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Duluth Massage

Benton MacKaye Trail
Georgia Trails

Trail Length: 50.0 miles Type of trail: Point to Point
County: Lumpkin County, GA, Gilmer County, GA, Fannin County, GA Our rating: Moderate
Features: camping, ATaccess Your rating:
Usage: Light Added on: January 01, 1995
Last hiked: May 24, 2015 Updated on: January 24, 2016
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Directions to Benton MacKaye Trail

Overview of the Benton MacKaye Trail

Named for Benton MacKaye, the Massachusetts forester/regional planner who proposed the Appalachian Trail, this trail features remarkable changes in terrain and too many modern intrusions. While the Appalachian Trail follows the eastern crest of the Appalachian Mountains, the Benton MacKaye Trail (BMT) mostly follows the western crest.

Sign near the start of the Benton MacKaye Trail
The origin of this challenging trail, which can be steep at times, is Springer Mountain at the Appalachian Trail sign. For the first few miles the trail winds down Springer, occasionally rejoining and sharing the same path as the AT. The BMT follows a portion of the original AT, which was extensively rerouted after it was shortened in 1957. Looping further east, the BMT crosses Chester Creek a couple of times before Three Forks (Chester is one of the creeks that make up Three Forks).

Almost exactly 1 mile past the footbridge over Chester at Three Forks the Benton MacKaye turns left (and the Duncan Ridge Trail begins, leaving the Appalachian Trail for the last time until it rejoins America's Footpath 250 miles further north. The Duncan Ridge Trail shares the footpath with the Benton MacKaye until shortly after crossing Route 60.

Unlike its eastern brother the Appalachian Trail, the Benton MacKaye does not wind through federally protected land at all times. Its not uncommon to find yourself in the midst of summer homes and roads with traffic that can be heavy at times. Wind-blown, sun-dried farms and outbuildings can be easily spotted, their dingy gray in sharp contrast to the brilliant greens of summer. Industry rears its head in many places that are actively logged today. Recently the members of Benton MacKaye Trail Association received the endorsement of the National Parks Service and two National Forests.

Toccoa footbridge
Toccoa footbridge
on the Benton MacKaye
The BMK-DRT undulates, rising, falling and looping much like the AT until it begins the descent to the Toccoa River. A long footbridge spans the waterway. From the river the BMK-DRT rises and follows the ridge of Tooni Mountain. Leaving Tooni the paths descend and cross State Road 60 (a busy road), then climbing Wallalah, Licklog and Rhodes Mountain, where the Duncan Ridge veers off the east. From this point the BMT enters some of the most beautiful country on the trail in Georgia and the most difficult portion of this long trail south of the Cohutta Wilderness. The trail crosses State Road 60 once again during this portion of the hike.

The Benton MacKaye joins a road to cross the Toccoa once again, this time on Shallowford Bridge. Using county roads for almost 5 miles, the Benton MacKaye leaves Stanley Creek Road just past the Falls Branch Bridge, beginning the climb to Rocky Mountain. A short (0.3 miles) way up the mountain a side trail leads to Falls Branch Falls Trail. Climbing 1400' to Rocky Mountain, the Benton MacKaye Trail follows ridges to Cherry Log. Here the footpath crosses US 76(515). This is a very dangerous intersection as the crossing is poorly marked and the road is high speed. The path follows state and county roads to Bush Head Gap.

After this the trail only occasionally runs near roads (so much the better) and this portion of the path is only lightly traveled. The BMK continues past Flat Top to Dyer Gap where it crosses old Highway 2 into the Cohutta Wilderness.

Cohutta Wilderness signThe path then winds through the wilderness until it returns to old Highway 2 near this sign(left). From here the path takes a more northern route to the Georgia/Tennessee border, entering a true wilderness area. We have not walked this part of the trail, and it is fairly new. Because of this, the trail is not on any maps we have seen, and it is only because of Tim Homan's most recent "Trails.." book that we know it exists.

The entire trail is marked with white diamond blazes. Please note: This trail is being worked on and it has been a while since we hiked it past US76, so be prepared for changes.

Related Trails:

Benton MacKaye, Sec. I
Covers the trail from Springer Mountain to Three Forks
Benton MacKaye, Sec. II
Covers the trail from Three Forks to GA 60including the footbridge over the Toccoa
Springer Mountain
Covers the hike to the start of the Benton MacKaye from FS 42
Appalachian Trail in Georgia


Pages related to Benton MacKaye Trail
Benton MacKaye Trail
Directions to Benton MacKaye Trail
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Georgia Hikes
Your guide to hiking and walking trails in the state of Georgia

Article Links
Appalachian Trail
Appalachian Trail in Georgia
Benton MacKaye, Sec. I
Benton MacKaye, Sec. II
Duncan Ridge Trail
Falls Branch Falls Trail
Springer Mountain
old Highway 2

Georgia Trails
Georgia Trails Index
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