Cumberland Trail: Edwards Point Loop via Mushroom Rock, Blue Trail, Orange Trail, and Bee Branch Trail, Signal Mountain, Tennessee
The Cumberland Trail, a work in progress that will be a 300-mile trail when completed, has its southern terminus at Signal Point in the Chattanooga metro area. One of the Cumberland Trail's most spectacular sections is its very first one as it traces the rim of the Tennessee River Gorge, visiting outstanding views at Signal Point and Edwards Point as well as a unique geological formation known as Mushroom Rock at the edge of the Suck Creek Gorge. Beside the Cumberland Trail, several lesser-used trails give hikers the option to turn a hike to Edwards Point into a full-day loop with additional sights. Most notable is a spectacular half-mile section of the Orange Trail as it follows a remote and rugged bluff line in the Middle Creek Gorge. This hike occurred on Saturday, November 25th, 2017. My plan was to hike a loop from Signal Point that would follow the Cumberland Trail past Edwards Point all the way to Mushroom Rock, from where I would follow the Mushroom Rock Trail, Blue Trail, Orange Trail, and Bee Branch Trail back to Signal Mountain. After coming out at Ohio Avenue, I would conclude the hike with a short roadwalk through the town of Signal Mountain to Signal Point.
Chattahoochee National Forest: Duncan Ridge Trail from Mulky Gap to Rhodes Mountain View, Blairsville, Georgia
There's something about the Duncan Ridge Trail that sets it apart from most other trails in Georgia: its sheer difficulty. This unique trail constantly follows Duncan Ridge with its sharp knobs and deep gaps that present constant obstacles along the trail. The rollercoaster fashion of the Duncan Ridge Trail will give you a tough workout, and that's exactly why most people hike it - for there are no spectacular waterfalls anywhere on the trail. The trail is best hiked in the winter when bare trees allow continuous views in both directions from the ridge. Even though there is only one year-round view - on Rhodes Mountain - of any significance along the west part of the trail, seasoned hikers will still find it an enjoyable peaceful hike. This hike occurred on Thursday, November 23rd, 2017. My plan was to hike out and back along the Duncan Ridge Trail from Mulky Gap to the Benton Mackaye Trail Junction just past the view from Rhodes Mountain.
The Valley and Ridge area of Northwest Georgia is not known for waterfalls, unlike almost every other mountainous section of the state. Most of the available hikes in this area simply follow low ridges like Horn Mountain, Johns Mountain, and Taylor Ridge that separate similar valleys. The Keown Falls Scenic Area is unique to the region, as it is home to the area's two only publicly-accessible waterfalls: South Keown Falls and Keown Falls. Both waterfalls are accessed easily by the Keown Falls Trail, but it's worth extending the hike along the Johns Mountain Trail, which has great winter views from Johns Mountain. There are some other opportunities to extend the hike, such as following the Pinhoti Trail along Johns Mountain Road and past Pilchers Pond - although hikers may not find that part of the trail particularly exciting. This hike occurred on Saturday, November 11th, 2017. My plan was to hike a loop with the Keown Falls Trail, Johns Mountain Trail, FS 208, and the Pinhoti Trail past Pilchers Pond, starting at the end of FS 702. Unfortunately, the quality of this longer loop hike was degraded by a rather ugly logged area on the north side of Johns Mountain Road.
Blood Mountain Wilderness: Steeltrap Knob Vista Trail, Appalachian Trail to Preachers Rock, and Dockery Lake Trail to Twin Falls and Martha's Falls, Suches, Georgia
Preachers Rock is a well-known destination along the Appalachian Trail on Big Cedar Mountain that features a great view of the Blood Mountain Wilderness. A couple of other trails in the area can be utilized to create a loop hike from either Chestatee Overlook (on Highway 60) or Dockery Lake, visiting one other vista as well as up to three waterfalls. The unofficial Steeltrap Knob Trail provides a useful connection between Chestatee Overlook and Woody Gap, at the same visiting a spectacular view of the Georgia Piedmont from little-known cliffs on the side of Steeltrap Knob. Meanwhile, the Dockery Lake Trail travels through the Pigeon Roost Creek Valley between Dockery Lake and the Appalachian Trail. While no waterfalls are right on the trail, visiting Martha's Falls, Twin Falls, and Dockery Lake Falls will require only short off-trail diversions. This hike occurred on Sunday, October 29th, 2017. My plan was to hike a loop from Chestatee Overlook, starting with the Steeltrap Knob Trail and stopping by the Steeltrap Knob Vista along the way. I would then take the Appalachian Trail over Big Cedar Mountain and to the Dockery Lake Trail, stopping by several views from Big Cedar Mountain along the way, including Preachers Rock. Next, I would take the Dockery Lake Trail to Dockery Lake, visiting Twin Falls, Martha's Falls, and Dockery Lake Falls along the way. I would conclude the hike with a walk up Dockery Lake Road back to Highway 60 and Chestatee Overlook.
