Appalachian Trail: hiking Three Forks to Georgia’s Springer Mountain
Hike the Appalachian Trail from the lush, creek-filled Three Forks valley to Georgia's Springer Mountain, the southern end of the AT.
This classic North Georgia hike follows the famed Appalachian Trail on its final southern stretch, hiking from the beautiful, lush Three Forks valley to the Springer Mountain summit. The hike, a moderately difficult 8.6 mile out-and-back, travels a widely diverse landscape, climbing from a richly-vegetated, mossy creek valley to stunning mountaintop views at Springer. It’s one of our favorite AT hikes in Georgia for its varied terrain, gorgeous summit views, and, of course, the epic feeling that comes with standing at thesouthernmost white blaze of the Appalachian Trail.
Appalachian Trail – Three Forks to Springer Mountain: the hike
The hike departs the gravel-paved Forest Road 58 at Three Forks (view maps and driving directions), hiking the Appalachian Trail southbound across a wooden bridge spanning Chester Creek. The trail arcs southeast, following the rectangular white blazes of the AT.
The Appalachian Trail passes an intersection with the diamond-blazed Benton Mackaye Trail at .25 miles before diving into a canopy of rhododendron and mountain laurel. The pebbly, rocky trail switches back repeatedly as it climbs elevation, rising above several converging creeks on trail right before crossing Stover Creek via wooden bridge at .6 mile. The trail hugs the creek’s banks, traveling upstream before crossing Stover Creek twice again, first via stepping stones and second via wooden bridge at 1.5 miles, in a forest filled with pine, trickling side creeks and dense thickets of rhododendron.
The trail switches back, gaining altitude and passing a blue-blazed side trail leading to an AT shelter. The hike turns right, following the AT’s white-blazes and climbing elevation on a dry, rocky, fern-filled ridge, the watery sounds of Stover Creek fading behind. The Appalachian Trail reaches the 3,312 foot peak of Rich Mountain at 2.45 miles. The trail dipps elevation slightly after the summit – a respite from the trail’s nearly continuous climb over the last mile.
The trail’s descent ends at 2.75 miles after crossing Davis Creek, entering a mossy, green and damp creek valley filled with the sound of flowing water. The AT intersects with the Benton MacKaye Trail twice again. The trail crosses through the Springer Mountain parking area at 3 miles, trekking across the gravel Forest Road 42, beginning the final climb to Springer Mountain’s summit.
Vistas emerge on trail right as the hike climbs closer to the summit. Seasonal wildflowers thrive on Springer Mountain’s sunny, rocky lower elevations and are often sighted here in colorful patches during spring, summer and fall. The trail is rocky and rooty, ascending through a boulder-filled forest.
The Appalachian Trail passes two trail intersections in the final climb to the summit: the diamond-blazed Benton MacKaye Trail at 4 miles and a blue-blazed trail at 4.1 miles leading to the Springer Mountain shelter, camping area and spring.
The trail reaches the Springer Mountain summit at 4.3 miles. Views of the southern Appalachian Mountains extend from the rocky summit, nearby mountains rolling in layers of blue haze in the far distance.
Several bronze plaques mark the official southern end of the Appalachian Trail. A white blaze, the final of thousands, is painted on the mountaintop beside a plaque commemorating the trail’s Georgia end.
The summit is a prime spot to unpack your water, lunch or a snack and grab a breather, taking in the gorgeous views. Departing the Springer Mountain summit, the hike retraces the Appalachian Trail to the Three Forks trailhead, reaching the trailhead at 8.6 miles and completing the hike.
More Appalachian Trail adventures at Three Forks
Finished with daylight and energy left? At the Three Forks trailhead, the Appalachian Trail crosses FR 58 and travels 1 mile north to a stunning, beautiful waterfall: Long Creek Falls.
Consider camping the night in this peaceful, stunningly beautiful creek valley at one of the Three Forks campsites along Forest Road 58. If you stay the night, explore the AT again the next day, hiking eastbound on the Appalachian Trail to the Hawk Mountain AT shelter and a centuries-old, weathered cemetery.