When we say the old Blue Ridge mountains, we mean it! As part of the Appalachian mountain range, the Blue Ridge mountains are the second oldest range in the whole world. Over 1 BILLION years ago, shifts in our Earth’s tectonic plates caused the Blue Ridge mountains to form in a system of peaks and valleys that span eight states!
Sometimes it’s a little confusing that you can see the Blue Ridge mountains in other states besides Georgia but these mountains are vast. There is a Northern section that includes Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. The Southern section includes West Virginia, Tennessee, North & South Carolina, and of course right here in Blue Ridge, Georgia! Our particular section of the range is known as the Appalachian Mountain Range and we are a part of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest.
They Really are Blue!
Have you ever wondered why these mountains are called Blue Ridge? If you catch any section of the range at the right time of day, you’ll see that the mountains have a distinctive blue color. The forests that cover these rocky protrusions are predominately made up of spruce and fir trees and they emit isoprene into the atmosphere creating the blue hue!
The Blue Ridge Mountains can span across 60 miles in some locations. While the tallest mountain in this system is Mount Mitchell in North Carolina rising at 6,684 feet high, just 30 minutes from downtown Blue Ridge is the tallest peak in Georgia, Brasstown Bald rising at 4,784 feet above sea level! Here you can see 4 states!
The Native Americans, and specifically the Cherokee, lived in the Blue Ridge area more than 12,000 years ago! The moderate climate and the character of the mountains themselves, made a perfect region for inhabitants to settle. They farmed and hunted in the valleys and mountains that they called “the Enchanted Land” until they were forced to leave on the Trail of Tears.
One popular trail system that follow the Blue Ridge mountains all the way through Virginia is the Appalachian Trail. Hikers along the trail get the advantage of seeing the stunning untouched beauty of the mountains.
At the extreme Southern tip of the Appalachian Trail and the
entire Blue Ridge mountain system is the spectacular Amicalola
Falls, the tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi!
Hiking with your dog can be fun for both you and your furry friend. Not only does it provide a great source of exercise for you and your dog, but it’s also one of the best ways to have amazing adventures while creating memories that will last a lifetime. It’s a win-win for everyone!
While we’d all love to be able to take our dogs with us on every trail we venture down, we can’t always do that. Sometimes the trails are too steep or the terrain is too rough for our four-legged friends to maneuver, or sometimes they simply aren’t allowed in that area because of other critters that may be dangerous for our dogs to encounter.
To make things a little easier for you and your furry companion, here’s a list of a few trails around the Blue Ridge area that are sure to bring tons of fun for both and your favorite adventure buddy!
Duncan Ridge Trail
Easily accessible by both the Appalachian Trail and the Benton MacKaye Trail, the Duncan Ridge Trail is one of the more difficult trails in the Northeast Georgia Mountains, spanning a total of around 30.1 miles. While the trail is labeled as moderate to strenuous by most experienced hikers and backpackers out there (mainly because of the low usage and steep climbs), don’t let that discourage you from taking on this gorgeous trek back into the Chattahoochee National Forest! You don’t have to hike the whole 30.1 miles and for those with pups that aren’t too keen on making friends with other hikers/dogs, this trail will let you have the outdoor experience you always wanted without the anxiety of other dogs and hikers.
The Duncan Ridge Trail begins at Three Forks on the Appalachian Trail/Benton MacKaye Trail. Beginning at Three Forks, you’ll hop on the AT and walk the beautiful mile stretch out toward Long Creek Falls, following the soft sounds of the creek that runs alongside the trail. Hiking toward the falls, the Benton MacKaye Trail (BMT) and the Duncan Ridge Trail veer off to the right less than 0.1 miles after the short path down to the falls begins. There will be markers present that identifies which trail is the BMT and which is the Duncan Ridge Trail but just in case, follow the blue vertical blazes (marks on the trees) for the Duncan Ridge and the white diamond blazes for the BMT.
From there, hikers will follow the trail through a tunnel of laurels and rhododendrons during the spring and summer months deep into the Chattahoochee National Forest before reaching the swinging bridge over the Toccoa River. Hikers can choose to push on and make the climb up Tooni Mountain, or call it a day a hike back toward Three Forks. Regardless of what you decide, just remember to have fun and hike your own hike!
Appalachian Approach Trail
Roughly 75 percent of Appalachian Trail hikers, thru-hikers and sectioners alike, decide to take the Appalachian Approach Trail to begin the trail while the other 25 percent simply take off at the base of Springer Mountain as they start the 2,192 mile (or less) journey. But for those who want to join the majority, the 8-mile trail starts off from Amicalola Falls State Park, beginning the 78-mile Georgia portion of this famous hiking trail to Maine. Not planning on walking to Maine? Then just hop on the Appalachian Approach Trail with your favorite furry pal and enjoy one of the best day hikes in the North Georgia Mountains.
Just above the top of Amicalola Falls (you can hike up the falls or just enjoy the view from the parking lot at the top), the trailhead begins. For the first ⅓ mile, the trail will coincide with the Len Foote Hike Inn. When the trail forks, follow the blue blazes, veer left, and head toward Springer Mountain.
