Hiking in North Georgia along a 7 mile ridge line stretch offering great vistas on the Pinhoti Trail.
The Pinhoti Trail – a 325 mile trail that begins in Alabama and connects in Georgia to the Benton MacKay and Appalachian Trails – cuts through the Western portion of the Chattahoochee National Forest before meeting up with the two larger trails in central Georgia. It’s along this stretch that we’ve found a fantastic, moderately challenging hike through the tumbled boulders and new growth forest – a hike that we highly recommend.
This 7 mile out-and-back hike (click here for a GPS map of our route) climbs up from the trailhead onto Horn Mountain and then follows the ridge line of the mountain south through craggy fields of rock. The beauty of the forest here is stunning, filled with thick sections of moss covered rock, wildflowers, and new growth trees cloaked in bright green leaves. From the parking lot, cross GA 136W – the trailhead is on the opposite side of the road from the parking lot.
You’ll leave the trailhead and hike 3.5 miles out – and then retrace your route 3.5 miles back to the trailhead – for a pleasurable 3 to 3.5 hour hike at a decent pace. The trail is one of the most well-marked we’ve seen, blazed continuously in white as well as accompanying Pinhoti trail signs – designated by a turkey’s foot – the length of the trail.
The forest here is extremely young, dominated by hickory, oak, dogwood, and tulip popular. The forest here is re-emerging after a history of heavy logging in the area, providing a stark contrast of scenery to many of the other trails we’ve hiked in North Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee.
As you climb upward on the trail, you’ll notice the rocky terrain emerging – gray rock, from large boulders to the weathered grit that forms the trail – outnumbers the trees here in the hills and valleys of the mountainside.
As you climb the mountain, you’ll pass a small spring that’s been piped to prevent trail erosion on the right side of the trail, and you’ll notice the valleys becoming dramatically deeper as the trail begins to switch back as it climbs upward. The steepest climb on the trail occurs just before reaching the summit at 1.7 miles. You’ve climbed 500 feet from the trailhead to reach the summit, which is littered with large outcrops of rock and tossed boulders.
Continue hiking the trail, traveling along the mountain ridge. The trail continues to travel through rock-littered, mossy forest and passes through wildflowers that catch the sparse sunlight that leaks through the tree canopy overhead.
At 2.7 miles, you’ll reach another peak that offers views of Johns Mountain to the right of the trail and Chestnut Mountain to the left. The trail begins a long decent here as you hike down the South side of the mountain and, after passing two small springs that run over the trail, adjoins an old dirt logging trail at 3.5 miles from the trailhead. Turn around to return to the trailhead to complete your 7 mile hike.
We travelled the trail in mid-October – at the start of the leaf changes here in this area – and enjoyed the sparse views through the dense foliage of the surrounding mountains along the trail. We’ll be returning – for sure – this winter to take in the views that the trail was hiding while this primarily deciduous forest was hiding in the fall. The views that we did see along the trail were beautiful – there are two ridges on either side of this hiking ridge that run in close proximity the whole length of the trail, offering pretty views from the trail.
Getting there: follow Interstate 75 North out of Atlanta to exit 320. Turn left off the exit ramp onto GA 136, following GA 136 for 10.5 miles to the well-marked Pinhoti Trail parking area on your right. The trailhead is across the street from the parking area. GPS Coordinates: 34.666111,-85.066495
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