Tray Mountain: Hiking the Appalachian Trail at Indian Grave Gap

Hike to Tray Mountain on this classic Georgia stretch of the Appalachian Trail, trailing 5 miles roundtrip from Indian Grave Gap to the soaring Tray Mountain summit.

 


The Tray Mountain hike is one of the most popular on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, and for good reason: the views from the Tray Mountain summit are stunning. This 5 mile out-and-back hike treks through beautiful valley terrain at Indian Grave Gap before climbing a scenic ridgeline to approach the mountain.

It’s a hike filled with North Georgia mountain beauty. The hike tunnels through dense, gnarly-branched canopies of mountain laurel and rhododendron, offering copious blooms in late spring and early summer. Moss and fern blanket the forest floor in this shady, sun-dappled wilderness. On the Tray Mountain summit, abundant views spread to the north and south, including Lake Hiawassee, the nearby Anna Ruby Falls waterfall valley, and the iconic Yonah Mountain. All-around, it’s a great, classic hike on a beautiful stretch of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia.

Hike the Appalachian Trail from Indian Grave Gap to Tray Mountain, north of Helen, GAAbove: the Appalachian Trail summits Tray Mountain north of Helen, Georgia.

Appalachian Trail to Tray Mountain from Indian Grave Gap: the hike

The hike departs the Indian Grave Gap Road parking area (view maps and driving directions), hiking the white-blazed Appalachian Trail east through the Chattahoochee National Forest at the base of Rocky Mountain. The trail ascends though a forest filled with gnarled and twisted rhododendron and mountain laurel. The evergreen canopy shades the forest floor, helping shade-loving vibrant green moss and fern thrive along the sides of the trail.

The Appalachian Trail dives into a dense canopy of mountain laurel and rhododendron, trailing from Indian Grave Gap to Tray Mountain

The Appalachian Trail crosses Tray Mountain Road at .7 mile. The hike crosses the graveled forest road to ascend a wooden staircase, following the AT’s rectangular white trail blazes and ascending through a dense grove of mountain laurel. The trail reaches a large, grassy campsite at 1 mile, a blue-blazed side trail departing the Appalachian Trail to the left. (The side trail travels to High Shoals Creek – the same creek that, several miles to the north, drops in the beautiful, 50+ foot cascades of the High Shoals Falls waterfall.)

The Appalachian Trail meanders through a lush, grassy forest below Tray Mountain in Georgia

The Appalachian Trail ascends a ridge, steadily gaining elevation as it approaches Tray Mountain and trailing through a shady forest filled with wildflowers in warm-weather months. The trail meets a campsite and overlook at 1.5 miles; a steep ledge provides an excellent view of Tray Mountain’s peak to the left, and offers a preview of the climb left on the trek to the summit.

The hike reaches Tray Gap at 1.7 miles, crossing Tray Mountain Road and entering the Tray Mountain Wilderness.

The Appalachian Trail enters the Tray Mountain Wilderness north of Helen, Georgia

The Appalachian Trail begins a considerably steeper incline, meandering through switchbacks on a noticeably steeper pitch on Tray Mountain’s lower elevations.

The AT reaches the Tray Mountain summit at 2.5 miles, a 1250-foot climb from Indian Grave Gap. The wind-swept trees hugging the mountain’s high elevation disperse at the peak, offering views of sweeping vistas on both sides of the trail.

Hike the Appalachian Trail to gorgeous views of North Georgia's wilderness from the summit of Tray Mountain

Large slabs of granite angle skyward at the summit, providing outstanding overlooks of the surrounding forest valley and the distant peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Chattahoochee National Forest. The summit views are especially impressive during the crisp, cool fall and winter months.

Departing the Tray Mountain summit, the hike doubles back to the trailhead, retracing the outbound route on the Appalachian Trail back to Indian Grave Gap. The return, almost entirely downhill, meets the trailhead at Indian Grave Gap at 5 miles, completing the hike.

More Appalachian Trail adventures from Indian Grave Gap

Have energy and daylight left to burn? Hike the Appalachian Trail west from this same trailhead to scale the Rocky Mountain summit to Unicoi Gap.

 

Tray Mountain: Appalachian Trail from Indian Grave Gap: Directions & Details

Parking

Free parking is available at the USFS Indian Grave Gap trailhead. Note: trailhead access is via gravel Forest Service roads.

Please Remember

Always leave no trace and follow these trail etiquette tips.

GPS Coordinates

34.792833, -83.714233     //     N34 47.570 W83 42.854

Driving Directions


Elevation Profile

Appalachian Trail: Indian Grave Gap to Tray Mountain Elevation Profile

Tray Mountain: Appalachian Trail from Indian Grave Gap Map

Trail data and photos © Summit19 Studio LLC. This map is not a substitute for official trail maps or topographic maps.
 
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.