Looking to put your backpacking skills to the test? The rugged and isolated Duncan Ridge Trail is the perfect proving ground. Situated in the mountainous Chattahoochee National Forest of northern Georgia, this 30.9-mile trail takes you on a rollercoaster ride through gaps and over mountaintops with names like Wildcat Knob and Coosa Bald. This trail is secluded so you'll find plenty of quiet, as well as beautiful views of the southern Appalachians.
From its southern terminus off the Appalachian Trail, the trail winds northward, sharing 15 miles of the Benton MacKaye Trail. A waterfall and 265-foot suspension bridge over the winding Toccoa River are just a few of the scenic highlights along this stretch. Turning east, the trail leaves the Benton MacKaye behind, then begins a series of rigorous ascents and descents as it traverses Duncan Ridge. The trail ends when it rejoins the AT, just below the 4,458-foot summit of Blood Mountain.
LENGTH: 30.9 miles, one way.
RATING: Moderate to strenuous.
WHERE: The Duncan Ridge Trail is located 11/2 to 2 hours north of Atlanta, Georgia, and about 2 hours southeast of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Reach the northern terminus by driving US 19/129 to Neels Gap, Georgia, about 25 miles north of Dahlonega. From the parking lot a half mile north of Neels Gap, hike south on the AT 31/2 miles to the trail junction at Slaughter Gap.
MAPS: The Chattahoochee National Forest provides an excellent map. Request an "order form" by calling the national forest headquarters, (770) 536-0541. USGS topos Coosa Bald, Mulky Gap, Neels Gap, Noontootla, and Wilscot give more detail. The Hiking Trails of North Georgia ($14.95, Peachtree Publishers, 800-241-0113) is an excellent source for additional information.
CONTACT: Toccoa Ranger District, Chattahoochee N.F., 990 E. Main St., Blue Ridge, GA 30513; (706) 632-3031. Ask for their free brochure.