The James Edmonds Trail in Black Rock Mountain State Park is the longest and most remote trail available in the park, and it provides some of the best viewpoints in North Georgia that aren’t near the Appalachian Trail. There are also four backcountry campsites available as well along the trail (reservations required, call 800.864.7275).
The park itself, just north of Clayton, is Georgia's highest state park. The rocky outcroppings for which the park was named when it was founded in 1952 are comprised of dark biotite gneiss that underlay much of the Georgia Blue Ridge Mountains. The trail is named in honor of James E. Edmonds, one of the park’s earliest veteran rangers, and it does a fine job commemorating his work.
The trail begins along the Black Rock Mountain Parkway that runs to the visitor center at a picnic area with good signage. It descends through forest canopy along cascading streams featuring wildflowers for much of the summer, and it departs the trees to reveal the beautiful Black Rock Lake, which has a short 0.85-mile gravel loop with several small bridges that are worth the extra distance if you have time.
Once you leave the lake, the trail goes up, up, and up to 3,162-foot Lookoff Mountain, offering a stone clearing with guard rails that would make a perfect lunch spot to soak in the views of the Wolffork Valley and adjacent mountains. The return trip has an optional alternate route to see a different set of terrain that is definitely recommended, and it can be done in either order. Make sure to save energy for the last quarter of the hike, as it’s all back uphill to your car!