Cooper Gap to Woody Gap is an 8.3 mile portion of the Appalachian Trail. The hike dips and rises over gaps and ridgelines within the first 20 miles of the AT, where you'll see scenic vistas and sprawling forests.
The hike from Cooper Gap to Woody Gap dips you into forested valleys and past humble creeks for a moderate 8.3-mile trek. You’ll often rise over the crest of a mountain only to dip back down into a gap, however these climbs are gradual.
Within the first mile you will ascend from Cooper Gap before dropping back into the forest. From here, you’ll weave a line through the Chattahoochee National Forest. Much of this hike involves steady roller coaster climbs over Justus Mountain, Gooch Gap and Ramrock Mountain. Towering sourwoods and deciduous trees pepper the landscape, while mountain laurels and pines populate the gaps. Hiking northbound is more difficult, specifically in the climb from Justus Mountain to Gooch Gap. You can drop a car at Woody Gap or hike a 16.6-mile round-trip.
What Makes It Great
You’ll cross over two creeks during this hike. The first, Phyllis Spur is an easy hop across the trail. Justus Creek has a wider berth. You’ll recognize it by the mountain laurels that reach toward the opposite creek shores. Balance on rocks to make your way across this creek crossing. Both of these creeks should supply plenty of water and the sound of bubbling water is always a good soundtrack for a mid-hike break.
After a gradual ascent, you’ll reach the peak of Ramrock Mountain at mile 6.8. As you teeter the ridgeline look south for astounding views: green valleys contrast with the lush dimples of the Blue Ridge Mountains. On a clear day, you can catch the slightest glimpse of Stone Mountain and the Atlanta skyline. This descent is rocky and steeper than most of this section, so use poles and watch your footing.
Who is Going to Love It
From Gooch Gap to Woody Gap, the trail is heavily traveled by both day hikers and backpackers. Rolling forest valleys keep you shaded during a majority of this hike. Jagged boulders dot the ridgelines of the trails, where you can stop for a break and admire the vista views.
If you plan to spend the weekend camping on the trail, Gooch Gap shelter is 4.8 miles from Cooper Gap. The shelter includes a privy as well. Otherwise, campsites are available along the trail and you’ll find three water sources.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From Dahlonega, drive north on GA-60/GA-9 to Cooper Gap Road (USFS-42). This road is unpaved and will be bumpy, so avoid after heavy rains or in the winter if there is snow or ice. Follow the road for 8.5 miles to Cooper Gap (the road crosses the A.T. twice). Woody Gap has a privy and detailed trail signage.
Parking is free. Dogs are allowed, but must remain on a leash. Keep them out of the path of backpackers.
Another option is to hike southbound from Woody Gap to Cooper Gap trail if USFS-42 is not in good driving condition.