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.
LOCATION:Appalachian Trail near Hiawassee, Georgia
PACK:our Osprey day pack and our hiking gear list
OFFICIAL MAP: Appalachian Trail, Trails Illustrated Map (find it at Trailful Outdoor Co.)
This hike scales to the summit of Tray Mountain, and it’s one of the most popular on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia. For a good reason, too: the views from the mountain’s summit are simply stunning. This 5-mile roundtrip route explores a beautiful valley terrain at Indian Grave Gap before climbing a scenic ridgeline to the mountain’s summit.
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. Mosses and ferns 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 Chatuge, 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 eastbound near 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 mosses and ferns to thrive in the dappled sunlight.
The hike crosses a gravel road at just under three-quarters of a mile and ascends a wooden staircase. The route follows the AT’s rectangular white trail blazes and climbs 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, tall cascades of the High Shoals Falls waterfall.)
The A.T. 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 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.
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 adventure.
After the Adventure
After exploring the mountaintop and this scenic section of the Appalachian Trail, head into nearby Hiawassee and say hello to the Atlanta Trails crew at our hiking outfitter shop, Trailful Outdoor Co. We’ve got tons of free info the help you find your next North Georgia adventure. We also stock a large selection of our favorite hiking and backpacking gear and apparel, including KUHL, Kelty, ENO, Osprey, as well as our line of Atlanta Trails apparel, books, and locally-made gifts and goods.
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.
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.
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!
Free parking is available at the Indian Grave Gap trailhead. Trailhead access is via gravel Forest Service roads that may require a high-clearance 4x4 vehicle.
34.792833, -83.714233 // N34 47.570 W83 42.854