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DO IT: Hiking - Brasstown Bald Summit Trail

Brasstown Bald Summit Trail - Brasstown Bald

As the highest point in Georgia, Brasstown Bald is a can’t-miss stop on most journeys through the Northeast Georgia Mountains region. At 4,784 feet, the peak of this Georgia landmark features an iconic viewing platform and fire lookout tower. 

Along the border of Union and Towns counties, Brasstown Bald is close to the quaint Georgia towns of Blairsville, Hiawassee, and Young Harris. The neighboring state of North Carolina is less than 11 miles away, making it visible on most days from atop Brasstown Bald. Other sights from the viewing area are Georgia’s second-highest mountain, Rabun Bald (to the northeast), Blood Mountain (southwest), and the Cohutta Mountains (south-southwest).

Note: The maintained guest facilities close each winter. However, if the access road, Spur 180, is open, the public is welcome to visit the site, hike the trail to the summit, and enjoy the view from the observation deck.

The Summit Trail begins at the Visitor Center, which is adjacent to a large parking lot that can accommodate the countless sightseers who pass through the U.S. Forest Service site each year. Some visitors opt for the shuttle bus, which has a nominal fee and departs from the Visitor Center during operating hours. Also, hiking is possible from a lower parking area, but this description will focus only on the final 0.6-mile ascent to the top of Brasstown Bald.

Find the Summit Trailhead on the northeast side of the Visitor Center. While it is entirely paved to the summit, it is far too steep for wheelchairs and strollers. At its steepest, the trail has an incline of 24%, but the majority of the paved path’s grade is in middle to high teens. Good news is the trail is only 0.6 miles to the top.

The trail ascends quite quickly, so if you’re the type of hiker who needs to warm up, consider a loop of the parking lot before getting started. The trail will head northeast from the trailhead before turning northward and crossing Wagon Train Trail at 0.1 miles.

Along the path, you’ll be hugged by rhododendron and tall mountain pines, which can provide shade in the summer. Winter hikers should use caution, watching for ice patches along the trail, especially in the morning before the temperatures rise.

The trail continues with a steady climb for the next 0.2 miles before bearing northeast at 0.3 miles. After another 0.1 miles the trail will pivot back to the northeast at 0.4 miles before crossing the shuttle access road. The next section of the trail includes come of the steepest inclines and will test the endurance of most hikers.

At 0.5 miles in, the trail curves northeast with the summit in sight. The reward of the views atop Brasstown Bald should be enough to push through the final stretch as you finish on the southwest side of the peak.

The viewing platform is above the observation facility and provides 360° views of the surrounding mountainous landscape of the Appalachian foothills and the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests. The stonework on the observation facility is something to behold as well, and only adds to the unique experience found on the state’s highest point.

The views can vary widely depending on the time of year and time of day of your visit. While visibility is more limited in the winter months, so are the visitors. Experienced visitors to the peak say that dawn and dusk can provide some of the most stunning views, as the sun’s rays interact with the surrounding peaks and valleys to create stark shadows and playful light.

Once you’ve had your fill, head back to the southwest side of the summit and begin your descent. The trip down from the peak will probably seem less strenuous, but in reality, you’ll just be working out a different part of your legs.

The U.S. Forest Service maintains two live stream cameras atop Brasstown Bald; one faces north and the other south. The feed broadcasts 24/7, so if you long for the views and can’t make it to Brasstown Bald, click here

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