Backpack the Appalachian Trail from Dicks Creek Gap to Georgia’s northern border at Bly Gap, visiting a gnarled old oak near the state line and passing a number of fantastic backpacking campsites.
LOCATION:near Hiawassee, Georgia
OFFICIAL MAP: Appalachian Trail, Trails Illustrated Map
Winding through Georgia’s rolling southern Appalachian Mountains, the mega-length Appalachian Trail catches stunning summit views from legendary mountains like Blood and Cowrock, and dives into beautiful creek valleys like Three Forks on its journey to the North Carolina state line at Bly Gap. This hike on Georgia’s northernmost stretch of the AT lacks an impressive summit view like some of its more southern segments. But this stretch of the famed trail explores mile after mile of beautiful, fern-and-moss-filled forests. Numerous campsites dot the trail’s sides, making it a great overnight backpacking trip. And highlights on this adventure include the Plum Orchard AT shelter, and crossing the North Carolina state line to visit to a gnarled, old oak tree at Bly Gap.
It’s a scenic adventure, for sure… just not in the ‘catch stunning summit views’ kind of way. And at over 17 miles, round trip, with plenty of rolling climbs, it’s a fantastic workout, and a great trail run to the state line, too.
The Appalachian Trail at Dicks Creek Gap
The adventure begins at Dicks Creek Gap on the paved Highway 76, (view maps and driving directions), following the AT’s signature white trail blazes of the northeast from the gap.
The hike follows the meanders of a small stream, a tributary of Dick’s Creek, which some miles away cascades in the stunning waterfall at Dicks Creek Falls. The trail climbing elevation steadily, passing the first of many campsites at under a half mile. The trail descends briefly before beginning a second climb, ascending toward Little Bald Knob, and passing a second campsite at 1 mile. The hike crests again at 1.35 miles before plunging yet again, following a creek on the left and another campsite at just under 1.5 miles.
The trail crosses through Cowart Gap at 1.75 miles, passing campsites before beginning a considerable, unwavering climb. The trail reaches Buzzard Knob at 3 miles after passing a small rock outcrop on the trail’s right side, rolling elevation through dense groves of rhododendron. The hike reaches Plum Orchard Gap at 4.35 miles.
A blue-blazed side trail departs on the trail’s right side, hiking a short .2 mile eastbound to the Plum Orchard Gap shelter and Plum Orchard Creek.
Numerous campsites speckle the grounds at Plum Orchard Gap, offering a great midpoint camping spot before reaching the state line.
Departing the gap, the AT climbs to crest the curiously-named As Knob, passing through a forest filled with fern and gnarled mountain laurel in a descent to Blue Ridge Gap. Hiking through Blue Ridge Gap, the AT crosses a gravel road and ascends elevation, passing two off-trail campsites and a trickling spring near Rich Cove Gap at 6.5 miles.
The trail rolls elevation over the next two miles, steadily climbing toward the Georgia border. A large, mossy, gray rock outcrop towers over the trail just before the hike the AT crosses the Georgia – North Carolina state line at 8.5 miles.
Now in North Carolina, the AT continues to climb towards Bly Gap. The trail passes a campsite on the right before arcing northeast, reaching Bly Gap and a gnarled, old oak tree at 8.7 miles. Just past the tree, a small clearing provides limited views of the distant rolling peaks of the Nantahala National Forest. From here, the Appalachian Trail continues its northbound journey through North Carolina, climbing through dense rhododendron thickets to the summit of Standing Indian Mountain, rolling through Carter Gap near the tumbling waterfall at Big Laurel Falls, and climbing to exceptional, 360-degree panoramic views at Albert Mountain, catching views from the mountain’s historic steel fire lookout tower.
From here, this hike turns to retrace its outbound steps on the AT, reaching Dicks Creek Gap at 17.4 miles and completing the adventure.
Campsites frequently dot this stretch of the AT, and the trail’s out-and-back length makes a great weekend backpacking trip. Our favorite site? The campsites near Rich Cove Gap, at 6.5 miles outbound from Dicks Creek Gap, are large, shady, and accommodate several tents. There’s a spring nearby, and ample room to hang a few hammocks for some incredible mid-hike relaxation.
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Free parking is available at the Dicks Creek Gap trailhead.
34.912300, -83.618717 // N34 54.738 W83 37.123