Hike 3.4 miles on the moderate to strenuous Dockery Lake Trail in Lumpkin County, Georgia, to find the Appalachian Trail approach, wilderness, small streams, and good views.
By Tim Homan
Starting at about 2,420 feet, Dockery Lake Trail ascends 200 feet through a predominantly oakpine forest in the first 0.3 mile, then turns left and slants off the ridge into a cove. Carolina silverbells, also known as snowdrop trees, abound in the cove. Look for small, often stooped trees that have elliptical leaves and longitudinal yellowish streaks on their small branches. Drooping, bell-shaped white flowers open in mid-April. Blooming later, through most of May and into early June, flame azaleas are common in the surrounding forest. Their blossoms vary from pale yellow to fiery orange-red.
The wide, well-marked trail continues to descend, often beside small tributary streams of Waters Creek, to mile 1.1. Almost as soon as it stops going down, it goes up. Across a small stream at mile 1.2, the climb to Miller Gap and the Appalachian Trail begins at about 2,040 feet. The next 0.5 mile, which follows a moderate-to-strenuous gradient, is the most difficult part of the ascent. At mile 2.0 the path rises above a small cascade on a feeder stream flowing toward Pigeon Roost Creek. To the right, especially in winter, there is an excellent view of the upper Waters Creek watershed, its valley wild and completely forested. The highest mountains visible to the east are Buck Knob, Pigeon Roost, and Columbia Ridge.
As you pass through forest that includes red maple, eastern hemlock, eastern white pine and Fraser magnolia, the path steadily works its way up to a gap at mile 2.8, then curls to the left onto a former roadbed. The remainder of Dockery Lake Trail ascends gently to its upper end at Miller Gap (3,005 feet) on the white-blazed Appalachian Trail. This trail junction occurs along Section 2 of the Appalachian Trail between Woody and Neels Gaps. The stretch of trail from approximately mile 1.2 to Miller Gap lies within the 7,800-acre Blood Mountain Wilderness.
Mile 0.4: Trail enters a cove with many Carolina silverbells and flame azaleas. Mile 2.0: View of adjacent ridges.
Mile 3.2: Trail follows a ridge crest with winter views of adjacent ridges.
From Stonepile Gap, where US 19 splits from GA 60 north of Dahlonega, continue on GA 60 North. Slightly more than 3.6 miles beyond the gap, turn right onto unpaved FS 654 across the highway from the large Dockery Lake sign. Proceed straight ahead on FS 654 for approximately 1.0 mile, then turn left where the road forks and follow the sign for picnicking, fishing, and hiking to the picnic area parking lot. Dockery Lake Trail starts behind its trailhead sign at the back of the Dockery Lake picnic area parking lot.
This hiking guide to the Dockery Lake Trail is adapted from The Hiking Trails of North Georgia by Tim Homan and is published in cooperation with the publisher, Peachtree Publishers. With his meticulous attention to detail and accuracy, Homan has long been recognized as the authority on North Georgia hiking trail by serious hikers. His other books include Hiking Trails of Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock and Citico Creek Wilderness, Hiking the Shining Rock and Middle Prong Wilderness and others. For a complete inventory of his books see his Amazon, Author Page. For an inventory of Peachtree Publishers books including its Nature books for children, go to the Peachtree Publishers website.