Okay, whatever plans you have this weekend, drop them. I mean it, drop them now and put Mount Yonah in your sights. Now I’m sure you know that I am behind in updating my blog by a few quests so this picture was taken in the middle of March. Which I would call Spring but since Winter decided to be a school yard bully, Spring has really only recently taken hold. It turned out to be a great photography experience because everywhere I looked it was like Spring and Winter were in an epic battle against each other.
So before I get into the history behind Mount Yonah let me first give you a word of advice that my good friend and hiking buddy failed to give me; Yonah is a very challenging hike. Very challenging. I exercise everyday and had asked him what the trail was like because if it was hard I wouldn’t exercise the day before. He said, and this is an actual quote that I went through my text messages to find, “It’s 2.8 miles and 1400 elevation”. Now, for someone who is a hiking newbie all I saw was that it was 2.8 miles. So I went ahead and worked out. The first minute we start on the hiking trail he turns and says, “By the way, this is the most challenging hike I’ve done in North Georgia”. Thanks. No, no, thank you. I had moments on the trail that I questioned what exactly I was doing. But the views made it worth it. As I look back on this day, I think it was the challenge, the hard exertion required, the bit of fear in some places and the sense of accomplishment that really made this one of the top five quests thus far of 2014.
So let’s talk about Yonah or Yonah Mountain or Mount Yonah or Yonah Bald, yes this is another one of those places that have many names so call it whatever you like. Oh and something that’s cool is that FINALLY a name of a mountain translates to a real word in Cherokee. Yonah means bear and I find that fitting because, to shamelessly use a pun, it was a bear of a hike. Another cool thing is that the the 5th Ranger Training Battalion of the United States Army frequently uses Yonah for Ranger training. Don’t be surprised if you see army helicopters. It does not mean the zombie apocalypse has started. One hiker told us that he was just mulling about the place at the top and nearly had a heart attack when one such helicopter appeared with all its mighty glory. I’m glad that didn’t happen to me because I may or may not have run down the mountain screaming.
The trail is 2.8 miles and again, this is not an easy hike. The best view is from the clearing above the rock face. You have to actually climb the rock face and then follow the trail that loops around. Once you get there, spend awhile there! We took about thirty minutes just to explore the cliffs and sit on top of the world for a little while. After you take some time at the top, keep following the trail above and you’ll get to a big clearing in the middle of the woods. It’s so unusual to see a circle of green grass bordered by trees. I imagine fairies used to play here in the evening or maybe witches brewing in the midnight hours…..or probably just for the rangers. I prefer fairies or witches because there really isn’t any reason to squash imagination. If your imagination is strong enough or you’re just up for some simple amazement I would recommend planting yourself straight in the middle, laying down and watch the clouds pass for awhile. There’s nothing in the world that can make you realize how tiny you are and how big the world is then by looking up at that big blue sky. The trail will continue back down and loop you into the original trail.
If you are really adventurous and you understand risk and safety, there is some cool rock climbing areas to check out and places where you actually need to hold onto the rope that is safety fastened to the rocks to get around. That was a really fun thing to do but again, make sure you have a hiking buddy and preferably someone who recognizes the risks with rock climbing and or exploring through the cliffs. You may even catch a glimpse of crazy people rock climbing with zero equipment – again please don’t.
Make sure to contact the ranger station, sometimes they close part of the trails down for training and that would just be a disappointment to get there and then have to turn around. I’ve been told that weekends at Yonah are always open but nothing I’ve googled gave me a definitive answer. They have restrooms at the bottom but no places to fill water so make sure you bring enough in your pack.
The drive was just over an hour from the North Metro Atlanta area, so it’s not a bad drive for a great quest!
Here’s the address for your GPS:
Happy Mount Yonah-ing!