Tray Mountain: hiking the Appalachian Trail from Indian Grave Gap in North Georgia

Tray Mountain: hiking the Appalachian Trail from Indian Grave Gap

Hike to stunning views from Tray Mountain on this classic Georgia stretch of the Appalachian Trail,hiking from Indian Grave Gap through a lush, mossy forest filled with rhododendron.

trail info

5 miles
(round trip)
more
difficult
Dog-
friendly

LOCATION:Appalachian Trail near Helen, Georgia (maps & directions)

GEAR: Osprey Stratos 24 Backpack w/ our favorite hiking gear list and Canon 6D Camera

OFFICIAL MAP: Appalachian Trail, Trails Illustrated Map

This Tray Mountain hike is one of the most popular on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, and for a good reason: the views from the mountain’s summit are simply stunning. This 5-mile out-and-back hike explores beautiful valley terrain at Indian Grave Gap before climbing a scenic ridgeline to the mountain’s summit.

Hike the Appalachian Trail from Indian Grave Gap to Tray Mountain, north of Helen, GA

It’s an adventure chock-full of classic North Georgia mountain beauty. The hike tunnels through dense, gnarly-branched canopies of mountain laurel and rhododendron, offering copious blooms in late spring and early summer. Moss and fern blanket the forest floor in this shady, sun-dappled wilderness. On the Tray Mountain summit, abundant views spread to the north and south, including Lake Hiawassee, the nearby Anna Ruby Falls waterfall valley, and the iconic Yonah Mountain. All-around, it’s a great, classic hike on a beautiful stretch of the AT in Georgia.

Tray Mountain from Indian Grave Gap: the hike

The hike departs a gravel parking area (view maps and driving directions), hiking the white-blazed Appalachian Trail east through the Chattahoochee National Forest at the base of Rocky Mountain. The trail ascends through a forest filled with gnarled and twisted rhododendron and mountain laurel. The evergreen canopy shades the forest floor, helping shade-loving vibrant green moss and fern thrive along the sides of the trail.

The Appalachian Trail dives into a dense canopy of mountain laurel and rhododendron, trailing from Indian Grave Gap to Tray Mountain

The hike crosses Tray Mountain Road at .7 mile and ascends a wooden staircase. The route follows the AT’s rectangular white trail blazes and climbing through a dense grove of mountain laurel. The trail reaches a large, grassy campsite at 1 mile, where a blue-blazed side trail departs to the left. (The side trail travels to High Shoals Creek, the same creek that, several miles to the north, drops in the beautiful, 50+ foot cascades of the High Shoals Falls waterfall.)

The Appalachian Trail meanders through a lush, grassy forest below Tray Mountain in Georgia

The Appalachian Trail ascends a ridge. The hike steadily gains elevation, trailing through a sun-dappled grove of hardwoods filled with wildflowers in warm-weather months. The trail meets a campsite and an overlook at 1.5 miles; a steep ledge provides an excellent view of Tray Mountain’s peak to the left and offers a preview of the climb left on the trek to the summit.

The hike reaches Tray Gap at 1.7 miles, crossing a gravel road and entering the Tray Mountain Wilderness.

The Appalachian Trail enters the Tray Mountain Wilderness north of Helen, Georgia

The trail begins a considerably steeper ascent, meandering through switchbacks on a noticeably steeper incline on the mountain’s lower elevations. The AT reaches the Tray Mountain summit at 2.5 miles, a 1250-foot climb from Indian Grave Gap. The wind-swept trees hugging the mountain’s high elevation disperse at the peak, offering views of sweeping vistas on both sides of the trail.

Large slabs of granite angle skyward at the summit, providing outstanding overlooks of the surrounding forest valley and the distant peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Chattahoochee National Forest. The mountain’s views are particularly impressive during the crisp fall and winter months.

Hike the Appalachian Trail to gorgeous views of North Georgia's wilderness from the summit of Tray Mountain

Departing the summit, the hike doubles back to the trailhead, retracing the outbound route on the AT back to Indian Grave Gap. The return hike, almost entirely downhill, reaches the trailhead at 5 miles, completing the hike.

More Appalachian Trail adventures at Indian Grave Gap

Have energy and daylight left to burn? Hike the AT westbound from this same trailhead to scale the Rocky Mountain summit to Unicoi Gap.

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Tray Mountain: Appalachian Trail from Indian Grave Gap Map, Directions & Details

Tray Mountain: Appalachian Trail from Indian Grave Gap Map
Tray Mountain: Appalachian Trail from Indian Grave Gap Map
This map is not a substitute for official trail maps or topographic maps.

Driving Directions


Parking

Free parking is available at the Indian Grave Gap trailhead. Note: trailhead access is via gravel Forest Service roads.

GPS Coordinates

34.792833, -83.714233     //     N34 47.570 W83 42.854

Elevation Profile

Tray Mountain: Appalachian Trail from Indian Grave Gap  Elevation Profile
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Eric Champlin is a writer and photographer who loves to hike, run, backpack, kayak and cycle the southeast. He’s the editor and founder of Atlanta Trails and Asheville Trails, online magazines that cover the South’s best outdoor adventures. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.
 
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