Another state peak conquered!
Georgia’s highest point is Brasstown Bald, coming in 25th (out of the US 50) at 4,784ft. The 360˚ views from the top of the observation tower include four states: Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. The name is derived from the Cherokee work Itse'yi (New Green Place), which was often spelled Echia, Echoee or Etchowee, and in this case was confused with the word for brass, Úñtsayĭ’.
Visitors to the mountain must park in the designated parking area, and then either hike up the 0.6 mile paved trail or take the shuttle service to the summit. We opted to take the shuttle up, as we still had a couple of hikes ahead of us that day; the Brasstown Bald Summit Trail connecting the parking area to the Visitor Center & viewing platform is very steep. We did descend via the trail, and although it is a scenic climb, it is a high-traffic area. I didn’t regret taking the shuttle with our three boys, especially after seeing the expressions on the faces of the parents pushing strollers and corralling kids that we passed on the way down on what was a humid summer morning.
Within the parking area complex you’ll find the ticket booth ($5/person ages 16+), restrooms, a ‘country store’ selling souvenirs & ice cream, the shuttle staging area, and picnic tables/grills scattered on the fringes of the parking lot. We arrived rather early in the morning and there was no wait for a shuttle; we simply climbed in and were immediately taken up, all the while treated to a running commentary of the history, flora and fauna of the area. Kudos to our tour guide for continuing on despite the endless crying he received in return; Vilis wasn’t happy with his backpack being on, and didn’t want to take it off.
At the summit you’ll climb the stairs to the lower deck and Visitor Center. As the sun hadn’t burned off the morning fog yet, we first headed to the visitor center, the boys requesting scavenger hunt forms and immediately disappearing into the maze of exhibits. Not only was the scavenger hunt age appropriate (and they have a Jr. Ranger option for older kids), but it was educational and fun, and I highly recommend participating as the boys all earned a treat for their efforts. The word search and maze gave them something to do in the car on our drive back east, an added bonus!
We then climbed the stairs to the upper deck, and spent the next hour admiring the extensive views. I feel we really lucked out in terms of visibility, as we could easily distinguish the Great Smoky Mountains all the way over in Tennessee. Downtown Atlanta wasn’t visible, but I really don’t believe that it ever could be with all the smog they put up…
The boys each had binoculars in their backpacks which allowed us to skip feeding quarters into the stationary ones, and we had luckily brought an extra layer – it was much cooler on the summit until the sun came out. It was also nice getting there early, as I feel we beat some of the crowds. The only other tip I have is to pack a lunch and utilize the picnic areas. The scenery is fantastic, there’s parking nearby, and grills, tables & bear-proof garbage bins are provided.
Should I consider joining the Highpointers club, with our recent summit of Sassafras Mountain in SC and 2013’s foggy climb to the top of North Carolina’s Mount Mitchell? It looks like we’ve got a long way to go (literally!) to continue crossing off peaks, because I couldn’t find a single other peak I could already strike from the list (not even Charles Mound in Illinois, at 1,235ft!) and I don’t see us climbing Denali anytime soon. On the other hand, this might be the motivation I need now that Vilis is a little older…