Location: Fannin County, Blue Ridge – Easy Hike
The Toccoa River Swinging Bridge is one of my favorite spots in Fannin County. It’s about 35 minutes from the downtown Blue Ridge area off Hwy 60. I have directions to both access points on the bottom of this post. Getting there is a snap. The only concern at times can be the 3 mile Forest Service Road (816) you take to get to the trailhead and the parking area. It can be rough. See my note below about this road.
This is a really easy 10 minute walk from the parking lot, to an incredible suspension bridge that goes across the Toccoa River. The trail is mainly level around this area, except for a few spots that elevate on the other side of the bridge. This bridge is part of the Benton Mackaye Trail System and is a favorite spot for visitors. This whole area is so beautiful. There are gorgeous primitive camping spots along the river, places to swim, go trout fishing, hike. The rocks scattered through the river in the sun make the very best picnic spots. I love taking a book out here and laying on a rock in the middle of the river, in the sun. Yes! Just writing about it makes me want to go.
The trail is well kept and keeps on going if you need more. So if the ten minute walk isn’t enough, treat yourself to more and follow the Benton Mackaye through the forest and turn back when you want. This particular area makes it easy to do a loop and come on back around. I love these trails out here. This is old-growth forest with huge hemlocks and feels huge. You feel like you have been shrunk and are now tiny in the land of giant. Although the hemlocks have suffered in this area from the hemlock woolly adelgid which have destroyed thousands of hemlocks in the north Georgia area over the years, they still stand in all their glory. It’s a great spot. Don’t wimp out because of the road. It’s worth it.
A note from the Solivagant: FS 816 is always rough. I do take my miata down this road, but I can’t at the moment until they scrape it. The road requires a Four Wheel Drive right now (2/11/17) So here are your options until the back entrance opens in April … Drive up as far as you can and safely park somewhere on the side of the road (off the road) and hike in to the trailhead. Some people even park at the bottom before you turn on the road, there is parking right on Hwy. 60, but there are plenty of places to park along the road and make your trek shorter. If you encounter another driver coming out or in, the driver with the most land moves over, so the car on the shoulder can safely pass. It’s the polite thing.
NORTH SIDE ACCESS
Set your odometer to zero. From McDonalds in Blue Ridge, take Highway 515 approximately 4.3 miles to the intersection of Highway 60. Turn right and follow Highway 60 into Morganton. In Morganton, turn right on Highway 60 South toward Dahlonega (6.3 miles from start). Drive approximately 11.3 miles on 60S and you will pass County Road 221 with Skeenah Mill Campground on the left (17.6 miles from start). .7 mile after Skeenah Mill,(18.3 miles on your odometer), USFS road 816 is on the right. (If you come to Toccoa Bend Country Store you have gone a little too far). Follow this dirt-gravel road 4.0 miles to the parking site. Berms block further access. Trail to the river is behind the berm. Hiking time is about five minutes (.25 miles) from vehicle to the bridge.
*Note: The Forest Service road to the swinging bridge is rated for high clearance vehicles; a 4-wheel, SUV or truck is recommended.
SOUTH SIDE ACCESS
Pass FS 816 and drive 2.7 additional miles to Fish Hatchery Road, FS 69. Turn right. Follow the signs to the Fish Hatchery. Just before you get to the Hatchery, you will see a concrete bridge to the right that goes across Rock Creek. It will be the only concrete bridge you see as you enter the forest. Follow this road until it splits and go right – follow through the creek and up this road for about .5 mile – look for the white double diamond on the tree to indicate the trail. park on the road out of the way somewhere up there.