8.6 mile hike to the Georgia Appalachian Trail starting point climbs from the rushing mountain streams to the summit of Springer Mountain
The famed Appalachian Trail – over 2,176 miles in length from Georgia to Maine – travels through some of Georgia’s most scenic hiking areas. This 8.6 mile hike southbound on the Appalachian Trail travels to the southernmost point of the trail at Springer Mountain from beautiful Three Forks, the convergence of three mountain streams to form the rushing Noontoola Creek.
This segment of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia is just one we’ve covered in our in-depth review series. View our complete collection of Georgia Appalachian Trail hikes here.
This hike is one of our favorites along the Appalachian Trail in Georgia – for both the interesting, stream-filled forest through which it winds as well as the significance of traveling the southernmost 4.3 miles of the Appalachian Trail to the southernmost terminus at Springer Mountain. And Springer Mountain is a great ending destination for this hike, providing gorgeous views of the southern Georgia mountains. It’s here that many dreams both start and end; thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail take either their first steps here in their journey to Katahdin in Maine or are taking their last in their long journey from the North.
The hike leaves Forest Road 58 at Three Forks and heads south along the trail across a narrow wooden bridge spanning Noontoola Creek. We rate this hike at moderately difficult; the first half of the hike to Springer Mountain is almost solidly uphill, rising from 2600 feet elevation at Three Forks to Springer Mountain at 3782 feet – a rise of almost 1200 feet. The payoff, though, is the return trip, traveling the same distance almost all downhill.
The Appalachian Trail extends into the mixed deciduous, pine and rhododendron forest, winding continuously along several small creeks that run downward towards the Noontoola Creek at Three Forks.
The Appalachian Trail continues to climb, more steeply as it winds, past the Stover Creek Shelter to the left of the trail. It intersects with the winding Benton MacKaye Trail a total of 4 times along the climb to the Springer Mountain summit. The Benton MacKaye Trail – named for the man that conceived the Appalachian Trail in the early part of the 20th century.
The trail winds more steeply upward after leaving the parking area along Forest Road 42 as it climbs upward towards the summit of Springer Mountain. The terrain here is rocky and decidedly vertical, and vistas (especially during the late fall, winter and spring months) start to emerge to the right of the trail.
A side trail to water – and the Springer Mountain shelter and camping area – leaves to the left of the trail just before you approach the crest of the mountain at 4.1 miles. This trail is marked by signs both old and new; a wooden trail sign, a blue blaze on a tree (used universally on the Appalachian Trail to signify side trails leading to water), and a bent branch leading in the direction of the trail – a natural “sign” created by the Cherokee and Creek Indians that once inhabited North Georgia to indicate direction along a trail, created by weighing down a branch while it grew.
Reach the summit of Springer Mountain at 4.3 miles, and take time to enjoy the vistas of the Georgia mountains to the North. It’s here that many dreams are both ended and started, a final white blaze leading to the bronze plaque that marks the official end of the Appalachian Trail.
When you’ve finished enjoying the views from the top of Springer Mountain, retrace your steps along the Appalachian Trail to the trailhead at Three Forks, completing the 8.6 mile out-and-back hike.
Departing opposite on FR 58 from the Long Creek trailhead is a relatively short hike to an impressive waterfall: the 2 mile out-and-back hike to Long Creek Falls along the Appalachian Trail. If you’ve finished the hike to Springer Mountain and have some daylight (and energy) left, the hike to Long Creek Falls is worth it. Check out our hiking trail review of The Appalachian Trail at Three Forks to Long Creek Falls.
The Three Forks valley at Noontoola Creek has some excellent campsites situated along the rushing trout streams that form Three Forks. In fact, you passed several on the drive to the trailhead along Forest Road 58. Consider camping at Three Forks for the night – and check out our review of the camp sites along Noontoola Creek – this beautiful area is well worth a stay overnight.
GPS Coordinates: 34.671271,-84.191725.
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