The winter in North Georgia has been pretty mild so far this year–with highs in the upper 40’s and low 50’s, I thought I would take advantage of the mild temps for a New Year’s Eve hike. I set off for one of my favorite trails: the Slaughter Creek Trail in Suches, Georgia. I know, I know… who wants to hike a trail named SLAUGHTER? Very morbid, I know, but since I was going to access Blood Mountain from the Slaughter Creek Trail, it actually, got me a bit curious about how the names came about, so I did some research.
Living in the North Georgia mountains, there is a lot of Indian history in the area. Back in the 1600’s, the area that is now Lumpkin and Union County was home to the Cherokee and Creek Indians. Legend says that the Cherokee Indians wanted the land between the two mountains that the Creek Indians had claimed as their own. A great battle ensued, and legend says that the streams (Slaughter Creek being one of them) ran red with the blood of the dead Indians. The Cherokee Indians were triumphant over the Creek Indians and took possession of Blood Mountain, the highest peak in the region, on which the battle took place.
The Slaughter Creek Trail begins in the Lake Winfield Scott area. I usually park in the area that borders the lake and pay my parking fee in the box next to the restrooms. The trail begins from the parking lot and continues across the bridge and into the woods on the right. Follow the blue blazes, and cross the foot bridge to Slaughter Creek Road.
After crossing Slaughter Creek Road, you reenter the forest and begin a slow ascent to the Blood Mountain Wilderness.
The Slaughter Creek Trail is rocky in spots and crosses a number streams, but overall it’s not a very demanding hike. The Slaughter Creek Trail runs 2.7 miles before it joins the Appalachian Trail. Once you hit the AT, the ascent to Blood Mountain is on your left. There is no sign indicating this would take you up to Blood Mountain, but there is a sign indicating the start of Slaughter Creek Trail.
The climb up Blood Mountain begins with the stone stairs and continues for 1.4 miles until you reach the summit. The Duncan Ridge Trail meets up with the AT about halfway up the ascent trail. Once you reach the summit, you are greeted by a two-roomed stone shelter that was built by the Civilian Conservation Corp in 1934. The Georgia Appalachian Trail Club maintains the structure as a shelter for AT hikers now.
Blood Mountain is typically very busy with tourists and hikers alike. But on New Years Eve, I had the summit to myself and was treated to gorgeous views:
The wind was starting to pick up while I was on the summit, so I turned and started to head back down the mountain. The wind was biting as I descended. I was hoping once the trail met up with the Slaughter Creek Trail I would be more shielded from the wind, but unfortunately this was not the case.
I turned left and continued on the AT towards Jarrard Gap. The trail descends for a good portion, but then you begin to climb again.
Stay on the AT for 2 miles until you reach Jarrard Gap. The gap is well-marked. At the crossroads, turn right and follow the forest road to the blue blazes to the left showing a water source. On my first hike on this loop, I almost missed this as Jarrad Gap Trail.
Jarrard Gap is 1.4 miles and is not very well traveled. Pay attention to the trail where it splits and continue to the right going downhill. Eventually you meet up with Jarrard Gap Road and Slaughter Creek Road. Follow the signs back to the lake and your car, and know that you walked on ground steeped in blood and history.