There is one glaring downside to hiking Rabun Bald in the winter. In the summer, you get a gorgeous 360 degree view of the north Georgia mountains. In the winter if you are unlucky you get a cloud bank and wind so strong it makes all the goat’s hair stick out in the wrong direction like a bad blow dry job.
Still makes a fun short hike for the days when you don’t feel like committing to the real thing and/or want to bomb proof the four hoofed minion against dogs, people, backpackers, and general mayhem.
Is it goat approved? Dunno. I would however not suggest taking a goat during warm weather on the route I took because it looks like it is very busy in more comfortable climates. Coming up from Three Forks instead of from this parking area would probably be quieter, but the last bit of the trail coming from that direction is a serious climb.
How you get there: Google. The parking area is around 34.979000, -83.303067 . It’s not really parking so much as sticking yourself in one of the few spots that won’t block all the driveways or the forest service road. The last major turn before you get there is marked with a standard Georgia forest service sign in brown and gold that says Rabun Bald TRHD and Bartrum Trail.
Time for hike: The distance for this hike is around 3.2 miles round trip out and back to the lookout tower.
Best season to do this hike: WINTER. Otherwise you won’t be able to park, you won’t be able to move on the trail, and in general it will be a hassle. The only downside is you may not be able to see the view.
Trails to Take
From the parking area you want to walk up the gravel road. A sign and green blaze will show where the trail up to Rabun Bald separates from the forest service road. The forest service road will continue below you until it disappears around a bend.
Bartram Trail, (yellow blaze), will come in on your left, and now your big, wide trail will be yellow blaze instead of green. The trail winds up the mountain side, first through open woods, then through mountain laurel which provides superb protection from driving winter winds. However, it also provides the perfect microclimate for ice, which is abundant as you enter the mountain laurel.
There is a campsite half way to the look out, and the trail continues onwards through a pair of boulders.
The trail levels out shortly before the summit, though it was never a real climb to begin with anyway, and you will come up to a fork with two carved stone trail markers and a wooden sign in front of a campsite. Bartram continues to your right down to War Woman Gap. The look out tower and summit is to your left.
The view is supposed to be spectacular, but even in winter the fog bank can be pretty cool. After you’re done enjoying the ridiculous view and pondering who exactly (and how exactly) got those massive carved stone trail markers up here, time to head back down hill to the car.
- Get there early, the parking is very limited!
- If it is sleeting, snowing, or in general seriously icy weather it will be annoying going up this trail as it accumulates ice easily. Also, the viewing tower at the top might not be climbable.
In sum: When I look out from an overlook into thick mountain fog I always wonder, just for a second, if the rest of the world has vanished and all that remains of the vast history of the human race is me, fading away on a slowly disappearing mountain top.