Hike a challenging and scenic adventure Appalachian Trail in Georgia, climbing from Unicoi Gap to Rocky Mountain, dropping into the wildflower-filled Indian Grave Gap and looping back to the trailhead on the Rocky Mountain Trail.

georgia hiking trails: 4-6 miles 5.1 miles
(round trip)
? Your mileage may vary! Accuracy of your GPS device, weather conditions, and stops along your route will affect your own recorded distance.
georgia hiking trails: difficultmost
?Our difficulty estimate, based on distance, terrain, elevation change, & ease of wayfinding. May vary daily due to weather, trail reroutes, downed trees, etc.
georgia hiking trails: dog-friendly Dog-
?Leashed dogs are allowed on this trail. We’ve loved hiking this route with our trail-loving Labrador Retrievers! Check out more of our favorite dog-friendly trails in Georgia for a great hike with your pup.

LOCATION:Appalachian Trail near Helen, Georgia

GEAR & WEAR: our hiking gear list and our locally-made Atlanta Trails shirts & hats

OFFICIAL MAP: Appalachian Trail, Trails Illustrated Map

RATED: 4.8/5 (6 reviews)

With a just-off-the-highway trailhead and some seriously spectacular summit views, it’s no wonder that this Unicoi Gap adventure is one of the most popular hikes on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia. This hike makes a heart-pounding climb of Rocky Mountain, one of Georgia’s most difficult AT stretches, climbing over 1,000 feet to the mountain’s summit. After catching views from the mountaintop, the hike descends to the wildflower and mountain laurel-filled Indian Grave Gap and treks through lush forest on the mountain’s middle elevations, looping back to Unicoi Gap on the Rocky Mountain Trail.

Unicoi Gap: hike the Appalachian Trail to stunning Yonah Mountain views from Rocky Mountain in North GeorgiaHike the Appalachian Trail from Unicoi Gap to stunning views from the Rocky Mountain summit

It’s a great cardio workout, with an extended, pulse-raising climb through a rocky terrain. The summit offers some great campsites just off the trail. And the forest is simply beautiful, filled with fern, moss, wildflowers and trickling creeks. It’s easily one of our favorite Appalachian Trail hikes in our state.

Hike a challenging and scenic adventure Appalachian Trail in Georgia, climbing from Unicoi Gap to Rocky Mountain, dropping into the wildflower-filled Indian Grave Gap and looping back to the trailhead on the Rocky Mountain Trail #hiking #trailrunning #camping #backpacking #northgeorgia #atlanta #georgia #travel #outdoors #adventure

Appalachian Trail and Rocky Mountain Trail loop: the hike

The hike departs the Unicoi Gap trailhead north of Helen (view maps and driving directions), passing a large boulder with a bronze plaque commemorating the Appalachian Trail. The hike follows the AT east, climbing wooden stairs to enter a boulder-filled, rocky forest. The trail begins a steady climb of Rocky Mountain’s western slope, climbing through a lichen and moss-filled forest dappled with sunlight and crossing several small, trickling springs.

The trail switches back through a rhododendron-filled forest at .6 mile, passing a small campsite. Through-the-tree views of the surrounding mountains emerge on the left as the hike continues to climb elevation. Nearing the summit, the white-blazed Appalachian Trail passes an intersection with the blue-blazed Rocky Mountain Trail, the return route for this loop hike, at .85 mile.

Unicoi Gap: hike the Appalachian Trail and Rocky Mountain Loop through a lush, rocky forest to stunning summit views

The hike follows the Appalachian Trail southbound, making a final climb to the summit. Large slabs of lichen-crusted rock emerge from the forest floor, and the forest begins to thin with the ever-higher elevation. The trail passes a campsite at 1.3 miles just before summiting, catching distant views of Yonah Mountain. Several trailside campsites with stone fire rings dot the mountain’s peak.

The hike follows the AT across the mountain’s summit, catching more photo-worthy, expansive views of rolling mountains and valleys from a wide, slab rock outcrop.

The trail begins a nearly continuous descent to Indian Grave Gap, dropping through a fern-filled forest by way of rustic stone and wood stairs and ducking through tunnels of gnarly-branched mountain laurel. The hike meets the gravel-paved Indian Grave Gap at 2.5 miles, having descended over 850 feet from the Rocky Mountain summit. (From the gap, the Appalachian Trail crosses the gravel road, ascending through a tunnel of mountain laurel and trailing to Tray Mountain. A side trail departs to the southwest, descending to the Andrews Cove Campground.)

Unicoi Gap: hike the Rocky Mountain Loop to summit views and abundant wildflowers near Helen, GA

This hike turns north from the gap, following the blue blazes on the gravel Indian Grave Gap Road. Wildflowers flank the trail in warm-weather months, stretching high to reach the sunlight below the tall tree canopy.

The hike rolls elevation on the blue-blazed road before reaching the turnoff to the Rocky Mountain Trail at 3.15 miles. The route turns west, veering from the road and following the trail’s blue blazes into the forest. The trail crosses several small streams, making a steady climb of Rocky Mountain’s middle elevations in a forest filled with fern, deciduous trees, and leafy underbrush.

The trail peaks at 4.25 miles, reaching a small campsite and a junction with the Appalachian Trail. From the junction, this hike follows the AT westbound, descending through the forest to Unicoi Gap and completing the adventure at just over 5 miles.

More Appalachian Trail adventure at Unicoi Gap

Just across the highway, the Appalachian Trail summits Blue Mountain and hikes to Chattachooee Gap, visiting the Blue Mountain shelter, trailing through a fern and wildflower-filled forest and visiting the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River.

Leave No Trace: Atlanta Trails, Asheville Trails and Trailful are official Leave No Trace partners

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.

Appalachian Trail, Unicoi Gap to Indian Grave Gap Map, Directions & Details

Trails and routes may change – so please refer to official trail maps for the latest route.

Trail Rating

RATED: 4.8/5 (6 reviews)

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!


Did you have trouble accessing the trail, or notice some recent trail updates or storm damage? We'd love to know! Contact us here, and thanks for helping us keep this site updated!

Driving Directions


Free parking is available at the USFS Unicoi Gap trailhead.

GPS Coordinates

34.801600, -83.742833     //     N34 48.096 W83 44.570

Elevation Profile

Appalachian Trail at Unicoi Gap to Rocky Mountain Elevation Profile
Eric Champlin

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, Asheville Trails, and Trailful, digital magazines that highlight the South’s best outdoor adventures and top Southern-worthy outdoor gear. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.