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DO IT: Hiking - Dauset Trails – Sandy Creek Loop

Dauset Trails – Sandy Creek Loop - Dauset Trails Nature Center

Dauset Trails is a private preserve featuring 20-plus miles of hiking and mountain biking trails and more than five miles of equestrian trails. A hidden gem of Georgia’s Historic Heartland, the mountain bike trail system is one of the best in the state and in 2019 hosted the Southeastern Regional Championship Series and Georgia State Championship Series Races.

Also known as Dauset Trails Nature Center, the land was established by Hampton Daughtry and David Settle, who combined the first three letters of their respective last name’s into Dauset. Dauset Trails started with a self-guided trail that looped through the woods by a small lake with 13 points of interest.

Later, injured, orphaned, or nuisance animals were gradually added for viewing near the Visitors Center. These non-releasable animals were given exhibits for protection and display and gradually grew to become the Animal Trail. The Animal Trail winds about 0.3 miles through the woods featuring mostly native non-releasable mammals and birds of prey. It is easily accessible by foot, strollers, and wheelchairs. These animals are used to teach students of all ages the importance of each species and its role in our ever-changing world.

Today, there are 1400 acres of scenic woods, fields, creeks, and lakes. Guests to the preserve can view e native, live animals on exhibit and in the wild, hike and bike 20 miles of trails, horseback ride five miles of trails, tent camp with an organized group, enjoy wildflower landscapes in the on-site gardens, frolic on the playground and attended seasonal community events.

Dauset Trails is just minutes from I-75 at Exit 205 or 198. The main entrance, the equestrian and hiking-biking trailhead are accessible off of Mount Vernon Road. There is no admission for the preserve, however, donations are accepted in the Visitors Center.

Dauset Trails is open daily from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. with no entry after 4 p.m. Please note, dogs are allowed on hike and bike trails with a 6-foot leash, however, dogs are not allowed inside the fenced-in Nature Center area.

The trails inside the fenced-in area (Animal Trail, Woodland Garden, Tree ID) and the Horse Trails are for hiking only. Biking and hiking are permitted on all other trails.

Recommended Hiking Trail: Sandy Creek Loop

This 5-mile trail combines the Bootlegger Trail, Sandy Creek Trail, Fern Gully, and Moonshine Trail.

Leaving from the trailhead parking lot, take the Bootlegger Trail that begins along the southwest side of the access road. The trail quickly turns north and follows closely to the western boundary of the park. After 0.8 miles, the trail turns east and traverses three descending switchbacks as it heads toward Fern Gully.

At the intersection with Fern Gully, stay left to continue on the Bootlegger Trail for 0.2 miles until it reaches the Pine Mountain Trail. Time on the Pine Mountain Trail is short; it’s just over 0.1 miles before a wooden bridge takes you over Long Branch, a tributary of Chief McIntosh Lake.

Stay left as you cross the bridge as you start out on the western portion of the 2.3-mile Sandy Creek Trail. After the bridge, the first 0.3 is easy, however, there will be steady ascent for the next 0.3 miles until you reach the highest point on the journey. Just about 2.1 miles in, this is a great place for a water break and a photo op.

After a decent for the next 0.2 miles, the trail will begin to run alongside Sandy Creek and level off. Enjoy the time near the babbling waters and soak up the serene, natural surroundings that attracted the founders of Dauset Trails to preserve this place.

Sandy Creek Trail begins to climb as the creek turns to the south and you’ll continue the clockwise traveling as the trail turns back to the west as Sandy Creek converges with Long Branch.

Heading west, follow Long Branch for 0.4 miles until you come back to the wooden bridge. Instead of heading back the way you came, follow Fern Gully, which is a single switchback trail that’s 0.5-miles long. Fern Gully lets out on the access road, which you’ll follow briefly maintaining a westerly bearing before the Moonshine Trail appears on the left hand side. Near this junction will be the Chapel and the Turkey Roost campgrounds.

The final 0.6 miles of the Moonshine Trail will pass quickly as you ascend just over 80-feet in this stretch. The Moonshine Trail lets out on the east side of the access road, adjacent to the trailhead parking lot.

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