A 4.3 mile total round-trip hike takes you to the highest summit on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, where you’ll trek through tree-covered forests and over lichen-ridden living rock to the summit at 4,461 feet.
The name alone is intense, never mind the total of 1,400 feet of elevation gain and loss that you’ll encounter on Blood Mountain. The journey to the summit is a brief but heart rate-raising 2.15 miles. At 4,461 feet, this is the highest elevation on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia.
The hike begins on Byron Reece Trail, a blue-blazed trail that will connect with the AT in 0.7 miles at Flatrock Gap. You’ll ascend quickly over rock stairs, and wander under a natural cave of rhododendrons and mountain laurels. The bubbling Shanty Branch flows beside you, providing a natural aesthetic sound to the start of your trek into the Chattahoochee National Forest.
When you arrive at the marked intersection of Flatrock Gap, you can check off 400 feet of elevation gain. Turn right and begin following the white blazes to the summit of Blood Mountain. The pines and deciduous trees line the trail, and switchbacks lead you past boulder-studded slopes. Around mile 1.4 the forest falls away as the rest of your climb traverses over living rock, including some leg-stretching rock scrambles. The summit is marked by the Blood Mountain shelter. Turn around and descend for a round-trip of 4.3 miles.
The name Blood Mountain is a moniker for the battle between the Creek and Cherokee Indians, where it is said the two fought so brutally that the mountain ran red with blood. Its neighboring mountain, Slaughter Mountain echoes this story, and the gap between the two was so aptly named Slaughter Gap.
What Makes It Great
The final approach to the summit guides you over lichen and moss-covered rock. The AT widens considerably over the last 0.7 miles, giving you ample opportunities to deviate to the jagged edges of the mountain. Here you’ll see sweeping views of the Blood Mountain Wilderness and the dips of the surrounding gaps.
The shelter on the summit was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, and is a haven for AT thru-hikers. You’ll certainly meet some if you hike during the AT season. Take a chance to wander through the C-shaped brick building, and crack open the trail log to read entries from thru and day-hikers who have reached the summit. Be sure to add your own.
Scramble up the rock outcrop to the right of the shelter for the best views. The Blue Ridge Mountains dimple across the landscape, fading from a painter’s palate of vibrant colors to a greyish blue in the expansive distance.
Who is Going to Love It
Those looking to check in some miles on the AT will love the steep climb and rock outcrops, which rounds out at about a mile. From there, the summit leads you down a descent along the AT to Slaughter Gap, where you can hike for miles or multiple days. During the AT trail season, from about March to June, you’ll encounter many thru-hikers coming in the opposite direction. Some stay at the shelter on the summit and many set up camp along the trail.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The U-loop parking lot sits at Neel’s Gap, just down the road from the Walasi-Yi Interpretation Center. On weekends, the lot can get crowded, so be sure to get there early. Rangers heavily patrol the area, so only park in designated spots and do not park along US-19/129. The no parking signs should not be taken lightly. All parking is free.
There are no restrooms at the trailhead. Dogs are allowed with a leash.