Blood Mountain (10-1-16)
Blood Mountain, located in the high peaks region of the North Georgia mountains, is one of the most popular hiking destinations in the Peach State. Partly this is due to the fact that the summit is concurrently the sixth highest peak in the state and the highest mountain along the Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail. More so, its popularity is due to the expansive rock ledges, located just below the summit, which offer what most forested peaks of the region don't...spectacularly expansive panoramic views. On top of all that, Blood Mountain is relatively easy to visit. A short mile-and-a-half hike combined with a vigorous (but not overwhelming) 1,400' climb will take you to the top. Thus, it's a mountain who comes by its popularity honestly.
The name Blood Mountain, in case you were wondering as I was, comes according to legend from local Native Americans regarding a great long-ago battle which took place atop the mountain between warring members of the Creeks and Cherokees. The battle was so ferocious, and took the lives of so many warriors, it is said that the slopes of the mountain and the waters of surrounding streams were stained red with their blood. As I stated, this origin story is legend, but as far as I'm concerned its about as cool an origin story as any for naming a mountain so there you go.
My plan for the day was not to just make the quick 1.5-mile run to the summit and back but rather extend my visit out a bit by making the climb of Blood Mountain the centerpiece of a nice 6-ish mile loop. I'd begin from the extremely popular trailhead at Neals Gap, starting my ascent by way of the Byron Herbert Reece Trail. The BRHT ascends gently at first from the parking lot but soon steepens as it starts the climb of the ridge. At around the 3/4-mile mark I'd make a turn onto the Appalachian Trail from the remaining mile-or-so hike to the summit. After getting my fill of the scenery up top I'd then continue on along the Appalachian Trail for another mile-and-a-quarter before making an eastward turn on the more lightly used Freeman Trail which I'd than follow for two miles before reaching the BHRT once again and returning to my car.
Overall I found this to be a very enjoyable hike. The crowds detracted from my enjoyment a bit but I had been previously warned, and chose to go anyway, so I can't really count that against the experience as a whole. The trails are wonderfully well-maintained and well-marked and the scenery was all that it was advertised to be. It was a fantastic place to spend an afternoon on the trail. So, without further adieu, I present to you my hike of Georgia's famous Blood Mountain...as always, ENJOY!!!
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 34.741672, -83.922673
Route Type: Lollipop Difficulty: HARD
Mileage Hiked: 6.3 miles Hike Duration: 3:15
Trailhead Temp: 55'F Trail Traffic: 50-100 people
Min. Elevation: 3,000' Max. Elevation: 4,461'
Total Vertical Gain: 1,600' Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 254'
Trails Used (blaze color): Appalachian (white), Byron Herbert Reece (unblazed), Freeman (unblazed)