Black Rock Mountain State Park
The James E. Edmonds Backcountry Trail at Black Rock Mountain State Park provides hiking and backpacking opportunities with great views and water features.
Hikers and backpackers seeking a challenging but fun and scenic adventure should explore the James E. Edmonds Backcountry Trail at Black Rock Mountain State Park in Mountain City (Rabun County), Georgia. This 7.2-mile trail is rated “difficult to strenuous,” and is the longest of the four trails at this state park.
Parking for this trail, along with parking for the Tennessee Rock and the Ada-Hi Falls Trails, is provided just down from the visitor’s center. The $5 parking fee per vehicle can be paid at a drop box at the trailhead.
Hiking in Northeast Georgia
Although the trail begins and ends in the same location, it is not simply an out-and-back: only a couple of miles are covered twice. The trail is listed as “difficult to strenuous” mainly because of the steep inclines, one leading to Lookoff Mountain and the other heading back to the trailhead. Hikers will also encounter some relatively narrow sections of trail and some occasional washouts. Fallen trees often stretch across the trail, causing hikers to climb or duck, which is not a tough task unless a backpack causes clearance issues.
The trail provides a tough challenge, but it is not unnecessarily difficult. The park provides a map at the visitor’s center, and the trail is marked clearly with several helpful signs and constant orange blazes. Although the trail often runs along and even crosses streams, bridges make the crossings easy.
The trail’s difficulty does not totally keep children from sharing in the adventure, especially if the young hikers can carry their own water. Carrying a hydration pack, like a CamelBak or a two-liter bladder in a backpack, makes the journey more enjoyable.
Backpacking and Primitive Camping
Four primitive campsites sit along the trail: one near the beginning, two near the summit of Lookoff Mountain, and one near the end, just beyond the waterfall. The first and fourth sites are stream accessible. Because of its proximity to the waterfall, the fourth site is the most popular among backpackers. The fourth site is also a little more secluded from the trail than are the others.
All of the primitive camping sites along the trail have a fire pit and plenty of room for at least two or three backpacking tents. Benches along with the fire pits also make sitting beside the campfire more comfortable.
Backpackers must make reservations through the visitor’s center to camp along the James E. Edmonds Trail (706.746.2141). The cost is $9 per person per night. This reservation policy is strictly enforced and ensures that potential backpackers will have a place to pitch their tents.
Overlooks and Waterfalls
Whether hiking or backpacking, the trail has several attractions that make the hike a valuable experience. The far end of the loop takes hikers to Lookoff Mountain (elevation 3162 feet), which has a wide-angle view of the Little Tennessee River Valley, the city of Clayton, and neighborhood farms. This section of the trail also allows close encounters with many bird species, both from the overlook and among the laurels along the trail’s descent.
The abundant water features along the trail help cool hikers on their journey and add calming sounds, as streams and brooks babble over rounded rocks and drop onto hollow logs. The trail offers several easy access points to the streams, and the bridges that cross the streams provide good shaded views of the small, clear streams.
Hikers who are willing to walk the short distance down the gravel road can visit Black Rock Lake, which is visible for much of the trail. A short 0.85-mile lake loop can be easily added to the James E. Edmonds trail and will increase the overall trek by about fifteen to twenty minutes.
The small waterfall that appears about 1.5 miles from the end of the trail provides a good resting place before the steepest climb begins. The approximately twenty-foot waterfall splashes into a small pool, bestowing hikers with a photogenic backdrop and a memory of an excellent trail.