Brasstown Bald- Georgia's Highest Peak
Location: Hiawassee, Ga
Route: Jack's Knob Trail from Highway 180-spur to Brasstown Bald Summit
Distance: 6.25 miles
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For the new year, as a way to continue hiking and exploring new places, I decided to try and hike Georgia's eleven 4,000 foot mountains. The first mountain on that list is Brasstown Bald, so I thought what a better way to bring in the New Year than at the highest peak in Georgia. I wanted to make it more of a 'hike' than the .6 mile walk from the parking lot. (That is if you choose to walk to the top via the pavement-lined path instead of opting for the shuttle that will drive you).
You can access Jack's Knob from Highway 180-spur (34.848301, -83.798870), the road you would take if you were driving to the top of Brasstown Bald. There is a large information board on the side of the road and spaces for about 10-15 cars.
The trail follows along the road for a tenth of a mile before it curves away from the road and you start climbing. The trail has lots of gradual switchbacks and maintains a steady incline until you reached the top of an unnamed knob. At the top of this knob, the trail flattens out significantly and there are a lot of good camping spots with old fire rings. There is small lookout .1 mile off the trail which will give you a good view of the Appalachian Mountains and Brasstown Bald to the left. Shortly after you pass this look out the trail it's a short .5 mile downhill through rhododendrons tunnels to the lower parking lot of Brasstown Bald.
The trail spits out at the opposite end of the parking lot from where the summit trail beings. There is a welcome cabin with bathrooms and the trail starts between the two building and is very well marked. "6/10 to Brasstown Bald Summit" The path is paved and there are educational plaques and benches lining the walkway. You will cross over the road that is used by the shuttles, there is a small set of stairs and the trail continues. When you reach the top there is a historical plaque for Brasstown Bald with the observation tower and deck just beyond this point. There are more bathrooms, rocking chairs and an educational center filled with taxidermy and historical facts about the bald. On a clear day you can see four states from the summit: Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina. There are also binoculars you can use (if you still walk around with quarters in your pants) and there are well marked directional signs with maps that show you what mountains you are looking at. I think the coolest thing besides the weather that day was to be able to see many places I had summited before. I was able to see Hiawassee and those sprawling blue lakes sitting just at the foothills and off in the distance was Neels Gap and Blood Mountain, Big Frog Mountain, Wallace Gap, and the Great Smoky Mountains.
From the summit back down to the lower parking lot, the walk is completely downhill. Once you get back on the Jack's Knob Trail from the parking lot the first .5 a mile will be a steady incline through the rhododendrons and will flatten out at the top of that unnamed knob where the lookout will be on your left. It's gravy from there the whole way back to the car. If you are feeling up to it, this would be a very easy 2-ish mile section to trail run. Sometimes a light jog is easier for me on the downhill when I am stumbling somewhere in-between a walking and falling down the mountain pace.
I was tracking the hike via my Apple Watch and the final mileage count was 6.25 miles.