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Experiencing Rabun Bald

Overview. Rabun Bald is one of the most iconic features in the Chattooga River watershed. From an observation tower on top of its 4,969 foot peak–the second tallest in the state of Georgia–hikers are rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views and a sobering sense of scale. It is a must do hike.

History. According to Native American legend, Rabun Bald is inhabited by fire-breathing demon people. It is somewhat ironic, therefore, that Rabun County’s first firetower was built on top of this majestic peak in the 1930s by Nick Nicholson, Georgia’s first forest ranger. The fire tower was managed by the U.S. Forest Service for the next forty years, providing fire management officials with strategic views of national forests in Georgia and North and South Carolina. After it was taken out of service, a Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) crew dismantled the tower’s uppermost component, a metal-framed enclosure with glass windows that sat atop a stone base. Leaving the stone base intact, the YCC crew replaced the metal “cabin” with a railed wooden observation platform. This observation platform remains today.

The Hike. Roundtrip: 4.2 miles; Difficulty: Moderate to difficult; Elevation gain: Approximately 1,100 feet

The quickest and most direct route to Rabun Bald is by way of the Bartram Trail, via the Beegum Gap trailhead. To access the Bartram Trail from the trailhead at Beegum Gap, ascend steeply to the south on an unmarked but well-worn path. After climbing through hardwood forest for approximately .25 miles, the trail reaches a junction with the Bartram Trail, which is marked by a yellow rectangle. Turn right and follow the Bartram Trail, climbing moderately to reach a roadbed crossing on the right at 0.8 miles. Here, veer left to remain on the Bartram Trail and ascend up the steep and increasingly narrow ridgeline via a quick succession of switchbacks. The trail tunnels through a dense thicket of rhododendron, emerging at the summit of Rabun Bald at 1.5 miles.

Getting There. From Dillard, GA, drive north on Highway 441 for one mile. Turn right on GA 246 towards Highlands, NC, and drive 4.3 miles to Old Mud Creek Road. Turn right and drive 2.9 miles to Kelsey Mountain Road. Turn right and drive 0.9 miles to the end of the road and trailhead at Beegum Gap.