Hike or backpack 14 miles on this Georgia stretch of the Appalachian Trail, trekking across multiple vistas from Blood Mountain and surrounding summits.
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The Blood Mountain Wilderness is one of Georgia’s most popular destinations for outdoor adventure, offering awe-inspiring views from towering mountain summits and trails through beautiful Georgia forest dotted with rocky outcrops. This hike combines several of Blood Mountain’s most popular trails, trekking to the peak of Blood Mountain via the Byron Reece Trail before hiking the Appalachian Trail north to Cowrock Mountain.
This segment of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia is one of many we’ve covered in our Georgia Appalachian Trail hikes series.
The hike begins at the Byron Reece Trail, accessed from GA Highway 19/129 north of Cleveland. The trail ascends through a forest of deciduous trees and rhododendron, following and crossing several small streams as it climbs .6 miles to meet the Appalachian Trail.
At the trail junction, the hike turns right on the Appalachian Trail, beginning an ascent to the peak of Blood Mountain, the highest point of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia.
Vistas open along both sides of the trail off bald outcrops of rock during the ascent. The Appalachian Trail reaches the Blood Mountain summit at 2 miles. The views here are stunning, stretching long and wide to the surrounding valleys and nearby mountain summits.
The hike turns to retrace its steps, hiking the Appalachian Trail down the face of Blood Mountain back to the the Byron Reece Trail. The hike passes the the Byron Reece Trail junction, continuing to follow the Appalachian Trail. The trail passes a balanced, stacked set of boulders on trail left.
The hike crosses Highway 19/129 at Neels Gap to the famed Walasi-Yi Center, a well-equipped hiking and backpacking store. The Appalachian Trail passes through the building under an archway and continues Northbound towards Tesnatee Gap, entering the Raven Cliffs Wilderness. The trail begins to ascend towards the peak of Levelland Mountain at 3900 feet, reaching the peak of the mountain at 6 miles.
The Appalachian Trail descends the north face of Levelland Mountain, offering expansive vistas from its steep northern side. The the trail levels at Swain Gap before ascending through deciduous forest towards Rock Spring Top; a small, seasonally-available spring to the left of the trail offers a refreshing spot to refill on water at 7 miles. The trail climbs elevation to the peak of Wolf Laurel Top at 7.75 miles, passing another small spring before climbing to the peak of Cowrock Mountain, reaching the summit at 9.5 miles. Several small flat areas near mountain’s summit off the Appalachian Trail offer the perfect overnight camping spot – and guarantee excellent early morning sunrise views.
The backpacking adventure breaks camp the next morning, departing Cowrock Mountain and retracing the the Appalachian Trail towards Neels Gap. The hike crosses Georgia Highway 19/129 at Neels Gap before reaching the Byron Reece Trail, turning right to hike the Byron Reece Trail to the trailhead.
34.741433, -83.922850 (N34 44.486 W83 55.371)
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