Tesnatee Gap: hiking the Appalachian Trail to Cowrock Mountain in North Georgia

Appalachian Trail: hiking Tesnatee Gap to Cowrock Mountain

Hike the Appalachian Trail from Tesnatee Gap to stunning Cowrock Mountain summit views on this 2.25 mile, out-and-back day hike in the Raven Cliffs Wilderness.

trail info

2.25 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

Rolling, blue-green-hued peaks. Wide-open vistas. Rocky, sun-dappled, fern-filled North Georgia forest. The hike from Tesnatee Gap to Cowrock Mountain on the Appalachian Trail packs a lot of visual punch in a short distance, spanning only 2.25 miles, round trip. And coupled with Tesnatee Gap’s easy-access trailhead, located off of a paved highway, it’s no wonder this hike is so popular. It’s one of the most best and most popular short day hikes on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia.

Hike the Appalachian Trail at Tensatee Gap, climbing to stunning views from the Cowrock Mountain in North Georgia

The hike exploresthe beautiful Raven Cliff Wilderness just north of Georgia’s mountain towns of Helen and Cleveland, visiting the soaring summit of Cowrock Mountain for some stunning peak-filled views. The hike rates at moderate to difficult, gaining over 600 feet of elevation from Tesnatee Gap in a .85 mile climb from the trailhead. While the climb from Tesnatee Gap is nearly continuous, switchbacks ease the elevation gain throughout the hike. And while it’s a decent workout, the summit views make the effort so worthwhile.

Tesnatee Gap to Cowrock Mountain: the hike

The hike departs Tesnatee Gap (view maps and driving directions), hiking the white-blazed Appalachian Trail westbound from the parking area’s southwest corner. The trail begins to rise immediately, steadily gaining elevation under a canopy of spindly, shady, young hardwood trees. The Appalachian Trail reaches a small peak at .25 miles, the climb pausing for a short stretch as the trail rolls downward. The trail swings south at .35 miles, resuming the climb and entering a series of tight switchbacks.

Tensatee Gap: hike the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, climbing through a lush, fern and wildflower-filled forest

The forest becomes increasingly rocky as the climb continues, leaving the highway sounds at Tesnatee Gap fading in the distance. Fern and vibrant green underbrush line the sides of the trail, and wildflowers stretch to catch the forest’s dappled sunlight in warmer months.

The trail exits its winding switchbacks at .75 mile, nearing the Cowrock Mountain summit. The hike reaches the summit at .85 miles, catching expansive views from the peak, one of our favorite views on the AT in Georgia. The mountaintop’s wide, smooth rock outcrop is a great place to take in the view, rehydrate, grab a mid-hike snack or enjoy lunch.

Hike the Appalachian Trail at Tensatee Gap to stunning North Georgia views on the summit of Cowrock Mountain

Before turning to return to Tesnatee Gap, the hike continues following the Appalachian Trail westbound to catch two more views near the summit. The trail arcs to the northwest, reaching a clearing with rolling summit views at .95 mile. From the clearing, the AT continues westbound, descending slightly to the third view at 1.15 miles. From here, this hike turns to retrace its steps to the Tesnatee Gap trailhead, reaching the trailhead and completing the adventure at just over two miles.

Up for more adventure?

If you’ve summited Cowrock and are up for additional miles before returning to the trailhead, continue following the Appalachian Trail toward Neels Gap, hiking westbound. Descending Cowrock Mountain, the Appalachian Trail reaches a view-packed campsite at the Wolf Laurel Top summit, one mile from Cowrock. For more info, check out our review of the Appalachian Trail from Blood Mountain to Cowrock Mountain, following the hike in reverse from the Cowrock summit.

share this:

Appalachian Trail: Tesnatee Gap to Cowrock Mountain Map, Directions & Details

Appalachian Trail: Tesnatee Gap to Cowrock Mountain Map
Appalachian Trail: Tesnatee Gap to Cowrock Mountain Map
This map is not a substitute for official trail maps or topographic maps.

Driving Directions


Parking

Free.

GPS Coordinates

34.725983, -83.847683     //     N34 43.559 W83 50.861

Elevation Profile

Appalachian Trail: Tesnatee Gap to Cowrock Mountain Elevation Profile
Leave No Trace: Atlanta Trails is an official Leave No Trace partner

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.
 
Some links on Atlanta Trails are affiliate links, which means that the merchant might pay us a commission if you purchase a product after clicking our links. This helps support our work, at no extra cost to you. We only recommend gear that we personally use and love.
Thank you for your support! - the Atlanta Trails crew