Hike the Appalachian Trail southbound from Dicks Creek Gap, climbing to stunning views of Lake Burton from the summit of Powell Mountain.
OFFICIAL MAP: Appalachian Trail, Trails Illustrated Map
Mile for mile, this isn’t a particularly long day hike on the Appalachian Trail, but it sure is a rewarding one. Stretching just over two and a half miles each way, this hike follows the AT southbound from Dicks Creek Gap, exploring a beautiful, lush forest under a canopy of tall hardwoods. And the outbound hike is a workout, climbing nearly continuously from the gap… but the lofty summit views from the Powell Mountain summit make the workout worthwhile.
Powell Mountain is a sun-soaked, rocky peak that catches wide views of Lake Burton and many rolling, blue-hued Appalachian summits on the distant horizon. The summit view is the kind that you almost have to tear yourself away from, making it the perfect mid-hike resting spot.
Dicks Creek Gap to Powell Mountain: the hike
The adventure begins at the Dicks Creek Gap trailhead (view maps and driving directions), crossing GA Highway 76 and hiking south from the trailhead parking area. The hike follows the iconic white rectangular blazes of the Appalachian Trail as it ventures southbound, and immediately begins to climb elevation through a towering, spindly hardwood forest. The hike passes a small, trickling waterfall on the trail’s right side as it ascends.
Several old-growth trees pepper the trail, with massive trunks dwarfing the surrounding forest. Lush, green vegetation borders the trail, and enormous ferns and wildflowers frame the sides of the white-blazed path.
The trail levels briefly at a half mile, passing a large campsite on the left. The hike resumes the climb, making a short descent and winding through switchbacks over the next third of a mile. The trail passes a seasonally-available water source at just under a mile, skipping over a shallow creek and passing another campsite at 1.2 miles.
The hike unwaveringly ascends, climbing nearly due south. The AT climbs through a thick grove of twisted, gnarled mountain laurel, switching back sharply at just under two miles and veering northwest.
After cresting at 2.25 miles, the trail dips elevation through McClure Gap, and then resumes the climb. Nearing the peak of Powell Mountain, the hike reaches a side trail that departs to the left at 2.5 miles. The trail is marked by a small wooden “vista” sign, and blue trail blazes mark the side trail (though the first blazes are not immediately visible from the sign).
This hike departs the white-blazed Appalachian Trail, following the side trail a quarter mile southeast to a rocky overlook. Sweeping, long-range views unfold to the south.
On the horizon, the waters of Lake Burton, Lake Seed, and Lake Rabun nestle into the rolling blue-hued southern Appalachian Mountains. Black Rock Mountain is visible in the distance. The sun-drenched, rocky slope is a perfect place to grab a snack before the return hike to the trailhead.
Departing the overlook, the route flips in reverse, retracing its outbound steps to the trailhead. Remember that calf-burning ascent on the outbound? The return hike is almost blissfully downhill. The hike reaches Dicks Creek Gap at 5.2 miles, completing the adventure.
Dicks Creek Gap to Powell Mountain: camping
Several trailside campsites flank the trail’s sides, and all are available first-come, first-camp (so be sure to make camp early in peak hiking season and on weekends). Whether you’re spending the night or passing through, please always remember to leave no trace to preserve the beauty of this stunning stretch of North Georgia forest.
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Free parking is available at the Dicks Creek Gap trailhead.
34.912167, -83.618967 // N34 54.730 W83 37.138