This 4.3 mile out-and-back Blood Mountain trail hikes the Byron Reece and Appalachian Trails to incredible summit views near Helen, Georgia.
The views on this Blood Mountain trail’s hike to the summit are simply outstanding, with long-range vistas opening through much of the Appalachian Trail’s ascent to the peak. This hike trails the Appalachian Trail to Blood Mountain via the Byron Reece Trail at Neels Gap. It’s one of the most popular day hikes on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia: stunning views combine with a heart-pounding workout on the relatively steep ascent to the Blood Mountain summit for an all-around fantastic hike.
While the views from the Blood Mountain trail are fantastic year-round, this hike’s most popular season is fall. Deciduous leaf color explodes on the surrounding mountains and valleys, painting the landscape in vivid, colorful beauty.
The hike departs the Byron Reece trailhead near Neels Gap (view maps and driving directions), diving into a creek and rhododendron-filled forest and beginning a climb of Blood Mountain’s lower elevations. The blue-blazed Byron Reece Trail crosses a creek bed and ascends stone stairs as it switches back, gaining elevation.
The trail meets the Appalachian Trail at Flatrock Gap at .7 mile, having ascended 400 feet elevation. The hike turns right at the signed trail intersection, following the white-blazed Appalachian Trail westbound toward the Blood Mountain summit.
The forest canopy opens suddenly as the Appalachian Trail hikes to the first of many clearings at .8 mile – a preview of the stunning views on this hike’s higher elevations. The clearing’s grooved, slab rock outcrops contrast brilliantly with the vibrant green moss and smoky green lichen that covers their surface.
The hike becomes steeper at 1 mile as the Appalachian Trail meanders through tight switchbacks along a boulder-dotted slope. The trail exits the switchbacks at 1.4 miles, leveling at a clearing before scrambling over several large boulders. The hike reaches sweeping wide views at 1.7 miles – the last level section of the Appalachian Trail in the final climb to the summit.
The Appalachian Trail crosses a series of lichen-covered outcrops littered with strewn boulders. The hike gains increasingly higher altitude and wider views of the surrounding Georgia mountains as the ascent continues.
The trail climbs through outcrops and boulders at 2 miles, entering a high-elevation forest of mountain laurel, moss, wind-swept pine and rhododendron. The Appalachian Trail reaches the Blood Mountain summit at 2.15 miles, having climbed 1400 feet elevation from the Byron Reece trailhead. At 4461 feet elevation, Blood Mountain is the Appalachian Trail’s highest ascent in Georgia.
At the summit, a rock building, constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, offers shelter for through-hikers on the Appalachian Trail during their 2000+ mile, mammoth-length hike from Georgia to Maine. The views at the Blood Mountain summit are outstanding – especially from the massive outcrop that towers beside the shelter.
The hike departs the Blood Mountain summit, retracing the Appalachian Trail in a descent of Blood Mountain’s eastern slope to return to the trailhead. The Appalachian Trail reaches the Byron Reece Trail intersection at 3.5 miles, turning left to follow the blue-blazed trail through the Flatrock Gap valley. The hike reaches the Byron Reece Trail trailhead at 4.3 miles, having gained and lost 3,000 feet of elevation on the hike.
Check out our Blood Mountain hiking, backpacking and camping guide for more Blood Mountain trails and camping info. And check out our complete collection of Georgia Appalachian Trail hikes for more adventure on the AT.
Parking is extremely limited at the trailhead. Arrive early on peak seasons and weekends, and park only in designated spaces.
34.741433, -83.922850 (N34 44.486 W83 55.371)