Arkaquah Trail: hiking from Brasstown Bald, Georgia's highest mountain, to the Track Rock Gap petroglyphs

Arkaquah Trail: hiking Brasstown Bald to Track Rock Gap

Hike the Arkaquah Trail from Brasstown Bald, Georgia's highest summit, and descend to Track Rock Gap to view ancient Native American petroglyphs on this difficult 11-mile round trip hike.

 

From stunning, sweeping views to mysterious ancient petroglyphs, the strenuous Arkaquah Trail hikes an incredible landscape and lists near the top of our favorite Georgia hikes. The trail departs from the near-summit of Brasstown Bald, Georgia’s highest-elevation mountain summit, rolling elevation on a ridge and catching views from multiple peaks. Arkaquah is especially stunning in winter when deciduous leaves have fallen, opening beautiful views throughout much of the trail’s length – and it’s been a longtime favorite on our list of Georgia winter hikes.

Hike the Arkaquah Trail from Brasstown Bald, catching stunning mountain views and visiting ancient Native American petroglyphs at Track Rock Gap

The Arkaquah Trail’s end at Track Rock Gap visits an ancient archeological site, where six smooth, soapstone boulders are etched and carved with various primitive symbols. Experts believe the petroglyphs were created over 1,000 years ago, and are one of the most significant discoveries of Native American rock art in the Southeast. And while the outbound hike was mostly downhill, it’s at Track Rock Gap that this hike’s real workout commences, making a nearly unrelenting return hike to Brasstown’s towering summit. With gorgeous views, incredible Native American history, and a heart-pumping workout, Arkaquah makes for one amazing north Georgia adventure.

Arkaquah Trail at Brasstown Bald: the hike

The hike departs the Brasstown Bald parking area (view maps and driving directions), beginning at the signed Arkaquah trailhead and diving elevation into a dense canopy of rhododendron.

Hike from Brasstown Bald, Georgia's highest-elevation mountain, on the Arkaquah Trail

The trail reaches an overlook on a side trail at 1 mile, scrambling over a flat rock outcrop to catch the first of many long-range views on this hike. Departing the overlook, the trail rises to cross a massive, lichen-covered rock outcrop in a clearing at 1.3 miles, with views extending south.

The trail descends from the outcrop, diving into a canopy of mountain laurel and rhododendron. A side trail departs the Arkaquah Trail to the left at 1.7 miles, descending to an overlook that offers extensive views of the blue-cast, rolling mountains to the south.

Hike the Arkaquah Trail through a rocky, mossy, rhododendron-filled forest at Brasstown Bald, Georgia's highest-elevation mountain summit

The trail carves into Brasstown’s ridge line, the trail becoming rocky, boulders towering over the trail’s sides. The trail descends, carving through switchbacks as it drops elevation. Trickling streams flow across an overhanging, mossy rock outcrop, dripping to lower elevations – and in frosty weather, lining the trail with crystalline icicles.

Hike the Arkaquah Trail at Brasstown Bald, Georgia's tallest mountain summit, to icicle-draped, mossy rock outcrops in winter

The trail reaches Low Gap at 2.6 miles and then climbs a small ridge. The trail descends elevation to meet Cove Gap at 3.4 miles, rolling through alternating landscapes along the rocky, craggy, fern-filled mountaintops on the ridge. The trail ascends once again, climbing through a tunnel of mountain laurel and cresting an unnamed summit at 3650 feet. Fern and lichen-covered rock dominate the mountain’s top, and several large, exposed rock outcrops provide excellent vantage points of the farmland-dotted valley below.

Hike the Arkaquah Trail at Brasstown Bald to gorgeous ridge line views in North Georgia

The hike arcs to the southwest, and then veers northwest, switching back as it descends elevation. The trail descends more than 600 feet through a series of switchbacks before beginning a straight-shot, steep drop toward Track Rock Gap. The Arkaquah Trail meets Track Rock Gap Road at 5.25 miles, having descended a continuous 1375 feet in the last 1.5 miles.

The hike crosses Track Rock Gap Road, following the road southwest for a short stretch to the gap’s archeological site and reaching the petroglyphs at 5.5 miles. Over 100 deeply-carved petroglyph symbols are spread across six large soapstone boulders at the site, and signs depict the carvings’ locations and history.

Hike the Arkaquah Trail to the site of ancient Native American petroglyph carvings at Track Rock Gap in North Georgia

The petroglyph shapes cover the densely-carved Track Rock boulders and include animal tracks, feet, human-like stick figures and grid-like drawings thought to depict village maps. (For more info on the petroglyphs’ shapes and origins, visit the Chattahoochee National Forest’s Track Rock information site.)

Departing the petroglyphs, the hike retraces its outbound steps to the Brasstown Bald trailhead. The ascent from Track Rock Gap is an intensely difficult, calf-burning climb to the ridgeline, unwavering in its steady climb to the summit. It’s a great workout, to say the least, scoring this hike among one of the most difficult we’ve featured in Georgia.

The trail levels at 7.2 miles, beginning a short, yet refreshing, downhill finale to the Arkaquah trailhead, rolling elevation to the finish. The hike reaches the trailhead at Brasstown Bald at 11 miles, completing the hike.

 

Arkaquah Trail: Brasstown Bald to Track Rock Gap: Directions & Details

Parking

$5 (daily) at the Brasstown Bald Visitor Center.

Please Remember

Always leave no trace and follow these trail etiquette tips.

GPS Coordinates

34.869967, -83.810733     //     N34 52.198 W83 48.644

Driving Directions


Elevation Profile

Arkaquah Trail: Brasstown Bald to Track Rock Gap Elevation Profile

Arkaquah Trail: Brasstown Bald to Track Rock Gap Map

Trail data and photos © Summit19 Studio LLC. This map is not a substitute for official trail maps or topographic maps.
 
Eric Champlin is a writer and photographer who loves to hike, run, backpack, kayak and cycle the southeast. He’s the editor and founder of Atlanta Trails and Asheville Trails, online magazines that cover the South’s best outdoor adventures. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.