Brasstown Bald: Your Guide To Hiking Trails, Photography & More
High above the Great Smokey Mountains, the Brasstown Bald Observation Tower sites regally overlooking the Chattahoochee National Forest. As the tallest peak in Georgia’s mountains at 4,784 feet above sea level, visitors can see four states and even sometimes the Atlanta skyline from the viewing decks! As you can imagine, this serene mountain escape is one of the most popular day trip destinations in Georgia.
Before we continue exploring all the amazing things to do at Brasstown Bald, we’d like to pay our respects to the Cherokee people. This was their land until 1832 when most of the lands were forcibly stripped away in the early 1800s due to a gold rush. A peace treaty, not brokered by tribal members, forced the Cherokee people’s subsequent removal from the lands. This resulted in over 4,000 deaths along the way to their ‘relocation’ in Oklahoma. The story became known by the ominous title: ‘The Trail of Tears’.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Is Brasstown Bald dog friendly? Yes.
Cost: $5 per adult / After Hours $3 / Kids 15 and under are free
Parking: There is a huge parking lot at the base of the Visitors Center.
Time To Explore: 1-8 hours
Park Hours: Hiking Trails Open 24/7
Visitor’s Center Hours: Thursday – Monday 10 AM-5 PM
History of The Blue Ridge
The Blue Ridge mountains were formed by the movement of tectonic plates anywhere from 1.1 billion-250 million years ago. The Appalachian (AKA Blue Ridge) Mountains are some of the oldest mountain ranges in the world. The only older mountain range is South Africa’s Barberton Greenstone belt!
Brasstown Bald is one of five notably tall peaks east of the Mississippi including two in Virginia, one in South Carolina, and one in North Carolina. From the top of Brasstown Bald, the easily identified peaks are Round Top, Spaniard Mountain, Tray Mountain, Spaniard Knob, Yonah Mountain, Henry Knob and Brookshire Top all in Brasstown Valley.
**Some of the visible peaks are called knobs because they have a more rounded top. The mountains typically have sharper peaks. (It’s not an exact science and people typically tend to call things by old familiar names so take the knob vs. mountain explanation with a grain of salt!)
So why is it called Brasstown Bald?
Did you know the Bald used to be called Mount Enotah by the Cherokee people? After the occupation of the closest towns, and the subsequent removal of the Cherokee people, a few Cherokee words were mostly likely mistranslated. The Cherokee word for ‘green place’ is Itse’yi and the Cherokee word for ‘brass’ is Untsai’y.
- You’re reading ‘Brasstown Bald: Your Guide to Hiking Trails, Photography & More’. Interested in exploring more Native American history? Get our guide to exploring the Navajo Nation throughout Arizona!
Things To Do at Brasstown Bald
If you’re headed to Brasstown Bald, you’ve probably seen pictures of the incredible views from the Observation Deck at the highest point in Georgia. While the 360-degree views are certainly a spectacular reason to visit, this region of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest has much to do for visitors. We loved our trip so much – we’re even adding it to our list of all the Best USA Honeymoon Destinations This Fall! So what can you expect from spending a day at the park?
Start your day exploring Brasstown Bald by taking an early morning hike to the Observation Deck to watch the sunrise. The trek can be hard, but the best part is that it’s paved! You’ll walk through tunnel like groves of curling rhododendrons while the world starts to wake up and it’s truly an amazing expereince.
After you’ve watched the sunrise over the Appalachian Mountains, head to one of the surrounding trails. The Jack’s Knob Trail is harder so tackle this hike earlier in the day! You’ll have about 3 hours until lunch which is plenty of time to complete this 4-5 mile trail. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, refuel at the Observation Deck’s picnic tables, all while enjoying the spectacular views over the misty Blue Ridge.
Brasstown Bald Visitors Center
After enjoying the sunrise, hiked a bit and had some lunch – explore the Visitors’ Center’s 8,000 square feet of exhibits. Visitors can expect displays of natural and archeological finds throughout the park detailing the history of Brasstown Bald. There’s even a short film about rapidly changing weather patterns at the Visitor’s Center’s Mountain Top Theater below the Observation Deck.
