At 2100 miles, the Appalachian Trail is an imposing challenge, one which few of us will undertake. But it is nice to be able to say that you’ve been on the AT. And there is something about being at the start (or finish, depending on which way you’re hiking) of the Trail.
This is actually easily accomplished. Since 1958, the Southern Terminus of the AT is found at the top (elevation: 3782 ft) of Springer Mountain in Georgia. There are a couple of ways to get there. One is to take the 8.5 mile hike from Amicalola Falls State Park on the Appalachian Approach Trail. Of course, it is then 8.5 miles back to your car. You may wish to take the alternate, which results in a total hiking distance of less than 2 miles.
Again, start at Amicalola Falls State Park*. This route is about 35 miles and takes about 45 minutes of driving time. From the Park, turn right on US 52 and go about 11 miles to Roy Road. It is right beside a Chevron station. Stay on Roy Road for another 9 miles or so until you come to the 2nd stop sign where Roy Road deadends into Doublehead Gap Road. Right on Doublehead Gap for about 2 miles until you see a small white church and cemetery on the left. On the right you will see Fire Service Road 42, although it is unmarked. What you will find is a sign for the Blue Ridge Wildlife Management Area plus a smaller sign showing Springer Mountain to be 6.5 miles. Right onto FS 42 (it’s gravel) for 6.5 miles to a large parking lot on your left. The AT crossing FS 42 at this point.
From the parking lot, you’re 0.9 miles from the top of Springer Mountain. Cross over FS 42 and you’ll see the AT heading up and into the woods. The trail is a climb the entire distance to the top. Traffic on the trail has worn down the trail so it is pretty rocky. If not careful, it would not be hard to turn an ankle.
At the top, you’ll find a large rock outcrop with a couple of plaques. One is the official starting point of the AT complete with the first of its famous white blazes. Another larger plaque marks it as the Southern Terminus of the AT. Nice view up here and a good spot to stop and talk to some of the people on the trail. Depending on the time of the year, you may encounter some folks taking that first step on their 2100 mile journey.
A little ways down the trail from the summit, you’ll see a side trail marked for camping and shelter. Be sure a check this out, it will give you an idea of the facilities that are available along the trail for the through hikers.
When you get to the intersection of FS 42 and Doublehead Gap Road, take a few minutes to walk the cemetery at the church directly across the road. Among other interesting graves, you’ll find at least 2 Confederate veterans’ graves. Both were members of the 10th Tennessee.
*If you will stop in the Park’s Visitor’s Center, they can provide you with a map of these directions.