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Georgia Springer Mt to Neels Gap?


FishEyeGuy

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I posted this in the Southeast section forum, but realized it might be a better question to ask here.

Has anyone ever hiked this section of the Appalachian Trail (Springer Mt to Neels Gap)?  If I see the map correctly, it looks to be about 30 miles.  Does that sound right?

I'm bouncing around ideas of hiking a small section of the AT, and this section was suggested.  But I have so many questions.

Should I start at Neels Gap (and can I even park there)?

How hard do you think it will be to get a ride back to my truck if I hike it alone?

Is summer a good time to hike this section?

Any tips or insight would be much appreciated.

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Aaron Zagrodnick

I have not, but after a quick search of the forums it looks like @Scout may have hiked this stretch from some trip reports I’m seeing. Either way hopefully you can get some insight!

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There is a parking lot at Neels Gap just down the road (<.25 miles) from Mountain Crossings (a backpacking store). I would not count on hitching since it is a pretty rural area, you might get a ride, but you might not. I'd be shocked if there was not a shuttle service in the area.

Early summer would be a great time, let the thru-hiker bubble pass through first and hike sometime in May or June, later in the summer you start getting the potential for hot/humid weather.

I see you are from KY, have you consider the AT through the Smokies? Higher elevation would likely be cooler and it is a shorter drive and it would be easier to figure out a loop to avoid a shuttle or hitching. I can make suggestions for that if you are interested. You might also check out the "Standing Indian Loop" in NC, it is about 25 miles and basically does a big loop around a central valley/trailhead, no need for a shuttle. I just hiked this in Nov. https://backpackandbeer.blogspot.com/2018/11/standing-indian-loop.html

let me know if you have any questions

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In regards to shuttle services (hopefully it's okay to make a recommendation here, my apologies otherwise),  my hiking companions and I have used Ron's Appalachian Trail Shuttle service a number of times. Ron is a super nice guy and is very knowledgeable. His rates are also very reasonable. My recollection is that he is a former Park Ranger and that he's been shuttling AT hikers for a number of years now. His contact information is available on his Facebook page.

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angelfire

If you call Mountain Crossings, the outfitter at Neel's Gap, at (706) 745-6095, they will give you contact information for all the shuttle services serving that area. I have backpacked that part of the AT multiple times, but an even more beautiful section is from Neel's Gap to Dick's Creek Gap (37.9 miles) or Dick's Creek Gap to Winding Stair Gap (40.2 miles). Another favorite of mine is Nantahala Outdoor Center to the Fontana "Hilton" (28.8 miles). There is just no bad section of the AT in GA and NC, with the possible exception of the one you mentioned (due to over-use).

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JRinGeorgia

I've hiked this. Yes, about 32 miles, but...there is no road exactly at the trail's terminus on the Springer summit, so you have to add or subtract a little depending how you do it. You also have a choice at the Neels end. You definitely want a shuttle or other arranged ride.

When are you thinking of doing this?

At the Springer end, you can get to Springer (or from Springer back to a car) via the AT approach trail from Amicalola Falls, which is an additional 8-9 miles, but the falls are spectacular and might make taking the approach trail the preferred route. Or, there is a road crossing about a mile north of Springer, you can begin/end there and miss Springer itself, or else you'll have to double-back a mile. So, your choices there are:

  • add the 8-9 mile AT approach trail
  • start/end at the road crossing north of Springer and miss Springer
  • start/end at the road crossing north of Springer and include Springer, which adds about a 2-mile loop

On the Neels end, as noted above you can't leave your car at Neels Gap but at the parking lot for the Byron Reece trail, which is a short spur that connects the parking lot to the AT. From Walasi-Yi (the old Indian name for Neels Gap) to the Byron Reece parking is about 0.6 on the road, and I have hiked along the road but don't recommend it, there's no place to be truly safe and out of the way of cars coming by. By trail it is 1.6 miles between Byron Reece parking and Neels, but safer to hike. So, your choices there are:

  • start/end at the Byron Reece parking, take the Byron Reece trail to connect to the AT (not hike to Neels Gap)
  • start/end at the Byron Reece parking, take the Byron Reece trail to connect to the AT, double-back hike the segment to/from Neels Gap
  • start/end at Neels Gap (but no parking), not utilize the Byron Reece trail

You could do it either direction but I might recommend SOBO if you are going to end at Amicalola Falls. From Springer to Amicalola is virtually all downhill, or from the other direction it is virtually all uphill. And, a part of that is where you leave your car and if you want to do the shuttle on the front end or back end. Personally I would want the shuttle at the front end, so that when I'm done I get right in my car and go, no waiting and no trying to coordinate from the trail. As for where to leave your car, Amicalola probably is the safest, followed by the road crossing north of Springer, and last by the Byron Reece parking. I'm not saying Byron Reece is unsafe, but it is right off a paved road and yet is secluded, whereas the crossing north of Springer requires many miles of dirt/gravel forest road to access, and Amicalola is a state park so presumably gated and staffed at night.

Also note that the Byron Reece parking can fill up on weekends from roughly 10a-4p because Blood Mountain is a popular day hike. So if you were wanting to leave your car there plan to do so outside of those times.

If you start/end at Amicalola and are leaving your car there, you probably would be directed to park at the top of the falls. If you are ending there and leaving your car, you may ask if you can leave it near the bottom so that you can see the falls by coming down once at the end, not by walking past your car,coming down the falls and then facing a climb back up 750' or so at the very end of your hike. 

If you are not going to utilize the approach trail between Amicalola and Springer then direction is a coin toss to me. There's more up and down in the southern portion than 

Your shuttle driver can give you better advice about what most people do for your route. There is a list of shuttle services on the whiteblaze.net forum.

As for other sections, while I also like some other great AT sections in GA and into NC that Angelfire points out, you get Blood Mountain on the segment you are asking about (the highest point on the AT in GA and arguably the best view on the GA , or at least top-2), and Amicalola is a nice add-on. 

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