Soaring and stunning, Blood Mountain is famous for its breathtaking, long-range views. The Blood Mountain summit peaks the highest elevation on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia and the state’s sixth highest mountain. Rated one of the toughest trails in Northern Georgia, this is the perfect trail for thru-hike conditioning, although hiking this trail is not for the faint of heart.
Cherokee legend holds this summit as sacred – it’s nearby at Slaughter Creek that the Cherokee fought a bloody battle with the Creek tribe, giving Blood Mountain its name. The beauty of the mountain – the views, the birds soaring above in thermal uplifts, the rugged, windswept beauty of the trees and vegetation – makes it easy to understand why the Cherokee held this place in such high esteem.
Within the depths of Vogel State Park lies a 12.8-mile loop that takes you up and over two of Georgia’s highest mountains (Coosa Bald and Slaughter Mountain.)
The trail is known as the Coosa Backcountry Trail, one that takes you from the low points of Vogel State Park, and through the park’s most remote surrounding areas, followed by the two tough ascents of Coosa Bald and Slaughter Mountain, and a trek through a portion of the Blood Mountain Wilderness. Also, hiking this in a single day is not recommended. However, it’s been done many times. The 12.8 miles round trip might have you wondering how on earth you’ll make it to Maine, (if you were hiking the entire AT) but don’t be too discouraged.
The Coosa Backcountry Trail intersects the Duncan Ridge Trail. The hike continues to grab elevation as it rises steadily toward the summit, the surrounding forest changing from lower-elevation deciduous to higher-elevation wind-swept pine and rhododendron. The terrain becomes rocky, exposing vast stretches of granite outcrops and strewn boulders. Reviews warned it was ‘strenuous,’ but looking at the elevation gains, I knew this was actually going to be strenuous.
An Appalachian Trail shelter at the mountain’s summit primitive lodging for hikers on an epic, 2,000+ mile hike from Georgia’s Springer Mountain to Maine’s Mount Katahdin. The shelter was built in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and underwent a major renovation in 2012 by the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club. Hikers usually travel the Appalachian Trail (AT), which crosses the area along the crest of the Blue Ridge for 10.75 miles and eventually reaches a rock shelter on Blood Mountain. This trail, according to the USFS, is “the most heavily used portion of the AT in Georgia.”
The Coosa trail is very isolated. I was alone in the middle of the Chattahoochee State Forest (constantly looking over my shoulder for bears.) The trail was steep, let me say that again, THE TRAIL WAS STEEP! For hours it just went up and up and up. I had to stop a few times, but I didn’t want to get stuck out there in the dark, so I hustled through it. By the time the trail began to descend I was ready for it to be over. And when I say descend, it was a task not to fall. When I finally broke through the forest I strolled around Lake Trahlyta in the light drizzle.
If you’ve never been to Blood Mountain, Georgia, it’s high time you visit. As the highest peak in the Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail, Blood Mountain boasts some of the most unreal views around—and with good reason. When you hike Blood Mountain, you will be safe – as long as you are alert and wise, as with anywhere you roam. The ‘backcountry’ area is wild and remote. To be safe, always be aware of your surroundings. Hikers should be aware that encounters with black bears are common in the area.
Hiking Blood Mountain – and standing fearlessly at the top – is an act of defiance against those who would impart fear into those who walk in the woods … alone or with loved ones.