Hike a scenic loop from Lake Winfield Scott to Slaughter Mountain, following the Jarrard Trail, AT, and Slaughter Creek Trail through a wildflower-filled forest.
OFFICIAL MAP: Appalachian Trail, Trails Illustrated Map
Departing from the scenic shores of Lake Winfield Scott, this three-trail adventure explores the stunningly beautiful Blood Mountain Wilderness, hiking through a scenic forest. It’s a moderately strenuous adventure, but well worth the effort, following the Jarrard Trail to Jarrard Gap, the Appalachian Trail to the lower elevations of Blood Mountain, and the Slaughter Creek Trail through a rolling, rocky creek valley below Slaughter Mountain.
And though it’s a beautiful hike in any season, this loop is particularly stunning in the springtime, when native Georgia wildflowers fill the forest with blooms. Millions of blooming trillium flowers blanket the forest floor in late April to mid-May, painting the trail’s sides in gorgeous springtime color and vibrant spring green.
Slaughter Mountain and Lake Winfield Scott Loop: the hike
The adventure begins at the rippling and reflective waters of Lake Winfield Scott (view maps and driving directions), following a spur trail south from the trailhead along Slaughter Creek.
The hike follows the blue-blazed Slaughter Creek Trail, crossing the creek over a wooden bridge before reaching Slaughter Creek Road at .25 mile. This route turns right on the gravel road, following the road to arrive at the signed trailhead of the Jarrard Trail at .4 miles. The blue-blazed Jarrard Trail climbs elevation into the forest beside a small stream, Lance Branch, on the trail’s left. Leafy ferns and wildflowers flank the sides of the trail as it steadily gains elevation.
The Jarrard Trail reaches Jarrard Gap and intersects the Appalachian Trail at 1.15 miles. Following the iconic, white rectangular blazes of the Appalachian Trail, the route turns left, hiking northeast. Views of the rolling, adjacent ridges emerge between the surrounding trees as the Appalachian Trail reaches the Gaddis Mountain summit at 1.55 miles. Wildflowers are prolific here in spring, when trillium and other native flowers cover the rolling terrain in abundant blooms, stretching to reach sunlight under the forest canopy.
The Appalachian Trail rolls elevation over the next mile, descending through shallow gaps and climbing several small knobs before reaching a junction with the Freeman Trail, a popular loop route around Blood Mountain, at 2.6 miles. Several level backpacking campsites are located left of the trail. This hike continues gaining elevation, following the Appalachian Trail to reach the Slaughter Creek Trail at 3 miles.
The route turns left, following the Slaughter Creek Trail to the north. The blue-blazed trail descends elevation, crossing several small tributary creeks in a rocky, mossy, sun-dappled forest below Slaughter Mountain.
The trail dives through a dense canopy of gnarly-branched mountain laurel and rhododendron, passing a backpacking campsite at 4 miles. Slaughter Creek roars audibly through the valley below the trail, cascading over out-of-site waterfalls and whitewater. The trail reaches the gravel Slaughter Creek Road at 5.4 miles and retraces the outbound route to Lake Winfield Scott, completing the adventure.
Lake Winfield Scott Camping
Extend the adventure! Camp at the popular Lake Winfield Scott Campground (view reservation and fee info), and explore more of the stunning Blood Mountain Wilderness on a multi-day adventure. Or grab some solitude and backpack to one of the campsites on the Appalachian Trail or Slaughter Creek Trail (free, first-come, first camp). Campfires are not allowed in the Blood Mountain Wilderness. Black bears are often active in the area, so store food and fragrant cosmetics out of reach in a bear canister.
Please remember to pack out what you’ve packed in and leave no trace to help preserve the forest’s beauty.
More adventures in the Blood Mountain Wilderness
Extend this hike’s mileage by 1.8 miles to grab some stunning vistas from Blood Mountain: from the AT junction with the Slaughter Creek Trail, continue following the Appalachian Trail .9 miles to the Blood Mountain summit. And, if you’re backpacking, there are additional campsites on the AT just a short distance from the intersection with the Slaughter Creek Trail.
Follow the Bear Hair Gap Trail from Vogel State Park, climbing to Blood Mountain’s lower elevations and catching stunning views of the park’s mountain lake from a lofty overlook. Or check out our Blood Mountain hiking, backpacking and camping guide for more of our favorite day hikes and backpacking adventures in this ultra-scenic North Georgia wilderness.
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$5, cash only, at the Lake Winfield Scott trailhead.
34.737426,-83.973118 // N34 44.246 W83 58.387