Brasstown Wilderness: Arkaquah Trail to Buzzard Roost Ridge View, Rattlesnake Bluff, Chimneytop Mountain View, and Brasstown Bald, Young Harris, Georgia
The Arkaquah Trail has always been one of Georgia's most famous trails thanks to its difficulty and its approach to the tallest peak in the state. Of the three different trails that summit Brasstown Bald, the Arkaquah Trail is undoubtedly the most scenic. In fact, whereas the crowded summit of Brasstown Bald with its large observation tower may not be alluring to wilderness hikers, three other vistas can be found near the Arkaquah Trail. The view from Chimneytop Mountain in particular is arguably one of the state's most jaw-dropping views with its 180-degree panorama! Even more remarkable is that this view remains largely unknown to the hiking community despite its proximity to the Arkaquah Trail. With the two other beautiful overlooks plus the Brasstown Bald summit accessible via the trail, the Arkaquah Trail is one of the most scenic hikes in North Georgia. This hike occurred on Saturday, October 21st, 2017. My plan was to hike out and back along the Arkaquah Trail to the summit of Brasstown Bald, making side trips to the three views along the way.
Chattahoochee National Forest: Little Cedar Mountain Vista and Waterfalls of Canada Creek via Highway 60 Trailhead, Suches, Georgia
While the views atop Big Cedar Mountain along the Appalachian Trail are well-known, its lower brother Little Cedar Mountain on the other side of the quaint community of Suches is far more obscure. Despite this, a good trail leads to Little Cedar Mountain, where a set of cliffs provides a great view into the Canada Creek valley. The picturesque view is only the beginning though - a connecting trail leads deep into the Canada Creek valley, where a set of four breathtaking waterfalls await. Ranging from only 15 to over 50 feet high, all four waterfalls are fairly easy to reach thanks to an intricate network of unofficial trails along forest roads and fainter paths up and down the Canada Creek watershed. This hike occurred on Saturday, October 7th, 2017. My plan was to hike from Highway 60 to the vista atop Little Cedar Mountain. From there, I would scout out one route down into the Canada Creek valley and another on my way back (as I learned, only one route had a trail). Once in the valley, I would follow trails to Big Falls, Second Falls, and Third Falls, and if time permitted, Fourth Falls too.
Tallulah Gorge State Park: Gorge Floor - Sliding Rock - Rim Loop to Hurricane Falls, Oceana Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Inspiration Point, Tallulah Falls, Georgia
Tallulah Gorge is an anomaly in Georgia. The cliff-lined gorge through which the Tallulah River flows is nearly 1000 feet deep in places, and there's no other gorge of this magnitude anywhere else in the state. Tallulah Gorge State Park encompasses all of the gorge below Tallulah Falls Dam and has a number of hiking trails that provide access into the gorge. While some trails follow the rims with breathtaking views of the gorge, a different trail descends hundreds of steps to Hurricane Falls deep in the gorge. From there, one can follow a rugged and rocky footpath known as the Gorge Floor Trail along the river and past two other waterfalls, but a Gorge Floor Permit is necessary for this - and only 100 are issued per day. The extremely steep climb back out along the Sliding Rock Trail is an exciting rock scramble with more views of the cliffs. Lastly, before concluding the hike, you'll have the chance to stop by Inspiration Point - a sweeping panorama that is arguably the best view of Tallulah Gorge. This hike occurred on Saturday, September 30th, 2017. My plan was to hike the Gorge Floor Loop clockwise, later making a side trip to Inspiration Point.
The Iron Mountain Loop is one of the less-used trails in the Cohutta Mountains. Most folks who visit the Conasauga River choose to hike the Conasauga River Trail #11 in the Cohutta Wilderness proper, well above the Jacks River confluence. On the other hand, the Iron Mountain Trail combines with Cherokee National Forest's Conasauga River Trail #61 to showcase a much broader and equally pristine section of the Conasauga River below the Jacks River confluence, where two mighty mountain rivers join into one. Although much of the Iron Mountain Trail is just a peaceful wooded walk across the slopes of Iron Mountain, a small vista at the halfway point offers a welcome break with a view of the West Cowpen Ridge that forms the Cohutta Wilderness boundary. The Iron Mountain Loop has only one downside: it gets a fair amount of equestrian traffic. This hike occurred on Saturday, September 23rd, 2017. My plan was to hike the Iron Mountain Loop clockwise by first following the Iron Mountain Trail from Cottonwood Patch Campground and then hiking the Conasauga River Trail to FS 221. The loop would be concluded with a short roadwalk along FS 221 and FS 16.
