Hike 1.2 miles on the easy-to-moderate Jarrard Gap Trail in Union County, Georgia, to see the Appalachian Trail approach and wilderness.
By Tim Homan
Jarrard Gap Trail is an easy-to-follow, easily walked approach to the Appalachian Trail. Slaughter Creek Trail shares the trailhead and the first 0.2 mile of the treadway. After 0.1 mile of level walkway at 2,890 feet near Slaughter Creek, the trail turns left immediately before a footbridge. The path continues through rosebay rhododendron beside the creek, then crosses it on a single split log. On the other side of the creek, the path quickly reaches a wide dirt road, where the trails split. Slaughter Creek continues straight across the road; Jarrard Gap turns right and follows the road for 0.2 mile to a three-way intersection. The trail angles across the road that enters the intersection from the right, returning to the woods on an old Single-lane road blocked by boulders. The road’s entrance is marked with a double blaze and a trail sign.
For the next 0.4 mile the trail follows Lance Branch up its ravine. Most often, it remains on the hardwood slopes above the Slaughter Creek tributary. This section gains elevation gradually; its steepest grade is short and only moderately difficult.
At 0.8 mile the path crosses the branch. The remainder of the trail, still a combination of roadbed and path, rises to the gap. Again, the steepest grade is short and only moderately difficult. The trail turns right onto a single-lane dirt road 35 yards before its end at Jarrard Gap (3,300 feet) on the Appalachian Trail. This road provides access to nearby private property.
If you want to take a longer day hike from Lake Winfield Scott, Jarrard Gap can be walked as the first leg of a 6.2-mile loop beginning and ending at the lake. Once you’ve reached Jarrard Gap, turn left onto the white-blazed Appalachian Trail and continue 2.3 miles to Slaughter Gap, where you turn left onto Slaughter Creek Trail.
The final 0.3 mile of this trail is within the 7,800-acre Blood Mountain Wilderness.
Miles 0.5-1.2: Hardwood forest. Trail enters Blood Mountain Wilderness at 0.9 mile.
Lake Winfield Scott Recreation Area is located on the east side of GA 180 between GA 60 and US 19-129.
From Dahlonega, drive north on GA 60. At Stonepile Gap, where US 19 and GA 60 split, continue left on GA 60. At the GA 60-GA 180 junction in Suches, turn right onto GA 180 East and travel for slightly less than 4.5 miles. Turn right onto paved Lake Winfield Scott Road (FS 37) and into the entrance of Lake Winfield Scott Recreation Area. The trailhead sign and pull-off parking area are just beyond the bridge at the south end of the lake. (There is also a parking lot for hikers to the left before the lake.)
From the US 19-129-GA 180 junction (0.4 miles north of Vogel State Park entrance) travel approximately 6.8 miles on GA 180 West to the left turn onto Lake Winfield Scott Road (FS 37). This road is 0.7 mile beyond the first left turn into the recreation area.
This hiking guide to the Jarrard Gap 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.