Logan Turnpike Trail
Despite having lived in the Dahlonega area since 1992, there are still a LOT of local trails and area attractions that Josh and I have yet to visit. Now that our Container Cabin construction project is finally done and we’re entering into a generally slower time of year for the hostel, we plan to change that…and let you know what we find!
We started with the 4 mile round trip (out and back) hike on the Logan Turnpike Trail. The trail covers a 2 mile stretch from Kellum Valley to Testnatee Gap, where it links up to the Appalachian Trail. So, what’s the story behind this trail? Here’s a short synopsis:
In 1821 the Union Turnpike Company received a charter to construct a toll road that would join existing roads north and south of Tesnatee Gap. The road was either completed in 1821 or by 1840 (conflicting information) and was the final link of a continuous road – the forerunner of US 129 – that stretched from Gainesville to Cleveland and over the mountains to Blairsville. Shortly after it was finished, Major Francis Logan bought the rights to operate the turnpike. He built his home, a lodge, and a tollgate 0.8 mile south of the Kellum Valley trailhead. In its day, Logan Turnpike was one of the major north-south roads through the mountains of North Georgia. It was roughly 10 miles long, from near Loudsville through Tesnatee Gap to Ponder. The turnpike served as a mail route, and the stagecoach that traveled from Athens, Tennessee, to Augusta, Georgia, crossed over Tesnatee Gap. The toll road remained under Logan family management until it was abandoned in 1922, the year the state completed the highway over Neels Gap.Cars rarely made it over the top because the hill was so steep that the gravity fed fuel system would not function. To solve this problem, cars would be backed over the hill. It is also thought that John Muir passed through here in the Fall of 1867.
And the trail itself…
The trail initially starts (roughly) following the old road bed for about 1 mile. It’s fairly flat to gently sloped and heavily forested with young hemlock and old rhododendron. Old blue blazes are visible for the first half mile or so. Even without the blazes, the trail was easy to follow.
Paralleling Town Creek allows for many great stops for a picnic lunch or soaking in the stream (during a much warmer time of year!).April 2011 a tornado passed through this area and did significant damage. I was amazed at the number of trees that were cleared over a quarter to half mile stretch of trail.
The lack of trees in this area did allow for better views of the rock ledges of Cowrock Mountain to the West. The second mile turned more uphill and continued to parallel Town Creek to within less than a half mile of the terminus. From here, one could easily hike South on the AT up to Cowrock Mountain for great views.
Hiking North on the AT, you would also have great views from Wildcat Mountain…and if adventurous, you could continue past Wildcat Mountain, take the side trail down to Whitley Gap Shelter, then bushwhack back to the Logan Turnpike Trail.
When Richard Russell Scenic Highway is closed due to snow/ice, this is a great way to access the AT.
Direction to the Kellum Valley Trailhead
From the Hiker Hostel, drive North on Hwy 19/60N for 1 mile. At the Stonepile, bear right to continue on Hwy 19N for 5 miles to the T intersection at Turner’s Corner. Turn right onto Hwy 129N for 2.8 miles. Turn left onto Kellum Valley Road and continue for 2.5 miles to turn around and trailhead. Kellum Valley Road is initially paved then turns to gravel. We had to stop short of the turn around due to muddy conditions. We parked in a small pull-off less than a quarter mile from the trailhead (but had a note under our windshield wiper when we returned that informed us we were on private property and not to park there again!).
Directions to Testnatee Gap
From the Hiker Hostel, drive North on Hwy 19/60N for 1 mile. At the Stonepile, bear right to continue on Hwy 19N for 5 miles to the T intersection at Turner’s Corner. Turn right onto Hwy 129N for 7 miles. Turn left on Alt 75 for 6 miles. Turn left on Hwy 348/Richard Russell Scenic Hwy for 8 miles to Testnatee Gap on the left. Trailhead is on the north side of the parking lot.