Hike the Springer Mountain Loop on the Appalachian Trail and Benton MacKaye Trail in North Georgia

Springer Mountain Loop: hiking the Appalachian Trail & Benton MacKaye Trail

Hike the Springer Mountain Loop, following the Appalachian Trail and Benton MacKaye Trail to explore multiple view-packed overlooks and a beautiful stream-filled valley.

trail info

4.7 miles
(round trip)
more
difficult
Dog-
friendly

LOCATION:Appalachian Trail near Ellijay, 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

Springer Mountain isn’t the highest summit in North Georgia, and the views aren’t quite as wide as its Georgia rivals like Blood Mountain or Rabun Bald.

But Springer Mountain ranks high on our lists of favorite Georgia hikes, and for a good reason: the southernmost blaze of the Appalachian Trail lies on the Springer summit. It’s here, on this mountaintop near Amicalola Falls, that an epic, 2,000+ mile adventure begins (or ends) for the thousands of thru-hikers that journey the AT’s entire length.

Hike the Springer Mountain Loop on the Appalachian Trail and Benton MacKaye Trail in North Georgia, catching summit views from multiple overlooksAbove: hike to summit views at the Springer Mountain summit, the southernmost end of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia

Hike this 4.7-mile loop on the AT and Benton MacKaye Trail, catching beautiful mountaintop views from multiple overlooks, hiking through a scenic hardwood forest and crossing through a shady, mossy stream valley. Departing the often-crowded Springer Mountain summit, this loop on the Benton MacKaye Trail (BMT) grabs some solitude from a second summit overlook, one that rivals the view from the true Springer Mountain summit.

The BMT, named after the founder of the Appalachian Trail, also visits a memorial to Benton MacKaye near on Springer Mountain and explores a rhododendron-filled creek valley before looping back to the trailhead. It’s a gorgeous hike in any season, but one of our favorite Georgia hikes in winter, when the overlook vistas open to broad and frosty mountaintop views. And it’s also especially beautiful in autumn’s beautiful leaf color.

Springer Mountain Loop on the Appalachian Trail

The Springer Mountain Loop departs the Springer Mountain parking area on Forest Road 42 (view maps and driving directions), following the white, rectangular blazed Appalachian Trail westbound across the gravel forest road.

Follow the Appalachian Trail's iconic white trail blazes to the Springer Mountain summit, the southernmost end of the trail in Georgia

The hike arcs south toward Springer Mountain, steadily gaining more than 350 feet elevation and climbing through a rocky, boulder-filled forest. The hike passes the Benton MacKaye Trailhead on trail left before reaching the Springer summit at just under 1 mile, catching summit views of the southern Appalachian mountains.

The Springer Mountain Loop departs the summit, descending on the Appalachian Trail to the Benton Mackeye Trail. The hike reaches the BMT trailhead at 1.15 miles, turning right to follow the BMT’s white diamond trail blazes northbound.

Hike the Appalachian Trail in North Georgia to the Benton MacKaye memorial, dedicated to the founder of the Appalachian Trail

The BMT passes a memorial to Benton MacKaye at 1.25 miles before arcing to begin a continual, eastbound descent from the Springer Mountain summit. The hike levels at 1.75 miles before starting a brief, 125-foot ascent of Ball Mountain. The trail reaches a side trail to the right at 2.25 miles, marked by a double-diamond blaze.

The hike follows this short spur to grab stunning views from a nearby overlook. The broad, long-range view is especially beautiful in the fall, when saturated leaf color dots the surrounding peaks – and the view rivals the more popular, and often crowded, Springer Mountain summit.

Hike a two-trail loop at Springer Mountain in North Georgia, catching stunning views from multiple summit overlooks on the BMT and AT

The Springer Mountain Loop departs the overlook, rejoining the Benton MacKaye Trail and turning right. The hike crosses Forest Road 42 at Big Stamp Gap and follows the BMT westbound, climbing elevation and switching back through a canopy of mountain laurel and rhododendron.

The hike reaches the first of several stream crossings at 3.5 miles, hiking through the shallow bed of Davis Creek. The damp, water-filled creek valley is a contrast to the dry, windswept landscape of Springer Mountain summit: vibrant green moss covers water-rounded boulders, and abundant wildflowers add vibrant color to the forest floor.

Hike the Benton MacKaye Trail and Appalachian Trail in a loop on North Georgia's Springer Mountain

The Benton MacKaye Trail crosses Davis Creek several times before climbing elevation, rising to meet a junction with the Appalachian Trail at 4.4 miles. This route on the Springer Mountain Loop turns left at this intersection, following the white rectangular blazes of the AT in a southwest arc to the trailhead. The hike reaches the Springer Mountain parking area at 4.7 miles, completing the adventure.

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Springer Mountain Loop on the Appalachian Trail and Benton MacKaye Trail Map, Directions & Details

Springer Mountain Loop on the Appalachian Trail and Benton MacKaye Trail Map
Springer Mountain Loop on the Appalachian Trail and Benton MacKaye Trail Map
This map is not a substitute for official trail maps or topographic maps.

Driving Directions


Parking

Free. Trailhead access is via gravel Forest Service roads.

GPS Coordinates

34.637467, -84.195317     //     N34 38.248 W84 11.719

Elevation Profile

Springer Mountain Loop on the Appalachian Trail and Benton MacKaye Trail Elevation Profile
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Please Remember

Always leave no trace, tell someone where you're going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, don't rely on a mobile phone to find your way, and follow these trail etiquette tips.

 
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.