Location: Fannin County, GA - Blue Ridge - Moderate Hike
The Stanley Gap trail is a 5 mile trail inside the Aska Trail System in Blue Ridge (Fannin County) Georgia. It is rated Moderate by trail enthusiasts. But make it shorter by just turning around! Don’t let the trail distance stop you from this one!
I like this trail for a couple of reasons. First, it’s close to home. I can get on it fast and get moving. The trail goes along the high ridges and in winter, you can see for miles. You can park in the Aska Trails Parking areas either on Aska Road, or on Rock Creek Road/StanleyCreek Road in the Rich Mountain Wilderness area. There are google maps at the bottom of this post you can save to your Google Maps App. The Rock Creek parking lot is usually empty, whereas the Aska Road lot always packs them in. (Not everyone is getting on the Stanley Gap trail though; from the Aska Road parking lot, you can access Flat Creek and a couple other trails so people disburse out from that parking lot.)
When I first started this trail, I would always park on Rock Creek Rd. because I like the seclusion. But after reading some articles online I discovered that to start on the other side was not as brutal on your calf muscles. I have done it both ways. After doing it a few times, my legs got used to the burn going up from the Rock Creek side, and the trail eventually flattens out and you get some kind of break on your legs.
If you only have a little time, and just want to do a couple miles of a trail, I would still suggest doing it this way because you are almost instantly at the top of the ridge, and I think it is prettier on this side. Not to mention you rack up serious ‘floors’ on your fitbit and burn more calories from the incline. From the Aska road side, you wander through the trail inclining much slower, but you don’t get those really high ridges until you’ve gone two and a half miles at least. (And for you fitbit users, you enter cardio pretty fast on Rock Creek side, and I stayed in fat burn mode from the other. )
The trail is beautiful in the winter. You share it with mountain bikers, but as many times as I have been out there, I rarely see anyone. Stanley Gap Trail also shares the Benton Mackaye Trail for a couple miles, which is a thru-hike to the top of Tennessee, beginning on Springer Mountain with The Appalachian Trail System on the Fannin/Gilmer County Line in the Chattahoochee National Forest.
About three miles in on Stanley Gap, the Benton Mackaye takes a turn and heads towards the Cohuttas. The forest is old Cherokee territory, so you can find Indian Trail trees and old wagon trails in the forest out there. Not a whole lot of pines, mainly old growth Oaks and Poplar. It was once known as the Rich Mountain Wilderness Trail back in the day.
I have taken pictures of the trail so you can see what it is like to walk on. I hike with poles because they keep me steadier on leaves and in the winter, these trails are leafy and can get slick and I am not a graceful one. The trail on the Aska Road side is also very rocky and rooty, and poles help me keep my balance. I have this tendency to twist my foot when I walk, which can snap an ankle, so the poles help with that also, and so do my ankle-high Hiking boots. I took a friend’s advice and just got cheap poles to start with so I could get the hang of them. I paid less than $20 at Wally World. I have some avid hiking friends that still use them and never upgraded to the pricey ones. I don’t mind them either and don’t seem to be in any rush to replace them with lighter carbon ones. (I am a day-hiker, so I think if you were carrying gear for a really long trek, you may want lighter and better ones)
So far, I haven’t done this trail with anyone else, but I intend to. It would be a great trail to shuttle with someone because the parking areas aren’t terribly far from each other. Park one car on Aska Road, and the other at Rock Creek Road and do the whole 5 miles that way. Doing it alone though, and being a slow hiker, I still don’t have it in me or the time to do the whole thing and then head back. I am working on it! Pretty soon I will be able to do the 5 miles in and 5 miles out. But for now, I do a half and half situation. Here are some pictures from the trail in Winter.
A side note: If you do the trail from Rock Creek parking area, one mile up you can bang a right and hike down to Fall Branch Falls another .8 miles downward on the Benton Mackaye Trail. It’s mostly downhill though, so If you plan on going up on the ridge, you may want to take that into consideration. Fall Branch Falls is a double cascading waterfall which is a big attraction in the area. When I want to see the falls, I usually just hike back on the road to my car from there to avoid my calve muscles exploding going back up that steep incline.
This is the parking area off Rock Creek Road for the Aska Trail System:
This is the parking area off Aska Road for the Aska Trail System: