If you are like me, you spent the Fourth of July holiday celebrating all that is America by saluting our flag, thanking our veterans, and pigging out at a backyard barbeque. Sure, you may have worked in the casual volleyball or cornhole game, but that isn’t going to burn off the calories of that hotdog-eating contest with cousin Larry or Aunt Sally’s 17-layer dip. Time to get back on the horse, and that means taking a hike. Nothing captures the spirit of the American can-do attitude like the Appalachian Trail, so bring those good Independence Day vibes full circle by taking a day hike on the quintessential American footpath.
The Appalachian Trail begins in Georgia, so there is no better place to check out the trail. Take this 6-mile moderate loop hike to the summit of Blood Mountain, the highest point on the A.T. in the state.
Directions: Begin at the Byron Herbert Reece Parking area north of Neels Gap off Highway 19. The parking area is a half-mile north of the Walasi-YI Center, a good place to stop and get any extra provisions you may need.
Take the trail from the parking area southwest where you will cross the A.T. after about a mile of steep trail. Continue southwest on the Freeman Trail which follows the south side of the mountain for two miles before intersecting the AT again at Bird Gap. Go right (northeast) on the A.T. to reach the 4,461 foot summit of Blood Mountain. Follow the white blazes across the top of the mountain taking in the panoramic views of Brasstown Bald and Lake Burton before taking the side trail to the Freeman Trail and back to the parking lot.
The Blood Mountain shelter at the summit is one of the oldest on the AT (built in 1934) so be sure to stick your head inside before heading back down.