Atlanta TrailsbyTrailful Outdoor Co
Hiking Trails in Georgia

Unicoi Gap to Chattahoochee Gap

Hike to Chattahoochee Gap on the Appalachian Trail from Unicoi Gap, visiting the North Georgia headwaters of the Chattahoochee River and the Blue Mountain AT shelter.

georgia hiking trails: 6 or more miles 8.9 miles
(round trip)
? Your mileage may vary! Accuracy of your GPS device, weather conditions, and stops along your route will affect your own recorded distance.
georgia hiking trails: moderate to difficultmore
?Our difficulty estimate, based on distance, terrain, elevation change, & ease of wayfinding. May vary daily due to weather, trail reroutes, downed trees, etc.
georgia hiking trails: dog-friendly Dog-
?Leashed dogs are allowed on this trail. We’ve loved hiking this route with our trail-loving Labrador Retrievers! Check out more of our favorite dog-friendly trails in Georgia for a great hike with your pup.

LOCATION:Appalachian Trail near Helen, Georgia

PACK:our Osprey day pack and our hiking gear list

OFFICIAL MAP: Appalachian Trail, Trails Illustrated Map (find it at Trailful Outdoor Co.)

At first glance, it’s nothing more than a tiny, easy-to-miss, trickling spring – one of many near the Appalachian Trail in North Georgia. But the spring at this hike’s final destination is the official headwaters of the wide Chattahoochee River. It’s remarkable that this tiny, trickling spring, framed by mossy rock and fern, gains volume enough to fuel Atlanta’s major river downstream. And where else can you take a photo with each foot on an opposite bank of river?

This classic AT hike departs from Unicoi Gap just north of Helen, climbing Blue Mountain to a rolling ridgeline. While views are limited on this heavily-forested stretch of the AT, the hike treks through a lush, green forest that blooms in abundant wildflowers during warm-weather months. The terrain is rocky and rugged, moss-covered and shady, and filled with tall fern. Numerous campsites flank the sides of the trail, and the Blue Mountain AT shelter sits just off-trail roughly halfway into the hike. At nine miles, it’s a great, moderately-difficult AT day hike in North Georgia.

Chattahoochee Gap: hike to a small spring, the headwaters of the mighty Chattahoochee River, just off the Appalachian TrailThis tiny, trickling spring forms the headwaters of the mighty Chattahoochee River

Hike to Chattahoochee Gap on the Appalachian Trail from Unicoi Gap, visiting the North Georgia headwaters of the Chattahoochee River and the Blue Mountain AT shelter. #hiking #trailrunning #camping #backpacking #northgeorgia #atlanta #georgia #travel #outdoors #adventure

Appalachian Trail to Chattahoochee Gap: the hike

The adventure begins at Unicoi Gap (view maps and driving directions), crossing the paved highway and diving into the forest. (The AT’s iconic, white rectangular blaze marks the trailhead.) The hike begins an immediate climb of Blue Mountain’s lower elevations, hiking southbound before switching back sharply and reversing direction. It’s a nearly unrelenting climb from the trailhead, scrambling over lichen-covered boulders and climbing through a green, fern-filled forest.

Just before summiting, the AT passes a small campsite just off-trail at 1.15 miles. The trail summits Blue Mountain, where tall wildflowers stretch to catch sunlight in the dense forest. The hike passes through a scattered grove of large rhododendron and passes a second campsite at 1.75 miles.

Chattahoochee Gap: hike the Appalachian Trail from Unicoi Gap, exploring a rocky, fern-filled forest

A side trail departs to the right at 2.15 miles leading the Blue Mountain shelter. Large campsites and a large fire ring surround the shelter, a rustic overnight home to AT thru-hikers on their epic, 2,000+ mile journey from Georgia to Maine.

Beyond the shelter, the AT begins an extended descent, passing a small spring just off the trail at 2.2 miles. The hike descends through a dense tunnel of twisted mountain laurel at Henson Gap, dives through abundant fern and wildflowers, and passes a large campsite at 2.7 miles.

The trail climbs rocky boulder beds, rolling elevation. A side trail departs steeply to the right at 2.8 miles, leading to a spring. The hike arcs northbound, passing a signed trail to a campsite at 3 miles before arcing to the west. The hike catches a through-the-trees view of Brasstown Bald, Georgia’s highest mountain summit, on a rocky stretch of trail at 3.2 miles. The AT continues its descent, trailing through mountain laurel to reach a campsite at Red Clay Gap at 3.7 miles.

Chattahoochee Gap: hike the Appalachian Trail in North Georgia through a lush forest filled with fern and wildflowers

The hike passes large, lichen-crusted rock outcrops, climbing to reach Chattahoochee Gap at 4.3 miles. From here, the AT continues southwest to Hogpen Gap, Tesnatee Gap and Cowrock Mountain. The Jacks Gap Trail departs to the north, climbing to Brasstown Bald. This hike follows a blue-blazed side trail to the south, meandering through switchbacks in a short descent.

The hike reaches a small spring at just under 4.5 miles, a tiny trickle that tunnels between several fern-covered rocks. Downriver, this small spring flows 430 miles south, growing considerably in volume to become the Chattahoochee River, one of Georgia’s major waterways and a water source for the city of Atlanta.

Departing the spring, the hike climbs back to the gap and retraces its outbound trek on the AT. The hike reaches Unicoi Gap at 8.9 miles, completing the adventure.

More Unicoi Gap adventures on the AT

Have energy (and daylight) left to burn? Hike eastbound on the Appalachian Trail from Unicoi Gap to Rocky Mountain and catch some beautiful summit views of nearby Yonah Mountain before descending to the wildflower and mountain laurel-filled Indian Grave Gap. Or hike a ten-mile roundtrip to Tray Mountain, a calf-burning workout that scores views from two mountain summits and ducks through long tunnels of rhododendron and mountain laurel.

Leave No Trace: Atlanta Trails, Asheville Trails and Trailful are official Leave No Trace partners

Please Remember

Always leave no trace, pack out everything you pack in, and if you see trash, pick it up and pack it out.

Stay on the marked trail, tell someone where you're going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, and don't rely on a mobile phone to find your way. Please always practice good trail etiquette. And before you go, always check the trailhead kiosk, official maps, and the park or ranger office for notices of changed routes, trail closures, safety information, and restrictions.

Appalachian Trail: Unicoi Gap to Chattahoochee Gap Map, Directions & Details

This map shows our approximate route while exploring this trail, but does not replace an official trail map. Please refer to the official trail map for the most current and accurate route.

Love the trail?

This trail is maintained thanks to the hard work of countless volunteers and donations from supporters of the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club. Please support them by making a donation or joining a volunteer day. Let's work together to keep these fantastic trails maintained and open for use!

Driving Directions


Free parking is available at the USFS Unicoi Gap trailhead.

GPS Coordinates

34.802333, -83.743100     //     N34 48.140 W83 44.586

Elevation Profile

Appalachian Trail: Unicoi Gap to Chattahoochee Gap Elevation Profile

Eric Champlin is a creative director and photographer who loves to explore southeast. He's the co-owner of Trailful Outdoor Co, a locally-owned hiking outfitter shop in Hiawassee in the Georgia mountains near the Appalachian Trail. He’s also the co-founder of Atlanta Trails and Asheville Trails, digital magazines that highlight the South’s best outdoor adventures. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.