Hike the James E. Edmond trail to Lookoff Mountain Overlook

Rate this Adventure James E. Edmond Trailhead, Clayton, Georgia, United States

  • Activities:

    Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking, Fitness

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Spring, Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:

    Loop

  • RT Distance:

    7.5 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    2378 Feet

Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Forest
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers

If you want to get some tough miles under your belt while logging waterfalls, wild flowers, and wide-open vistas in one hike, then the James E. Edmund Trail at Black Rock Mountain State Park is exceptional.

Black Rock Mountain State Park is Georgia's highest elevation State Park.  It is adorned with several waterfalls, sweeping overlooks, blooming Rhododendron's, and plenty of miles of trail.  The James E. Edmond trail is the longest and by far most challenging hike in the park.  Its medium-long distance and steep descents and climbs make it a killer half-day workout, or an awesome backpacking adventure.

The hike starts at the same trailhead as the Tennessee Rock Overlook trail and while the Tennessee Rock Overlook Trail veers uphill to the left, the James Edmond trail veers to the right and heads downhill.  The trail has some steep descents in the first mile and I honestly would not recommend it to people with knee problems.  At the mile mark, you will have descended about 600 feet and will come to a fork in the trail, where you can take the West Fork to approach the rest of the trail in a clockwise direction, or the East Fork to go counter-clockwise.  I will guide you through the rest of the hike assuming you are going the West Fork route first, heading clockwise.  

The West Fork will continue downhill for about another 300 feet, until you get to Greasy Creek Waterfall.  This beautiful waterfall flows at a moderate slope, down mostly smooth rock for a 12 foot vertical drop.  If your feet are already getting sore, this is a great spot to have a snack and soak your feet in the chilly mountain water.  

The trail continues with some more mild climbs and descents for a short distance before it begins to rise 700+ feet towards Lookoff Mountain Overlook.  This climb is pretty intense and your knees are probably going to be still shaking from the downhill section you just finished.  Somehow, the beauty of the white and pink Rhododendron's in the early summer make the hard work seem like an afterthought and before you know it, you are at the top of Lookoff Mountain.  Okay, its not THAT easy, but at the very least it is a great workout.

To get to Lookoff Mountain, you pass through a tunnel-like passage of Rhododendron thickets, which may even be more scenic than the lookout itself (depending on the season). Lookoff Mountain has a stunning overlook of the Wolffork Valley below.  The best view is to the North, where you can see Pickens Nose and some other 4,000+ foot peaks in North Carolina's Nantahala National Forest.  There is a campsite just 100 yards away from this lookout, which would make for a pretty epic backpacking spot, even when it might be hot at lower elevations.

Returning from the Lookoff Mountain overlook, you will head back along the East Fork Trail, which is welcoming and mild for the first half-mile.  This walk in the park quickly goes downhill (both physically and metaphorically), until you find yourself close to a water source at Taylor Creek.  

At about 5.7 miles in, you will begin to climb (about 850 feet) back up  to the trailhead.  Even though your legs might be gassed by this point, its really just a hop, skip, and a jump back to your car.  Before you know it, you can be in downtown Clayton kickin' it with the awesome people at Wander North Georgia or grabbing a juicy burger and a cold one at The Universal Joint.

If during the write-up of this adventure I gave off the impression that this trail was really tough, it is because it was, especially by Georgia standards.  This should not scare people away, but simply make them aware so they come prepared with plenty of water and plenty of time.  A fast hiker could tackle this in under 3 hours, but most people would probably take about 4-6 hours to complete this awesome trail. 

Pack List

  • Water (at least 1.5L) - there are streams along the trail which are not necessarily safe to drink from directly, but you can bring a water filter to have that as a supplemental water source
  • Snacks
  • Camera (Optional)
  • Sunscreen
  • Daypack
  • Hiking stick/Trekking Poles (Recommended)
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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Christian Murillo Explorer

My love for natural landscape photography is what first got me outside. Now, I can hardly stay indoors. My sense of adventure has led me to travel all over the US (mostly in the SE), and also drove me to complete a +42,000 mile trip around the world.

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