair.
Mark Oleg Ozboyd
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