Review of a hiking trail at Springer Mountain in Georgia along the Appalachian and Benton MacKaye Trails along a 5.1 mile loop trail.
This hike in the Chattahoochee National Forest in North Georgia travels along two famous trails – the famous 2,100 Appalachian Trail, which extends from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Maine, as well as the 250 mile Benton MacKaye Trail, which runs along a rugged terrain in North Georgia and is named for the founder of the Appalachian Trail, Benton MacKaye.
This segment of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia is just one of many we’ve covered in our in-depth review series. View our complete collection of Georgia Appalachian Trail hikes here.
This hike draws its cool factor from more than its history and fame, however – it loops 5.1 miles, affords views from two expansive vistas, fords 3 major streams, and travels through beautiful Georgian forest. This hike features multiple trail crossings along its length, however – so hikers, as always, should travel with a GPS, compass, and topo map along with these directions.
Begin by crossing Forest Road 42 from the parking area to begin your ascent up Springer Mountain. The hike is upward through rocky terrain in a deciduous forest – and, while our January hike didn’t afford much greenery other than the striking green moss that grows over the abundant rock outcrops here, the leafless trees allowed continuous views of the ridgeline off to the right.
At .75 miles, you’ll encounter a trail junction where the Appalachain Trail crosses the beginning of the Benton MacKaye Trail. Continue straight ahead on the white rectangle blazed Appalachian Trail for now; the peak of Springer Mountain is just ahead and you’ll be returning soon to this trail junction.
Shortly after, a side trail, marked in rectangular blue blazes, leads to an Appalachian Trail shelter, spring water, and backpacking camp sites.
Continue ascending to the top of Springer Mountain. At the peak, enjoy the wide expansive view of the North Georgia ridgelines here at the official end of the Appalachian Trail. It’s here that many dreams of beginning – or finally ending – the trail have become reality for through hikers on the trail. A plaque and final rectangular white blaze mark the official end of the trail, and a vault built into the side of the rock outcrop hides a log book that through hikers use to mark their beginning or end of the long journey.
After you’ve had the fill of the vista, begin descending Springer Mountain the same way you came, back toward the junction with the Benton MacKaye Trail that you passed on the way up. Take the blue-blazed trail to water if your water bottles are in need of refilling as ours were. The side trail is also worth the short jaunt to see the shelter that marks the beginning of the adventure for South to North through hikers on the trail.
Continue descending Springer Mountain to the junction of the Benton MacKaye trail, and turn right at the trail junction. The Benton MacKaye trail is blazed with a white diamond along its length.
Shortly after the turnoff from the Appalachian Trail, you’ll pass a plaque dedicated to Benton MacKaye set into a large mossy rock outcrop. We left a rock here at the base of the plaque – a symbol of thanks for his help in conceiving the trail that’s become so beloved to so many.
At mile 2.5, a small sign, simply engraved with the word “view”, points to a side trail to the right. The view here is expansive and not to be missed, looking out over a steep face of rock Southwest towards the Etowah River.
Return to the Benton MacKaye Trail and continue the descent towards Forest Road 42, crossing through several large groves of evergreen holly.
Cross FR 42 at the junction and continue the trail on the other side, clearly marked with a white diamond blaze. You’ll hear the sounds of a tumbling stream to your right as you parallel, and then swing away from, the forest road. Note the change of vegetation that begins to occur; while the hike to this point has been through deciduous forest, the growth turns evergreen as pine, rhododendron, and evergreen underbrush emerge.
Continue through the evergreen forest and make three stream crossings – made fairly easily even in high water by carefully jumping from stone to stone – and continue to hike along the rushing creek.
At 4.8 miles, almost at the end of your journey, you’ll encounter another trail junction where the Benton MacKaye Trail crosses the Appalachian Trail.
Turn left here at the intersection to hike South .3 miles to the parking area.
GPS Coordinates: 34.637315,-84.195030
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