The North Georgia Mountains offer some great views along with nice hiking trails from easy to moderate to strenuous. One of my favorite hikes is that of Blood Mountain. My husband, Nathan and I have been hiking it annually since my girls were little. I really don’t know how many years it has been but well over ten will work. We venture there a lot of times throughout the year but always love to come during the fall to see the colors with the changes of greens to orange to yellow and then lastly the reds. The view when its not fall is great too. You can see so many rolling mountains and lakes from the top. The vista will not disappoint.
Blood Mountain is the highest point on the AT trail in Georgia. There are several trails that you can access Blood Mountain from the Byron Reece Trail, Bear Hair connecting to the Coosa and then Duncan Ridge. The Byron Reece Trail is by far the most direct trail to reach Blood Mountain but also is the most steep. The elevation gain is quite noticeable especially in the legs. The hike is along massive boulders, bubbling creeks, evergreen rhododendron and deciduous trees that shade the forest floor helping ferns and wildflowers flourish. The trail can become filled with hikers completing day hikes to those who are hiking along the AT for days to months. During the fall many Georgians frequent the area trying to capture the mountains changing from a heavy green color to multicolored hills painting the background. The pictures never bring the view justice.
I wondered early on if Blood Mountain was called that due to the foliage on the mountain becoming filled with crimson leaves. To my dismay the mountain actually has its name from a rather gruesome battle. The Cherokee Tribe came south and crossed the area that was inhabited by the Creeks and waged war because they wanted their land. The Cherokee and Creek tribes fought a gruesome war where the rivers and creeks turned red with the blood of those killed and thus became Blood Mountain and Slaughter Mountain. The Cherokees lived in the valley below Blood Mountain after that until the white man came. They lived among each other for a while and then the gold rush in north Georgia started and they proposed moving the Cherokee people out west. We all know how that went.
Sometimes we drive up for just the day but more recently we have camped just below Blood Mountain at Vogel Park or Desoto Falls. Both are very nice places but offer two different atmospheres and things to do, however they are close enough to drive around and see all the sights the area has to offer.
Vogel Park is a Georgia State Park and has a dammed stream creating a small lake that has a swimming area as well as paddle boat and kayak rental. They have a couple pavilions, benches around the lake and a short walking trail around the lake. At the opposite end of the lake from where the visitor center is there is a steep, short descent down to a scenic waterfall which comes from the dam at the top of the lake. The park has a nice visitor center which has a miniature golf course behind it. When you walk around the lake you can catch the reflection of the mountains in the lake and from the far side of the lake you can take in the view of Blood Mountain. The park has the popular Bear Hair trail access where you can hike up and see the lake and Vogel Park down below. This trail also has access to the AT and Blood Mountain as well as the Coosa back country trail and Slaughter Mountain. There is so much to do there, you could stay for 14 days, because that is how long the park allow you to stay. There is camping allowed on the trail is designated places, make sure to check in with the visitors center to see where these sites are.
Desoto Falls is a much smaller place to camp and is in the National Forest. There are several picnic areas close to the trails leading to the falls. The camp ground is on the other side from the picnic area and there are some really big sites. Now this campground is for tent camping and boondocking. That being said there aren’t any power outlets and water spickets are spread out around the campground to use but not for camper hook up. Some sites back up to the creek and all sites are wooded. I can’t get over the space though! You really have enough room for a RV and a couple of tents.
What to do here…. well, there are the water falls, Desoto Falls has an upper fall and lower fall. Other than that there isn’t a whole lot to do, but if you have a car to get around, Vogel is 4 miles away and Helton Creek Falls is just down the road with a short hike to see it. I really enjoyed Helton Creek Falls, it is a lot bigger than Desoto Trickle, I mean Desoto Falls. Also nearby is Brasstown Bald, Georgia’s Highest Point in the State. The hike up is about 3/4 mile and is a paved trail. The trail leads up to the observation tower. You can get a great view of the spectacular Georgia Mountains from this spot. The temperature is usually ten degrees less than what the city normally is. There is a thermometer at the top so you can see the temperature. If you are coming for a great sunset make sure to bring a light jacket. The view will not disappoint.
The cost to stay at Desoto Falls is around 6-12$ and the cost at Vogel is $26 with Friends of Georgia State Parks pass.