IMPORTANT NOTE: You can’t climb to the top of the fire tower. It’s not open to the public.
Another interesting feature of the Visitors Center is the collection of biological exhibits. With over 700 native plant species in the Blue Ridge mountains and many interesting indigenous animals, the Visitors’ Center is a must-do for anyone with kids! River otters, black bears, bald eagles, and Eastern Tiger Salamanders can be seen throughout the region surrounding Brasstown Bald. On a day with clear skies, you might even see bald eagles swooping through the air over the treetops!
**Restrooms are also available at the Bald’s Visitors Center.**
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Once you’ve perused the exhibits and stopped for a picnic with spectacularly unobstructed views of 80 miles of mountains, set out for one last hike. If you have tons of energy (and time) try some of the less-traveled harder trails of the park including Arkaqua Trail and the Wagon Train Trail. (The Arkaqua Trail at Brasstown Bald for stunning views of Brasstown Valley below.)
If you’re short on time after exploring the Visitors’ Center, or just want to cool off, head to a nearby waterfall with only a 0.2-mile hike in! (Find out more on this awesome waterfall and swimming hole below.)
Brasstown Bald Hiking Trails
The best way to get to the Brasstown Bald Observation Deck is by taking the Brasstown Bald Summit Trail. This 1.1-mile out-and-back trail starts at the Visitors center and snakes its way through the steep 390-feet elevation change to reach the Observation Deck. **Note that if you’re hiking to the Observation Deck early in the morning, the Visitors’ Center and exhibits underneath will be closed. Also, pay attention and watch for bears.. you’re in the mountains!!
- JACK’S KNOB TRAIL (4.6 miles – HARD): There’s alot of dissention on how long this trail actually is – mostly due to the many offshoots to other trails in the Appalachian region. Starting from the lower Brasstown Bald parking lot, you’ll head South towards Jack’s Knob. Be prepared for alot of switchbacks and very steep grade. We highly reccomend bringing water and snacks!! Alltrails guide here.
- ARKAQUA TRAIL (11.5 miles – HARD): This out an back trail starts at Trackrock Gap Road at the Track Rock Petroglych Archeological Site. Hikers can either end their trip at the top of Brasstown Bald taking in the scenic vistas, which would only be about 5.8 miles, or hike the trail back. This trail is known for it’s steep inclines with a stretch of switchbacks about 1.5 miles in. The trail will take you roughly 6-8 hours to complete! (May be more of a day two type hike during your stay in Brasstown!) We reccomend starting from Trackrock Gap Road because that way the hardest part of the climb is over on the first half. AllTrails guide here.
- The Wagon Train Trail (13.1 miles – MODERATE): Another hard trail in Brasstown Wilderness with great views! AllTrails guide here.
- GURLEY FALLS AT ENOTA RETREAT (0.4 miles – EASY) – A great waterfall and swimming hole rewards those who drive the short distance from Brasstown bald to Gurley Falls. Only 0.2 miles in, this is an easy trail after a long day of hiking in that Georgia heat! AllTrails Guide Here.
The Brasstown Bald Summit Trail
Brasstown Bald Summit Trail (0.6 miles) | AllTrails Guide Here
The steep out and back paved trail is most easily accessed through the main Brasstown Bald Parking lot. The incline is around 760 feet/mile, and you’ll be walking through the dark completely if you’re catching a sunrise or sunset. Remember what we said about watching for bears!!
At about 0.1 miles you’ll cross the Wagon Train Trail, and then at 0.4 miles, you cross the shuttle road. There will be a set of stairs for you to continue on the shortcut through the rhododendrons.
On our hike, we made sure to bring headlamps to stay hands-free! This is especially important if you’re doing a sunrise or sunset hike carrying photography gear. All of that tends to be heavy and you want to make sure you’re paying attention to where you walk. Another thing – we also wish we had brought a thermos (and cups) with hot tea or coffee!
Hiking Trails Near Brasstown Bald
Spending a few days in North Georgia? We have three more hikes you must do near Brasstown Bald. You could spend almost 2 weeks hiking everything you want to see in the southern portion of the Appalachian Mountains in Georgia but not all trails will lead you to those epic destinations. (We hiked almost 26 miles in 5 days to make sure to cover all of the best trails for our readers!)
