TRAIL TRAFFIC: Moderate to Heavy – AT; None – BMT/DRT
TRIP TYPE: Overnight Hike
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.)
Three Forks is a nice flat area accessible by USFS 58 where Stover, Chester, and Long Creek converge. The area is often crowded on weekends, but has some nice campsites along the creeks. From here, it’s less than a mile to Long Creek Falls, a thirty foot waterfall with a small pool at the base.
The hike from Three Forks to Bryson Gap is 5.6 miles, but it involves three major long distance routes in Georgia: The Benton MacKaye Trail (BMT), The Duncan Ridge Trail (DRT) and The Appalachian Trail (AT). Three Forks, the starting point, marks the southern terminus of the thirty six mile Duncan Ridge Trail (DRT) which meets with the AT again at Slaughter Gap, it’s northern terminus. Three Forks is a nice flat area accessible by USFS 58 where Stove, Chester, and Long Creek converge. The area is often crowded on weekends, but has some nice campsites along the creeks. The Benton MacKaye and Duncan Ridge Trails break from the Appalachian Trail just past the falls and head down to the Toccoa River. The A.T. continues northbound toward Hawk Mountain Shelter.
On this hike we stopped briefly at Long Creek Falls, then continued on the BMT to pitch camp then day-hike to Bryson Gap and back. The BMT in this section crosses a bald, several gaps, and Wildcat Ridge as it heads northbound and breaks away from the Appalachian Trail.