Hike 4.9 miles on this moderately difficult trail in Georgia’s Gilmer and Fannin counties, to see good winter views of Lake Blue Ridge and Aska Road valley and spring wildflowers.
By TIM HOMAN
While Stanley Gap is a new trail, much of its treadway is not. This ridge and upper-slope segment of trail, from Deep Gap to Stanley Gap, was part of the old Rich Mountain Trail, which no longer exists by that name. Stanley Gap Trail has either-end vehicular access. Because its Deep Gap end is easily reached by paved road, this description starts at Deep Gap and ends at Stanley Gap.
Walked as it is described, this trail heads southwest on Davenport Mountain and its ridges for roughly half its length. The route then bends to the southeast, climbing Rocky Mountain before descending with its ridges to the gap. Once it bends to the southeast, the trail follows the famous Blue Ridge and the Tennessee Valley Divide.
From the trailhead parking area slightly below Deep Gap (2,200 feet), walk the Flat Creek Loop for 0.1 miles to the signed beginning of the white-blazed Stanley Gap Trail, which leads up and to the right. The path winds through hardwood hollows as it rises to the upper southern slopes of Davenport Mountain, a Rocky Mountain spur. The route continues to ascend as it passes below Davenport’s crown and rises to the ridge top between Davenport and the unnamed (yet higher) peak further to the southwest. At 0.8 mile a green-blazed connector leads down and to the left 0.1 miles to Flat Creek Loop.
Instead of following the ridge top up and over each crest, the trail works its way up gradually, alternating between ridge top and upper slope. Where the ridge rises sharply, the path angles off it and ascends more slowly on the slope.
Continuing from the connector, the treadway climbs steadily with the ridge before slabbing to the left onto upper” slope and hollow. The trail continues to ascend through an oak-pine forest with occasional dense stands of Virginia pine and mountain laurel thickets. The white-diamond-blazed Benton MacKaye Trail ties in at mile 2.3 (approximately 3,160 feet) and shares the route.
Turning to the southeast, the two trails ascend toward the top of Rocky Mountain (3,442 feet) before angling onto its eastern flank. The route passes approximately 120 feet below Rocky Mountain’s crown as it begins its 1,000·foot descent to Stanley Gap. At mile 4.3 the Benton MacKaye splits away to the left. On its own again the path descends, occasionally through stands of pine. The trail’s final stretch follows a woods road to Stanley Gap (2,320 feet).
Stanley Gap Trail Highlights
Miles 1.0-4.6: Good winter views of Blue Ridge Lake, the city of Blue Ridge, Aska Road Valley, and ridges in all directions. South of Rocky Mountain there are winter views to the south and southwest of Big Bald (4,081 feet, south) and Cold Mountain (3,846 feet, southwest) only 3.0 miles away. Beyond those two mountains are the high peaks of the Rich Mountain Wilderness.
Miles 1.0-3.8: An open, mature, predominantly hardwood forest.
Directions to Stanley Gap Trail
To the northern, Deep Gap trailhead: Travel Aska Road for approximately 4.5 miles to the Deep Gap parking area. This parking area is to the right just past Deep Gap-the road’s highest point. The Stanley Gap-Flat Creek Loop junction is 0.1 miles from the trailhead at the back of the parking area.
To the southern, Stanley Gap trailhead: From Blue Ridge travel Aska Road for approximately 8.0 miles (3.5 miles past the Deep Gap parking area), then turn right onto signed Stanley Creek Road, also marked with a large Rich Mountain Wildlife Management Area sign. Proceed straight ahead on this wide, dirt-gravel road.
After approximately 3.2 miles you will pass pull-off parking on the right for the Benton MacKaye Trail (white diamond blazes). Continue another 0.8 miles to Stanley Gap (the road’s highest point), where a sign marks the road to the right that leads immediately to the trailhead park. ing area and bulletin board.
This hiking guide to the Stanley 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 Author Page on Amazon. For an inventory of Peachtree Publishers books including its Nature books for children, go to the Peachtree Publishers website.