Backpack the Appalachian Trail from Blood Mountain to Cowrock Mountain

14 miles 2907 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Christian Murillo

Take on one of the most scenic sections of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia from Blood Mountain to Cowrock Mountain. This trek includes summit views from Wolf Laurel Top and Cowrock Mountain, with an option to extend the hike up to Blood Mountian.

North Georgia is packed with awesome mountain trails, but few boast the beauty and magnitude of the Appalachian Trail. The hike from Blood Mountain to Cowrock Mountain is one of the more scenic sections of the AT in Georgia, in terms of mountain views.  Do this hike as a full day hike, or spread it out into a two day backpacking trip to catch some awesome sunset and sunrise views. 

The hike starts from the Byron Reece Trailhead, which is also the trailhead to hike Blood Mountain.  Since Blood Mountain is one of the more popular hikes in the area, this parking lot can get very full. It is best to either get there early or in the late afternoon, especially in the warmer summer months.  You will start on the Byron Reece Trail for the first 0.7 miles, which is quite the climb.  Although this distance is not so far, the steepness of this section will certainly make you break a sweat!  After the first 0.7 miles, you will find that the trail intersects with the White blazes of the AT.  Take a sharp left turn to take the trail towards Neels Gap. 

Once you have descended down to Neels Gap, you will need to cross the street, towards the Mountain Crossings Store.  This is a great place to both pick up gear and meet people starting their long AT voyages.  The trail continues to the left and then behind the store.  Here, you will begin your summit of Bull Gap, with views of Blood Mountain though the foliage behind you.  This is the most sustained climb of the trail, climbing up about 800 feet.  From the top of Bull Gap, the trail gets significantly easier, as you follow the ridge on the relatively mild climb and descent of Swaim Cove and Swaim Gap.  You will pass several appealing campsites on this section of the AT, with views of surrounding mountains through the trees.

At about 5.5 miles, you will reach the peak of Wolf Laurel Top, at about 3,700ft of elevation.  There is an awesome campsites here, with views to the Southeast which feature Cowrock Mountain and Yonah Mountain.  The views and campsite are just about 100 feet off to the right of the trail.  If you are doing this hike as a day hike, this would be an awesome place to pull out your camera and enjoy a snack! 

The trail continues to follow the white blazes down Wolf Laurel Top, and then back up again to Cowrock Mountain.  The top of Cowrock Mountain at the 7 mile point is characterized by having some rocky openings that provide great views towards the Southwest.  This is one of the best spots in Georgia to catch an Appalachian sunset.  After soaking in the epic views, turn back the way you came and follow the AT along the ridge back down to Neels Gap and Blood Mountain. 

Once you make the return trip back to where the Byron Reece Trail intersects with the AT, you can extend your hike by 3 miles total by continuing the AT straight up to the top of Blood Mountain.  This is another fairly challenging climb, but the views from the summit are definitely the best around.  If you opt to not take on the extra ascent, you will just take the Byron Reece Trail to your right and go down the 0.7 miles to the parking area.

Note: On this section of the AT, there are no signs indicating “This is Wolf Laurel Top” or “Cowrock Mountain on the right in 0.2 miles”.  Your best bet to know exactly where you are is to bring a topography map and compass or a GPS system. 

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Overall rating: 

Just keep following the blazes.

The hike down was much easier than the hike up, but it was nice to just be in nature and unwind.

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