Pick your poison: start the hike with an elevation gain of almost 1,500 feet in 1.5 miles, or start from the top of Brasstown Bald and cruise down the mountains and ridges, leaving that incline for a brutal mid-hike climb. We recommend starting your hike at the Arkaquah trailhead, where you’ll get the toughest part out of the way and have time to enjoy the views of Brasstown Valley as you travel along the ridgeline.
The trail begins with a 1.5-mile steep incline equivalent to a 1,500 foot climb. You’ll traverse on switchback ledges until Buzzard Roost Ridge and from there, the hike evens out into steady rises and falls across the gaps and ridges. You’ll go from Buzzard Roost Ridge to Cove Gap, to Locust Log Ridge and Low Gap, then Track Rock Ridge leads you to the final summit at Brasstown Bald.
Along these ridges, magnolias and mountain laurels frame the trail in arched tunnels. On windy or rainy days, the exposed sections of the ridge become extremely windy, so you’ll want to hike fast and use extra caution. Lichen clings to the rocks and trees in these barren areas, alluding to the appearance of snow. As you roll over gaps and ridges, stone steps allow for easier navigation through the gaps.
Make sure you complete your hike at the Visitor Center-not the gift shop at the base-by way of the Summit Trail. This last 0.6 miles of the hike should be easy- it begins at the Brasstown Bald parking lot, the path is paved, it’s only 0.6 miles- but the path is steep and you’ll welcome a rest at the top.
What Makes It Great
On Buzzard Roost Ridge, hike to the worn, granite rocks (around mile 1.5) that are before the descent to Cove Gap. These rocks are very visible and offer views to the west. At this scenic overlook, the Arkaqua River watershed can be seen south, and the Locust Log Mountain is west of the watershed. Depending on the time of year, tree coverage on the ridges will lend itself to glances of the valleys, specifically in late fall and winter. To the north, Brasstown Creek flows through the countryside.
In colder weather, ice tends to form on the ridgelines, where it hangs from boulders frozen in time. Waterfall formations cling to some of the rocks that you’ll scramble through, so watch your footing in these areas.
At the summit of Brasstown Bald, the observation deck will give sweeping 360-degree views of the surrounding Chattahoochee National Forest. The fire tower is part of the Civilian Conservation Corps historical buildings, although access to the top is forbidden. On clear days, you can see four states: Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina, and sometimes even the city of Atlanta in the distance. If you feel like sticking around, the Visitor Center offers video presentations throughout the day, and has a modest museum with natural history exhibits.
Who is Going to Love It
For hikers that want to feel the burn, the first 1.5 miles from the Track Rock Road trailhead will make those calves burn. This hike will make you break a sweat from the get-go, but the scenic vistas are a worthy reward. As you descend the last portion of the trail, make your legs loose like a ragdoll to lessen the quad and knee strains.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The lot is nothing official, just a gravel pull-off on the side of Track Rock Road, about 2 miles down the road. No parking fee is required, but make sure you are parked legally and do not block other vehicles from exiting. There are no bathrooms at this lot.
On Brasstown Bald, you’ll find a vending machine for drinks to refuel at both the base and summit. The base also has a general store where snacks and drinks can be purchased. Water fountains and bathrooms are also at both the summit and the base, but the summit Visitor Center shuts off its water in colder months and therefore those facilities are not always available.
The observation deck on Brasstown Bald is open year-round, however the Visitor Center is only open from April 1st through the end of November.