Yonah Mountain is typically known for its climbing and Army training activities, but this somewhat rugged mountain trail is sure to satisfy any day or overnight hiker as well. Short yet strenuous, with over 1,400 feet in elevation gain over a mere 2.3 miles, the hike is full of giant granite boulders and dense vegetation along with numerous switchbacks. And at the top, there are some pretty stellar vistas of the North Georgian mountains.
From downtown Athens, Yonah is located only an hour and fifteen minutes away in Cleveland, Georgia. To get there, take US-441N for 20 miles until turning onto Duncan Bridge Road to Chambers Road in White County. The trailhead parking lot is free.
At 1.2 miles upward, you will reach the faux summit to your left. This is a small clearing that provides the first picturesque views right next to an unforgettable sitting rock that has an American flag painted on it. Some people choose to camp here. If you are short on time, the hike can be concluded at this location, but the views get much better at the top.
The next .3 miles consists of a steep, rocky path leading to the Ranger training ground. This part of the hike is the most difficult due to the uneven terrain with frequently loose stones and mud. Be extremely wary of hiking this segment (and essentially every other part of the hike) in the rain. A lot of signs lead off to smaller trails for climbers. For the duration of the hike, make sure to follow the largest uphill paths or gravel roads in order to avoid turnoff trails designated for climbers.
The best campsite along the way is a large, open field located 2 miles from the parking lot. It has a few rudimentary fire rings and enough room for several camping groups, so it's possible to meet a few fellow campers and share stories and maybe even a few marshmallows as well. There is no running water so packing that extra gallon or two is a must. When night falls, the campground clearing is the perfect spot for star gazing. Tents can be pitched in other places along the trail, but the campsite is preferred.
Now for the best part. From the campsite, follow the downhill path on the other side of the clearing that leads to the main face of the mountain. At the top of Yonah there are large slabs of granite rock to rest upon and admire the views. And what impressive views, they are! To the north, clouds will cast enormous dark green shadows of the scores of sloping hills and fields below, and to the east, in the distance, the famous Blue Ridge Mountains can be seen timelessly standing by.
Put simply, this is a great place to have a snack, hang a hammock, and explore the expansive rock ledges of one of Georgia's favorite summits.
Of note, Yonah Mountain trails and camping are closed during Army training and climbing dates. To avoid conflict call 706-864-3367.
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