Sunday, May 08, 2016

Trail Report: Blood Mountain

Stats
Round trip distance: 8.5 miles
Highest point: 4,458 feet
Elevation gain: 2,225 feet
Pass: Georgia ParkPass or $5 parking fee


After seeing a few waterfalls in north Georgia and completing the Yonah Mountain hike, I wanted to do something more challenging. My dad and I hiked to Blood Mountain, the highest peak in the Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail, and the sixth tallest mountain in Georgia. There are several ways to get to Blood Mountain, and we chose the approach from Vogel State Park because it was a bit longer than other routes and parking at the trailhead is easier.

Vogel State Park is beautiful! Lake Trahlyta is in the center of the park and is surrounded by campsites and forest. Parking is $5, or free if you have a Georgia Annual ParkPass. Park near the visitor center, and go in to get a map of hikes in the area. 

I'll be giving directions on how to get to Blood Mountain, since it involves taking several trails. If I hadn't written down the directions ahead of time, we probably would have taken a few wrong turns. 

To get to the trailhead, follow the road from the visitor center into the campground. You'll pass a few cottages. After passing cottage #7, you'll see a stone staircase on the right. Take these stairs and go left to start walking to the trailhead. In 0.4 miles, you'll come to the start of the trailhead to Blood Mountain. There are two signs:



You can either follow the Blood Mountain sign, or the Bear Hair Gap Trail sign, because this part of the hike is a loop. We chose to go right and follow the Bear Hair Gap Trail, and at the end of the hike we ended up coming out where the Blood Mountain sign is. 

Around 1.5 miles, you'll come to a sign directing you to an overlook. Go left to hike a short distance to the overlook for Vogel State Park and Lake Trahlyta. I've heard that it's easier to see the lake in the winter when the leaves aren't covering the viewpoint. However, it was still pretty. After going back the way you came, continue onto the Bear Hair Gap Trail (if you skip the overlook, you'd go right at the sign instead of turning left). 

Lake Trahlyta

You'll continue on the Bear Hair Gap Trail until meeting the Coosa Backcountry Trail.


When you come up the trail to this sign, you'll be able to go right or left. Go right at this sign to continue onto the Coosa Trail up to Blood Mountain. Going left will take you onto the rest of the Bear Hair Gap Loop which ends back at Vogel State Park. 

You'll eventually come to a four way intersection on the trail. Choose the path to the left (not straight, or right) to continue onto the Duncan Ridge Trail.


The last turn is where the Duncan Ridge Trail meets the Appalachian Trail. Go left at this junction to continue up to Blood Mountain.


On the way back down, you'll leave the summit, come back to the Duncan Ridge sign and go right. At the Duncan Ridge/Coosa intersection, go right. At the Coose/Bear Hair intersection, you can either turn right to go back the way you came along the loop, or you can go straight to hike along the other half of the loop. We chose the half of the loop that we didn't hike on the way up. Going this way, we encountered some large boulders and an area filled with cairns. 

The trail was very pretty - all of the leaves were green and a few wildflowers were out. We crossed Wolf Creek twice, and the area around the creek was filled with ferns. When we got closer to the top of Blood Mountain, the trail was rockier. At the summit, there is a shelter for thru hikers. It was spacious, cool, and shady. I would be very happy to have something like this to stay in if I was thru hiking and needed a place to stay overnight or seek shelter from a storm. The best viewpoint is right next to the shelter. We climbed up onto a large boulder to see the surrounding mountains. Several other people were sitting on the boulder eating lunch or enjoying the view. Some of them were hiking the Appalachian Trail, and two of the guys had come all the way from New Zealand!

View of the surrounding mountains


Shelter

Back room of the shelter

White blazes on the Appalachian Trail

Pretty, bright forest

Cairns

I enjoyed the Blood Mountain hike and definitely recommend it, but it wasn't the challenge I wanted it to be. I went into it thinking that it would take 6-8 hours since it was an 8.5 mile hike, but I've since realized that an 8.5 mile hike in Georgia is not the same as an 8.5 mile hike in Washington. The hike was uphill and downhill and had a couple semi steep parts, but overall I found it to be fairly flat and not very challenging. It took my dad and I two hours to get to the top and one hour and 38 minutes to get to the bottom, so the hike only took four hours total including the time we spent at the top. I've done shorter hikes in Washington that have taken five or six hours due to the difficulty. 

Trail on the way up. Roughly 4.6 miles. 
Trail on the way down. Roughly 3.75 miles. The route back was somewhat shorter, as the other half of Bear Hair Gap Loop was more direct.

Although my quest to find a challenging day hike in Georgia/the southeast continues, I'm glad that I did the Blood Mountain hike and was able to set foot on the Appalachian Trail for the first time in my life!


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