This 14 mile hike – perfect for an overnight backpacking trip – travels through multiple vistas along the Appalachian Trail in Georgia.
We’ve long held the Blood Mountain Wilderness area to be our favorite in Georgia, offering awe-inspiring views from ridge line peaks and trails through beautiful Georgia forest dotted with rocky outcrops. This hike combines several of our favorites, traveling to the peak of Blood Mountain before looping around to the North towards a perfect camping spot at the peak of Cowrock Mountain.
This segment of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia is just one of many we’ve covered in our in-depth review series. View our complete collection of Georgia Appalachian Trail hikes here.
View our HD video review of this trail:
The hike begins at the Byron Reece Trail, accessed from GA Highway 19/129 north of Cleveland. Ascend through a forest of deciduous trees and rhododendron as the trail follows and crosses several small streams as climbs .6 miles to meet the Appalachian Trail.
At the trail junction, turn right on the Appalachian Trail to begin the 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. Reach the summit of Blood Mountain at 2 miles, having climbed to the peak at 4461 feet, marked by a USGS survey marker at the summit. Take time to enjoy the views – or in our case, a serene breakfast – before the crowds ascend to the top of this extremely popular hike. When you’ve savored the view, turn around to hike back down the North face of Blood Mountain, retracing your steps along the Appalachian Trail towards the Byron Reece Trail. At the junction of the Byron Reece Trail, continue descending northward along the Appalachian Trail, passing a sizable rock that balances on an underlying rock at two small resting points.
At 4.5 miles, cross highway 19/129 at Neels Gap to the famed Walasi-Yi Center, a well-equipped hiking and backpacking store and a chance to stock up on any supplies you’d forgotten, refill on water, and pick up an extra snack for the journey. 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 spring to the left of the trail offers a refreshing spot to refill on water at 7 miles. Climb 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 the peak of the mountain alongside the Appalachian Trail offer the perfect overnight camping spot – and guarantee excellent early morning sunrise views, especially in the Fall, Winter and early Spring months when leaves have fallen.
To return, leave the peak of Cowrock Mountain and retrace your steps southbound on the Appalachian Trail towards Neels Gap, again crossing Georgia Highway 19/129 to return to the Byron Reece Trail. Descend the Byron Reece Trail to the trailhead and parking area.
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