Hike 2.7 miles on the easy-to-moderate Slaughter Creek Trail in Union County, Georgia, to see the Appalachian Trail Approach, small streams, and wilderness.
By Tim Homan
Slaughter Creek and Jarrard Gap Trails share the same treadway for their first 0.2 mile. Like Jarrard Gap and all other approaches to the Appalachian Trail, Slaughter Creek is blue blazed. And also like Jarrard Gap, Slaughter Creek trail is composed of a series of old roadbeds connected by constructed paths.
Slaughter Creek gains 1,000 feet in elevation, but does so gradually over its 2.7-mile length. There are no grades that would be considered strenuous. Most of the ascent is accomplished by easy-to-moderate grades, which often alternate with sections that are level or dip slightly to stream crossings.
Where Slaughter Creek and Jarrard Gap Trails split, Slaughter Creek Trail continues straight ahead across the road. Back into the evergreen thickets of rosebay rhododendron and mountain laurel, the path quickly rises to the slopes above the creek, where it remains until it dips to a junction at 0.7 mile. Here the trail turns right at the intersecting roadbeds and continues to follow Slaughter Creek up its watershed. Beyond this turn, in winter, you can see the prominent rock slabs that extend up Slaughter Mountain’s southwestern flank.
At mile 1. 7 the trail angles onto a rocky old logging road that closely follows Slaughter Creek up a hardwood cove. After the heath thickets disappear, the stream becomes much more visible, the forest more open. Stumps from past logging days still dot the cove. Those stumps and logs bleached light gray are vestiges of the chestnut blight.
The trail crosses its namesake creek, the last of many stream crossings, at mile 2.2. Forty-five yards farther, it turns uphill toward the gap. The final 0.3 mile climbs a moderately difficult slope that supports a forest increasingly dominated by oaks.
Slaughter Gap is a major trail junction. The Appalachian Trail enters the gap, then turns 90 degrees to the right. The gap is also the eastern end of the Duncan Ridge Trail, which quickly leads to Vogel State Park’s Coosa Backcountry Trail.
For a longer day hike from Lake Winfield Scott Recreation Area, connect Slaughter Creek Trail with a 1.0-mile segment of the Appalachian Trail to reach the top of Blood Mountain. If you want to walk toward Blood Mountain and its superb vistas, do not turn right onto the Appalachian Trail. Instead, walk Slaughter Creek Trail almost straight across the opening and follow the white-blazed trail after it has turned right.
The trail from Slaughter Gap to the crest of Blood Mountain is surprisingly easy, considering that Blood Mountain (4,461 feet) is one of Georgia’s highest peaks. While the trail does wind steadily uphill, there are no long, uninterrupted steep grades. Actually, after you have reached Slaughter Gap – at 3,860 feet a very high gap in Georgia – much of your elevation gain is behind you.
If you plan to continue walking from the end of Slaughter Creek Trail, you may want to remember that the last source of easily obtainable water is at mile 2.2, where the trail crosses Slaughter Creek.
Because of excessive rutting and erosion on the old-road segments of this trail, the Forest Service has rerouted most of those segments onto a new footpath. While the mileage has changed very little, the trail itself is much improved.
Beyond the 1.8-mile mark, the trail remains within the 7,800-acre Blood Mountain Wilderness.
Mile 1.8: Trail enters the Blood Mountain Wilderness and ascends through a mature hardwood forest.
Lake Winfield Scott Recreation Area is located on the east side of GA ISO 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 ISO junction in Suches, turn right onto GA ISO 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 ISO junction (0.4 miles north of Vogel State Park entrance) travel approximately 6.S 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.
The Slaughter Creek trailhead starts at its sign at the south end of Lake Winfield.
This hiking guide to the Slaughter Creek 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.