Cohutta Wilderness: Panther Creek Falls via Hickory Creek - Conasauga River - Panther Creek - East Cowpen Loop, Chatsworth, Georgia
Panther Creek Falls is one of two well-known waterfalls in the Cohutta Wilderness. During high flow, the falls is quite beautiful as Panther Creek slides 80 feet down a massive cliff. But the many different wilderness approaches to Panther Creek Falls are at least as great as the falls itself. The Hickory Creek Loop approach to Panther Creek Falls is likely the most difficult and least-used, but the spectacular wilderness experience on remote trails is well worth it. On this strenuous loop hike, you'll follow the Conasauga River and cross it twice, scramble through a steep and unique boulder field, visit Panther Creek Falls and the great vista atop it, and gain over 3500 feet in elevation. If you don't feel like completing the Hickory Creek Loop in a long day hike, numerous superb campsites will allow you to split the loop into as many days as you feel comfortable. This hike occurred on Saturday, September 16th, 2017. My plan was to hike the Hickory Creek Loop counter-clockwise from the end of East Cowpen Road by following the Hickory Creek Trail, Conasauga River Trail, Panther Creek Trail, and East Cowpen Trail.
Few mountains in Georgia are landmarks as prominent as Yonah Mountain. Situated between the towns of Helen and Cleveland, Yonah Mountain's shape and spectacular sheer cliffs can be recognized from nearly every direction. In recent years, the trail to the top of Yonah Mountain has also become one of the most popular hikes in Georgia and for good reason: the incredible panoramic views atop Yonah's cliffs are easily among Georgia's most breathtaking. Even though the trail involves a fairly steep ascent, it does not stop up to hundreds of people from visiting the cliffs on good weekends. Unfortunately, the crowds can be a drawback of this hike, but the views are so spectacular that it's still worth it, and if you hike very early in the morning or late in the day, you might encounter relatively few people. This hike occurred on Monday, September 4th, 2017. My plan was to hike the Yonah Mountain Trail out and back to the top of Yonah Mountain, where I would make a small loop visiting all four main vistas. On my way back, I would make a slight detour to see an enormous boulder known simply as "The Boulder".
Miller Trek is one of Northeast Georgia's most underrated trails. Starting out from Brasstown Valley Resort near Young Harris, Miller Trek makes a loop on the slopes of Rocky Knob at the north end of a ridge extending from Brasstown Bald, Georgia's tallest peak. Besides the peace that this remote trail offers, it also passes a little-known spur trail to a bluff on the south side of Rocky Knob with a breathtaking 270-degree view that encompasses much of Brasstown Valley as well as Lake Chatuge, the towns of Hiawassee and Young Harris, and even the west end of Southern Nantahala Wilderness including Eagle Mountain. Adventurous hikers can continue along the ridge to tall cliffs on Cedar Knob, where more views to the west into Brasstown Valley await. This hike occurred on Monday, August 21st, 2017. My plan was to hike the Miller Trek Loop and Keys Branch Loop counter-clockwise. Along the way, I would make a side trip to Rocky Knob Bluff, where I would watch the Great American Total Solar Eclipse of 2017, and I would also continue to the clifftop views on Cedar Knob.
The Pinhoti Trail is a long-distance trail that runs for over 300 miles across Alabama and Georgia. Portions of it are still in the development stage, particularly in West Georgia where little public land is available. The northernmost part of the PT is in the Cohutta Mountains, where the trail is remote and little-traveled due to an overall lack of significant features. The section of the Pinhoti between Mulberry Gap Road and Highway 52 is on the southern fringe of the Cohutta Mountains is a well-constructed trail that is great for a mostly relaxing walk with good exercise. Even though this segment of the trail is a bit more popular due to its proximity to two roadways, you will still find it mostly peaceful except where it approaches Highway 52. As a bonus, a very short road-walk from the end of the segment will lead you to a grassy clearing with panoramic views of the Cohutta Mountains. This hike occurred on Saturday, August 19th, 2017. My plan was to hike out and back along the Pinhoti Trail from Mulberry Gap Road to Highway 52 and to Cohutta Overlook.
