Mountain Traveler: Be Impressed by Rabun Bald

  • Wayne Knuckles/ The views from Rabun Bald are said to stretch for more than 100 miles when conditions are favorable.
    Wayne Knuckles/ The views from Rabun Bald are said to stretch for more than 100 miles when conditions are favorable.
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According to Native American legend, Rabun Bald is inhabited by fire-breathing demon people, and some campers still report hearing strange sounds at night.

But the spectacular views from the summit stretching more than 100 miles on a clear day are no myth.

Rabun Bald, with an elevation of 4,696 feet, is the second-highest peak in Georgia. Only Brasstown Bald, at 4,784 feet, is higher, but not by much.

Rabun Bald was the site of the first fire tower in the area, which was constructed by Nick Nicholson, the first forest ranger in Georgia.

The fire tower was operated by the United States Forest Service until the early 1970s. After the fire tower was taken out of service, a Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) crew dismantled the towerís uppermost component. Leaving the stone base intact, the YCC crew replaced the structure with a railed wooden observation platform.

Rabun Bald can most easily be accessed from a point just past the community of Sky Valley off state Route 246 at Kelsey Mountain Road. The last portion of the approach is a dirt road with limited parking, but the road itself is in good shape and an ordinary car will have no trouble traversing it.

Unlike Brasstown Bald, which has a paved trail and attracts scores of visitors on a good day, Rabun Bald is accessed by a trail a bit more rustic. But the 1.5-mile ascent up the mountain is rated easy-to-moderate, with rhododendron and mountain laurel often forming a cooling canopy that keeps hikers reasonably comfortable even in the hottest summer months.

Once you reach the summit, you will be rewarded with stunning views from atop the observation tower.

And the best part is, with its remote location and less-traveled hiking path, you could well find yourself alone to enjoy the natural beauty when you reach the top.