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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This outstanding hike treks the Appalachian Trail southbound from the beautiful Three Forks valley to the Springer Mountain summit, the southernmost point of the Appalachian Trail’s 2000+ mile journey from Georgia to Maine. 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. It’s one of our favorite Appalachian Trail hikes in Georgia for its varied terrain, gorgeous views on Springer, and the famous southernmost white blaze of the Appalachian Trail. (Ultra long-range Appalachian Trail backpackers take their first – or final – steps here in their epic journey between Springer and Maine’s Mount Katahdin – check out our complete collection of AT hikes in North Georgia.)
The hike departs the gravel FR 58 at Three Forks (view maps and driving directions), hiking the Appalachian Trail south across a wooden bridge spanning Chester Creek before arcing 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 white-blazed Appalachian Trail and climbing elevation on a dry, rocky, fern-filled ridge as the water-filled sounds of Stover Creek fade away. The Appalachian Trail reaches the 3,312 foot peak of Rich Mountain at 2.45 miles, dipping elevation slightly after the summit – a respite from the trail’s 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 Appalachian Trail crosses the Benton Mackaye Trail twice again before reaching a gravel parking area on Forest Road 42 at 3 miles, trekking across the gravel road, rising elevation on the opposite side and 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’s sunny, rocky lower elevations and are often sighted here in colorful patches during Spring, Summer and Fall.
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.
Unpack your water, lunch or a snack and grab a breather at the Springer summit, taking in the gorgeous views, before retracing the Appalachian Trail to the Three Forks trailhead, completing this 8.6 mile hike. 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. And consider camping the night in this peaceful, stunningly beautiful creek valley at one of the Three Forks campsites along Forest Road 58.
34.664183, -84.184317 (N34 39.851 W84 11.059)
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