Rabun Bald Trail, Georgia
The undeveloped trail to Rabun Bald in Northeast Georgia allows hikers to reach a scenic summit (4,696 feet) on a moderately easy trail.
Rabun Bald is the second highest mountain peak in Georgia at 4,696 feet. Obviously, the climb to such a peak can be difficult in sections, but the 2-mile trail trek from the parking area on Kelsey Mountain Road to the observation deck offers several rewards.
The Rabun Bald Trail allows hikers to climb over 1,000 feet to a scenic Appalachian summit in a relatively easy day hike. Although there are several other ways of reaching the summit, including the Bartram Trail and the Three Forks Trail, the Rabun Bald Trail is the quickest way to the top. Unlike other more popular summit hikes like Brasstown Bald or Klingman’s Dome, this trail remains in its natural, primitive state.
Trail to Summit of Rabun Bald
The Rabun Bald Trail begins where Kelsey Mountain Road dead ends. The trail begins just to the left of the parking area and is marked with a green rectangle. There are few other green markers, which often indicate side trails because the trail quickly joins the Bartram Trail. The Rabun Bald Trail joins the Bartram Trail and continues climbing toward Rabun Bald to the right. The left fork of the Bartram Trail finishes the Georgia section and heads into North Carolina.
The first mile-and-a-half of the trail follows a series of switchbacks through the Chattahoochee Forest. This part of the trail is a relatively easy walk through an older oak forest that also contains wild blackberries and blueberries in the right season. The switchbacks are cut into the ridge, creating distinctive high banks in several areas.
After about 1.5 miles, the trail reaches a grassy area where two dry campsites appear on either side of the trail. The rocky road that extends from the end of Kelsey Mountain Road ends at this grassy area. An off-road vehicle could travel this rocky road, but the road is more often walked than driven. In fact, hikers may want to return using the road in the colder months because the winter mountain views are actually better along the road.
After passing the grassy area, the trail begins a steeper ascent toward the summit. Many of the large boulders that once blocked this section have been cut and reorganized to make the hike easier than it was a few years ago. The quick switchbacks make for some steep climbing at the beginning, but the trail is not long enough to be considered strenuous. Towards the top, the trail passes through laurel and rhododendron tunnels before arriving at another grassy area where a couple of dry campsites and the Rabun Bald Tower appear at the mountain’s peak.
Enjoy Views of Georgia, NC, & SC
Like many structures in the area, the Rabun Bald observation deck was built by the Civil Conservation Corps in the 1930s. This project was supervised by Roscoe Nicholson, Georgia’s first forest ranger.
On a clear day, the observation deck at the top of Rabun Bald offers a 360-degree, panoramic view of the surrounding mountains in three states (Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina). On a cloudy day, the observation deck still enables an incredible view of the Southern Appalachians, and the misty clouds are refreshing at the top of the world.
Driving Directions to the Trail
The parking area at the head of the trail can be found by following State Road 106/246 to Old Mud Creek Road near Sky Valley, Georgia. Road 106/246 travels north from Dillard, Georgia, and south from Highlands, North Carolina. A Sinclair gas station sits at the intersection of 106 and Old Mud Creek Road. Old Mud Creek Road becomes Bald Mountain Road once the road crosses the state line into Georgia. Kelsey Mountain Road makes a sharp right turn up a hill and leads to the trailhead.