Hike the Bear Hair Gap Trail through a scenic stream-filled forest to beautiful views of Lake Trahlyta at Vogel State Park.
LOCATION:Vogel State Park near Helen, Georgia
Exploring a series of small, tumbling waterfalls in a rocky forest on the lower elevations of the infamous Blood Mountain, the Bear Hair Gap Trail is one of those classic North Georgia hikes that always seems to make for an excellent adventure. Departing from one of Georgia’s most popular state parks, the trail loops from the campground at Vogel State Park, climbing to lofty views of the park’s tranquil waters at Lake Trahlyta. And it explores mile after mile of scenic, lush, leafy forest along the way, looping through massive rock outcroppings and winding through a mossy forest filled with tumbling creeks.
The adventure spans just over four miles and visits several backcountry campsites. It’s also a great day hike and popular trail run – and with an ascent of a thousand vertical feet, the trail makes for a great workout, too. And while the views from the overlook don’t rival those from the nearby true summit of Blood Mountain, the neatly framed view of Vogel’s lake, nestled in the rolling southern stretches of the Blue Ridge Mountains, is definitely worth the journey.
Bear Hair Gap Trail: the hike
The route begins at the backcountry trailhead at Vogel State Park (view maps and driving directions), hiking westbound from the park’s campground and sharing a path with the Coosa Backcountry Trail. Be sure to read the information about black bear encounters on the signs at the trailhead: on our recent hike on this loop, we spotted both a mama bear and her cub on the trail. Bear interactions with hikers have been increasing in the Blood Mountain Wilderness – so know how to avoid an encounter with a bear before you begin. The hike climbs from the trailhead, rising over a series of rustic wooden stairs and passing a wooden overlook at a tenth of a mile.
The hike crosses a wooden bridge, following green trail blazes through stands of hemlock and passing through thickets of dense rhododendron. Nearing four-tenths of a mile, the trail reaches an intersection. Beginning the loop portion of this hike, this route turns right, continuing its westbound journey. The Coosa Backcountry Trail splits off to the right at just under a half mile.
The hike continues its steady climb, winding through a wide switchback and passing through a thicket of dense mountain laurel. The trail veers to the southwest, crossing a wooden bridge over a tumbling creek.
The trail arcs sharply northbound, reaching an old gravel road at one mile and turns left to follow the road roughly southbound. The hike’s relentless climb pauses briefly, following the roadbed over a short level stretch and crossing a shallow creek. The climb resumes as the trail winds through a creek-filled forest, carving through several wide switchbacks.
At 1.5 miles, the hike reaches a spur trail, following the spur eastbound to an overlook. Due-north views from the overlook reveal the blue-hued Lake Trahlyta far below. A campsite near the overlook reveals wintertime views of the nearby summit of Blood Mountain and offers backpackers a great spot to crash for the night.
The route backtracks along the spur to the Bear Hair Gap loop, and reaching the loop, turns left, continuing the southbound journey. The trail rolls elevation fairly gently over the next three-quarters of a mile, and then begins to descend at 2.5 miles, passing an intersection with the Coosa Backcountry Trail.
The hike quickly passes through a gap between several enormous, weathered rock outcroppings encrusted with silvery lichens and vibrant green moss. The trail crosses a shallow creek at 2.7 miles, catching views of several small, tumbling waterfalls upstream.
The trail descends along rustic wooden stairs and passes a campsite at just under three miles, continuing the nearly-relentless descent. The hike fords another wet creek crossing at just over three miles, continuing to follow the trail’s green trail blazes through a maze of side trails near the crossing. The trail veers roughly northbound, completing the loop at 3.75 miles and turning right at the trail intersection, following the spur trail back to Vogel’s backcountry trailhead. The hike reaches the trailhead at just over four miles, completing the adventure.
More great hikes near Vogel State Park
Ready for the next adventure? While you’re in the park, take a short walk around the lake, following the Trahlyta Lake Trail to beautiful views of Blood Mountain and a tumbling waterfall. Hike the Byron Reece Trail and a segment of the Appalachian Trail from Neels Gap, climbing to stunning views from the summit of Blood Mountain and visiting a historic stone AT shelter at the top. Follow a short path and decend through a scenic creek valley filled with gnarly-branched rhododendron to visit Helton Creek Falls, a two-tiered waterfall set in a quiet cove. Or for an incredible high-mileage adventure, follow the Coosa Backcountry Trail and Appalachian Trail to Blood Mountain, an energetic 8.5-mile adventure from the backcountry trailhead at Vogel State Park.
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34.763817, -83.926333 // N34 45.829 W83 55.580