Georgia: Brasstown Bald (4,784 feet)
Distance: 1 mile, RT
Elevation gain: 400 feet
Bathrooms: Only port-a-potties in the parking lot and at the top when we were there, but it seems as if actual bathrooms will be opening when the weather is consistently warmer
Entrance Fee: $5 per adult (children under 13 are free) (they accept National Parks passes)
When you’re a Summit Chick’s kid you come to accept that some of your play dates will be held at highpoints. And so it was with Brasstown Bald, Georgia’s highest point. Our families were able to match up vacations and highpointing trips to summit the Bald together, and we had so much fun. All of our kids were sick of road tripping with us by that point and were so excited to hike together.*
*Hiking when you’re between the ages of 4 and 7 means running away from your parents, hitting each other with stuffed animals, comparing snacks, climbing boulders, and throwing rocks at trees. Summit Chicks officially apologizes to anyone we met on the trail that day.
The adventure began with the friendly, but no-nonsense, elderly lady at the toll booth. She started the interaction by forcefully thrusting a butterfly net into the open driver’s window, with terse instructions to place our money inside. Equally entertaining was receiving our change in the net with the same burst of energy, as though the net was launching from the starting blocks of a race. The toll booth woman proceeded to weigh in with her opinion on the best way to arrive at the summit – by van. She explained that it’s “hard on the lungs going up and hard on the knees going down,” so just take the van. Included with the change were Brasstown Bald stickers, so the van driver would know we had paid. Our entire party conferred in the parking lot, making sure we were still on the same page about hiking it. We were, and so the fun began.
The trail itself is paved, nicely shaded, and wide enough for three of us to walk side-by-side. It’s not too steep, but the elevation gain comes in bursts with stretches of a low grade incline, interspersed with brief climbs requiring some effort, followed by level ground again. It’s fine for 4 year olds, so adults with walking ability can make it. If you get tired along the way, the mountain offers benches built from logs, which are a discussion centerpiece in themselves.
On the way up, we were surrounded by bugs, probably gnats. They were unnoticeable until we had to stop, which we did often so the kids could drink water, climb on rocks, or adjust their layers of clothing. Raina had the good fortune of swallowing at least three bugs on the way up. Try not to be jealous.
If you’re tired, injured, or in a hurry, opt for the shuttle bus that runs to the summit fairly regularly. Our advice, though, is to hike it, even if you just go one way. The walk enhances the adventure, so why pass it up?
The summit experience includes an observation deck and a museum. You probably wouldn’t expect much in the way of a museum at the top of Brasstown Bald, so this should far exceed your expectations. Most notably, the kids loved the interactive exhibits and the history geeks couldn’t stay away from the steam train. Rocking chairs that overlook the surrounding area are a nice way to make an afternoon of it. If you’re a National Parks passport stamp collector, the Brasstown Bald stamp is the best we’ve seen.
Be sure to ask the ranger to see the USGS marker. Brasstown Bald keeps it locked to prevent theft that has plagued several neighboring highpoints. The ranger is friendly and willing to escort interested parties to the marker.
The way down was a full sprint to keep up with the kids, so gnats were a non-issue. Making sure we didn’t trip over a bump in the pavement while keeping our kids in view was another story.
Near the trailhead, before returning to the parking lot is a lovely general store. This is your chance to stock up on necessities such as ice cream sandwiches, custom Brasstown Bald Christmas tree ornaments, and stickers for kids to play with in the car.
For more pictures of this highpoint, check out our gear review of the youth hydration packs.
We all had a great time at Brasstown Bald, and would love to visit again next time we’re in the area. It seems like you could spend a day or two exploring all of the trails, visiting the petroglyph site, and panning for gold. To date, both of us consider Brasstown Bald to be our favorite highpoint to bring kids. Well done, state of Georgia!