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Duluth Massage

AT Springer Mountain to Woody Gap
Georgia Trails

Trail Length: 20.1 miles Type of trail: Point to Point
County: Union County, GA, Lumpkin County, GA, Fannin County, GA Our rating: D
Features: scenic, camping, AT Your rating:
Usage: Medium Added on: January 01, 1995
Last hiked: May 28, 2012 Updated on: September 14, 2013
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Directions to AT Springer Mountain to Woody Gap

Appalachian Trail in Georgia
Each time I approach the starting point of the Appalachian Trail here at Springer Mountain I wonder what thru-hikers must feel at this almost-holy ground. Or what north to south hikers think when they reach the end, only to find an additional 8-mile hike on the Southern Terminus Approach Trail. I have always wanted to make this trek, but work and family have prohibited it.

Hiking north from Amicalola Falls State Park, which has the long-term parking for the AT there is a shelter at Black Gap, a mile south of craggy Springer Mountain, the start of the Appalachian Trail. Two plaques at the start (or end) of the trail marks the southern terminus for America's "First Trail." Excellent views from the top of Springer Mountain, especially to the west into the Etowah River basin are a relaxing pause in any hike.

Two-tenths of a mile north of the start is Springer Mountain Shelter with a reliable spring. A few steps north of that the Benton MacKaye, Sec. I turns right at a sign, following the original route of the AT in this area. The AT continues north along From here the trail slopes easily down to Forest Service Road 42, where a day use parking area at 1.0 mile allows people to walk to the top of Springer Mountain as a day hike). Past the parking area the trail climbs easily, and the Benton MacKaye crosses the AT at 1.3 miles. As the AT reaches the top of Rich Mountain the Benton MacKaye Trail crosses it again at 1.9 miles and follow the ridge of Rich Mountain. After the crossing the AT drops down Rich Mountain in three or four switchbacks. On the left at 2.8 miles is an old logging road trail to the Stover Creek Shelter. The AT follows this logging road to the right as it parallels Stover Creek.

On the trail at Woody Gap
Mile 4.0 is known as Three Forks. Stover, Long and Chester Creeks are cool mountain streams that merge to form Noontootla Creek in the midst of a white pine, hemlock and rhododendron forest. Stover Creek meandered by your side earlier, and Chester passes under you at the Three Forks bridge. The AT now follows Long Creek up to the short side trail on the left to Long Creek Falls (4.9 miles). The Appalachian Trail gradually ascended an unnamed mountain. The ascent is so gradual that hikers are surprised when Long Creek runs 50-80 feet below them.

The Benton MacKaye Trail leaves the AT a few steps after Long Creek Falls. This also marks the start of Georgia's Duncan Ridge Trail, perhaps the most challenging hike in the state. At the trail intersection the AT bears right and winds past Hickory Flat Cemetery and Hickory Flat Church.

The trail continues past Hawk Mountain (shelter at 8.1) to Hightower Gap. Hightower is probably a corruption of the word "itawa," an American Indian word for town. This marks what we have always considered the halfway point for the first section (its about two miles short of the actual halfway point) and F. S. 42 can be used for access. From here to Gooch Gap the trail is notably tougher, passing into the more mountainous climes of Lumpkin County. It is this portion of the trail that earns the footpath a "hard" rating.

Climbing to the top of Sassafras Mountain at 10.1 miles the AT joins the ridge top which it follows for 0.3 miles before descending Cooper Gap to meet our old friend, F. S. 42. Two more times in this area the path will climb mountains only to descend to a gap it shares with this road. Just before meeting F.S. 42 once again, Gooch Gap Shelter is off to the left at 15.8 miles.

The next 4 miles of the trail, from Gooch Gap to Woody Gap are heavily traveled by day hikers. Most are probably day hiking to the scenic view at Ramrock Mountain, a hike of 1.3 miles and the hike is less difficult than the portion from Hightower Gap to Gooch Gap. This section ends at Georgia 60 in Woody Gap.

South: Southern Terminus Approach Trail
North: AT Woody Gap to Neels Gap


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Article Links
AT Woody Gap to Neels Gap
Amicalola Falls State Park
Benton MacKaye, Sec. I
Duncan Ridge Trail
Long Creek Falls
Southern Terminus Approach Trail
day hike

Georgia Trails
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