Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Oconee National Forest: Burgess Mountain Trail (Blog Hike #258)

Trail: Burgess Mountain Trail
Hike Location: Oconee National Forest
Geographic Location: northwest of EatontonGA (33.34867, -83.45009)
Length: 0.5 miles
Difficulty: 1/10 (Easy)
Last Hiked: December 2013
Overview: A short climb to the highest point in Oconee National Forest.
Hike Route Map:
Photo Highlight:

Directions to the trailhead: From the intersection of US 441/129 and SR 16 on the west side of Eatonton, take US 441/129 north 1.1 miles to Godfrey Rd.  Turn left on Godfrey Rd.  Take Godfrey Rd. west 3.5 miles to FR 1120.  (Warning: the intersection with the forest road is not well signed, so you should use your trip odometer.)  Turn left on FR 1120.  Follow passable gravel FR 1120 1.4 miles to the small signed trailhead parking area on the left.

The hike: For some general comments on Oconee National Forest, see my hike to Scull Shoals.  At only 645 feet in elevation, Burgess Mountain falls well short of the usual idea of a Georgia mountain. Nonetheless, Burgess Mountain towers almost 200 feet above the surrounding Piedmont creeks.  A visit to the mountain’s grassy summit provides interesting, even if partially obstructed, views of the surrounding lowlands.
            I highly recommend a winter visit to Burgess Mountain.  Not only will the views through the broadleaf trees be better since the leaves are off, but I suspect this trail might become very overgrown during the warmer months.  If you visit during deer hunting season, make sure you wear bright red or orange because hunting is allowed on nearby land.
            The trail begins across the road from the parking area at a brown metal sign that says “Burgess Mountain Trail.”  The narrow path into the woods looks unlikely, but head that way anyhow.  The trail is marked with copious yellow paint blazes; this is a good thing, for much of the trail would be hard to distinguish otherwise.
Following the yellow blazes
            After about 600 feet in the woods, the trail intersects an old roadbed and turns left.  Study this intersection carefully, as you will need to find it again coming back down.  Now tackling the hillside directly, the trail does the bulk of its climbing on this roadbed.  The forest at the start of the hike featured a dense canopy of young hardwood trees, but as you approach the summit the canopy thins and the groundcover becomes more grassy.
Climbing on the old roadbed
            1200 feet into the hike, the trail leaves the roadbed for the final push to the summit, which is reached at 0.25 miles.  My approach to the summit sent a trio of wild turkeys galloping into the woods.  The summit is marked with a USGS marker, placed in 1976 and set into concrete.  There are no clear views to be had, but during the leafless months the grassy summit allows some decent views obstructed by only a few trees.
Summit marker

View from summit
            The blazes end at the mountain’s summit, as does this trail.  Thus, you will have to retrace your steps 0.25 miles downhill, taking care not to miss the right turn off of the old roadbed, to return to your car and complete the hike.

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