Benton MacKaye Trail
Section: Springer Mountain to Three Forks
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Length: 6.1 miles (one-way)
Blaze Color: White Diamonds
Hiked on: August 8th, 2008
The Benton MacKaye Trail (BMT) is named in honor of the man who
originally envisioned the Appalachian Trail (AT).
The BMT and the AT cross and sometimes share footpaths in three
areas. Like the AT, the BMT's
southern terminus is located atop Springer Mountain in Georgia near
Amicalola Falls State Park. The
two trails share the same footpath or cross footpaths a few times after
leaving the summit of Springer Mountain.
The BMT and the AT cross again near Fontana Lake at the southwestern
end of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The northern terminus of the BMT is located at the northeastern side
of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park where it once again meets with
First of all, the trail length above deserves some explanation.
The 6.1 mile trail length is the length from the beginning of the BMT
near the summit of Springer Mountain to the section end at Three Forks.
Three Forks is a place where three creeks meet to form one.
This area is also a popular place for camping because of the scenery
and close proximity to a Forest Service road.
The beginning of the BMT atop Springer Mountain is approximately 0.7
trail miles from the closest parking area.
In other words, you will be forced to walk 0.7 miles on the AT just
to reach the beginning of the BMT.
Additionally, if you want to see the actual summit of Springer
Mountain where the Appalachian Trail begins, you will walk an additional 0.4
miles round trip. Depending on
how you decide to hike it, it could be as little as a 6.8 mile hike and as
much as 7.2 miles. The trail
profile, in the right-hand pane, shows the trail profile from the beginning
of the BMT to its end at Three Forks.
From the Springer Mountain parking area, cross the Forest Service
road and locate the white rectangular blazes of the AT.
Head in a westerly direction and then to the south as the trail heads
to the summit of Springer Mountain.
After approximately 0.7 miles, you will reach an intersection of the
AT and the southern terminus of the BMT.
Continuing ahead for 0.2 miles on the AT will lead you to the summit
of Springer Mountain. When I
visited, I decided to walk to the summit as it is a very nice view.
I was rather shocked to see a film crew when I reached the summit.
When I inquired about what they were doing, I learned that they were
a film crew for National Geographic and they are doing a special on the
Appalachian Trail. They also
informed me that the special would probably be shown on television around
August of 2009.
If you decided to check out the summit, head back downhill 0.2
miles to the beginning of the BMT.
The BMT splits off to your right and the AT continues straight ahead.
I was impressed at how well someone has maintained this section of
the BMT on top of Springer Mountain; it was absolutely immaculate when I
visited. You will notice a
plaque commemorating the life of Benton MacKaye shortly after leaving the
trailhead. The trail begins as a
very nice walk as it descends down Springer Mountain.
Near the 0.6 mile point, the trail reaches a low point and then
begins to head uphill until mile point one where it resumes its modest
descent. At mile 1.4, the trail
reaches a side trail which leads to a rock outcrop and a fantastic view of
the mountains to the east. As
always, be very careful on these rock outcrops because they could be quite
treacherous when wet or icy.
The BMT continues to descend and reaches Forest Service road 42
about one-quarter of a mile beyond the rock outcrop.
The BMT continues straight across the road and the scenery begins to
change immediately. The tree
canopy is much thicker and the path is much darker.
The BMT crosses three streams at mile points 2.3, 2.7, and 2.8 as it
makes its way to it second intersection of the AT at mile point 3.2.
Cross the AT and continue in a westerly direction.
In approximately one-quarter of a mile you will reach a point where
the BMT turns to the right. Then
the BMT begins traveling in a northerly direction and crosses the AT once
again at mile point 4.1. After
crossing the AT for the second time, the BMT ascends for a short distance
and then, for the most part, it descends steadily for the remainder of this
section until it reaches Three Forks.
The scenery seems to change gradually, in a good way, as is
approaches Three Forks. The BMT
reaches joins the AT once again and they share the same footpath for the
remaining 0.1 miles to Three Forks.
I thought this was a nice hike.
There are a couple of great views in its relatively short length.
There are many long sections of trail in Georgia that are long and
offer no such views. Also, a
majority of the trail travels downhill so it is fairly easy to walk.
Of course, it is a quicker walk than many trails of this length
because of the downhill walking, as well.
In the map on the right-hand pane, the BMT begins at the
southernmost balloon and heads east, then back west crossing the AT.
It then travels in a northeasterly direction and cross the AT once
again. It continues in this
direction until it turns northwest and heads toward the northernmost balloon
on the map. At the northernmost
balloon (Three Forks) the two share the same footpath for some distance.
The solid blue trail in the map is the side trail that leads to Long
Creek Falls. The white trail
that has a blue line in the middle is the Duncan Ridge Trail joins the BMT.
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