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Rabun Bald Ga. 

MAP LENGTH: 4 miles R.T.
SKILL: Novice-Intermediate
PROS: Views 
CONS: Steady climb
WATER: Several "seeps" for the last 1/2 mile
NOTES: Don't block driveways or roads at the trail-head.

At 4696 feet, Rabun Bald is second highest point in Georgia. The 14,000-acre "preserve" is located on a ridge-top within a few miles of the Georgia - North Carolina border. Surrounded on all sides by the vacation homes of the well heeled, Rabun Bald truly is an oasis for the eyes.

Bee-Gum Gap

The parking area at Beegum Gap, the trailhead, can get crowded and muddy. It is unmarked but it is also on a dead end street. Please be careful not to block anyone's private driveway when parking. Facing the trailhead there are two paths to follow. The path on the right is a road and the path on the left is a rocky trail. Take the rocky trail on the left to begin this loop hike. The trail climbs from the parking area quickly plunging you into a pine hardwood forest. The grade is a constant uphill climb and is without any flat spots. This leg of the trip takes you through a quiet pine forest for approximately 3/4 of a mile. It may seem longer because of the uphill climb. The forest here consists of oaks, pine trees and scattered rhododendron.

After a 15 to 20 minute walk the unblazed trail junctions with the yellow blazed Bartram Trail. Turn north (right) and follow the trail for another 3/4 of a mile or a 20-minute walk. The winter views through the barren trees are of the rolling Georgia Mountains. The trail here is named in honor of William Bartram,  the 18th century botanist that explored this area in search of new and un-cataloged plants.

Follow the Bartram Trail  for another 15 minutes to a trail junction with the road that you left at the parking lot. At this gap, a sign points the way (north) to Rabun Bald. The trail sign has been rather defaced with some graffiti and the exact mileage is difficult to read, but it is 0.5 miles. At this point in the trail is a nice area where there is a fire ring, surrounded by some large rocks. It can make a good point to rest and catch a drink of water before your final ascent to the top.

Final Assent

Now begins the final climb to the summit and observation tower. For the remaining one half mile the trail becomes damp and is lined with rhododendron and blueberry bushes. The appearance of blueberry bushes and mountain ash indicates that you are now above 4000 feet in elevation. The trees are weather beaten and covered with moss. Most are below 20 feet in height. As you approach the summit, the trail becomes bathed in sunlight and you can see clearing ahead of you . All at once you come out into the open at the base of the observation tower, where there are flat stone markers engraved with trail directions. One points the way for the Bartram Trail, should you want to continue that track.

A quick climb up the stairway to the observation tower opens a 360 panorama of rolling mountains. Particularly at the height of the fall colors, we can imagine this would be simply breathtaking! The tower platform is conveniently lined with benches so you can take photos, eat your lunch, or simply relax and drink in the views.

On the return trip back track down the trail to the trail junction mile below the summit. Take the left trail (old road) for a different view on the trip back. This short walk down give you views of the ridge line and the vacation homes below. If the sight of million dollar vacation homes disturbs you as you walk through the wilderness, then you might want to consider backtracking down the trails that you took to the summit.

 

Gettin' There

Located just 15 miles from Franklin North Carolina and a short drive from Rt. 441. Take 441 south from Franklin to the Georgia border. Keep your eyes open for Ga.State Rd. 246. Turn left here and travel 4 miles to mud dude rd in the village of Sky Valley. Turn right on mud rd. travel 2 miles past vacation homes. On the right you will see a brown and yellow Forest Service sign that says "hiking trail". In small letters below that you will see Rabun Bald.
Turn right on this road and follow it one tenth of a mile to the end. The trail head is at the end of the road.


The land surrounding Rabun Bald is owned and administered by the US Forest Service. Camping is not prohibited but the standard rules apply. The yellow blazed Bartram Trail follows the ridge tops and camping is permitted along the trail. A designated camping area complete with water and graded spots for tents is further north approximately 4 miles.

Weather
Click on this link to view the current weather in this area:

http://www.weather.com/weather/local/USGA0118

Maps
Complete Georgia Trail Information (96 trails with maps):
http://www.fs.fed.us/conf/rec/digital_trail_guide.pdf

Online map of the Georgia segment of the Bartram Trail:
http://www.fs.fed.us/conf/rec/bartram_trail.pdf

Chattahoochee National Forest map
http://www.fs.fed.us/conf/maporder.htm

Trail maps for the seven sections of the North Carolina segment of the Bartram Trail:
http://www.ncbartramtrail.org/orderform.htm

Order guidebooks for the Bartram Trail here:
http://georgiatrails.com/features/bartram_trail_guides.html

View Cam
See a view from Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia: http://www.fs.fed.us/conf/webcam.htm

Gear & Supplies
If you need food, gear of maps Three Eagles Outfitters is located on 441 bypass in Franklin. They offer a complete selection of gear and accessories. (828) 524-4453

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