Here are a few handy destination guides near Brasstown Bald:
- Toccoa Falls: The 186-foot waterfall at Toccoa College. Find everything you need to know including how much it costs to go.
- Tallulah Gorge State Park: There’s so much to do here including one of the best trails we’ve EVER hiked and a beach for campers.
- Bell Mountain: Probably one of the most surprising parts of our trip after the Brasstown Bald? Bell Mountain has epic views as well – but with a twist!
Other attractions close to Brasstown Bald include Anna Ruby Falls, the adorable German village of Helen, and Lake Russell Recreation Park.
Get on our list and be notified as soon as we release our posts on hikes in Georgia including our upcoming guide to the best waterfalls in North Georgia!
Can you drive up Brasstown Bald?
No, but you can still get there without walking. If your group includes anyone needing handicap assistance or they’re just tired, Brasstown Bald offers handicap-accessible options. The park runs a shuttle service to reach the Bald’s summit, accompanying Observation Tower and Visitors Center.
Personal vehicles are not allowed to drive up the shuttle road.
Photography Tips for Early Morning
If you’re a budding photographer, or even a seasoned one, you might benefit from these tips to capture the morning light atop the mountain. First things first: remember that it’s super windy at the top of the Observation Deck. You’ll want to make sure to have everything strapped down, and that includes all of your non-photography gear. The last thing you want is for something to go flying and then to knock your gear over the edge!
There are benches and such to unpack your equipment – just remember you won’t be up there alone. We wouldn’t suggest leaving your equipment laying around. We made sure that the tripod and camera were weighted down with our backpacks and didn’t go far away from our gear. You’ll also need a decent lens. Your average iPhone or higher aperture lens won’t be able to capture those sunrise colors as well!
General Sunset Manual Mode Setting Suggestions: Low ISO (100-200), High Aperature for Landscapes (f/8-f/11)
- Wide Angle / Low Aperature Lens – We used a 30mm 1.4F Sigma prime lens!
- Decent Camera Body – we use the mirrorless Sony a6400 (Sony a6500 is the latest version). (A phone probably won’t be good enough in these situations!)
- Peak Tripod – We love this one to make sure that it’s weighted! The Observation Decks at Brasstown Bald are incredibly windy since they’re the highest point in Georgia – nothing blocks the winds rolling through the mountains.
- Peak Camera Clip – For any shooting on the way down, we love this handsfree camera clip! (Works in tandem with the Peak tripod!)
The Best Time To Visit Brasstown Bald
As we mentioned before, Brasstown Bald is one of Georgia’s most popular attractions across the state. The best time to visit Brasstown Bald and have the place mostly to yourself is early morning. For hikers that like more remote destinations, the Bald has the potential to be one of them if you time it right.
In our experience, another couple came up who were photographers from Atlanta. As fellow adventurers and photographers, they were respectful of our space and need for quiet to really enjoy the morning. As anyone who travels somewhere at O’dark thirty knows, silence can really make the moment!
- If you’re a photographer or travel blogger, getting there before sunrise was absolutely amazing, but definitely requires planning. It took us about 25 minutes to hike to the top with our gear and the steep climb! That includes all of our water, extra layers for the mountain top, and camera gear. (Not to mention that it’s early in the wee hours of the mornin’ and thats not always the time we’re all mentally clear ya know?) So when all is said and done – just make sure to give yourself some extra time!
If you don’t care about other people being around and you’re interested in seeing as far as the eye can see (perhaps even the Atlanta skyline on clear days?), you can go at almost anytime. The best time to go to Brasstown Bald for fall foliage will most likely be early September! Those crisp fall days with not a cloud in sight will give you spectacular views of the Chattahoochee National Forest as well as low humidity so you can see for miles.
- Looking for more epic sunrises & sunsets? Read The 17 Prettiest Sunsets Across the USA.
