7 Georgia Hikes With Amazing Views (Within 3 Hours of Atlanta)

You don’t have to travel far from the city to enjoy spectacular hiking opportunities in the North Georgia mountains.
  • North Georgia's mountains are not far from Atlanta, and are full of splendor. (Robert Aberegg)
    North Georgia's mountains are not far from Atlanta, and are full of splendor. (Robert Aberegg)

With the North Georgia mountains just hours from the heart of Atlanta, there's no shortage of monumentally scenic views for city dwellers. We're talking epic, memorable sights at dizzying heights, as little as 20 minutes away from downtown Atlanta, and all within a 3-hour drive of the city.

These seven especially striking sky-high summits represent a full spectrum of skill levels, from easy-breezy to downright demanding. All of them, however, boast gorgeous, unforgettable views.

1. Brasstown Bald

Brasstown Bald offers impressive views from its elevation above 5,000 feet. Brasstown Bald offers impressive views from its elevation above 5,000 feet. (Becky Vaughters/ChattOconeeNE, flickr) 

Drive time from Atlanta: Two hours

Difficulty rating: Options from easy to challenging available

Peak heights meet perfect placement at Brasstown Bald, located in the Chattahoochee National Forest where Georgia and North Carolina meet. From its 5,000-foot elevation -- the highest mountain summit in the Peach State -- you'll get a spectacular panoramic view of the rolling, lush Appalachian Mountains. On clear days, you can even spot the Atlanta skyline. The seasonal changes of fall and winter offer the most striking pastiche of colors from its lofty lookout, but be sure to take a jacket -- temps drop 10 to 20 degrees from start to gorgeous finale.

Multiple trails to the summit add the appeal of Brasstown Bald. For novice hikers, its eponymous paved path, clocking in at just over a mile and leading directly to the observation tower, is an obvious plus. If you're looking for a more advanced trek, you’ll find plenty challenging options -- in particular, the 11-mile Arkaquah Trail, with its arduous up-and-down path featuring a total elevation gain of 2,500 feet.

The trail rises out of the base-level parking area and follows a ridge to Track Rock Gap. You'll descend dizzying switchbacks as you continue to the peak of Chimneytop Mountain, then onward to Low Gap, the 2.6-mile marker. Rhododendron flowers coat the landscape for part of the journey, while fern and moss-covered rock outcrops reign as you ascend to a summit of 3,650 feet -- below, the view is picturesque pastoral bliss. Take a moment here, because the next stretch is a steep descent of 1,375 feet in just 1.5 miles.

2. Blood Mountain

The climb to the top of Blood Mountain is strenuous but rewarding. The climb to the top of Blood Mountain is strenuous but rewarding. (Brian Greer, flickr) 

Drive time from Atlanta: Two hours

Difficulty rating: Moderate to challenging

Climbing up and back the Appalachian Trail's highest mountain summit offers multiple jaw-dropping views along the 4.3-mile (round-trip) route. Start at the Byron Reece Trailhead near Neels Gap in Blairsville, just over two hours from Atlanta. There you’ll begin a constant, strenuous ascent that tests your endurance but features multiple rewards throughout. You’ll squeeze through boulder-lined switchbacks and outcrops carpeted with lichen. The forest thickens, blanketing the landscape with a patchwork of red, green and yellow. You hit the summit at 2.15 miles, and the 1,400-feet ascent has earned you a stunning view of from the pedestal of a massive outcrop.

You'll cross a creek bed and march up stone stairs, hitting 400 feet at Flatrock Gap. A colorful forest canopy, especially vivid in the fall, emerges as you reach the first gorgeous vista.

3. Stone Mountain

Stone Mountain is known for its views of the Atlanta skyline. Stone Mountain is known for its views of the Atlanta skyline. (ravas51, flickr)

Drive time from Atlanta: 30 minutes

Difficulty rating: Easy to Moderate

The walk-up trail to the top of Georgia's famous massive monadnock is just a mile long and relatively easy, making it a popular trek for adventurers of all skill levels. Stone Mountain Park is located only 30 minutes from downtown Atlanta.The convenient option to Skyride your weary feet back down -- or up, even -- means almost anyone is capable of making the two-mile round trip. And while seasoned hikers won't find so many thrills on the main route, taking the Cherokee Trail upon departing the summit will add about five miles to your journey, plus another city view and an idyllic, less-traveled forest area complete with the serenity of a calm creek.

