Byron Reece Trailhead to Blood Mountain Summit
We did it! I look back, and I am amazed. The Blood Mountain hike was not a super difficult hike for older kids or adults, but it was the roughest hike I have done with my 6 yr old – and the longest. All in one. But he did it without complaint, and I am so proud of him. And what a reward! The views from the top were amazing!! Indescribable. I wish it had been a little more clear, but that only gives us an excuse to go back soon.
We parked the car (for free) at the Byron Reece Trailhead, just north of Mountain Crossing at Neels Gap. We showed up about 11am, and the parking was full. There really isn’t another alternative without adding several miles to your hike, so we circled a handful of times and finally found a spot. This is peak season (we were there the last weekend of September) so come early. It is a busy place.
The Byron Reece trail connector is .7 miles. It isn’t easy…the toddler had to be carried the entire way. It still beats the alternative of walking a half-mile on the busy road (US 19.) You will come to an intersection with another trail at .7 miles. There is a sign for the trail name, which isn’t the AT, but the trail is clearly marked with the signature white blaze, letting you know you’ve come to the right place. A left will take you to Neels Gap — go right.
I’m not going to regurgitate the trail for you…we followed directions from Atlanta Trails (link above) and he was dead on. Hubby carried the toddler on his back until we saw the first break in the view at about 1.7 miles. Prior to that the terrain was not safe for him. After that point he could manage most of it. The top of the mountain is made of large boulders that remind me of Arabia Mountain.
On our way back, we passed the Byron Reece trailhead and stayed on the AT, over US 19, to Mountain Crossing. This detour of 1 mile replaced the .7 mile trail connector we took from the parking lot, but the walk was very very easy. We rested at Mountain Crossing, took in some music (they were having their annual Fall Festival,) and enjoyed the view. After a while I sent hubby back on the main road to get the car and pick us up. You can’t park at Mountain Crossing for more than 20 minutes, so you won’t want to park here for the hike. If you have older kids then you could all possibly walk back to the car from Neels Gap, but it is a busy, wind-y road and you’ll have to walk single-file. I recommend sending Dad like we did, if it’s possible. Otherwise, take the trail connector back and then drive back up for a short visit.
It’s easy to understand why this trail is so popular. The views are magnificent. I highly HIGHLY recommend this hike! It’s a new favorite.
The first clearing is at about 1.7 miles.
A large clearing near the top…you’re tired and the view is astounding. A few people turned back at this point…don’t! Keep going about another 2/10 of a mile to the top. It is worth it!
Finally, at the top! Be sure to find the geo marker, and walk over to the shelter. There is a “chimney rock” next to the shelter which offers a wonderful view.
We’re hiking back down at this point but I took a few photos to show you the terrain.
Finally at Mountain Crossing