Chattahoochee National Forest: Pinnacle Knob via Courthouse Gap Trail, Clayton, Georgia
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.
R/T Length of Trail: 3.6 Miles
Duration of Hike: 2:30
Type of Hike: Out and Back
Difficulty Rating: 4 out of 10
Total Elevation Gain: 1022 Feet
Pros: Very well-graded ascent to Pinnacle Knob
Cons: Rather limited parking space around the Courthouse Gap Trailhead
Points of Interest: Pinnacle Knob Vista - 8 stars
Trail Blaze Colors: Courthouse Gap Trail - Lime Green; Bartram Trail - Lime Green; Pinnacle Knob Trail - Lime Green
Best Seasons to Hike: Summer
Beginning Point: Courthouse Gap Road below the actual trailhead
Directions from Clayton, GA: From the intersection of Rickman Drive, Savannah Street, and US Route 23/441 in Clayton, follow US Route 23/441 North for 0.8 miles. Then, turn right onto Pinnacle Drive and continue for 1.2 miles, before turning left onto unpaved Courthouse Gap Road. After 0.2 miles of driving on Courthouse Gap Road, you will reach a powerline cut. At the powerline cut, there is a small parking area on the left with space for two cars. 0.1 miles farther up Courthouse Gap Road, there is another small parking area on the left with space for around three cars, just as a "dead end" sign is nailed to a tree near the road. The Courthouse Gap trail begins on the left side of the road about 250 feet after the second parking area, but there is no parking space at all at the actual trailhead.
Click here to download a track of this hike.
My first visit to Pinnacle Knob was in July 2014, using the route from Warwoman Dell. At the time, I was blown away by the scenic view from the top of Pinnacle Knob. In the nearly three years that have passed, I have visited dozens of other vistas all across the Southeast, and I was sure that the view from Pinnacle Knob wouldn't seem as good anymore. While now it didn't seem as incredible as it once did to me, I was still correct that the view from Pinnacle Knob is among the best in northeast Georgia. I was also glad to see that an important change had occurred in regards to the Pinnacle Knob Trail. The trail used to be extremely steep, climbing 500 feet straight up Pinnacle Knob in a half-mile, but by my latest visit, the trail had been rerouted with ample switchbacks, doubling the length of the ascent (but keeping the elevation gain about the same) and making it significantly easier. Having done both the Courthouse Gap and Warwoman Dell approaches to Pinnacle Knob, I think that I like the Warwoman Dell approach slightly better, but the Courthouse Gap approach is good for folks who don't have time for a long hike.
This trail report describes the hike to Pinnacle Knob from the lower parking area on Courthouse Gap Road (at the powerline cut). Start walking up the gravel Courthouse Gap Road. After 0.15 miles (about 250 feet past the dead end sign), the signed Courthouse Gap Trail (#47) will be on the left. As you turn on the trail, you will begin ascending moderately using switchbacks toward Courthouse Gap. After two pairs of switchbacks, the grade eases up as the trail contours along the slopes well above a tributary of Norton Creek. After a stretch of easy uphill, the Courthouse Gap Trail reaches a signed junction with the Bartram Trail in Courthouse Gap at 0.5 miles. To the left, the Bartram Trail leaves toward Hogback Mountain, Rock Mountain, and eventually Rabun Bald. You must turn right onto the Bartram Trail for the hike to Pinnacle Knob. The Bartram Trail enters a brief stretch of moderate ascent, curving through rhododendron tunnels before reaching a junction with the Pinnacle Knob Trail on a small hill at 0.8 miles. Here, the Bartram Trail continues straight toward Martin Creek Falls, Becky Branch Falls, and Warwoman Dell. Bear right onto the green-blazed Pinnacle Knob Trail to continue the hike to Pinnacle Knob.
The Pinnacle Knob Trail begins a gentle ascent up a small ridge, which serves as an approach to the steep slopes that surround the knob itself. At 0.9 miles, bear right on the new trail as the blocked-off old trail continues straight.. The new trail makes a switchback and then passes near a gap at the foot of Pinnacle Knob's steep crown at 1.05 miles. Here, you can see the old Pinnacle Knob Trail crossing the new trail from left to right and beginning the extremely steep ascent up Pinnacle Knob. The new trail continues straight, gradually ascending and contouring along the slopes of the knob. At 1.25 miles, the trail makes the first of two long switchbacks. In the springtime, the following stretch of trail is flanked by rows of blooming mountain laurel bushes and is very pretty. The second long switchback is at 1.5 miles, after which the trail passes through a shallow gap near a false summit. As the trail slowly makes the final climb to the summit, it passes a beautiful line of rock outcrops and overhanging cliffs to the right at 1.65 miles. Then, the trail makes a final pair of switchbacks, after which there is a neat overhanging boulder on the right. Finally, at 1.75 miles, the Pinnacle Knob Trail ends at a long flat rock slab positioned at the top of tall cliffs near the summit of Pinnacle Knob.
