Benton MacKaye Trail

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Directions: From Blue Ridge travel 1.5 miles east on E. First Street to Aska Road. Go south on Aska Road 4.4 miles to Deep Gap. Park in the parking area on the west side below the gap. To reach Stanley Gap, continue south on Aska Road 3.7 miles to the intersection with Stanley Creek Road. Turn right (west) and go 4.2 miles to the parking area 100 yards below Stanley Gap.

Activities: hiking, mountain bike trail

Facilities: none

Fees: none

Closest town: Blue Ridge Georgia

Benton MacKaye Trail

Blue Ridge Georgia

Named for the regional planner who envisioned the Appalachian Trail and founded the Wilderness Society, this trail begins in Fannin County near Blue Ridge Georgia and extends all the way to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.While the Appalachian Trail follows the eastern crest of the Appalachian Mountains, the Benton MacKaye follows the western crest.

After 25 years of all-volunteer effort, the complete trail is now open. The first part of the trail runs from Springer Mountain near Blue Ridge Georgia to US Hwy 64 near the Ocoee River in Tennessee, a distance of 90.9 miles.

The second part of the trail was completed in February 2005. and adds 100 miles to the trail. It extends from the Ocoee River heading north, along the Tennessee / North Carolina line to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at Twentymile Ranger Station.

The third part of the trail is within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park . The route crosses the Appilation trail twice, at opposite ends of the park, making a giant loop of over 158 miles within the park.

The Begining of the trail details:

Beginning at Springer Mountain, the Benton MacKaye skirts the ridge of Bald Mountain with occasional scenic views on the trail or a short walk from the trail. It returns to the AT to share its path up Rich Mountain just after the Springer Mountain Day Use Parking Area. When the AT leaves Rich Mountain and quickly descends to Stover Creek the trail continues on a much more gradual descent along an old logging road. It rejoins the AT for the crossing at Three Forks. After the side path to Long Creek Falls the Benton MacKaye turns left.

Over the next 7 miles the trail crosses no roads, and there are rarely any hikers until it crosses Forest Service Road 333 and descends into the Toccoa River Valley. Here the 265 foot swinging bridge crosses the Toccoa. From the bridge to Highway 60 is a 3 mile hike. North of Highway 60 the trail climbs Wallalah and Rhodes Mountains in a gentle arc as the trail swings from traveling northeast to northwest. In the vicinity of Wallalah the trail is treacherous ; there are some excellent views from Rhodes. On the top of Rhodes Mountain the Duncan Ridge Trail leaves theBenton MacKaye Trail.

Once through Skeenah Gap, the trail offers additional scenic views of distant mountains, then begins an easy climb up Deadennen Mountain, descends to Lula Head Gap and ascends Wilscot Mountain and descends to Highway 60 in Wilscot Gap. After the gap the trail begins the steep climb to the top of Tipton Mountain, but its worth the climb. At the top of Tipton are some excellent views regardless of season. Watch the trail blazes in this area, for its easy to get off the path

From Tipton Mountain the trail falls to a gap, then ascends Brawley Mountain. As the trail heads west it skirts the top of Garland Mountain. There are some excellent views of the Toccoa River Valley from the top of Garland, and there is an easy descent to Dial Road. Here the Shallowford Bridge crosses the Toccoa, and the trail follows Aska Road to Riverside Restaurant. The Benton MacKaye then turns on Stanley Creek Road. In 2.5 miles the trail returns to the forest, and begins the climb to Falls Creek Falls

After visiting the falls on a side trail, return to the Benton MacKaye for the long climb to the top of Rocky Mountain.

The end of the trail:

Within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the trail is marked with a white diamond trailmarker with the words "Benton MacKaye Trail" on a green background, This section extends about 100 miles from the Twentymile Ranger Station in the southwest corner of the park to the northeast boundary near Davenport Gap.The route crosses the Appilation trail twice, at opposite ends of the park, making a giant loop of over 158 miles within the park.

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