Rabun Bald

We’re #2 but we try harder Map

I haven’t climbed up a mountain in a while: partly because it’s hard work, but partly because my circle of friends has focused on other interests like biking and waterfalls. But when the year began, I put two mountain peaks on my list of things to do. We visited Currahee
in the spring, but I forced myself to wait for Autumn for my trek to the other place. Well, the wait is over, October is upon us, and last weekend I made my trek up to the summit of Rabun Bald.

Rabun Bald is Georgia’s Second Highest Mountain and its located way up in the Northeasternmost cranny of our state. The peak measures in at 4,696 feet. The best way to get there actually takes you on a quick trip through North Carolina, a few miles North of Dillard, Georgia. While being just about as far away to the Northeast as you can be, Rabun Bald is only just slightly over two hours away from downtown Atlanta, up I985 and US 23. The Hike begins at the end of an unnamed road past a few houses of Hale Ridge Road. The Parking on the Road is free, but be careful you don’t block any driveways or dirt roads. You’ll know the road by the steep incline after your right turn off Hale Ridge Road. My Sherpa Guide says that the road is gravel, but it has clearly been paved since the books printing.

Most documentation on the trail lists it as 4 miles round trip, and it certainly feels about that distance. However, the sign at the beginning of the trailhead reads 1.6 miles up, which cuts the overall distance by 8/10ths of a mile. Either way, it’s a pretty difficult climb with an ascent of 2350 feet over the 1.6-2.0 miles. There is nary a piece of flat stretch along the way. Even what passes for switchbacks have a good incline. That being said, it’s not the hardest I’ve seen and it’s only a 2 miles, don’t let this discourage you. There is a small flat space about .9 miles up for resting. There’s an old logging road just to the side, which I saw on 4WD Pickup truck drive up. We walked down this way for a change of scenery, and it’s a bit longer of a trek, which may make the whole trip add up to 4 miles.

The payoff at the top is without peer. At the top, there is the first fire tower built in the Geogia, way back in 1912. The fire tower was phased out of use in the 70’s and some industrious youth built a viewing platform there. On the top of this platform, it is said that you can see for 100 miles on a clear day in any directions. There is no clearer, unobstructed view within the state. The video at the bottom tries to capture this effect by standing in the middle of the platform and spinning slowly in a circle. I fear the pictures do not do proper justice to this incredible natural vista. And the October setting allows the first hints of turning Fall leaves. There’s an Indian Legend that says that the mountain is inhabited by fire breathing demon people, but they must have moved away some years ago.

So if you are looking for a challenging hike, or a tremendous mountaintop view, or a chance to see the Fall colors, this is just the ticket. I’ve seen a bevy of beautiful places on my journeys, but this might very well be the prettiest. I would love to the see the Sunset from this vantage point, but that would mean climbing down a steep trail in the dark. Rabun Bald, I thank you for an enjoyable Sunday Afternoon.

Trail Essentials
Approximate Time: 2-2.5 hours
Approximate Distance: 4 miles
Features: Wilderness, Tremendous Mountain View

Overall Rating: A

Scenic Quality: A+
Athleticism: A+
Solitude: A
Value: A
Parking: Free
Hours of Operation: No Formal listing
Facilities: None
Maps: here
County: Rabun

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