Tesnatee Gap to Cowrock Mountain
I've been trying to focus more on Appalachian Trail hikes recently and I think I've been doing a pretty good job of it. I did 4 different AT hikes in May and June. I really love the stretches with mountain views, so I keep taking those on to the neglect of the view-less stretches. I'll get to those one day. After much deliberation, I decided to visit Tesnatee Gap and hiked the AT from there past Cowrock Mountain. I refer to Atlanta Trails for a lot of my AT hikes and this one just sounded really nice.
The area around Tesnatee Gap is simply beautiful. The drive itself is stunning, with numerous overlooks along the highway. There is a particularly beautiful overlook just down the road at Hogpen Gap and I highly recommend a stop there either before or after your hike. It's a great place to eat lunch or just sit and enjoy the scenery. There is a picnic table and a informational poster, which is an added bonus. It's probably the nicest overlook I've stopped at in Georgia.
Oh yeah, then there's the hike itself. I very much enjoyed this stretch of the AT. I arrived quite early and no one else was on the trail yet. The initial stretch of trail goes along the side of the mountain and would have good winter views, I imagine. It was leafed out, of course, this time of year but I would like to return in winter to see what it's like then. The trail then goes up into the woods and passes some really neat rock formations. There were also plenty of beautiful wildflowers along the way. The trail is rocky at some points, but a lot of it is smooth, good old fashioned dirt, which is a departure from the ankle-twisting AT hikes I've done recently. The elevation gain is fairly easy at around 810 feet over 2 miles. Overall, it's just a really scenic, leisurely stretch of trail.
A short climb brings you up the rocky, bald face of Cowrock Mountain. I am not entirely sure why it's called Cowrock Mountain, but there is a rock formation off to the side that could possibly resemble a cow. Cowrock is similar to Preacher's Rock, but the mountain views are a little more dramatic and "in your face". It has a great view of Yonah Mountain. There are also a lot of interesting mosses and lichens on the mountain. When I arrived, it was cloudy and not great light exposure, but I still very much enjoyed the view.
The key with this hike is to continue northwest on the Appalachian Trail, past Cowrock Mountain. The view from Cowrock is nice, but there are even better views down the trail. I don't even think I hiked far enough to see all the views, but I did catch a particularly stunning stretch before heading back. Truth be told, while near the second vista, I tripped on seemingly nothing and fell pretty hard on my knee. I also landed in a thorny bush and cut my ankle, so after that I decided to rest for a minute and head back down. No lasting injuries, but I am consistently reminded how clutzy I am.
I feel like I say this about everywhere I go, but if you're looking for a nice relaxing stretch of AT, this is it! The summit of Cowrock would be a good spot to have a picnic (if not at the Hogpen overlook) and the second vista is nicely shaded and would be great for hammocking. I have yet to meet a stretch of the AT I don't like! Next up, I do intend to do a longer stretch, probably in the Three Forks area, so stay tuned for that...