With the leaf colors in full “bloom,” I’m directing you to Georgia’s Blood Mountain. It’s the first place northbound Appalachian Trail thru-hikers can look back to where their journey started, Springer Mountain, close to 30 trail miles to the south. In addition, a short scramble onto the rocks of the 4,461–foot summit provides a nearly 360-degree view of the southern Blue Ridge Mountains covered in all of their autumn splendor. This is one of the most popular hikes in Georgia, especially in the fall, so I suggest doing it on a weekday to avoid weekend crowds.
One of my favorite ways to reach the summit is to hike the Byron Reece Trail to its end with the AT, make a right turn, but almost immediately bear left onto blue-blazed Freeman Trail, and follow it at around the southern side of the mountain. Upon intersecting the AT again, bear right and ascend to the summit’s rock scramble. To the northeast are Brasstown Bald (Georgia’s highest point) and Tray Mountain; Yonah Mountain is to the southeast, while Lake Burton is visible in the east.
When ready to leave, descend northward on the AT, turn left onto the Byron Reece Trail, and retrace your steps to complete the 7-mile outing.
TRAILHEAD DIRECTIONS: The A.T. crosses U.S. 19/129 in Neels Gap, 19 miles north of Cleveland and 14 miles south of Blairsville. In Neels Gap is Mountain Crossings at Walasi-Yi Center, a hikers’ hostel and backpacking shop. However, parking is limited, so hikers must leave automobiles at the Byron Reece Memorial, .5 mile north of the center on U.S. 19/129.