Getting to the Southern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail
If you want to hike the Appalachian Trail, and you will arrive via airport at Atlanta Hartsfield Airport (Atlanta International), you’ll need to figure out how to get from the Atlanta airport to the trail. There are many ways to do this, but after much research, I figured out a way to get to the trail safely and effectively. Here are my directions for getting to the Appalachian Trail from Atlanta Airport.
Meet Ron Brown
First, you’ll want to call Ron Brown. He owns a business called “Ron’s Shuttle Service.” He’s the angel of the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. You can reach him on his cell at 706-669-0919 via voice or text. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org or you can find him on Facebook. This man deserves all the business you can give him. He’s a true gem. The best way to reach him is by SMS text. He is not on WhatsApp. He will answer his Facebook posts/messages when he has a signal, which often isn’t until later in the day.
Once you’ve confirmed that Ron can pick you up and transport you, book your flight. You’ll want to get into Atlanta as early as possible so that you have more time to hike on your arrival day.
Land in Atlanta. If you’re hungry, get food in the airport, as there is no food at the MARTA stations, nor can you eat in MARTA. Next, follow the signs in the airport to the MARTA station. MARTA is Atlanta’s metro. The station is right next to the terminal–you don’t even have to go outside. At the station, you’ll buy a Breeze card, which costs ~$2. You’ll also need a one-way fare to the North Springs Station, which is ~$2.50. You can pay the $4.50 total with your credit, debit or cash. If you need help, ask the folks at the cashier.
Follow the MARTA signs for the North Springs Station and you’ll be on your way to hike the Appalachian Trail. The ride is about 45 minutes. While I was riding, I let Ron know I was on the way. He said he was waiting for me. When I arrived at North Springs, I grabbed a bottle of water from the vending machine and followed Ron’s directions to find him in the parking deck. Ron saw me, grabbed my pack, offered me water, and away we went.
In Ron’s truck, he has every device charger you can think of! I was able to recharge my Android. He then proceeded to give me all kinds of hints and tricks to the trail, with a special emphasis on where water is and is not. Although most guide books will tell you where water is available, what they won’t tell you is if the water source is dry. Ron knows these things and even stashes water on the trail for those in need. We rode for 45 minutes to the place I wanted to start my hike, Amicalola Falls State Park. But Ron can take you pretty much anywhere you want to start.
Check In at Amicalola
When we arrived at Amicalola, Ron took me around to the Falls so I could get a picture, then he dropped me at the Lodge. I met my friends. We loaded water, changed into our hiking boots, checked in for the trail, and off we went to ascend to the Hike Inn. From the Amicolola Lodge to the Hike Inn on the Appalachian Trail Approach Trial is about five miles. You must check in at the lodge by 2 pm and be at the Inn by 6 pm for dinner.
By the way, the owner of the Hike Inn also authored one of my favorite hiking books for women, Thru, An Appalachian True Love Story by Richard Judy.
The Approach Trail to Hike Inn
The Appalachian Trail Approach Trail is just down the road from the Lodge on the right side of the street. You’ll see green blazes, or have the Lodge folks point it out for you. It took our slow moving group just about 3 1/2 hours to ascend to the Hike Inn. We arrived just in time to drop our packs, take quick showers, and join the group for a yummy dinner of pork loin, potatoes, carrots, and brownie. Upon request, you can ask for gluten-free and vegetarian choices as well, but you must request when you make your reservation.
The Hike Inn to Springer Mountain
After staying the night in the Hike Inn, you’ll still need to get up in the morning, enjoy a hearty breakfast of eggs, grits, and bacon, and hike another 3 miles to ascend Springer Mountain. At the top of Springer is where you’ll find the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. There, you’ll find your first white blaze, and you’ll continue hiking officially along the Appalachian Trail.
I will note that there is a parking lot at the Springer Mountain Shelter, which is about a mile away from the terminus. Granted, Ron will drop you at that parking lot, if you like. You’ll then need to walk a mile south to find the beginning of the AT, then you’ll walk a mile north backtracking to where you got dropped off. But who wants to back track? Yes, you could save yourself 8 miles of hiking, but who wants to walk backwards to go forward? None the less, getting to the Appalachian Trail from Atlanta airport via the Hike Inn takes some logistics and effort, but there is no better way to get you ready for your days ahead on the AT.
Getting Back to Atlanta Airport
If you are only doing part of the Appalachian Trail, and you’re staying in the southern tip, book a return trip back with Ron at the same time. He’ll be there to pick up your sweaty dirty self and take you back the way came.