Soon enough the trail will leave Amicalola State Park, climbing its way through the Chattahoochee National Forest and onward toward the Appalachian Trail. Though not strenuous, this trail is rated at moderate, so this might prove a challenge for some at certain parts of the trail. Elevation gain is steady over the eight miles, climbing gradually through the thick Chattahoochee Forest. During the spring and summer months, the trail beams with lush greenery and vibrant native wildflowers. In the fall, the trail is a technicolor of bright orange, yellow, and red. Regardless of the time of year, the trail promises spectacular scenery.
While much of the eight-mile stretch is shaded and covered with thicket, the last 1.5 miles will provide close to 500-ft elevation gain and thinning treeline as you make the final climb up Springer. And once you get to the summit, the blue blazes will fade to white, marking the Southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail and a gorgeous view of the rolling mountains and valleys of the Blue Ridge.
Stanley Gap Trail
If you’re looking for the typical North Georgia hiking experience for you and your furry friend, look no further than the Stanley Gap Trail. Full of bright red Georgia clay and plenty of white mountain granite and large roots, you’re in for an adventurous afternoon out in the Chattahoochee National Forest. Now, be forewarned, this trail doesn’t offer up any waterfalls or stunning summit views, but it’s great for those who just want to get out and enjoy the beauty of the North Georgia Mountains. Plus, you’ll have plenty of protection from the sun on hot, humid days.
Coming in at just under 5 miles — around 4.8 mi — the Stanley Gap Trail is rated at moderated, but those used to hiking easier trails shouldn’t find this one too difficult either. It’s fairly forgiving, with breaks in the upward climb every 50- 100 ft along the way. The main thing hikers should watch out for are large upturned roots and rocks that can be a bit tricky to manage if you’re not careful. But as long as you are being mindful of them, the hike shouldn’t pose any problems whatsoever.
The highest point on the trail comes around Rocky Mountain, just below the summit, near the trail’s halfway point. After reaching that point, you’ll have to scamper up one last incline before winding back down for 1,000 ft descent toward Deep Gap. If you’re not wanting to hike all the way back to the trailhead, you can always make arrangements ahead of time for someone to pick you up at the Deep Gap parking lot or even catch a ride with a trail system shuttle driver back to you (and your dog!) back to your car.
Where are your favorite places to hike with your favorite 4-legged family member? Be sure to share your pictures of your journeys with us on Facebook or Instagram. We’d love to see where your Escape to Blue Ridge takes you!
If you’re looking for a scenic
trail with beautiful falls at the end, and to check off a couple high profile hiking
trails while you’re at it, Long
Creek Falls in the Chattahoochee National Forest in Blue Ridge, Georgia
should make it to the top of your list.
An easy to moderate difficulty
rating, Long Creek Falls is a two-mile round trip “out-and-back trail” that
sits directly on the Appalachian
Trail (AT), with access to both the Benton
McKaye Trail and the Duncan Ridge Trail. Uniquely, the Appalachian Trail
and Benton McKaye Trail run together as one route during this particular
section of the footpath.
With full falls, even in the
middle of summer, Long Creek Falls is one of the first attractions along the
Appalachian Trail and one of the prettiest you’ll find not only in Fannin
County, but also throughout all of the North Georgia Mountains! Exposed rock
frames the cascading water, allowing for optimum sitting spots along the bank
of the falls and the creek that it feeds. Before tumbling over one large rock
face, Long Creek runs over smaller rocks, making the final drop into a shallow
pool at the base of the falls even that much more impressive. Since the falls
are only a short walk off of the AT, it’s a hot spot for thru-hikers who want a
quiet place to rest their feet, take a nap alongside the river, or simply sit
and take in the beauty of the falls.
Family & Pet Friendly
Over the years, Long Creek Falls
has also become a destination for day hikers, particularly families and those
with dogs who want a decent trail to visit on the weekends. In fact, it’s grown
so much in popularity that the parking lot at Three Forks (the area you’ll
drive to the start of the trail) is always packed, sprawling out down the dirt
service road, especially on the weekends. So, if you’re wanting a less crowded
view of the falls, going on the weekdays would give you more privacy to enjoy
the trail and the falls once you get there.
For those with kids or grandkids,
the falls are a huge hit since the shallow pool serves as the best spot to take
a refreshing dip in the cool water, especially on those particularly sticky,
southern summer days!
Take It Up a Notch
If you’re feeling especially
ambitious after hiking Long Creek Falls, you can extend your hike another 8.6
miles and head toward Springer Mountain, the southern terminus for the Appalachian
Trail. Though more difficult than Long Creek, the “out-and-back” from the
trailhead at Long Creek to the peak of Springer Mountain offers one of the most
diverse terrains on all of the Georgia section of the AT. Just follow the 2 x
6-inch white blaze north!
Are We There Yet?
You can hear that soft rustle of
water from the start of the trail all the way through.
As far as getting to the trailhead
goes, it isn’t a hard one to find. In fact, you can even plug the location into
your GPS and it’ll take you right to the parking lot. From Blue Ridge, you’ll
take Old Highway 76 and hop on Aska Road until it dead-ends into Newport Road.
Take Newport Road until it ends and turn left onto Doublehead Gap Road.
Doublehead Gap will turn into a dirt road, which you’ll follow until the
three-way split. On the split, follow Forest Service Road 58 until you reach
Three Forks, which is just over five miles.
Once you’ve made it, park your car, follow the trail across the road from the footbridge, and take in all the wonder and beauty of Long Creek Falls!