|Trail Length: 10.1 miles||Type of trail: Loop|
|County: Murray County, GA||Our rating: D|
|Features: stream, special||Your rating:|
|Usage: Heavy||Added on: September 09, 1996|
|Last hiked: June 21, 2014||Updated on: October 28, 2014|
|About these ratings|
Hiking trails in Murray County, GA
Bear Creek Trail has a lot of options, making it difficult and confusing to describe. The trail is a single loop (the Bear Creek Loop) with a 1.5 miles spur trail to FS 68 1.1 miles north of Holly Creek Gap. If you hike or ride the spur trail it is 4.0 miles of the total trip length, including the balloon at the end of the spur. There is a second spur trail south of the junction of the loop connector trail that we do not hike. We always use the parking area off FS 241 to start the hike.
We have hiked this trail 3 times since 1996 and each time the trail and the drive in has been improved. Originally the trail markers were almost gone and it is now easy to follow the trail. The saddest thing however, is the human impact on the Gennett Poplar. We encourage hikers and bikers to leave this tree alone.
Virgin forest is rare in the north Georgia mountains. The Bear Creek Trail contains what appears to be a never harvested section of land with trees so immense that they literally astound even the casual observer. Deep in this section of forest is the so-called Gennett poplar standing some 100 feet high and nearly twenty feet around. The tree is massive, and it alone is reason enough to try this hike.
This loop trail follows Bear Creek from a point off Forest Service Road 241, and features the second largest tree in North Georgia. The Gennett Poplar is named for the family who owned the local lumber mill and sold the land to the United State government.
Bear Creek Trail
From the small parking lot on Forest Service Road 241 there is a short path to the start of the loop. The Pinhoti Trail shares this footpath until the Bear Creek Loop comes off at 1.1 miles.
Along the trail are multiple stream crossings (I would normally call them "wet-foot" crossings, but they are well done.) There are some scenic views of the Chattahoochee National Forest. Wildlife is abundant, including some of the larger species, so be prepared to see larger animals including bear, especially during dry summers.
About .5 miles into the trail is the first water crossing, this one of Little Bear Creek. Notice the size of the trees dramatically increases. This is the sign that you are approaching the Gennett Poplar, which is now marked with a sign at 0.9 miles. Tulip poplar was a popular tree (no pun intended) with early settlers because it was quick growing and could be used to build cabins.
At 1.0 mile, shortly after the Gennett Poplar, a trail marker indicates that the Bear Creek Loop comes off to the right and the Bear Creek Trail continues straight ahead. This "loop" uses a 0.2 mile connector trail to create a balloon trail. In our case, this is the return trail. The Bear Creek trail climbs along Bear Creek, then "bears" left at 1.5 miles to make a quick, energetic climb up Snaggy Lead. Skirting the top of the mountain the trail becomes an up and down affair briefly, enters a clearing where it turns left, then continues to the spur trail at 2.0 miles.
The spur trail continues the climb that began when you left Bear Creek. As you approach FS68 at 3.0 miles the climb lessens and there are actually some level and downhill sprints. The upper parking lot is about 0.5 miles further on, but the highlight of the trail comes between the two at an overlook on FS68. From this parking area there is a short, 0.5 miles trail that creates the balloon and returns you to the spur without going to the overlook. The return to the starting point of the spur trail brings the total hiked so far to 6.1 miles.
Return to end of the spur on Snaggy Lead and turn left. The trail takes on a different feel after the return from the spur. Now it tends to move in and out of coves that require a crossing. Since this are high mountain streams, they frequently have little or no water. At 7.1 miles, a gate may block access to a road. Go around this impediment and continue to miles, 7.7 where the marked Pinhoti Trail leaves the Bear Creek Trail.
Finally, at 8.4 miles the connector trail comes off to the left. You can cross over to the trail that passes the Gennett poplar or continue straight, where the trail falls easily until a steep drop returns you to the road to the trailhead. If you take this route, turn right and return to your car.
Bike rides in Georgia
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Chattahoochee National Forest