The intent was a 12-mile up-and-back (in-and-out?) day hike. This was my second attempt at the Arkaquah Trail up Brasstown Bald. The first had been unsuccessful because the trail is quite steep and my companion on the first attempt was in poor physical condition – worse than my own poor physical condition. Let me provide this caution: Unless you’re in excellent physical condition, this hike will take you a minimum of 7 hours. Add whatever time you’d like to spend milling around the Brasstown observation tower, and make your plans accordingly.
If you want to do a one-way with a shuttle, start at Brasstown and descend. This would be an easy, fun walk with viewing opportunities around every turn.
We parked on Trackrock Gap Road just south of the petroglyphs site. More precisely, the site is in Union County, due east of Blairsville, and just south of SR 2 on Trackrock Gap Road.
How we got there
Coming from Atlanta, take SR 400 north through Dahlonega. Keep going past Vogel State Park, and pass both connections with SR 180. A little over a mile past SR 180 to the east (Richard Russell Scenic Highway) take a right on Booger Hollow Road. (Yeah, that’s correct.)
After little over a mile, take a dogleg to the right (right turn, then quick left turn) on Town Creek School Road and Lower Trackrock Road. After a mile or so, this feeds you onto Trackrock Gap Road. Continue about a mile and a half. Parking is on the left; trailhead is on the right.
From Blairsville, take SR 2 towards Young Harris. About 6 miles outside of town, take a right onto Trackrock Gap Road. Parking will be on your right just past the petroglyph site.
The first mile and a half are wickedly steep. Apparently, the Forest Service doesn’t want to bother with switchbacks, or else they use this route as a cardiovascular fitness test for recruits.
Once you reach the top of Buzzards Roost Ridge, the going gets much more agreeable. The ridgetops are relatively narrow, with moderate to steep drops on either side. Of course, that means fabulous views in the fall and winter. The trail is typical for the southern Appalachians: ups and downs, well-worn, and easy to follow.
At about 2.5 miles, you skirt the north face of Blue Bluff, and scramble over a few rocks. This section was covered with ice and packed snow when we went – not a problem, but inexperienced hikers may feel a little uncomfortable. (We went in February 2008.)
The trail ends in the corner of the Brasstown Bald parking lot, and you follow the half-mile, almost-vertical, paved path to reach the observation tower.
There are no good tent sites (some marginal ones, though) and there is no water.
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