Springer Mountain Loop: hiking the Appalachian Trail & Benton MacKaye Trail
Hike the Appalachian Trail and Benton MacKaye Trail on the Springer Mountain Loop, exploring multiple view-packed overlooks and a beautiful stream-filled valley.
Springer Mountain isn’t the highest summit in North Georgia, and the views aren’t quite as wide as its Georgia rivals like Blood Mountain or Rabun Bald.
But Springer Mountain ranks high on our lists of favorite Georgia hikes, and for good reason: the southernmost blaze of the Appalachian Trail lies on the Springer summit. It’s here, on this mountaintop near Amicalola Falls, that an epic, 2,000+ mile journey begins or ends for thousands of thru-hikers that trek the entire length of the AT every year.
Catch beautiful mountaintop views from multiple overlooks on this 4.7-mile loop on the AT and Benton MacKaye Trail, hiking through hardwood forest and crossing through a shady, mossy stream valley. Departing the often-crowded Springer Mountain summit, this loop on the Benton MacKaye Trail (BMT) grabs some solitude from a second summit overlook, one that rivals the view from the true Springer Mountain summit.
The BMT, named after the founder of the Appalachian Trail, also visits a memorial to Benton MacKaye near on Springer Mountain and explores a rhododendron-filled creek valley before looping back to the trailhead. It’s a gorgeous hike in any season, but one of our favorite Georgia hikes in winter, when the overlook vistas open to broad and frosty mountaintop views. And it’s also especially beautiful in autumn’s beautiful leaf color.
Springer Mountain Loop on the Appalachian Trail
The Springer Mountain Loop departs the Springer Mountain parking area on Forest Road 42 (view maps and driving directions), following the white, rectangular blazed Appalachian Trail westbound across the gravel forest road.
The hike arcs south toward Springer Mountain, steadily gaining more than 350 feet elevation and climbing through a rocky, boulder-filled forest. The hike passes the Benton Mackaye Trailhead on trail left before reaching the Springer summit at just under 1 mile, catching summit views of the southern Appalachian mountains.
The Springer Mountain Loop departs the summit, descending on the Appalachian Trail to the Benton Mackeye Trail. The hike reaches the BMT trailhead at 1.15 miles, turning right to follow the BMT’s white diamond trail blazes northbound.
The BMT passes a memorial to Benton Mackaye at 1.25 miles before arcing to begin a continual, eastbound descent from the Springer Mountain summit. The hike levels at 1.75 miles before starting a brief, 125-foot ascent of Ball Mountain. The trail reaches a side trail to the right at 2.25 miles, marked by a double-diamond blaze. The hike follows this short spur to grab stunning views from a nearby overlook. The broad, long-range view is especially beautiful in the fall, when saturated leaf color dots the surrounding peaks – and the view rivals the more popular, and often crowded, Springer Mountain summit.
The Springer Mountain Loop departs the overlook, rejoining the Benton Mackaye Trail and turning right. The hike crosses Forest Road 42 at Big Stamp Gap and follows the BMT westbound, climbing elevation and switching back through a canopy of mountain laurel and rhododendron.
The hike reaches the first of several stream crossings at 3.5 miles, hiking through the shallow bed of Davis Creek. The damp, water-filled creek valley is a contrast to the dry, windswept landscape of Springer Mountain summit: vibrant green moss covers water-rounded boulders, and abundant wildflowers add vibrant color to the forest floor.
The Benton MacKaye Trail crosses Davis Creek three times before climbing elevation, rising to meet a junction with the Appalachian Trail at 4.4 miles. The Springer Mountain Loop trail turns left at this intersection, following the white rectangular blazes of the AT in a southwest arc to the trailhead. The hike reaches the Springer Mountain parking area at 4.7 miles, completing the adventure.