Hike the Appalachian Trail 8.6 miles roundtrip from the creek-filled Three Forks valley to the summit of Springer Mountain, the southern end of the AT.
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The Appalachian Trail courses over 2,176 miles from Georgia to Maine and travels through some of Georgia’s most scenic hiking areas. This 8.6 mile, southbound Appalachian Trail hike travels from the beautiful Three Forks trout creek valley near Ellijay to climb the southernmost point of the AT, Springer Mountain.
(This segment is one of many we’ve covered in our Georgia Appalachian Trail hiking review series. View Atlanta Trails’ collection of Georgia Appalachian Trail hikes.)
Three Forks is named for the convergence of three rushing, tumbling trout streams in North Georgia in a fern and moss-filled, lush green valley. It’s here that this hike departs, climbing steadily over 1500 feet to the peak of Springer Mountain before turning and descending back to Three Forks along the same trail.
This hike is one of our favorite stretches of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia for its varied terrain, from lush, stream-filled forest to rocky, windswept peak. Springer Mountain is a great ending destination for this hike, providing gorgeous views of the southern Georgia mountains. It’s at Springer that many hikers’ dreams start and end. Ultra long-range Appalachian Trail backpackers take their first steps here in their journey to Mount Katahdin in Maine, or take their final step in a 2,000+ mile journey from the North.
The Appalachian Trail leaves Forest Road 58 at Three Forks, hiking South from the gravel road (driving directions and a trailhead map are on the last page of this trail review). The rectangular, white blazed trail immediately crosses Chester Creek on a wooden bridge before turning a slight left into a rhododendron-filled forest.
The pebbly, rocky trail bed switches back repeatedly as it rises above several converging creeks flowing towards Three Forks. The diamond-blazed Benton Mackaye Trail departs to the left at .25 miles; I hike to follow the rectangular-blazed Appalachian Trail here as it climbs through an overarching canopy of rhododendron and mountain laurel with sounds of rushing creeks trail right.
The Appalachian Trail crosses Stover creek over a small wooden bridge at .6 miles. The trail hangs a hard left after the creek crossing, climbing the stream’s bank and traveling upstream.
The Appalachian Trail travels through a dense canopy of rhododendron before the trail drops elevation slightly to cross Stover Creek once again. The trail climbs steadily over the next half mile under a canopy of pine and deciduous trees, continuing to follow Stover Creek upstream as it audibly rushes and falls below. Numerous seasonal side creeks flow downward to Stover Creek, crossing the trail – and in wet seasons, leaving a thick obstacle of mud. The trail crosses Stover Creek again via stepping stones, then by wooden bridge – at 1.5 miles.
The trail begins to quickly switch back as it gains altitude, approaching a side trail leading to a shelter at 1.7 miles. I hang a hard right to continue hiking the Appalachian Trail; the blue-blazed trail leads to a shelter reserved for AT through-hikers and a seasonally-available spring.
The trail climbs steadily through a vibrantly green, fern and leafy shrub-filled new-growth forest as the sounds of Stover Creek fade away. The Appalachian Trail approaches the 3,312 foot peak of Rich Mountain at 2.45 miles, dipping slightly in elevation after the summit, a respite from the continuous climb over the trail’s last mile.
The trail’s descent ends at 2.75 miles as it crosses Davis Creek. The forest is remarkably different from the dry, rocky, fern-filled ridge the trail just departed; here, the forest is mossy, green, and wet – and once again filled with the sound of flowing water.
The Appalachian Trail crosses the Benton Mackaye Trail once again at 3 miles.
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