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 (find it at Trailful Outdoor Co.)
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 (like the Black Diamond Spot, available at our Trailful Outdoor Co. shop) 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.
AFTER THE ADVENTURE
After soaking up those incredible 360-degree views, come visit us in Hiawassee at our new hiking outfitter store, Trailful Outdoor Co. Stop in and say hello to the Atlanta Trails crew! Our new shop features a full wall of local hike info to help you plan your next adventure. We also stock our crew’s favorite, trail-tested hiking and backpacking gear, our line of Atlanta Trails apparel, and selection of locally-made and mountain-inspired goods, gifts, and books. And if you’re ready to fuel up after that climb to the summit, we’ll definitely share some of our favorite spots in town to grab a coffee or bite to eat! Hope to see you soon.
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. 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.
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.
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This trail is maintained thanks to the hard work of countless volunteers and donations from supporters of the Chattahoochee National Forest. 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!
Did you have trouble accessing the trail, or notice some recent trail updates or storm damage? We'd love to know! Contact us here, and thanks for helping us keep this site updated!
$5 per person (daily) at the Visitor Center.
34.870483, -83.810117 // N34 52.229 W83 48.607