Still, anyone who stands atop the summit will find themselves entirely flabbergasted by the impressive long-range view from 1,686 feet. On a clear day, you can see 60 miles in all directions. You’ll see Stone Mountain Lake to the east and the city skyline in the far distance. In the fall, the thick clusters of rounded treetops become the ultimate palette of the season's vibrant hues. (Pro tip: Sunrise and sunset offer exceptionally amazing backdrops, and crowds are considerably slimmer at these hours.)

4. Arabia Mountain

The unique, rocky summit of Arabia Mountain. The unique, rocky summit of Arabia Mountain. (Alan Cressler, flickr)

Drive time from Atlanta: 25 minutes

Difficulty rating: Moderate

What makes the Arabia Mountain Top Trail exceptional is not its scenic range -- though it certainly seems to stretch for miles -- but rather the uniquely magical feel of the rocky summit itself. Even better, this moon-like and otherworldly sight is only about a half an hour’s drive from Atlanta. The summit floor is striking, textured with a crimson-red plant seemingly floating atop numerous water-filled craters. At 1.3 miles round trip, it's a quick shot up. For the most exemplary of Arabia Mountain experiences, venture out a day after rainfall, when clearer skies offer unobstructed views -- an incredible feature in its own right -- and the surreal, eye-catching craters remain full and mirror-like.

5. Cloudland Canyon

Cloudland Canyon State Park features a 4.8-mile loop trail with multiple scenic outlooks. Cloudland Canyon State Park features a 4.8-mile loop trail with multiple scenic outlooks. (Kathryn Crouch, instagram)

Drive time from Atlanta: Two hours

Difficulty rating: Moderate

Cloudland Canyon State Park sits on the edge of Lookout Mountain and boasts multiple swoon-worthy trails, many of them boosted by close-ups of the beautiful waterfalls within. The best views are found above Cloudland Canyon, and the longest route -- the 4.8-mile West Rim Loop -- unlocks the most incredible of vistas.

Take the Waterfalls Trail for a quarter-mile to hop on, journeying into the thick of the canyon southbound until you cross a creek by wooden bridge. Elevation jumps as you take sharp turns past flowery stretches and over the obstacle of a boulder-filled floor and through a forested tract. At .6 miles, there's a cave, marking the grand finale-push to the summit, where the panorama presents a stunning view of the steep canyon, the waterfalls raging below and a million-dollar display of the brilliant fall colors atop mountains stretching for miles.

6. Springer Mountain

Springer Mountain marks the start of the Appalachian Trail. Springer Mountain marks the start of the Appalachian Trail. (Thomson20192, flickr)

Drive time from Atlanta: Two hours

Difficulty rating: Moderate to challenging

Surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, Springer Mountain reaches 3,780 feet at the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. The main trail, named for the mountain, is a moderately challenging two-mile jaunt. Wildflowers and a forest of hardwoods color the wide curve upward, and the path gets rockier at greater heights. The valley below is a blend of bright earthy shades during the fall, adding extra oomph to the remarkable sight of the distant mountain landscape. The view offers a sublime display of nature's prowess -- calm and soft, but powerful and formidable, too. Listen closely and you might hear the pounding rush of the adjacent Amicalola Falls.

7. Rabun Bald

Rabun Bald is the second highest peak in Georgia. Rabun Bald is the second highest peak in Georgia. (Alan Cressler, flickr)

Drive time from Atlanta: Two hours, 15 minutes

Difficulty rating: Easy to moderate

The state's second-highest peak showcases the rolling southern Appalachian Mountains from its summit. Rabun Bald is only about 100 feet shy of the state’s highest peak, Brasstown Bald, but it has far fewer visitors. That might be because the best direct-to-summit path, the Bartram Trail, is tucked inside the Rabun County neighborhood of Sky Valley, and markers aren't too visible on its dirt-and-gravel path. Hiking to the summit feels a bit like you’re in on a secret.

The 3-mile round trip isn't physically demanding. Rocky patches and a few switchbacks aside, it's a simple trek up -- you'll hit the summit at 1.5 miles. There, vibrant wildflowers and blue-green rhododendron dot the floor, and in some spots, you'll even find a ground cover of blueberries. At nearly 5,000 feet high, the view is outstanding. A wooden observation platform offers a 360-degree view of Georgia and North Carolina that includes a historic fire tower, seemingly endless swaths of trees and faraway mountains for miles.

Originally written by RootsRated for Atlanta CVB.

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