GEORGIA: Brasstown Bald and Track Rock Gap Archaeological Site

Brasstown Bald is the highest point in Georgia, which makes it a pretty good place to get a good view and possibly also struck by lightning. As humans generally like to be high up and also generally forget to consider the whole lightning thing till it’s too late, there is a really cool building you can stand on the roof of at the top of Brasstown Bald. Ideally not during a thunderstorm though. For those not in to being zapped, if it is raining you can go check out the nearby Track Rock Gap Archaeological Area, which is a petroglyph site at the bottom of Brasstown Bald.

Is it goat approved? Uh. I think you can answer that one on your own.

How you get there: Google it! Brasstown Bald is the highest point in Georgia…this shouldn’t be a hard one to find. The Track Rock Gap Archaeological Area is at 34.882316, -83.878733.

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Parking for Brasstown Bald

Time for hike: The distance for this hike is about mile out and back at Brasstown Bald and negligible wandering around at the archaeological site. The trail runs from the parking area to the summit, and while the grade is significant the trail is paved and probably rated from even the less well made baby stroller. For a less…lame…hike try the Arkaquah Trail that runs from the Track Rock Archaeological Site to the summit of Brasstown Bald at 5.5 miles one way. and 11 mi round trip. I will be doing that on a less icy day though as I hear it has a lot of rock drop offs and I prefer not to die.

Best season to do this hike: Year around, but in the winter payment is on the honor system. However, the buildings (and bathrooms) are also closed in the winter too.


Trails to Take

BRASSTOWN BALD

The trail starts at the large parking area, (no really, this thing is huge). The trail-head is between the bathrooms as the park store in the cabins. The only spruce I have ever seen in Georgia is right next to the trail head too. The trail itself is paved and ascends rapidly through rhododendron thickets. There are benches at each switch back. Halfway up the trail cross the Wagon Trail. The Wagon Trail is actually an old wagon road constructed by convict labor. Now, the sign says it was built in the 1950s, which is contemporary with the use of convicts for really crummy construction projects in the Southeastern US. However, the sign also says that local families got together in “wagon trains” to use the road to go visit other settlements. Okay, I know this is North Georgia and all, but seriously, they had something better than buckboards as recently as the 1950s right?

Anyway, I digress. The trail continues up, crosses the road to the summit, turns and corner, and wah lah! A really awesome forestry tower comes into view. During the winter these buildings are closed, but the staircase to the roof remains open, allowing visitors to take in the 360 degree viewing platform at the top. You can see Hiawassee and Yonah Mountain from up here!

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TRACK ROCK GAP ARCHEOLOGICAL AREA

The archaeological area is more popular as a place to park and access Arkaquah Trail than as an archaeological site it seems like. The tiny parking area only fits about 3 cars, so you may have to park on the side of the road to go see it. The trail starts behind the forestry service sign identifying the site. It’s very short and ends at a pile of unremarkable looking rocks identified with numbers. This is the archaeological site. The petroglyphs are best viewed in glancing light like you get at sunrise or sunset because they are cut into dark, worn rock unlike their more familiar Southwestern cousins.

The petroglyphs mostly consist of animal tracks, medicine wheel like designs, and human figures, many overlapping one another as several different carvers visited the site. One boulder has jagged notches in it, theorized to be from ritualized noise making. In general, the petroglyphs are not spectacular, and the site has seen historical vandalism (two petroglyphs have been removed from one boulder), however, the fact that petroglyphs exist at all in the rainy, erosion prone and heavily populated North Georgia mountains is pretty impressive. It makes you wonder if there aren’t other sites buried in leaves and slowly eroding away under our torrential thunderstorms  somewhere.

 

BE WARNED

  1. Brasstown Bald has an entrance fee, and is a popular tourist attraction. The winter is the best time to have it to yourself.
  2. The parking area at Trap Rock Gap Archeological area can just about hold 3 cars. As it is a popular place to park to hike Arkaquah Trail it can be difficult to get a spot.

In sum: 

The say the view from the top is lonely. I say the view from the top of Georgia is really freaking cold when the wind picks up!

 

 

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