Hike to the Blood Mountain summit on the Byron Reece Trail and Appalachian Trail, catching stunning views from the AT’s highest summit in Georgia.
LOCATION:on the 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.)
The views on this route to the Blood Mountain summit are just outstanding, with long-range vistas opening along the Appalachian Trail throughout the ascent to the peak. This hike follows the Appalachian Trail to the summit via the scenic Byron Reece Trail at Neels Gap, climbing through a lush, mossy creek valley to the towering summit and catching view after stunning view.
This mountain is one of North Georgia’s most popular day hikes, and it’s the highest-elevation summit on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia. Stunning views. A heart-pounding workout on the relatively steep ascent to the Blood Mountain summit. It’s one all-around fantastic hike.
While the views from Blood Mountain are fantastic year-round, this route’s busiest season is autumn. North Georgia’s hardwoods explode in vibrant fall leaf color, painting the surrounding mountains and valleys in vivid, colorful beauty. This is an extremely popular route to the summit, though, and parking at the trailhead is extremely limited, so be sure to hit the trailhead early on weekends and in peak seasons. An early morning drive on North Georgia’s winding roads and a cup of coffee at the mountain’s summit: the perfect way to start a weekend of adventure.
Blood Mountain on the Appalachian Trail: the hike
The adventure begins at the Byron Reece Trailhead near Neels Gap (view maps and driving directions), diving into a rhododendron-filled creek valley and beginning to climb the mountain’s lower elevations. The blue-blazed Byron Reece Trail crosses a creek bed and ascends stone stairs as it switches back, gaining elevation.
The trail meets the Appalachian Trail at Flatrock Gap at .7 mile after an ascent of over 400 feet. The hike turns right at the signed trail intersection, following the white-blazed Appalachian Trail westbound.
The forest canopy opens suddenly. The Appalachian Trail hikes through the first of many rocky clearings at .8 mile, catching a preview of the stunning views on the mountain’s higher elevations. The clearing’s grooved rock slabs and boulders contrast brilliantly with the vibrant green moss and smoky green lichen that covers their surface.
The climb intensifies at one mile as the AT meanders through tight switchbacks along a boulder-dotted slope. The trail exits the switchbacks at 1.4 miles, leveling at a clearing before scrambling over several large boulders. The hike reaches sweeping, vast views at 1.7 miles.
The trail climbs over lichen-covered outcrops and boulders at 2 miles, entering a high-elevation forest of mountain laurel, moss, wind-swept pine, and rhododendron. The hike reaches the Blood Mountain summit at 2.15 miles, having climbed 1400 feet elevation from the Byron Reece trailhead. At 4459 feet, the mountain is the Appalachian Trail’s highest-elevation ascent in Georgia.
A rock building at the summit, constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, offers shelter for through-hikers on the Appalachian Trail during their 2000+ mile, epic-length hike from Georgia to Maine. The views at the Blood Mountain summit are outstanding, especially from the massive outcrop that towers beside the shelter.
Departing the summit, the hike retraces the outbound route in reverse to return to the trailhead. The AT reaches the Byron Reece Trail intersection at 3.5 miles, turning left to follow the blue-blazed BRT through the Flatrock Gap Valley. The hike reaches the Byron Reece Trail trailhead at 4.3 miles, completing the view-packed adventure.
More hiking and backpacking adventures at Blood Mountain
Up for more mileage on this hike? From the mountain’s summit, continue following the AT to the Freeman Trail, hiking the Blood Mountain Loop through the mountain’s middle elevations in a rocky forest. Or check out our Blood Mountain hiking, backpacking and camping guide for more adventure inspiration in this scenic North Georgia wilderness. And for more fantastic day hikes on the AT, visit our complete collection of Georgia Appalachian Trail hikes for more white-blaze-chasing adventures.
After the adventure
Keep soaking up those fantastic North Georgia mountain views! Make a short drive into Hiawassee to visit our new hiking outfitter store, Trailful Outdoor Co. Our Atlanta Trails crew is in the shop every day giving out free tips and info on our favorite local trails and adventures, and our favorite places to grab a celebratory after-hike bite to eat. We’ve stocked the shop with our favorite, trail-tested outdoor gear and apparel, including Osprey, KUHL, Ruffwear, Kelty, BUFF and ENO, as well as our full line of Atlanta Trails shirts and hats. And we stock our favorite camping and backpacking essentials like camp stove fuel, backpacking meals, tents and sleeping gear, a bunch of locally-made outdoorsy gifts and goods. Come say hello, we’d love to meet you!
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 (but limited) parking is available at the Byron Reece trailhead.
34.741433, -83.922850 // N34 44.486 W83 55.371