Friday, March 29, 2013

Benton MacKaye Trail Day Hike to Long Creek Falls

Day Hike to Long Creek Falls on the Benton MacKaye Trail

     The Benton MacKaye (MacKaye rhymes with sky) trail was named for the man who envisioned the Appalachian Trail and can be accessed through the Blue Ridge Wildlife Management Area.  It includes about 300 miles of trails which intersects with the Appalachian Trail in several areas.  The drive in is on gravel road USFS Road 58; it's about a 6 mile journey to the parking area at Three Forks.  The beautiful drive is bordered with the Noontootla Creek on the right and mountain side on the left.  Noontootla Creek is a noted trout stream and we saw several occupied camp sites right next to the stream along the way.

Mountain side sneak peek on FS 58

     The road is single lane gravel, it is well maintained and graded, making it accessible with most vehicles.  However, there are no guard rails, and passing oncoming traffic is very tight.  Meeting opposing traffic was a little scary as you can't always see around the turns for oncoming traffic and it's a tight fit for two vehicles.  Drive with caution! I was glad my hike guide was driving!

Benton MacKaye and Appalachian Trail

     The Benton MacKaye trails intertwines with the Appalachian Trail here in Fannin County, Georgia and much of the trail shows the markers of both trails.  The Benton MacKaye trail marker is the diamond which is about 7 inches tall and 5 inches wide.  The Appalachian Trail marker is the rectangle which is about 7 inches tall and 3 inches wide.  Guided hikes are available through The Lilly Pad Village and can be arranged by calling (706) 534-1317.

     The Long Creeks Falls hike is an especially nice day hike, 1.1 miles in length to the falls, where paths are reserved for hikers only; no horses, mountain bikes or 4 wheeler's allowed.  It is a dog friendly trail and it was fun to see many dogs enjoying themselves along the way.  I was glad to have a guide who knew which side paths provided great photo opportunities and some assistance climbing the steep rocks next to the falls to get to the higher tiers.

Appalachian Trails and Benton MacKaye Trail sign post.

Let the hike begin!

The trail is a loop trail or called a lollypop trail.  You can see the lower trail if you look closely at the drop off.

Trail conditions varied from high and dry to muddy patches still wet from the recent snows.

A trail step allows the fallen tree
 to protect the path from washouts.

3/28/2013 trail conditions were partly muddy.
We crossed several lesser
streams along the way.

An unmarked side trail leads to a lesser falls.
Tree roots form the steps.  

Lesser falls along the hike up to Long Creek Falls.

Path view down to the base of Long Creek Falls.

Approaching Long Creek Falls now in full view.
The smaller broad leaved trees are Mountain Laurel which have beautiful white blooms in the spring.

Long Creek Falls closeup.
The falls are 50 feet high with two  distinctive drops.

Large boulders to the right of Long Creek Falls.
This is one of the oldest uncut Hemlock forests on the Eastern seaboard.

The climb up to the second tier of Long Creek Falls.
This is about a 40 foot climb up.
The scratch marks on the rocks are from dogs climbing.
I was glad my guide showed me the safest way to climb and where to
grab for support!

Close up of the second tier of Long Creek Falls.

View from the top of Long Creek Falls looking down stream.
Many miss this wonderful view, my guide said it was worth the climb.  It was!

Still more white water above Long Creek Falls looking upstream.

Further upstream a pretty little cascade.

A small wooden foot path over a steam
 allows dry passage during heavy rains.

Even further up steam a small foot bridge across Long Creek
which provides access from Springer Mountain.

Downstream view from the foot bridge.

Trail side eroded fallen tree trunk looks like a wooden fox.
My guide showed me this, I would have missed it had I gone on my own.

One of the many trail site camp sites.

Trail side camp site right next to Long Creek.
A great place to stop and enjoy a snack or picnic.

Long Creek as it runs right next to the camp site pictured above.

Back at Three Forks where the trails continues.
Pictured is a foot bridge across Noontootla Creek.

Noontootla Creek is noted for excellent trout fishing.

Noontootla Creek view from the foot bridge.

It was a fabulous day!  I hope you've enjoyed sharing it with me.