Big on Beauty, Low on Mileage: Fantastic Hikes under 2 Miles
By Eric Champlin of Atlanta Trails.com
Hit the trail to explore some of North Georgia’s most beautiful forests, waterfalls and summit views on these fantastic hikes near Blue Ridge.
The area surrounding Blue Ridge is home to some of Georgia’s most scenic hiking trails, nestled in the beautiful, rolling Appalachian Mountains. From breezy summits with outstanding long-range views to serene waterfalls tumbling from rocky cliffs, there’s no shortage of amazing places to explore. Some of our favorite spots are tucked deep within remote wilderness areas. But not all the best adventures involve a lengthy hike! In fact, many of the most beautiful hikes near Blue Ridge are surprisingly short and beginner friendly.
Aska Adventure Area
The Aska Adventure Area offers 17 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails that meander through scenic stretches of the Chattahoochee National Forest. The Aska terrain ranges from easy to strenuous, and the trails cover distances from one to six miles, round-trip.
For a great two-mile, easy loop and a primer to the Aska area, explore a lush, wildflower-filled forest and creek valley on the Long Branch Loop. The trail makes two creek crossings via wooden footbridges and visits a free-standing chimney, the remains of an old homestead. With gentle elevation changes and plenty of shady tree cover, the Long Branch Loop makes for a tremendous beginner-friendly hike.
Benton MacKaye Trail
Two of our favorite short hikes in Fannin County, Fall Branch Falls and the Toccoa River Swinging Bridge, follow sections of the same long-distance trail. The Benton MacKaye trail travels nearly 300 miles from the summit of Springer Mountain through Georgia and Tennessee before ending in the Great Smoky Mountains. But you don’t have to hike far to enjoy this beautiful trail.
Visit Fall Branch Falls on a short one-half mile hike packed with classic North Georgia beauty. The trail follows a tumbling trout stream, lined with native plants, including rhododendron and mountain laurel. A short side trail veers from the Benton MacKaye Trail to the base of a beautiful, double waterfall. Below Fall Branch Falls, a wooden observation platform offers excellent views and provides the perfect spot for a mid-hike snack or picnic.
The beginner and family-friendly hike to the Toccoa River Swinging Bridge is a popular destination near Blue Ridge. Hike a short, mile-long section of the Benton MacKaye Trail to the banks of the wide-flowing, ultra-scenic Toccoa River. And then cross the river by way of a 270-foot long suspension bridge–a certain adventure as the bridge bounces and sways gently with each step. On the opposite side of the river, the hike explores a series of small waterfalls set in a stand of fragrant evergreen trees.
Another famous long-distance trail, the Appalachian Trail (A.T.), also begins its journey in Fannin County on the summit of Springer Mountain. The trail spans more than 2,000 miles through 14 states, though there are plenty of fantastic short sections along the trail that are perfect for a day hike. Thanks to multiple access points near Blue Ridge, it’s easy to access the A.T. to explore a quick, scenic stretch.
Follow the trail’s iconic white blazes to Springer Mountain’s summit to score beautiful views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains. This short hike climbs through a scenic section of a rocky forest before cresting the top of the mountain. A bronze plaque on the summit commemorates the southernmost end of the Appalachian Trail, and a logbook in a nearby vault records the thoughts, hopes and wishes of hikers beginning their 2,000-mile trek to Maine.
One of our favorite waterfall adventures along the Appalachian Trail explores the beautiful Three Forks creek valley and Long Creek Falls. This two-mile hike meanders the banks of a scenic trout stream, and side trails lead to numerous small waterfalls along the way. A deep pool below Long Creek Falls is perfect for soaking feet on a warm summer day, and large boulders on the banks make a great place to enjoy the beauty.
Be Safe & Please Help us Preserve our Precious Resources
Whether you’re out adventuring on a one-mile hike or a 100-mile adventure, always plan and prepare before hitting the trail. Remember to pack essentials including plenty of water, a paper map and compass, extra layers and a first aid kit. Always tell someone where you’re going, stay on the trail and please remember to leave no trace to keep our wild places beautiful for everyone to enjoy.