View Full Version : Duncan Ridge Trail

01-18-2005, 19:35
The Duncan Ridge Trail in Georgia claims to be one of the most challenging trails in the East. Has anyone hiked it/can compare its difficulty with others?

01-18-2005, 21:15
It is on my "to do" list, although most likely in a Spring time before the trail gets a chance to be too overgrown. It makes a good roughly 60 mile loop involving the AT and BMT. It is about as close to a wilderness hike as we have to offer, with limited services such as shelters and resupply points.

The reputation is that one must have good orienteering skills and willingness to bushwhack. Given the frequency of these comments, I'd believe them.

Happy Feet
01-18-2005, 22:03
Hatman and I hiked it last fall as part of the "Georgia Loop" which follows the AT, the Benton MacKaye Trail (BMT) and the Duncan Ridge Trail (DRT) to form a loop. After much research, all I could find were discouraging reports about how overgrown the trail was and how it was so hard to follow because of it's lack of blazes. However, we found the trail to be open and freshly blazed. It was beautiful and we saw no one else on the trail until we got to the AT. The BMT and DRT are challenging, but not a lot more than the AT in the area of Neals Gap and south (same mountains). At the time there was no real information on the DRT other than USGS maps and a few journals I found on-line. If you're interested in doing the loop the BMT has a website with maps and trail descriptions at www.BMTA.org (http://www.BMTA.org)

Happy Feet
01-18-2005, 22:06
I should say the BMTA has maps for the BMT, not the Georgia Loop or the DRT. Sorry if that was misleading.

01-18-2005, 23:13
I did it several years ago. I found the book "Hiking Trails of North Georgia" by Tim Homan to be an excellent guide. Great trail if you're looking for privacy. We came off it onto the AT on a weekend and it was like coming off a country lane onto the interstate. I don't think it's any harder than the AT.

01-19-2005, 21:53
A challenging trail for someone with no experience, poor fitting boots or one with a body out of shape. Otherwise a nice, challenging trail with an undeserving reputatuion. I do not reccomend for the novice.

01-20-2005, 10:01
A challenging trail for someone with no experience, poor fitting boots or one with a body out of shape. Otherwise a nice, challenging trail with an undeserving reputatuion. I do not reccomend for the novice.
I think the section between the Toccoa River and Slaughter Gap is the toughest stretch of trail in Georgia... getting water along long parts of that section is tough. The trail east of Rhodes Mountain is ridge walking that runs east-west and can be heavily brushed over in late summer if the trail hasn't been cleared of under brush in the last few years.

I've been waiting for Dances with Mice to respond because I know he has hiked it a few times when he does his annual Georgia Loop Hike.


Dances with Mice
01-20-2005, 12:23
The Duncan Ridge Trail in Georgia claims to be one of the most challenging trails in the East. Has anyone hiked it/can compare its difficulty with others?

The DRT goes over Akin Mtn. and Payne Knob. "Akin and Payne". That thought gets stuck in my head like a bad song each time I hike the DRT.

I've done it three times. It is a challenging trail for sure but I don't know how it compares to trails in, say, the Smokies. I wouldn't even know how to compare it to others. I like it for the solitude, I've met exactly 2 other hikers (Youngblood & Mowgli) and maybe 4 turkey hunters in three years, not counting daytrippers and canoeists around the Taccoa.

The mountains are steep but not that high, the gaps are small, switchbacks are rare. Imagine 30 or 40 minutes of sharp climbing followed by the same amount of steep downhill. Repeat all day. The arc between GA 60 & Slaughter Gap stays pretty much right on the ridgeline, I think it might only bypass 2 peaks. Other than the two mountains on either side of Fish Gap, it hits the top of every single damn mountain and molehill in its way! Nothing on the AT in GA compares to the stretch between Rhodes Mtn and Wildcat Gap. Nice to outstanding views, no shelters, absolutely no crowds. Once I had trouble pitching a tent because Ladyslipper orchids were blooming in all the cleared areas. Great wildflowers in spring, violets even cover the trail in some places. It's a nice change after leaving the beaten-down treadway of the AT, the DRT doesn't get a lot of use.

There are some long stretches between water sources. I believe the trail passes more sources that aren't marked, or maybe used to be marked but aren't now, and this year I wanted to go offtrail in some likely areas and search for some.

The Trail has been well marked and clear. Westbound out of Fish Gap might be confusing because the trail follows the remnants of wide forest service roads, then a little trail cuts off and heads up to another road, it stays on the next roadbed for awhile then cuts off again, and so on. Each year on that section I've found myself lost in thought and tromping down an old roadbed, making great time but having missed a turnoff. Coming back I could see where I had to have stepped over a rock and log barricade that was supposed to steer me off the roadbed! If you're not a space cadet like me you should have no problem.

Last year one I had one of my favorite backpacking memories ever. I kept coming onto vistas and admiring the views, but there was something unusual that I couldn't place. Being the quick study that I am, it only took me a couple days to figure it out: Spring was already in the valleys and you could see a clear line on the mountains below which the trees had leafed out but above it the trees were still bare. You could tell exactly where Spring was! And for a little while the Trail dipped down into a gap and the Trail was right on that line - every tree below me had fresh leaves but the trees around me didn't yet. I was literally Standing On Spring! Well, I thought it was cool. I guess you had to be there.

So I did what any hiker would do: I whipped out my camera and took a picture. Then I got on my cellphone and called my wife to tell her about it (I just had to throw that in!) There's good cell coverage all along the Trail except around the Taccoa, by the way.

I'd park at Goose Creek Cabins and pay Keith to watch your car if you're going to be gone for a few days. It's safer than leaving it at the Blood Mtn or Springer parking lots.

Drala Hiker
01-22-2005, 00:40
Dances, thanks for posting about your DRT trips. I'd read about it, but knew no one who'd hiked it. Seeking more solitude than the hoards on the AT afford (including approach trails), I kept venturing farther north into NC. So it's great to know that hiking with solitude is possible only a short drive away from Roswell (and hopefullly out of ear shot of motorcycles). Great to hear the DRT is now being maintained. Last I read of it, I had to wonder what shape it must be in after the pine bark beetle devistation, drought weakened hard woods knocked down by severe storms, and of course Hurrican Ivan.

I could visualize your experience with spring climbing the mountain sides. Last winter I had a similar experience, except with hoar frost - the silvery line was at about 3300 feet on my GPS. But to see that in spring, along with the wild flowers...well, that's one reason we love being out there.

Sounds like it's time to make a hike plan for the BRT.

Dances with Mice
01-25-2005, 00:42
DRT photos added to "Other Long Trails" album.

I know, it's not really that long of a trail, but it was the best choice available.
Maybe there should be an albulm for "Blue Blazed Trails" ?