Brasstown Bald Weather
Because the Brasstown Bald Observation Deck sits atop Georgia’s tallest point in the mountains, visitors can expect rapidly changing conditions. This includes frigid winds! As we mentioned before, it’s the tallest mountain around. Nothing blocks the wind and you can expect temperatures to be a solid 10 degrees cooler at the top of the mountain vs. the surrounding towns. (That doesn’t even include the windchill!)
The cool air around Brasstown Bald means it’s also a perfect summer hike if you’re trying to escape that Georgia heat! Either early morning or in the afternoons as the sun sets will be nice and cool. Beyond prepping your clothes, hiking to the top of the Bald is also time to make use of all of those easy travel hairstyles. You’ll either be hot and sweaty or trying to avoid the crazy wind!
- Make sure to pack layers. (Scarves and hats in the winter and a sweatshirt even on the warmer days.) After you’ve hiked up the hill you’ll be sweaty, and the wind chill can be brutal! In our guide to what to pack in your hiking daypacks, we cover all other essentials to making it to the top and enjoying the chilly mountain air.
Directions to Brasstown Bald
The closest town to Brasstown Bald is Blairsville Georgia, which is 9 miles away. If you start your directions heading that way from any direction, you’ll be headed in the right direction. From the USDA Forest Serivce:
‘ From Blairsville, Georgia take US 19 & 129 south for 8 miles. Turn left (east) onto Georgia 180. Go 9 miles to Georgia Spur 180 and turn left (north). Go 3 miles to the Brasstown Bald parking lot.
…there is no physical address for the facility. We suggest using the longitude and latitude coordinates for the intersection of Highway 180 and Spur 180 which will provide the most accurate GPS directions. They are N34.847894, W83.798567.’
- Is Brasstown Bald in the Blue Bidge region? Yes – sitting high above the Chattahoochee National Forest.
- What city is Brasstown Bald in? Brasstown Bald is in Blairsville, but there are a few towns within 30 minutes including Helen and Hiawassee.
IMPORTANT NOTE: A lot of times the GPS directions to Brasstown Bald are wrong! That happened to us and we really had to huff and puff to get to the Observation Deck for sunrise – and have enough time to set up camera equipment!
When you get to the parking lot, you’ll notice that it’s massive. That alone should tell you how popular this attraction is? Take our word for it when we mentioned going early on a weekday! (Sunrises are just as incredible as sunsets when there aren’t any people around!) Restrooms and a small gift shop are located at the entrance where you purchase your tickets.
QUICK ROAD TRIP TIP: On the drive to Brasstown Bald, you’ll most likely lose cell service. Make sure to download a few episodes of your favorite travel podcasts or your favorite playlist. (The radio will probably only play Christian music and a mix of oldies country and rock.)
Need a little help with road trip planning? Get our guides to the best Roadtrip Stops off I-65 and 50+ Sugar-Free Roadtrip Snacks. You’ll be there in no time!
Tickets & Passes
Tickets to Brasstown Bald are easy to get and they hardly ever sell out (although the parking lot can get pretty full on spring and fall days!)
- Visitors Center, Day Use Area & Shuttle Access: $5/person (Ages 16+)
- After Hours: $3/person (16+) – Honor system using the yellow park envelopes!
- Acceptable Park Passes for FREE Entry: America The Beautiful Interagency Pass or Golden Pass Holders
NOTE: The sticker you get for access to Brasstown Bald for the day also covers the cost of your shuttle pass. Just make sure you don’t lose your sticker/passes!
Where To Stay Near Brasstown Bald
When we traveled through this region it was at the height of Covid. We knew we would need safe accommodations so we booked a private cabin. However, if times had been normal, we would’ve loved to head to some of the resorts and inns in the region. Southern hospitality knows no equal!!
- Brasstown Valley Resort: An award winning resort with golfing, a full service spa and exceptional views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
- The Ridges Resort on Lake Chatuge: Known for its gorgeous pool overlooking the lake, Splash Island available for kids and onsite gourmet restaurants.
Interested in staying at any other gorgeous Southern resorts? Scour our guide on The 14 Best Southern Resorts and Hotels for your next romantic weekend or family getaway!
