Springer Mountain holds significance to anyone who has thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail. Since 1958, the mountain is the southern terminus and marks the start of the hikers 2,181-mile journey. The two main trails that lead you to the summit are the AT Approach Trail and the Forest Service Road trailhead. There are several official camping spots surrounding Springer Mountain for those that want to backpack through the area, particularly along the AT or Benton MacKaye Trail.
The 8.5-mile Approach Trail begins just behind the visitor center inside the limits of Amicalola Falls State Park. You’ll begin meandering along the creek over several wooded stairs and decks, past the reflection pool and Amicalola Falls overlook. You’ll exit the park boundaries to continue on a steady ascent to Springer Mountain. The elevation dips and falls 1,000 feet from Amicalola Falls overlook to the summit of the mountain. You’ll cross over several gravel roads, but continue to follow the blue-blazes to stay on the trail. The hike wanders by creeks, and passes by mountain laurels, sprouting baby bamboo trees and moss-covered boulders.
Many AT thru-hikers hitch a ride to the start of Forest Service Road 42 to make the 0.9 hike to the summit and the official start of the trail. The hike leads you west as you follow the white-blazed trail. The climb gets rockier as you ascend, so watch your footing as rocks seem to grab for your hiking boots.
What Makes It Great
The official start of the AT is marked with a benchmark and a bronze plaque emblazoned with the official AT logo. The trail register proves to be an interesting read, especially during the first months of AT thru-hiker season, from March to May.
Just a short 700-yard walk off the AT to the west, a blue-blazed trail takes you to an open front shelter. This is the first of many that appear along the AT. You’ll find a fire circle, picnic tables and a privy, making for a good camp spot.
When taking the AT Approach Trail from Amicalola Falls, keep your eyes peeled for campsites- the first appears at mile 3.1 and the second at mile 4.5. Shortly after this spot you’ll descend to Nimblewill Gap and a weathered plaque marks the spot of a plane crash in 1968.
If you’re taking the Springer Mountain trail from the Forest Service road, be sure to look right and you’ll catch glimpses of the surrounding mountains through the trees.
At the summit of Springer Mountain, you’ll encounter marvelous views of the Southern Appalachians to the west, where the rolling wilderness spills across a series of valleys and mountains. From the summit you can continue onto Benton MacKaye Trail for distance hiking, or return back to your designated trailhead.
Who is Going to Love It
Springer Mountain is one of those trails that you have to hike, just to do it. While it doesn’t provide much difference from other North Georgia terrain, it holds appeal in being the start of the AT.
You have the option of literally hiking for months, if you thru-hike the AT, but the surrounding Chattahoochee National Forest provides plenty of options for day hikes or overnight weekend camping trips.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Leashed dogs are welcome on all trails. Remember to pack out all trash.
To park at the Springer Mountain approach trail, you’ll park at the visitor center at Amicalola Falls State Park. Address here is 418 Amicalola Lodge Drive. Note that there is a $5 parking fee. There are bathroom facilities inside the visitor center.
The other parking lot, at the Springer Mountain trailhead is located off the gravel Forest Service Road. The GPS coordinates are listed here.