The cliffs of Pinnacle Knob provide a breathtaking 270-degree view to the north, west, and south. The north-northeast end of the view from Pinnacle Knob includes some of Rabun County's highest terrain: Rock Mountain and Rabun Bald. Rabun Bald is the tallest peak well in the distance to the northeast. Directly in front of the cliffs, to the north-northwest, is Hogback Mountain with its powerline cut, and farther, a series of tall ridges lines the horizon. The Stekoa Creek valley lies just below Pinnacle Knob to the west, and Black Rock Mountain towers on the other side. The valley stretches on southwestward to distant hills. Altogether, the panoramic nature of the view in combination with a great balance of an attractive foreground and background makes this a truly great overlook that does not present any special difficulty to reach. In addition, Pinnacle Knob is not a popular destination, so you'll never encounter crowds (if any people at all!). Before you leave Pinnacle Knob, make sure to follow the path away from the cliffs and to the top of the knob itself to bag the peak. At the summit (elevation 3141 feet), which you'll reach at 1.8 miles, there is a campsite and USGS survey marker.
From the summit of Pinnacle Knob, simply retrace your steps back to the trailhead, returning to the car and concluding the hike at 3.6 miles. Keep in mind that if you park at the upper parking area, the hike will only be 3.4 miles long.
0.0 - Courthouse Gap Road Lower Parking
0.5 - Courthouse Gap
0.8 - Pinnacle Knob Trail Junction
1.75 - Pinnacle Knob Vista
1.8 - Summit of Pinnacle Knob
3.6 - Courthouse Gap Road Lower Parking
Consider checking out one of the waterfalls along Darnell Creek Road or hiking the Darnell Creek Trail to Ramey Creek Falls after the Pinnacle Knob hike.
6/4/2018 10:11:51 am
How is the drive getting to the trailhead on Pinnicle Dr and Courthouse Gap road? I don't have a 4 wheel drive vehicle - just a prius. Is it doable?
3/29/2019 07:58:24 am
I have a Jeep, but it’s one of those “in name only” Jeeps - 4 cylinder and not 4 wheel drive. I had no problem with the drive up Courthouse road as long as I didn’t stop on the gravel. My wheels would spin if I did. However, I was unable to complete the hike as someone who lives along that road has a large dog that kept standing in front of my car (it’s possible that I may have missed the parking area and been driving where I wasn’t supposed to.)
4/6/2019 11:16:44 pm
Today the lower parking area (under the power lines) was roped off with no trespassing and no parking signs. I was able to get to the upper parking area with my Prius - gravel road is steep but in good condition.Great hike today, although I went L on the Bartram trail from the junction to Hogback Mountain instead of going up Pinnacle
10/27/2021 03:29:29 pm
I re-visited Pinnacle Knob this past Sunday (October 24, 2021) and found a clearly marked parking area which will fit 3 vehicles if parked carefully. 4-wheel drive was not required, and signage about where parking is prohibited was prominently in view. As it was a pretty Sunday in October, I encountered 3 parties of 2 people each during my trek. This was my first experience with the new switchback approach and - while it lengthens the walk - it is quite preferable to the old slog straight up the gully to the top.
Leave a Reply.
Mark Oleg Ozboyd
Dear readers: I have invested a tremendous amount of time and effort in this website and the Georgia Waterfalls Database the past five years. All of the work that has gone in keeping these websites updated with my latest trip reports has almost been like a full-time job. This has not allowed me to pick up a paid job to save up money for college, and therefore, I I've had to take out loans. If you find the information on this website interesting, helpful, or time-saving, you can say "thanks" and help me out by clicking the button above and making a contribution. I will be very grateful for any amount of support you give, as all of it will apply toward my college tuition. Thank you!
Coming in 2022-2023?
Other Hiking Websites
Year 1: 540.0 Miles
Year 2: 552.3 Miles
Year 3: 518.4 Miles
Year 4: 482.4 Miles
Year 5: 259.9 Miles