5 Hikes Under 5 Miles in Georgia's Blue Ridge

There are a multitude of long day-hike trails in Blue Ridge, but if you want just a touch of Mother Nature’s beauty before you hop aboard the train or head into downtown for dinner then these five hikes under five miles are your best bet

Swinging Bridge

This beloved 1-mile  (or 7-mile) hike along the Benton MacKaye Trail is worthy of the effort, even without the special feature for which the trail is named. Lined with rhododendron and hemlock, the rich forest is a lovely respite in the summertime. You’ll see gnarled roots, lush moss and the periodic mushroom cluster that reminds you how close you are to the Toccoa River.

From the parking lot on FS Road 816 a short hike will cross the swinging bridge, a 1977 marvel built by the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club and the US Forest Service. You’ll want to linger here listening to the roar of the river, but don’t forget your mission. You can continue on the trail or return back to your car. To spend more time on the trail you can access the bridge via a 7-mile roundtrip. 

Pro Tip: Camping along the banks of the Toccoa here is one of our favorite outdoor adventures.

image courtesy @jpatche

Lake Blue Ridge Loop

Beautiful Lake Blue Ridge boasts over 65 miles of shoreline; you can’t take it all in on a hike, but you can enjoy a slice of lake heaven on this short loop. At under a mile with no elevation gain, it’s feasible for almost everyone. Bring a picnic Lake Blue Ridge Day Use Area.

You’ll begin along a wooden boardwalk which quickly changes to a dirt trail with fantastic views from the west side of the lake. Fido is welcome, and if you’re up for it there is even a rope swing!

If you’re looking for more, then consider heading into the campground area. There is another 1-mile paved trail here with more views of the lake. And when you’re done, Lake Blue Ridge Marina is less than 10 minutes north. Grab lunch (or a cocktail) at the Boat Dock Bar and Grill for even more sensational lake panorama (and a great sunset!)

image courtesy @lfabian0326

Long Creek Falls

This 2-mile out-and-back hike to Long Creek Falls is one of my favorite short Blue Ridge hikes. It follows the Appalachian Trail thru the Three Forks wilderness, complete with hemlock, rhododendron, and towering tulip poplar. 

You’ll follow Long Creek as you head to the falls, though not always visible you can sometimes hear the rumble of the water. Once you reach the waterfall, you’ll notice that it is actually two falls in one. There is a short scramble path on the left that will give you a better view of the upper section - just be careful as you climb.

With plenty of fallen trees and large boulders, find a resting spot and enjoy the serenity before following the same path back to the parking area.

image courtesy @mamagaur

Springer Mountain

The beloved Springer Mountain trail is great for every age. In case you are not aware, Springer Mountain is the south-most point of the AT which travels north 2200 miles to Maine. From the parking lot this hike gently ascends the mountain on a trail lined with hardwoods, rock outcroppings and in the summer months, beautiful wildflowers.  You get peaks along the way through the trails of the view that is waiting for you at the top.  Just after hiking through a thicket of Mountain Laurel the trail widens onto a large rockface allowing magnificent long-range views of the southern Appalachian Mountains. Here you will find a plaque commemorating the AT as well as a cubby in the rock which houses a trail register to record your name and any comments. 

Be sure to bring a picnic lunch and your camera so you can spend time enjoying the view before heading back down to the car. Want to add to your adventure while still n the area? Check out adding the Springer Mountain Loop to this hike.

image courtesy @debralisi

Fall Branch Falls

The trees along this secluded hike are towering, creating shade and lush landscapes of fern and moss along the sides of the trail. The creek is filled with large rocks, creating a rushing sound as the water runs down, adding to the tranquil nature of the hike’s slight, uphill climb.

The upper portion of Fall Branch Falls is a series of cascades that lead to a single major drop of some 30 feet, with the water plunging into a deep pool at the base of the falls. 

This hike is not flat terrain,  but it is a relatively easy get to the base of the falls.  It’s fun for kids also because of the rocks and roots along the way, and the special waterfall surprise at the end. 

Plan Ahead

Tips For Hiking With Kids

Recreate Responsibly

Leave No Trace

About the Author

Lesli Peterson

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