By Alvin Richardson
The calendar says that fall is not that far away and if you are an outdoorsman it’s not too early to plan for one of the best activities Georgia has to offer. That means that hiking the Appalachian Trail and the dozens of other trails in Georgia should be on your radar. Today we will take a quick look at the history of the Appalachian Trail (AT), some highlights and offer up resources that can be used to locate other hiking areas that suit your fancy.
The southern end of the AT is located eight miles north of Amicalola State Park on Springer Mountain. Originally the trailhead was at Mount Oglethorpe east of Jasper, Georgia but was later moved to the Springer Mountain location. Georgia’s section runs from that point to Bly Gap. Seventy five miles of the AT are in our state. The highest point on the trail in Georgia is at Blood Mountain with an elevation of 4461 feet. You can find the access points and different hikes in Georgia by going to www.hikingsouth.com and clicking on the locations.
In its entirety the AT is over 2100 miles long. It winds through the states of Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and winds up at Mount Katahdin in Maine.
The Appalachian Trail, along with the Continental Divide Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail make up what is known as the Triple Crown of long distance hiking in the United States.
The first section of the trail was opened in October of 1923 in New York but subsequent progress was slow and the entire trail was not opened until the late 1930’s. After a series of setbacks (natural and man-made) the trail was repaired following World War II and hikers began to use the trail with much more regularity.
While hiking the AT there is a possibility that you will run into various animals depending on where you are. The largest animals typically found are deer, wild boar, black bears, moose, and elk. Elk have been reintroduced in the Smoky Mountain region and moose may be seen as far south as Massachusetts but are usually further north. Although black bears live in several sections of the trail they are not commonly seen.
All those who use the AT will be treated to gorgeous mountain scenery, beautiful trees, a variety of birds and an abundance of forest floor fauna. No one will come away disappointed.
Hikers should know that several species of snakes inhabit the areas you will pass through and some are of the venomous variety. Copperheads and Eastern timber rattlesnakes are fairly common. Mostly though, travelers will just have to put up with mosquitoes, ticks, and black flies along the way.
There are nearly 300 shelters and sites for camping along the route. They vary in type but are usually spaced about a day’s hike apart and are often located close to water sources and some have privies.
There are dozens of hiking possibilities in North Georgia outside the Appalachian Trail. Here are three other short hikes to consider:
Amicalola Falls Trail is 2.3 miles in length with waterfalls, and a scenic river. The trail is wide and well marked but is actually two separate trails. The “base of the falls trail” and the “waterfall trail.” Best bet is to go to the top of the falls by the East Ridge Trail and then come down. The other way is a very steep, strenuous climb. From the bridge at the top of the falls is a bridge with a breathtaking sample of Georgia’s mountain scenery.
The Panther Creek trail in Fannin County is about 3.4 miles long and located northwest of Ellijay. It is a mixture of moderate and strenuous climbing. You will see beautiful Panther Creek Falls about halfway through the hike and a view of the Conasauga River Valley. There are campsites in the vicinity of the falls.
Brasstown Bald Trail is a relatively short hike of 1.2 miles to the summit of Georgia’s highest mountain (4784 feet). From the parking lot it can be strenuous but there are several resting points. At the top you can go in the Visitors Center and have an unencumbered view of the surrounding mountain terrain and it is well worth the visit.
These are just three that have exceptional scenery and are not lengthy. There is a multitude to choose from. For directions to these areas or any other Georgia trails and hiking opportunities in Georgia you can go to www.georgiatrails.com where you will find plenty of information.
Hiking the Appalachian Trail or any other of the many trails in Georgia is an experience which can be enjoyed by one person or a family. The peaceful, natural beauty of these areas will calm the soul and allow you to take a deep breath in the middle of our hurried lives. I recommend you plan to take a trip or two this fall.
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