This hike in the Chattahoochee National Forest courses through a rich valley along Bear Creek and visits the Gennett Poplar, a giant tulip poplar tree.
Length: 3 miles (loop)
Highlights: This hike in the Chattahoochee National Forest courses through a rich valley along Bear Creek and visits the Gennett Poplar, a giant tulip poplar tree.
Bear Creek is a popular destination for both hiking and mountain biking – and for good reason. The valley through which Bear Creek runs is beautiful – and the trail passes alongside a majestic tulip poplar tree that was spared from logging and stands as a reminder of how majestic Georgia’s forests once were.
The hike leaves the parking area at the signed trailhead, coursing alongside Bear Creek to the right of the trail.
The trail begins to climb, leaving Bear Creek below, and splits in a junction with the Pinhoti Trail; keep right at this intersection to continue hiking the Bear Creek trail.
The trail dips down to cross a small creek feeding into Bear Creek at .3 miles. You’ll soon come to a second split of the trail just before a second creek crossing; keep right at this trail split to cross Little Bear Creek as it feeds into Bear Creek.
You’ll cross Bear Creek at .6 miles, your third stream crossing in just over a half mile, and the trail rises to the opposite bank of Bear Creek to meet the Gennett Poplar at .8 mile. This massive poplar rises high into the forest canopy, its circumference of 18 feet dwarfing the trees around it (and most of the trees in the Eastern U.S., for that matter).
The Gennett Poplar was spared from being logged during the heavy deforestation that took place in the 19th and 20th centuries in the Southeast, at which time nearly every tree in Georgia was removed by an environmentally irresponsible logging industry. The forests of Georgia full of trees the size of this poplar must have been a sight to behold.
Leave the Gennett Poplar by turing left on the trail to travel deeper into the Bear Creek valley. Two white blazes on a tree to the left of the trail signify a trail intersection ahead; cross a small stream, and then at the trail junction, turn right to continue on the 3 mile loop. (Or, for a longer hike, continue straight at this intersection for the longer, 6.2 mile loop.)
Travel a short tenth of a mile to a second trail junction at 1.1 miles; here, turn right onto the wide trail, a reclaimed logging road.
The trail follows this reclaimed road through a series of clearings. The trail leaves the roadbed at 2.5 miles, descending towards Bear Creek and the trailhead. Cross Bear Creek as the trail makes a final turn into the parking area.
GPS coordinates: 34.819032º N, 84.564246º W
Getting there: take GA 52 West out of Ellijay 5 miles to Gates Chapel Road, turning right onto Gates Chapel. Just after crossing the bridge at 5 miles, take a right onto Forest Road 241. The Bear Creek Trail parking area and trailhead are 2 miles ahead on FR 241.
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