The Best Restaurants Near Brasstown bald
The three closest towns the Bald are Blairsville, Helen, and Hiawassee. Regardless of which one you chose there will be decent options at all three. We ended up leaving after our sunrise trek to the top of Brasstown Bald and heading towards Helen. We already wanted to explore for the day so it made sense to head in that direction.
However, we were traveling all through the region so we got to try quite a few incredible places throughout the region. (There’s amazing seafood in this region because rivers and lakes wind all through the mountains!)
- Lala’s Kitchen in The Mountains: Love this little place for breakfast, especially after hiking up to the top of Brasstown Bald!!
Address: 53B Merchants Walk Blairsville, GA 30512
- Mike’s Seafood Market: This restaurant is so good we ate there twice in 5 days! (There will be a long line– if you don’t have kids, shimmy on up to the bar and bypass the line!)
Address: 40 A Butternut Crossing, Blairsville, GA 30512
Brasstown Bald State Park FAQ’s
- Is Brasstown Bald dog friendly? Yes! Get the Ultimate Guide To Hiking With Dogs here.
- Is Brasstown Bald a National Park? No. The America The Beautiful Pass won’t work here.
- How tall is Brasstown Bald? 4,784 feet above sea level.
- Is Brasstown Bald the highest point in Georgia? Yes
- Is Brasstown Bald part of the Appalachian Trail? No. Find more information on the Appalachian Trail through Georgia here.
- How long is the Brasstown Bald hike? 1.2 miles total.
- What time does Brasstown Bald open? The hiking trails are 24/7, but the Visitors’ Center opens at 10 AM Thursday-Monday.
- What time does Brasstown Bald close? The hiking trails are 24/7, but the Visitors’ Center closes at 5 PM Thursday-Monday.
- Is Brasstown Bald handicap accessible? Yes! (Scroll up for more information.)
Get all of your questions answered about camping, photography, and hiking at Brasstown Bald? Since you’ll be in the South, we have a ton of guides ready to share about all of our favorite trips around Southern portions of the USA.
Directly west of Georgia, Alabama is the closest neighboring state. We have guides for all the fun things to do in Alabama on a 14-day road trip and even some winter-friendly activities!
- Stephen’s Gap Cave – A great winter hike!
- How to Spend 48 Hours in Rocket City: Huntsville, Alabama
Are you a little further away but still want to head South? Get our guides for exploring one of our countries most recognizable landscapes: Monument Valley, and then head even further south into Sedona to find Soldier’s Pass Cave.
For a few underrated hiking destinations, try Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia or the stunning group of waterfalls in Big South Fork Kentucky. We promise you won’t be disappointed!
Since Brasstown Bald stays open all year long, combine this trip with another USA road trip or get inspired to plan the next month’s adventure. We have guides for the best destinations in February (USA & Worldwide), the best USA road trips in July, where to travel in August, where to see fall foliage in September, and even where to escape to in December.
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Until next time friends,
What a beautiful view! Must be great to watch the sunset from over there ?
What an interesting read! Such a beautiful place to visit, but so sad so learn that the Cherokee people had their land taken from them. I think it’s so important that you included the history of the area. Hiking to the observation tower for sunrise looks like such an incredible experience!
I have never heard of Brasstown Bald. Another place in the U.S. I have to add to my hiking bucket list. I love there are several trails here for different skill levels which makes it accessible to everyone.
Love this guide, your photos are beautiful. I’ve always wanted to see the Blue Ridge Mountains. And going up to the highest point in Georgia would be so fun!
It looks really pretty and your photo tips are great! It would be a chore to get my DH to wake up early enough, but I’m sure the late afternoon option would work LOL.
Gorgeous photos! I envy people who can get up early to see the sunrise! LOL. The Blue Ridge mountains look amazing!
Ahhhh, looks as though I need to go back to the Blue Ridge Parkway and head on over to Georgia this time. So beautiful.
Ooooh this looks like a fabulous area for hikes! Both the Jack’s Knob and the Arkaqua trails sound great fun! It looks coooool to see the views at sunset, but those colours and views to yourself seem totally worth it. 🙂
p.s. I didn’t know the knob vs peak rules. We have a “West Knob” near Vancouver that has “knob creek” whiskey hidden at the top if you ever fancy hiking here!