The Aska trails and South Fork Trail and Loop ride in the nearby Cohutta national forest just west of Blue Ridge are mountain biking trails that double as some incredible hiking trails. Of course, all of the mountain biking trails mentioned in the Blue Ridge mountain biking section are welcome to hikers, but the most popular hiking trails in Blue Ridge are the Benton MacKaye and Duncan Trails. These trails offer remarkable changes in terrain and some of the most beautiful scenery of the Cohutta Wilderness. Directions and a detailed description of each trail are described below.
Benton MacKaye Trail
The Benton MacKaye Trail in Georgia stretches from Springer Mountain to Double Spring Gap on the Tennessee border. The first 20 miles of this trail merge with the Appalachian Duncan Ridge Trails. From Springer Mountain, the Benton MacKaye Trail goes north to Rhodes Mountain and turns west, crossing the Toccoa River at Shallowford Bridge. The trail uses county roads near Stanley Gap, and then follows ridge tops to Cherry Log. The trail then crosses private property before following state and county roads to Bush Head Gap. The entire trail is marked with white diamonds and blazes on trees and is suitable for hiking and some mountain biking. 78.6 miles.
Access Points to the Benton MacKaye
Shallow Bridge Access: From Blue Ridge, take old US 76 for one mile east to Aska Road. Turn right, and go south for 9 miles to a steel bridge. GA Highway 60 Access: From Blue Ridge, take Old US 76 east for 5 miles to Morganton. There, turn right on GA 60 and travel south 15 miles near Tooni Gap.
The last 7 miles are located within the Cohutta Wilderness. The terrain varies from streams to laurel and Rhododendron thickets to scenic ridge tops, mature forest, and county roads. On the Cohutta District, the trail merges with the South Fork, Jacks River, and Hemptop Trails, where horse travel is permitted within the wilderness.
Watson Gap: Take GA 5 northwest out of Blue Ridge for about 4 miles. Turn left at Watson Gap directional sign onto Old GA 2 and travel 10.5 miles to Watson Gap, a four-way intersection, where the trail enters the road.
Dyer Gap: Follow directions to Watson Gap. Then turn left onto Forest Service Road 64 and go 3.5 miles to the Dyer Cemetery. The trail crosses the road just beyond this point.
Dally Gap: Follow directions to Watson Gap. Then turn right onto Forest Service Road 22 and go about 3.5 miles to Dally Road and the Jacks River trailhead, hike down the Jacks River Trail about 0.8 mile to the Benton MacKaye Trail intersect.
Duncan Ridge Trail
This challenging trail, not generally suitable for mountain biking, follows high, dry ridges for most of its length. The trail begins on Long Creek near Three Forks on the Appalachian Trail, goes north, and crosses the Toccoa River on a 260-foot swinging bridge. The trail then leads north and west along Duncan Ridge through Mulky Gap to Slaughter Gap. It includes many steep climbs and descents over several mountain tops. The trail is blue blazed for all of this section but also has yellow blazes on the eastern portion, where the Coosa Backcountry Trail shares the same treadway and also will have the white diamonds of the Benton MacKaye Trail from long Creek falls for Rhodes Mountain. About 1.25 miles on the eastern end are within the Blood Mountain Wilderness. A 60 mile loop trail can be made by combing this trail with the Appalachian Trail.
Directions: Take U.S. 19 and 129 south from Blairsville, for 9.5 miles. Turn right (west) onto GA 180 and go 3 miles to Wolfpen Gap. The trail crosses GA 180 in the gap. The trail can also be reached in Mulky Gap by Forest Service Road 4, Mulky Gap Road.
Rich Mountain Wilderness – Hikers exploring this wilderness area should be experienced and carry topographical maps, compass and survival gear. Enjoy spectacular wildflower displays. This area has a large bear population and many deer. Hikers cross several streams and see many waterfalls. Elevation varies from approximately 2000 feet near Little Rock Creek to 4081 feet at Big Bald mountain.
There is also the famous Appalachian Trail that starts in Georgia and heads northeast to North Caroline and on to Maine. The closest point on the Appalachian Trail is about a 45-minute drive from downtown Blue Ridge, Georgia. Experienced hikers may choose to explore the 35,000-acre Cohutta Wilderness Area, the largest protected wilderness east of the Mississippi River as well (see the mountain bike section for trial info).
Additional information contact the US Forestry Service at 706-632-3031 or stop by their office while visiting Blue Ridge.
North Georgia Hiking Clubs: