Held dear to many as one of the best hikes in Georgia, the summit of Blood Mountain hosts an array of rocky cliffs and clearings that make for dramatic vistas that draw hordes of day hikers on any fair weather day.
There is debate about what the name “Blood Mountain” actually refers to; some believe it is referencing a bloody engagement between the Creek and Cherokee Indian tribes, while others think it may simply be the red lichen that likes to grow near the summit. One thing is for sure: This 4458-foot summit should be experienced by anyone with a love of the North Georgia mountains.
Atop the summit sits a two-room stone shelter built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1934 that was included on the list of a National Register of Historic Places in 2013. It remains a great place to escape the hot sun or a torrential downpour if one happens to creep up on you during the hike.
The trailhead has very hotly contested parking spots. If the lot is full, park either at Neel’s Gap or Vogel State Park and take an alternate trail to avoid getting ticketed by park rangers. From the Byron Reece Trailhead there is a gentle climb up to Flatrock Gap where the Appalachian Trail turns right and climbs quite sharply across several stone clearings to the summit. On the way down the backside you will pass two trail junctions and a campsite loop on your left before the sign for the Freeman Trail appears as a left turn at Bird Gap. This is easy to miss, so keep an eye out.
The Freeman Trail undulates along the base of Blood Mountain across several streams and boulder fields before climbing back to Flatrock Gap and back to the trailhead. This is an excellent loop with fall colors, and it can easily be turned into a backpacking loop with the alternate trails and backcountry camping. Just make sure to bring plenty of memory cards for pictures!