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Bartram Trail
Georgia Trails

Trail Length: 37.0 miles Type of trail: Point to Point
County: Rabun County, GA Our rating: D
Features: waterfalls, scenic, river, camping Your rating:
Usage: Light Added on: January 01, 1995
Last hiked: July 05, 2015 Updated on: January 24, 2016
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Hiking trails in Rabun County, GA

Directions to Bartram Trail


Bartram Trail is multi-state designated a National Recreation Trail and in North Georgia it stretches from the Georgia-North Carolina border southwest over the summit of Rabun Bald (Georgia's second highest peak), turns south-southeast to the Chattooga River and then heads northeast paralleling the river to the GA 28 bridge.

The trail approximates the route of 18th century naturalist and explorer William Bartram through North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana. In many places the Bartram Trail is unmarked and poorly maintained or completely obliterated by modern construction.


John Bartram visited the Southeast in 1765 and 1766 in his role as Botanist Royal in America. Appointed by King George III, the elder Bartram took his son William Bartram on these trips. So enamored was William of the life his father led that he left his Quaker roots in Philadelphia to explore the Southeast when he was offered financial support from a friend in England.

Although William Bartram's intention was to record the region's animal and plant life his writings detailed life in early Georgia. During the trip he rarely saw white men, and the few he did see were traders. The Cherokee Indians were so abundant along the trail that he would often call the Appalachian Mountains the Cherokee Mountains. He observed they were intelligent, tenacious of the liberties and natural rights of man, and "...ready always to sacrifice every pleasure and gratification, even their blood, and life itself, to defend their territory and defend their rights." He did not live long enough to witness the unintentional irony in those words.

The journey that he began in March, 1773, at the age of 35, followed what is now called the Bartram Trail. This trail, which runs from the northeast corner of Georgia to Augusta and the Savannah River, is only partially maintained. Citizen groups have tried to keep the trail marked on some of it's 220 miles. Currently, in the area around Augusta, the trail is repeatedly bisected by modern obstructions.

William Bartram was one of those rare individuals who combined extensive scientific knowledge with a talent for getting along with people wherever he went.
Max Wright, Ph.D.
Georgia's Indian Heritage
In North Georgia the portion of the trail that winds through the Tallulah Ranger District is well maintained. About 37 miles long, this trail retraces a portion of the naturalist's path. Bartram actually traversed a significant portion of North Georgia from Savannah to Ellicott Rock. The trail begins at the North Carolina-Georgia border and passes over Rabun Bald, the second tallest peak in Georgia.

Bartram published his collected works in 1791. He died in 1823. Although now relegated to a footnote role in American history, Bartram explored more of America than any scientist of his time, and is generally considered to be the first naturalist.

From the book Travels Through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida
... in front, just under my feet, was the enchanting and amazing crystal fountain which incessantly threw up from dark rocky caverns below, tons of water every minute, forming a basin, capacious enough for large shallops to ride in, and a creek of four or five feet depth of water and near twenty yards over, which meanders six miles through green meadows...
As amazing as it may seem, the original text of Bartram's travels, as well as other books about him and his father are still available
We tend to break the Bartram up into sections, as most people do to the Appalachian Trail. The section we enjoy the most is one shared with the Chattooga River Trail toward the southern end. The section from Hale Ridge Road to Rabun Bald is a close second.

Just south of the North Carolina border the Bartram Trail crosses Hale Ridge Road, running southwest. It continues generally southwest from here to just past Raven Knob, where it turns almost due south. The route rises and falls until the base of Rabun Bald. Here, about 3 miles into the trail, the path begins to rise to the bald. This forest has been repeatedly harvested, so it does not look as Bartram describes it. Rising to the Bald, the trail is a rocky affair (we call it a scramble). A structure at the top provides for great 360 degree views rivaled only by the lookout tower on Brasstown Bald. Experienced hikers can go to Rabun Bald and return in a day.

From the bald the trail falls, rising to one of the many mountains in Georgia named Flat Top, and repeats this familiar pattern. The tops offer good views, particularly Wilson Knob.

After the trail turns south at Raven's Knob, a number of waterfalls are nearby, including a fifty foot drop on Martin's Creek and Becky Branch Falls, near Warwoman Dell.

The path crosses Warwoman Road into the Dell. Here an old rail grade can be spotted running about halfway up the mountain just south of the road. A long set of wooden stairs leads to the grade. This was built by a company owned by former Vice President of the United States John C. Calhoun.

Following Warwoman Dell the treadway moderates, the rising and falling is much gentler, and scenic views abound. This portion of the trail can be broken up into easy day hikes as there are a number of access points(see a Chattahoochee Forest Map). The falls at Dick's Creek marks the end of this portion and the merge with the Chattooga River Trail.

Now the trail assumes a third personality as the trail parallels, but does not run adjacent to Georgia's Chattooga River. In general, the trail moves away from the river as it approaches tributaries, making a crossing and then returning to parallel the Chattooga. Designated Wild and Scenic, the river attracts a large number of rafters and kayakers, especially on the weekends. This is where a large portion of Deliverence was shot. Towards the end of the trail the path crosses the west branch of this river on a bridge.

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Bartram Trail
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