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Appalachian Trail Georgia – Explore the Favorite of the Southeastern USA

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The Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail is perhaps one of the most popular sections. Every year, thousands of hopeful thru-hikers descend upon Springer Mountain, Georgia to begin their arduous journeys northbound to Maine.

As a result, this 79 mile section of trail is well-maintained, has plenty of amenities for hikers, and is a good place for new backpackers to test out their trail skills.

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Benefits & Challenges of Hiking AT in Georgia

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Benefits 

The mountains are big. This means you’ll have amazing views and really feel like you’ve accomplished something when you make it to the top.

There are lots of shelters and campsites for hikers. Since this section of trail gets so many hikers beginning their thru-hikes, it’s set up well to accommodate everyone. You won’t have to worry about not making it to a shelter or campsite in Georgia because they’re everywhere.

In addition to the trail being set up for hikers, so are the towns. You’ll be able to find most anything you need in towns, in terms of gear and food.

The locals are accustomed to hikers and will go out of their way to give you a ride or help you out. Southern hospitality is in full effect in the Georgia section.

You get to see some famous trail spots. What hopeful Appalachian Trail hiker hasn’t heard of Neel’s Gap in Georgia?

It’s a gear shop and hostel that is right in the middle of trail. You literally have to walk through the property on your hike. Not to mention hiking up Blood Mountain, a historical site that is rich in Native American legend.

Challenges 

Along with the mountains being big, they are also challenging to hike.

The trail is constantly full of steep ups and downs. The Georgia section is not easy. Expect to make low milage.

While most resources say that 12-15 miles a day is average on the Appalachian Trail, that’s not the case here. If you’re new to hiking, plan on doing 7 or 8 miles a day in Georgia, maybe 10 if you’re feeling exceptionally motivated.

If you choose to come here in the spring, it’s going to be crowded. March and April is when all the thru-hikers are descending upon Georgia.

There was one campsite where I struggled to find a flat tent spot because everywhere else was taken. It’s definitely not a tranquil wilderness experience.

Regional Map

Typical Georgia AT Itinerary

Getting to the Trail: If you’re driving your car, you can either park at Amicalola State Park or the Springer Mountain trailhead. After finishing the hike, you can take a shuttle back to your car or hitch-hike. If you’re flying into the Atlanta airport, there are several options for trail shuttle services that will drop you off at the trailhead. Find a list of these services in the A.T. Guide.

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Amicalola State Park Approach Trail (optional)

Many hikers choose to do the 8.8 mile approach trail. It’s not officially part of the Appalachian Trail and is optional. Reasons to do it would be because it’s easy to get to than Springer Mountain and there’s a beautiful waterfall along the way. A reason not to do it would be because it just might be the toughest section of trail in Georgia.

Day 1: Springer Mountain to Hawk Mountain Shelter (8.5 miles)

Day 2: Hawk Mountain Shelter to Gooch Mountain Shelter (7.7 miles)

Day 3: Gooch Mountain Shelter to Lance Creek (8.5 miles)

Day 4: Lance Creek to Neels Gap (7.4 miles)

Day 5: Neels Gap to Low Gap Shelter (11.5 miles)

Day 6: Low Gap Shelter to Rocky Mountain (11.1 miles)

Day 7: Rocky Mountain to Sassafras Gap (9 miles)

Day 8: Sassafras Gap to Hiawassee (6.3 miles)

Day 9: Hiawassee to GA/NC Border (8.9 miles)

Video Overview

Evan's Backpacking video shows the story of his the Appalachian Trail Kick-Off at Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia, where he met a lot of thru-hikers and had a good time with Andrea and Sam at the Amicalola Falls State Park Lodge.

Important Logistical Details

Guides & Accommodation

Guides: Hiring guides for the Appalachian Trail isn’t really a thing. There are a few trekking companies out there who will take you out for a few days and teach you the ropes. For the most part, the majority of hikers go guide-less, even the brand new hikers.

Accommodation: Hostels or hotels can be found in the towns and locations of Suches, Neels Gap, Helen, and Hiawassee. These are also places where you can resupply on food. When you’re not splurging on a hotel in town, you will be camping along the trail at shelter areas and campsites.

Best Time to Go & Difficulty

Best Time: Hike the Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail in the spring or autumn. The summer will be unbearably hot and humid. Spring and autumn will have much cooler temperatures.

Difficulty: This is a strenuous hike with drastic elevation changes. Rain and thunderstorms are common in the spring. Even though it’s Georgia, winter weather conditions are possible in the mountains. Black bear sightings occur regularly. Food must be stored properly at night.

Cost & Permits

Permits: There are no permits required to hike this section of trail.

Cost of Hiking AT in Georgia: This really depends on how much time you spend in town. The less you are in trail towns, the fewer opportunities you have to spend money. Factor in a necessary resupply on food during this time that may cost $30-50.

If you want to spend the night in a hostel and have a shower, that will be $20. It will cost more if you want your own hotel room. Then there’s the allure of eating at a restaurant in town, which will cost anywhere from $10-30 depending on where you go and what you order.

Essentially, if you want to save money and have an inexpensive hike then you can certainly make that happen in Georgia. If you want to indulge in towns, that is possible as well.

Pro Tip

Get your gear in the pack and go for a short hike with it prior to getting to Georgia. Ensure that you have it as light as possible, ideally under 10kg.

See our Appalachian trekking gear list here it should help you select only the must-have items! 

Travel Insurance

If you plan to hike any of the Appalachian trails, make sure that you are adequately insured for up to 4,000m. We recommend World Nomads. Use the calculator below to get a quick quote.

Training For The Trek

The best way to learn how far the AT trek in Georgia USA is going to test your physical ability, is to go on some day-long hikes in your own country. 

This will also allow you to break in your hiking shoes and increase your fitness level.

For your exercise routine, we recommend building a combination of hiking, cycling, swimming or rowing to get your heart rate up three times a week.

For aerobic exercise, it is important that you build endurance rather than run at a high intensity so for example if you are planning on jogging, running 5km -10km about 3 times a week at a consistent pace should be the intensity that you are aiming for. 

Recommended Guidebook

Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker's Companion (2019)

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association work together every year to create the most up-to-date guide on the Appalachian Trail. It is called Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker's Companion.

In 2019 they included 50 updated maps, professionally crafted elevation profiles, and comprehensive tables for more easy access to the information while trekking. 

It works both for thru-hikers and those who only want to trek a section or two. 

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