I wanted to go to Springer Mountain while it was miserable outside to see the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. The Honda Fit actually made it within 1.8mi of the trail head…but it shouldn’t have. I got a lot of use out of those skid plates under the car and I still fully expect the bottom to fall out of the car on the way to work Monday. The roads at Jake’s Mountain aren’t meant for low ground clearance cars, so instead of continuing to commit automobile suicide an hours drive from any paved surface, I went to check out this trail instead.
Jake’s Mountain doesn’t have much water, and it has even fewer trails that run along water, however, Lance Creek Trail (223 A) does run along a substantial water course with lots of small rapids. The trail also passes possible still ruins and what looks like a covered hand dug well, suggesting there might be more house site ruins in the surrounding area. This particular hike goes slightly farther than the trail itself, ending at a less well known campsite beside the river.
Is it goat approved?Yes. I have done the bottom of this with a goat.
How you get there: Head for Jone’s Creek Campground at Jake’s Mountain (34.604849, -84.151070). The road in was passable (barely) by a Honda Fit. If you have a wide vehicle with low ground clearance you will not be able to drive down to the campground and I don’t recommend driving down Winding Stair Gap Rd either. This is the land of Jeeps and low taxes, so you kind of are expected to get there under your own power without maintained roads, cleaned out ditches, or filled in potholes.
Time for the hike: 5.45 mi round trip from the off trail campsite to the Jones Creek Campground.
Best season to do this hike: If you are camping come in the winter – the campground stays solidly full during the summer. Go all the way to the far end of the campground and get the site under the hemlock trees on the river. If you are not camping come whenever, but realize the start of the hike may be buggy as the area has lots of puddles and seeps.
Trails to Take
Park in the campground, or if you have the right vehicle, go past the campground, up the hill, and around the corner and park at the huge car ford. NOTE: The trail rapidly becomes non-car friendly on the far side of the ford, and the trail, though it looks like a road, has a car barrier a short way up it. So no jeep trails here!
However you park or camp, you want to pass through the campground towards a large open field, then over a bridge and past a campsite situated under surprisingly healthy hemlock trees. The road goes up a moderate hill, then turns a corner coming up alongside a large flowing river. Shortly thereafter a large ford presents itself to your left. Do not cross the ford, continue straight. You are now on 223A Lance Creek Trail.
The trail, looking much like an old road, travels through bottom land, passes a car barrier, and thereafter shortly passes what may be an old still site with rusted out metal barrels. After that watch for a pile of large rocks to the left of the trail which may be a covered hand dug well. Trail 223B Saddle Back Trail goes off to the right. If you want to bushwhack to the Appalachian Trail this trail will get you closer to the AT than 223A.
If you continue straight the trail gets closer to the water, culminating in a small off trail falls at 2 mi. Nearing 2.5 mi the trail crosses two streams, and then the main trail goes off to the left to continue the loop around on 223 Bull Mountain Trail. If you continue ahead on the still very visible old road bed you will come out of the dense mountain laurel to an open clearing where the road bed ends and the river cascades into a reasonable pool for soaking in hot weather. This area is an unofficial campsite that sees infrequent use. After some exploring, turn around and head back to the car!
- The drive in on Winding Stairs Gap Rd and on the road to the campground itself is GRAVEL. For those not from Georgia this means it’s a *@&!*( ride in a low ground clearance car. There will be potholes, rock faces, and the road will not be maintained. I made it to the campground in a Honda Fit, but I had a tough time and I had to stop at one point and dislodge a tree limb that hung between my tire and fender.
- If you were thinking of bushwhacking to the Appalachian Trail, it is about 1 mile from the end of this hike. That 1 mile is up a sheer wall of mountain laurel, loose soil, and drop offs into water. I turned around pretty quickly, but if you are gung ho, take 223B, it will get you a little closer, then be prepared to bushwhack up hill for a mile to reach the AT.
I had a good time. I cannot say the same for my car.