MORE INFORMATION: Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests 1755 Cleveland Highway Gainesville, GA 30501 770 297-3000
HIGHLIGHTS: The Benton MacKaye Trail is a work in progress, and it currently runs nearly 100 miles from the southern terminus at Springer Mountain, Georgia, to US Hwy 64 & 74 near the Ocoee River in Tennessee. The trail is named for Benton MacKaye, who first published a proposal for the creation of the Appalachian Trail in the early 1900’s while hiking in Vermont.
The current plan is for the Benton MacKaye Trail to continue through the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee and eventually reach the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and rejoin with the Appalachian Trail. (For more information, you can visit the Benton MacKaye Trail Association website. Its members volunteer for trail development, construction, maintenance and repair.)
The hike from Bryson Gap to the Toccoa River is 2.7 miles and the Benton MacKaye Trail passes through Sapling Gap at 2770′ then across or near some forest service roads during the descent to the Toccoa River at 1920 feet. The is an impressive suspension bridge at the Toccoa River with a campsites on both sides of the bridge.
On this hike we stopped camped at the Toccoa River and did a day hike (5.4 miles round-trip) to Bryson Gap and back. It was Thanksgiving weekend, and there were at least 40 day hikers at the suspension bridge in the hour leading up to sunset. So if you are looking for a more wilderness experience, consider camping at Bryson Gap which has a spring a few hundred yards from the trail.