Black Rock Mountain State Park
My tour of Georgia’s state parks continues! Recently I went back to Black Rock Mountain State Park to rediscover it. James and I camped here several years ago and did some very brief hiking, but I hadn’t been back since. It is Georgia’s highest elevation state park and this is abundantly clear with the stellar views all around. Just going up to the visitor’s center and gift shop will provide an amazing overlook with no hiking involved whatsoever, but throughout the park there are lots of places to explore.
On this occasion, I met up with a fellow Atlanta Trails ambassador Courtney and we decided to do the Tennessee Rock Trail. It’s a short trail of less than 2.5 miles roundtrip, but it does explore the namesake Black Rock Mountain and a lot of other scenery in a pretty short distance. At the same trailhead, you’ll also find the James Edmonds trail, which is longer and more difficult. We didn’t have time for that one, so we set off down the shorter trail.
The Tennessee Rock trail is a loop and we went clockwise in order to reach the overlook at Black Rock Mountain more quickly. There was a great cloud inversion over the valley and we wanted to see it before it inevitably burned off. It’s a small overlook (basically just a large boulder) but the view was spectacular! Fortunately, this was a cooler morning so the sky was clear and crisp. After leaving the overlook, the trail descends through the forest. We saw some very early signs of fall leaves and a few remaining wildflowers, before reaching a boulder field. This park has a lot of unique geological features due to its location on the Eastern Continental Divide and high elevation.
After finishing the short but sweet Tennessee Rock Trail, we decided to visit Ada-hi Falls, which is located near the campground. I’d been here before during my previous visit and always love a waterfall. From the parking area at Tennessee Rock, you’ll see another trail directly across the street called the Springhouse trail. This connects between the parking area and the campground entrance, so you don’t have to walk up the road. The Springhouse trail is pretty short but it is steep in places. This connecting trail takes you past a small amphitheatre and then the Ada-hi falls trailhead starts across the street. This trail requires use of stairs and steep, but short trail. I didn’t count the stairs, but it’s nothing compared to Tallulah Gorge down the road!
I was curious about the name Ada-Hi so I looked it up after our hike. It means “forest” in Cherokee and basically, this waterfall is the most delicate little fall ever, just surrounded by the forest. The water trickles gently down the rock face and then the stream disappears into the wooded valley below. It’s a very small, but unique looking waterfall. I imagine after periods of low rainfall, it probably disappears completely. We were treated to some beautiful white wildflowers (Grass of Parnassus) along the water, which were stunning in contrast to the namesake black rock of the waterfall.
Once we trekked back up the stairs, we headed off on the second adventure of the day. We went into Clayton for lunch and a little shopping! Clayton might be my favorite mountain town besides Dahlonega. Actually, I really can’t choose. I love them all- Dahlonega, Clayton, Ellijay, Blue Ridge…you’ll notice Helen is not on that list. Anyways, I digress…We had lunch at Fortify Pi, where I was able to get a very delicious vegan/gluten free pizza and since Courtney is not vegan (her pasta looked amazing!), I had plenty leftover for the impending football games later in the day. Fortify Pi was a fun place, slightly upscale, but no one looked twice when we came in wearing hiking boots. That is why I love mountain towns.
After lunch, we headed over to Wander North Georgia to check out the official Atlanta Trails pop up event. The Atlanta Trails guys were on hand with new merchandise and just available for conversation and hiking questions. They have some sweet new logo designs, just in time for fall hiking. And if you want a discount, just enter my code “carahebeling” when shopping online. There is another pop up event on 10/27/18, which will also include a workshop on hiking. It’s free by the way!
Of course, I managed to find a few things to buy from Wander, but it is the sense of community they embody that always brings me back to their store. There are lots of outdoors oriented stores around, but Wander really feels more like a community hub. That is something I’ve come to appreciate as I’ve hiked more this year- all the people I’ve met, whether through Atlanta Trails, Girls Who Hike, or just out and about around the trails. It’s funny because I still hike by myself about 75% of the time, but anytime I want to connect, the hiking community is there.