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.

 

Rolling through the Blue Ridge Mountains of the southern Appalachians, the Appalachian Trail hikes its final steps in Georgia to reach its southernmost end. The epic-length trail treks more than 2000 miles from Mount Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain, a journey attempted by many but successfully hiked by few. In its final, southern stretch, the AT dips through a lush, green, creek-filled valley before climbing to its end at Springer, a wonderfully scenic and moderately challenging hike that tops our lists of favorite day hikes in Georgia.

Hike the Appalachian Trail to stunning views from Springer Mountain from the lush Three Forks creek valley

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.

Hike through the lush, creek-filled Three Forks valley near Ellijay on the Appalachian Trail

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.

Hike the Appalachian Trail to Georgia's Springer Mountain, crossing rustic bridges in a lush creek valley

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.

Hike through a rocky, wildflower-filled forest to summit Springer Mountain on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia

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 makes a rocky, rooty ascent to Springer Mountain, the trail's southermost end on a 2200+ mile journey

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.

Hike to the southernmost blaze of the Appalachian Trail at Springer Mountain, commemorated by this historic bronze plaque  

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.

Best car camping in Georgia: campsites at the Three Forks valley on the Appalachian Trail near Ellijay

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.

GPS Coordinates

34.664183, -84.184317 (N34 39.851 W84 11.059)

Driving Directions

Note: Trailhead access is via a gravel Forest Service Road.

     

Appalachian Trail: Three Forks to Springer Mountain Map

 
This map is for general reference, and is not a substitute for park maps, official trail maps or topographical maps.
 

Appalachian Trail – Three Forks to Springer Mountain: Elevation Profile

Appalachian Trail - Three Forks to Springer Mountain: Elevation Profile

Eric Champlin is a writer and photographer who loves to hike, run, backpack, kayak and cycle the southeast.

He’s the editor and founder of Atlanta Trails and Asheville Trails, online magazines that cover the South’s best outdoor adventures. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.