Hike a short but steep trail to the summit of Brasstown Bald, Georgia’s tallest summit, climbing through a mossy forest to seriously stunning 360-degree views.
LOCATION:near Hiawassee, Georgia
OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 778 Trails Illustrated Map
It’s not an incredibly long hike. And though it’s steadily uphill from the start, it’s not terribly difficult, either, thanks to its short length. But what the hike to Brasstown Bald lacks in distance, it sure makes up for in beauty. This adventure to Georgia’s tallest summit follows a paved trail through a magnificent forest filled with mossy rock and twisted thickets of blooming native shrubs. The trek itself is just over a half mile, each way. And the hike’s halfway point at the summit of this soaring mountain is simply spectacular.
The mountaintop’s bald, grassy crest delivers incredible 360-degree views. At the summit, an enormous viewing platform beneath an old wooden fire lookout tower offers some of Georgia’s most vistas. All around, the weathered indigo-hued peaks of the southern Appalachians roll in beautiful layers of ridges and valleys.
With views this sublime, the summit is a favorite spot to soak up some golden rays and catch a beautiful sunrise or sunset. And the paved path to the summit makes a relatively easy route to follow when the lighting is dim. Be sure to pack a headlamp (the Black Diamond Spot is our favorite) to lead the way.
Brasstown Bald: the hike
The adventure begins at a trailhead near the visitor’s center at the base of the mountain (view maps and driving directions). The climb to the top starts immediately, as the trail begins its steady ascent. The path is paved, generously wide, and serpentine throughout its length, switching back in wide meanders as it climbs.
The surrounding forest is rocky, rugged, and vibrantly lush. Leathery-leafed rhododendron frame the sides of the trail alongside gnarly-branched mountain laurel. Both bloom abundantly in late springtime, so this adventure offers a colorful climb when the weather warms in these high elevations. Short, scraggly trees and leafy underbrush shade the forest floor, providing the perfect habitat for carpets of moss to grow.
The trail arcs to the northwest, passing the trailhead of the Wagon Train Trail, which leads to the nearby college town of Young Harris. The hike continues its climb, switching back to the northeast at a third of a mile, and then carving back to the northwest shortly after. The hike crosses a paved road at just under a half mile, nearing the summit.
Suddenly, and just when the calf-burning ascent seems like it will never end, Brasstown Bald’s enormous wooden tower comes into view. A scramble up the steps on the tower’s north side leads to the large observation deck above. Signs along the edge of the deck indicate the sights on the horizon, with four-state views stretching wide and far into Tennessee and the Carolinas. Mountain views include Rabun Bald, Georgia’s second highest peak, as well as Black Rock Mountain, Georgia’s highest-elevation state park, and the legendary summit of Blood Mountain, the highest summit on Appalachian Trail in Georgia. And to the northeast, the stunning peaks of the Nantahala National Forest roll along the horizon.
On a clear day, with sweeping views, the summit is one of those places that’s hard to leave. Departing the tower, this hike doubles back to the trailhead along the outbound route. The hike reaches the trailhead at just over one mile, completing the view-packed adventure.
Have some more energy left to burn? Follow the Arkaquah Trail from the same parking area along Brasstown’s towering ridge, exploring a lush forest filled with laurel, wildflowers, and rhododendron. The trail makes a steep descent to Track Rock Gap, and explores a series of large rock slabs covered in ancient Native American petroglyphs believed to be over a thousand years old.
To the north, explore the meandering shoreline of a beautifully scenic lake surrounded by mountains on the Lake Chatuge Trail. To the south, follow a stretch of the Appalachian Trail from Unicoi Gap to Rocky Mountain and Tray Mountain, scoring beautiful summit views. If you’re up for chasing waterfalls, follow the High Shoals Falls Trail to two beautiful waterfalls in a vibrant green valley. Or check out the full list of our favorite hikes near Hiawassee for even more adventure inspiration.
After the adventure
After enjoying the breathtaking views from Georgia’s highest mountain peak, head into nearby Hiawassee for a bite by the lake. The Oaks Lakeside Kitchen at The Ridges Resort dishes delicious Southern-inspired cuisine created with locally sourced ingredients. Favorites include the Seafood Po’ Boy, burgers made with local Brasstown Beef, and fried chicken & biscuits. And the lakeside views of Lake Chatuge, surrounded by some of our state’s tallest mountains, are pretty amazing, too.
The Ridges Resort is the perfect spot to call home for a few days of exploring in the North Georgia Mountains. The resort’s recently-renovated rooms and suites feature a rustic-modern design with comfy furnishings, upscale fixtures, and private balconies to enjoy the fresh mountain air. And multi-bedroom villas are available too, offering plenty of space for groups of friends and family. The Hiawassee area is filled with beautiful summit views and waterfalls, and the resort offers tons of activities as well. Explore the lake by canoe, kayak, or pontoon boat. Fish from the Lodge Fishing Pier or take a dip in the saltwater pool. Or just relax with sunsets over the lake and nightly s’mores by the fire.
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Trails and routes may change – so please refer to official trail maps for the latest route.
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$3 per person (daily) at the Visitor Center.
34.870483, -83.810117 // N34 52.229 W83 48.607