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Benton MacKaye Trail
Hike the Benton MacKaye Trail
Named for the planner who envisioned the Appalachian Trail.
Named for the regional planner who envisioned the Appalachian Trail and founded the Wilderness Society, this trail journeys deep into the most remote areas of Fannin County. Here are a few trailheads on the Benton MacKaye in Fannin County.
Beginning at Springer Mountain, the Benton MacKaye skirts the ridge of Ball Mountain with occasional scenic views on the trail or a short walk from the trail. It returns to the Appalachian Trail to share its path up Rich Mountain just after the Springer Mountain Day Use Parking Area. While the AT leaves Rich Mountain and quickly descends to Stover Creek, the BMT continues on a much more gradual descent along an old logging road. It rejoins the AT for the crossing at Three Forks. After the side path to Long Creek Falls, the Benton MacKaye turns left.
Directions: From Blue Ridge, go south on Aska Road 13.5 miles to end. Turn right onto Newport Road, go 4.5 miles to end. Turn left onto Doublehead Gap Road and continue on this road about .8 miles to intersection with dirt-gravel USFS Road 58 intersecting sharply from right. Turn onto FS 58 and continue into forest and uphill 5.3 miles to Three Forks. The parking area is on the right at Noontootla Creek, a beautiful trout stream. The trail to Long Creek Falls is on the left.
The Swinging Bridge Trail
Over the next 7 miles the BMT crosses no roads, and there are rarely any hikers until it crosses Forest Service Road 333 and descends into the Toccoa River Valley. Here the 265 foot swinging bridge crosses the Toccoa. From the bridge to Highway 60 is a 3 mile hike. North of Highway 60 the trail climbs Wallalah and Rhodes Mountains in a gentle arc as the trail swings from traveling northeast to northwest. In the vicinity of Wallalah the trail is treacherous ; there are some excellent views from Rhodes. On the top of Rhodes Mountain the Duncan Ridge Trail leaves the BMT.
Swinging Bridge Directions: From Blue Ridge, take Hwy 515 east to Hwy 60/Morganton. In Morganton, follow Hwy 60 South toward Dahlonega for 11.3 miles passing Skeenah Mill. Another .7 miles on the right is FS 816. Turn right and follow the gravel road 3 miles to the parking area. Short hike down to the Toccoa River and the Swinging Bridge.
Wilscot Mountain/Tipton Mountain
Once through Skeenah Gap Road (Skeenah Gap Road, County road 227), the trail offers additional scenic views of distant mountains, then begins an easy climb up Deadennen Mountain, descends to Lula Head Gap and ascends Wilscot Mountain and descends to Highway 60 in Wilscot Gap. After the gap the trail begins the steep climb to the top of Tipton Mountain, but its worth the climb. At the top of Tipton are some excellent views regardless of season. Watch the trail blazes in this area, for it's easy to get off the path.
From Tipton Mountain the trail falls to a gap, then ascends Brawley Mountain. As the trail heads west, it skirts the top of Garland Mountain. There are some excellent views of the Toccoa River Valley from the top of Garland, and there is an easy descent to Dial Road. (Access the trail at the intersection of Shallowford Bridge and Old Dial Road.) Here the Shallowford Bridge crosses the Toccoa, and the trail follows Aska Road to Riverside Restaurant. The Benton MacKaye then turns on Stanley Creek Road. In 2.5 miles the trail returns to the forest, and begins the climb to Falls Branch Falls. After visiting the falls on a side trail, return to the Benton MacKaye for the long climb to the top of Rocky Mountain.
For more information about the trail, see the Benton MacKaye Trail Association website.
Outdoor Adventures Hiking Access Points