Yonah Mountain (most often erroneously referred to as Mt. Yonah) is one of the best places in the Southeast for beginner/intermediate level trad climbers. Yonah is also one of the locations where the U.S. Army Ranger's train as part of their mountain phase.
The mountain is very distinctive. The granite main face can be seen from miles away and is very prominent. There are several different climbing areas: The Main Face, The X-Wall, The Lowers and bouldering areas. A wide variety of climbing is available: cracks, friction slabs, juggy face climbs, toprope areas and sport routes. The routes range greatly in difficulty, but most are 5.5-5.7.
Routefinding is fairly simple with easy to follow lines, cables or other features. Some of the routes have even been numbered by the army. There are also a few cables at mid-points on some of the routes that can be used as easy belay stations. Several belay rings can be found at the summit although some look old and rusty. Be sure to back up the ones that look sketchy.
This is an excellent place for a beginner since the belay ledges are wide enough that you can safely unrope or untangle if necessary. Most of the routes do not have a large amount of exposure and routes with similar difficulty levels are bunched together. This is good for beginners so that an inexperienced climber does not start a 5.4 route and then accidentally wander into a 5.8.
There are, however, some difficult routes that can challenge more experienced climbers.
Located in the Chattahoochee National Forest just south of Helen, Georgia. There are two ways to get to the climbing area, both taking about an hour.
Route #1: In 2007, at long last, an access trail was opened going up the unpopulated side of the mountain. To reach the trailhead turn off Highway 75 onto Tom Bell Road (next to the restaurant). Then make an immediate left onto Chambers Road. Watch for signs leading you to the parking area.
From the parking area, the trail is about 1.5 miles long and is fairly strenuous. Follow the trail to the Lowers. To reach the Main Wall just keep going uphill.
If you are bringing in a bunch of gear for an overnight, use Route #2. The trail is the shortest route but takes about the same time (around an hour) because of the steepness.
Route #2: From Highway 75 turn onto Yonah Moutain Road and then immediately turn left into the dirt/gravel parking area. You cannot drive up Yonah Mountain Road because it is gated and for use by residents only. The turn onto Yonah Moutain Road is next to the Yonah Mountain Camping Resort (an RV park that has a very inexpensive mom & pop style grille in it that serves pretty good breakfasts).
To reach the climbing areas, hike up the road and take the first fork to the right. Go 2.7 miles until you reach a primitive campground with privies This area is also referred to as the staging area. The major climbing areas are all well marked with signs. Follow the signs from here to the area you wish to climb. The trail to the main wall continues up hill while the others veer right and descend the mountain for a few hundred yards. The trail leading to the X-wall is actually just before reaching the staging area. (Incidentally, the fastest hike up the mountain to the staging area is held by a US Army Ranger at 32 minutes. In order to break the record you must be carrying a full combat load of 60 pounds along with your personal weapon.)
If you choose Route #2, get to the parking area early. On nice weekends the parking lot will fill up. If it does, there is a diner called the West Family Restaurant with a very large parking area just a short walk south where you can leave your car.
No permits are required. There are no fees. However, periodically the U.S. Army Rangers from Camp Merril will takeover the main face for training, though this is not too often. Call the training officer at 706-864-3327 or 3367 to find out their schedule.
Yonah can be climbed year round, but it is the South, so be prepared for temps in the high 90s and high humidity during summer months. Winter climbing can often be wet. Thundershowers will often come through this area and then disappear as quickly as they came. Fall and spring climbing is particularly beautiful in this area.
Camping is allowed in the primitive camping area near the summit (aka "staging area") and is free. There are privies here though water is often scarce here so bring all you think you will need.
There is also camping available at The Yonah Mountain Camping Resort (RV park) for $25 per night during the summer and early fall seasons and $8 per night during the winter and early spring off season. Phone: 706-865-6546
The Dixie Cragger's Atlas