Big Cedar Mountain is easily accessible, less than 1.5 miles via the Appalachian Trail north of Woody Gap at GA Hwy 60. In a region where summits can frequently be hemmed in by dense timber, Big Cedar Mountain offers some fine long-range views on a clear day.
On a special note, I noticed not a single cedar tree or shrub anywhere near this mountain, suggesting the reference is either a historical one, a misnomer referring wrongly to pine trees as cedar trees, or…there is some other explanation entirely regarding the name of this peak.
There are three east-facing overlooks on Big Cedar Mountain, all accessible via short side-trails off the AT. The two lower (northern and southern) overlook provide the best views, while the central overlook, while providing more shrouded views, seems to be the nearest to the highpoint of the peak. These overlooks provide bare rock, perfect for enjoying a (relatively) poison-ivy-free lunch and absorbing the scenery.
USGS Topo: Neels Gap
Trails Illustrated Map: #777 Springer & Cohutta Mounatins
Rank: 41st highest peak in Georgia
Prominence: 541 feet
Rank & Prominence Source: Lists of John
Getting There and Route Information
Woody Gap is about 15 miles north of Dahlonega, Georgia, on GA Hwy 60. Ample vehicle parking is available on either side of the gap off of Hwy 60. The top of Big Cedar Mountain is only about 1.5 miles northbound on the Appalachian Trail from Woody Gap. Reaching the high point of Big Cedar Mountain does involve a short side-trip on social trails from the AT.
Distance: About 3 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: About 600 feet net gain
Big Cedar Mountain resides within the Blood Mountain Wilderness in Chattahoochee National Forest. Standard wilderness restrictions apply (no motorized vehicles, pets on leash, etc.) Please practice Leave no Trace and be mindful of Forest Service user warnings posted at Woody Gap, such as “problem bear” alerts and campfire bans.
Camping & Lodging
Dahlonega: A decent variety of lodging options can be found in nearby Dahlonega, GA, 15 miles south on GA Hwy 60 from Woody Gap. Visit this Trip Advisor page (http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotels-g34882-Dahlonega_Georgia-Hotels.html) for details.
Suches: Suches, Georgia, is only six or seven miles north of Woody Gap on GA Hwy 60, but the lodging options are more limited.
Car Camping: Car camping can be found at nearby Dockery Lake (take FS 654/Dockery Lake Road, which is about 6 miles south of Woody Gap on GA Hwy 60.
AT Backpacking: The nearest AT shelters to Woody Gap are Gooch Mountain (roughly 5.5 miles southbound) and Woods Hole (roughly 5.5 miles northbound).
Weather & Seasons
Spring and Fall are considered by many the most pleasant time to visit the Southern Appalachians.
Spring: In the Spring, daytime temperatures and warm and evenings are cool while the flowering shrubs are in bloom and the waterfalls are running. Water sources such as springs are most reliable this time of year.
Fall: In the fall, the broadleaf deciduous trees put on a bright display of autumn color, though waterfalls may not be as impressive and springs and other water sources less reliable. The air is cooler and crisper and visibility should be prime for long-range views.
Summer: in this part of the country can be oppressively hot and humid and even the higher elevation and ample tree cover will not keep the hiker from feeling overheated, sticky and dirty. High humidity and haze plus deep leaf cover mean limited long-range vistas, though it is in summer that the term “temperate rainforest” will have the most meaning to and be most appreciated by the visitor.
Winter: in the South Appalachians can range from cool and damp to cold and severe with bouts of deep snow following major storms. In other words, while this range may be relatively low in elevation and southern in latitude, mountains are still mountains and can bring unpredictable and potentially dangerous weather.