Round Top is the name given to the highpoint of Dismal Mountain. While there is nothing particularly dismal bout this peak, it’s also not particularly exciting. The summit is shrouded in relatively dense second growth forest with tiny frogs hopping all about the leaf litter and there are no views to speak of from the top. The peak is, however, well-removed from road access, giving it a somewhat isolated feel - a feeling not always easy to obtain in the mountains of the southeastern U.S.A.
What Round Top does offer, however, is a top-25 Georgia peak quite close to the Appalachian Trail. Proximity counts in a landscape where summits are most often guarded not by sheer rock fortresses, but by tangled messes of tick-infested undergrowth, peppered with snakes and poison ivy. The summit of Round Top can be reached after just a few minutes of steep going up ferny slopes after leaving the AT.
23rd highest peak in Georgia
Appalachian Trail Conservancy | Chattahoochee National Forest | Springer Mountain to Bly Gap
Rank & Prominence: Lists of John
Johns Spring pops out from under a tree trunk
Round Top can be accessed from the north or the south along the Appalachian Trail.
AT Northbound (from the south)
• From Tray Gap at Rt 79, via the AT, hike roughly 5.8 miles (one way) north to, through Blue Ridge Swag, to the highpoint of the AT along the east slopes of Round Top. The rounded summit is a very short but relatively steep side-trip to the west.
• Tray Gap is accessed by taking GA 356 east from Robertstown (1 mile north of Helen) for 5 miles. Turn left at Bethel Church onto Chimney Mountain Road. Follow Chimney Mountain Road for 2 miles to FS 79 (Tray Mountain Road). High clearance is required at this point; 4x4 is recommended. Follow FS 79 north 7 miles to Tray Gap. (Note intersection of FS 698.)
AT Southbound (from the north
• From Dicks Creek Gap, via the AT, hike approximately 6.4 miles (one-way) to highpoint of the AT along the eastern slopes of Round Top. The rounded summit is a very short but relatively steep side-trip to the west.
• Dicks Creek Gap is reached via paved US 76 east of the town of Hiawassee.
Summit Ferns Wooded summit area
There is no fee to visit this part of the Nantahala National Forest and permits are not required for overnight stays in the backcountry. Please be mindful of posted Forest Service user warnings, such as “problem bear” alerts and campfire bans. Note that the Appalachian Trail is open to foot traffic only. Motorized vehicles and pack animals are not permitted. Please practice Leave No Trace principals:
1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
3. Dispose of Waste Properly
4. Leave What You Find
5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
6. Respect Wildlife
Sassafras Gap Camping Bear hangs in cold misery
Tent Camping Only
Sassafras Gap, just down the hill northbound on the AT, has level spots for a few tents and a spring. There are no bear cables; you must do your own critter hangs.
Deep Gap Shelter | AT Northbound
3 miles north of Round Top on the AT
Tray Mountain Shelter | AT Southbound
4.6 miles south of Round Top on the AT
Weather & Seasons
|Spring and Fall are considered by many the most pleasant time to visit the Southern Appalachians. |
Spring: In the Spring, daytime temperatures are 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.
Lady Slipper near the NC-GA border