Chattahoochee National Forest: Currahee Mountain Trail and Upper Frady Branch Trail System to Big Leatherwood Falls and Latham-Edmonds Cemetery, Toccoa, Georgia
The northeast sector of Lake Russell Wildlife Management Area is home to the Toccoa's area best-known peak: Currahee Mountain. Even though this prominent mountain has a relatively low elevation of 1740 feet above sea level, it still is situated well above the surrounding valleys and provides commanding long-range views to the north, east, and south. A steep trail used mostly by rock climbers leads from Highway 184 to the cliffs and views atop Currahee Mountain, from where one can reach the Frady Branch Trail System with some roadwalk. Even though much of the Upper Frady Branch Trail System follows broad forest roads, it has a surprising amount of points of interest, including three historic homesites, a small quarry, an ancient cemetery, and perhaps most importantly: a 50-foot waterfall in the headwaters of Big Leatherwood Creek. Even though Big Leatherwood Falls is less than a quarter-mile from an official trail, it is a very little-known waterfall in a gorgeous pristine setting, and getting to it can be tricky due to the lack of a good path. This hike occurred on Saturday, August 12th, 2017. My plan was to hike the Currahee Mountain Trail to the summit of Currahee Mountain. There, I would follow Currahee Mountain Road to the Latham Cemetery Trailhead. I would then make a loop along the upper portions of the Frady Branch Trail System, making side trips to four historic sites and BIg Leatherwood Falls. I would retrace my earlier steps once I re-emerged on Currahee Mountain Road.
Grandfather Mountain State Park: Cragway Trail, Daniel Boone Scout Trail, and Grandfather Crest Trail to Swinging Bridge from Boone Fork Trailhead, Blowing Rock, North Carolina
Anyone who lives in the Southeastern United States must have a hike along the crest of Grandfather Mountain on their bucket list. No words or pictures can accurately describe or convey the rugged splendor of the Grandfather Crest. Part of Grandfather Mountain is still operated as a private attraction that does allow public access under a hefty fee and a number of restrictions, but most of the mountain is land owned by the state of North Carolina in the form of Grandfather Mountain State Park. One of the secondary trailheads for Grandfather Mountain is actually off the Blue Ridge Parkway, from which several trails lead to Calloway Peak - the highest point on Grandfather Mountain. From there, the Grandfather Trail makes a very rugged traverse over two other peaks - Attic Window Peak and MacRae Peak - with many technical rock scrambles, cable sections, ladders, and of course, outstanding views. The 360-degree vistas on Attic Window Peak and MacRae Peak are of the type that you would find in Montana or Colorado rather than North Carolina. Eventually, the Grandfather Trail descends into the mountain's private section, reaching Linville Peak (where additional views await) and one of North Carolina's best-known tourist attractions: the Mile-High Swinging Bridge. This hike occurred on Monday, July 10th, 2017. My plan was to hike the Tanawha Trail, Nuwati Trail, Cragway Trail, and Daniel Boone Scout Trail to the summit of Calloway Peak, passing Top Crag View, Flat Rock View, Lynn Cove Viaduct View, and an old plane crash. Then, I would follow the Grandfather Trail over Attic Window Peak and MacRae Peak to Linville Peak and the Swinging Bridge, making side trips to Watauga View and Indian House Cave along the way. My return route would be similar, but I would use the Underwood Trail to bypass MacRae Peak, and I would use only the Daniel Boone Scout Trail instead of the Cragway Trail and Nuwati Trail for a slightly easier descent back to the trailhead from Calloway Peak. This hike was the ninth of ten hikes that I did during a seven-day trip to the mountains of northwest North Carolina.
Appalachian Trail: US 321 (Hampton Blueline) Trailhead to Laurel Falls to Potato Top Vista to Dennis Cove Trailhead, Elizabethton, Tennessee
The 55-foot Laurel Falls is one of Northeast Tennessee's most breathtaking waterfalls. Located just outside of the community of Hampton and off the Appalachian Trail in Pond Mountain Wilderness, access to Laurel Falls is fairly easy, making it a destination that can often be crowded, but the falls and the whole hike is still worthwhile - for there is a lot more to see along this stretch of the AT. Above Laurel Falls, an unofficial side trail makes a steep scramble to the pointy summit of Potato Top, where there are several excellent views of the Laurel Fork Gorge and surrounding wilderness. In addition, the Appalachian Trail between US 321 and Dennis Cove Road passes a lot of pretty creekside scenery and several spectacular cliffs that rise along Laurel Fork Creek. This hike occurred on Sunday, July 9th, 2017. My plan was to hike out and back along the Hampton Blueline Trail and then Appalachian Trail from the trailhead off US 321 near Hampton to the Dennis Cove Trailhead. Along the way, I would take the side trails to Potato Top and Laurel Falls, and on my way back, I would take the high-water bypass route past Laurel Fork Shelter above Laurel Falls for a bit of variation. This hike was the eighth of ten hikes that I did during a seven-day trip to the mountains of northwest North Carolina.
Year 1: 540.0 Miles
Year 2: 552.3 Miles
Year 3: 518.4 Miles
Year 4: 424.6 Miles