Nothing perks us up more than a brisk jaunt in the great southern wilderness — especially in Georgia. As home to some of the grandest peaks in the southern Appalachian range, the Peach State is uniquely situated to offer up a host of exhilarating hiking options. No matter your skill, free time, or the weather, we think at least one of our hikes in Georgia is made just for you. So grab your water bottle, that extra outer-layer, and a friend, and head out!
Providence Canyon, Lumpkin, GA
Distance: 2.5 miles
Difficulty: Easy, allow 2 hours with extra time to explore
Trailhead: All trails begin and end at the Providence Canyon State Park Visitors Center
The 2.5 mile Canyon Loop Trail around Providence Canyon (fondly known as the “Little Grand Canyon”) provides a backpack’s worth of “oh” and “ah” moments. Situated near the Georgia-Alabama state line, the canyon is really a cluster of interlocking smaller canyons, partially formed from erosion, thanks to poor farming practices common in the 19th century. With dramatic red and white cliff walls reminiscent of formations typically seen father west, the views are stunning. Enjoy – this is one of our favorite hikes in Georgia!
Blood Mountain, outside Blairsville, GA
Distance: 4.6 miles roundtrip
Difficulty: Moderate, allow 3-5 hours
Trailhead: Start your hike at the Byron Reece Trailhead near Neels Gap
Despite its slightly ghoulish moniker, Blood Mountain is not so named due to struggling hikers! Some claim the mountain was the site of a particularly brutal battle between warring Cherokee and Creek Indians; others say the name comes from the reddish-colored lichen that grows near the summit. Regardless, it’s worth a climb. At 4,458 feet, Blood Mountain is the tallest peak on the Georgia portion of the Appalachian Trail, and popular among hikers — especially when the sun is out. The trek begins in lush mossy creek valleys, eventually opening up to meandering switch-backs and rock-dotted slopes. The final stretch includes a high-elevation spread of mountain laurel, pine, and wind-swept rhododendron. By the time you reach the top, you will have climbed about 1,500 vertical feet.
At the summit — once you catch your breath — prepare to lose it again as you take in the majestic views of the Chattahoochee National Forest and broader southern vistas and valleys. By all accounts, it’s one of the best views in the South. Before you head down, rest your weary feet and have a granola bar at the small stone shelter — built in the 1930s for through-hikers needing a respite from the rigors of the Appalachian Trail.
Yonah Mountain, near Cleveland, GA
Distance: 4.4 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous, allow 4-5 hours minimum, with additional time to rest on the summit
Trailhead: Find your trailhead off Chambers Mountain Road south of Helen, GA.
Yonah mountain, or “Yonah Bald” to the locals, offers another great North Georgian hike. With its jutting ridge-like shape and expansive rock faces, this one involves a continuous and arguably unrelenting climb to the summit. Best to try it only if you are a relatively experienced hiker. Also, while the hike can be done without proper climbing gear, it’s important to be on high alert at all times to drop-offs and steep rock faces. Dangers aside, the climb is scenic from the first step, with meandering moss and wildflower-infused clusters, trickling streams, and impressive fields of boulders. Views of the surrounding mountains are apparent mid-hike and only get more dramatic as the elevation increases. Panoramic views from the summit are supreme, but drop-offs up top are sudden, steep, and dangerous. Make sure you are well rested before your descent, as accidents tend to occur when hikers are tired towards the end of the day.
Cumberland Island, Georgia
Distance: Up to 20 miles around the island
Trailhead: Look for signs once you’ve disembarked from the ferry
If you’re like us and maybe want a flatter jaunt, head to Cumberland Island National Seashore. There, you can hike for as long as you like along the postcard-worthy shoreline, explore the ruins of the Carnegie family’s Dungeness Mansion, and catch glimpses of the island’s wild ponies frolicking among the dunes and maritime forests. (Though they look approachable, the ponies are feral, and a distance of at least 50 feet should be maintained at all times.) The island is accessible by the Cumberland island Ferry from St. Marys, and takes about 45 minutes each way. A round trip costs about $30 and making reservations ahead of time is strongly recommended. Island facilities are intentionally sparse but include rest rooms and potable water filling stations (whew).
A few tips from the pros
Hiking is a great way to get out and get moving, but if you’re not prepared, it can quickly turn unpleasant. Be sure and bring plenty of water, sunscreen, sunglasses, extra layers (including something waterproof), and snacks. Appropriate footwear, already broken-in, will also be key. Also, check site information ahead of time to ensure that trails are open and passable, and let someone know where you’re going in case you get lost or injured and need to be rescued.