Exploring the Georgia Adventure Trail
The Georgia Adventure Trail (GAT) is an enthusiast-created trail map that runs from Florida to North Carolina over the entire state of Georgia. A total of 580 miles, the trail is 65% off-road with opportunities for off-the-grid camping, hiking, fishing and more. The GAT runs through the three major geographic regions of the state, including the light, sandy coastal region of the South, the wooded, rockier Piedmont region in the center of the state and the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the North.
From Florida to North Carolina
The trail starts on the south end on the Florida line about 10 miles east of Valdosta. Early on, you’ll find yourself surrounded by pine forests and white sandy soil, and as you travel north parallel to I-75 to the center of the state, you’ll cover approximately 150 miles. As you pass Macon, you’ll notice more hardwoods, more Georgia red clay and significantly more elevation changes.
From the center of the state to what would roughly be in line with Atlanta is another 140 miles, and an estimated 6 hours of travel. From I-20 to the intersection with I-85 is another 140 miles, and at this point the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains will begin to appear in the horizon. From there, one can expect more mountainous trails until the trail ends at the North Carolina border just south of the Nantahala National Forest.
Easy Access for All Experience Levels
Taking advantage of Georgia’s mostly rural nature, the majority of the GAT is spent on forestry service roads, wildlife management areas and other rural gravel or dirt drives. Because of that, the large majority of the trip will be on trails that have some semblance of maintenance, allowing for an easier entry point for newcomers to the off-road hobby, or those that want a more relaxed experience. Furthermore, with most of the roads being wide enough for service vehicles, the GAT poses less risk to owners that aren’t ready to “earn their stripes” from branches and other overgrown vegetation.
Although hazards will vary based on weather conditions, one can expect to deal with standing water on various terrains, mud, shallow creek crossings, and ruts left from previous travelers. While any factory-prepped traditional 4WD vehicle would be more than able to handle the worst of the trip, the GAT provides an opportunity for trail-prepped crossover enthusiasts to dip their toe into the off-road world.
Mods to Consider
Modifications such as a mild lift, underbody protection, and an all-terrain tire like Nitto’s new Nomad Grappler would be more than enough to enjoy a weekend exploring the GAT. With the Nomad Grappler’s 3PMS rating, one can also have the confidence to take the trip anytime during the year with a well balanced tread compound with good wet and snow performance.
Try It Out with a Day Trip
Although one could certainly tackle the entire route at one time, and camp along the way, my family and I enjoy taking day trips to the portions close to our house. With a baby on board, we can’t be too far away from civilization for long, but hitting the GAT for a few hours allows for some fresh air, new scenery and a picnic lunch away from the busy parks of the city. The Hitchiti Experimental Forest, around 20 minutes from us, runs along the Ocmulgee River and provides a ton of interesting, easily accessible sights for a relaxing day out.
Or Take Your Time for the Full Adventure
Traveling the entire distance of the GAT, however, should be on any adventurer’s list. There are multiple camping spots along the way, ranging from dispersed camping sites, state parks and private campgrounds. Even if you are with someone who might be opposed to camping, the trail is never more than half an hour from a hotel. Obviously this is pretty far away from the idea of overlanding, but this does open up the experience to those traveling with young children or a spouse that isn’t ready for outdoors adventuring yet.
For someone looking to cut their teeth in the off-road world, or someone that just enjoys riding trails without much drama, the Georgia Adventure Trail is a great place to get started. Being accessible from anywhere from the northern tip of Florida to the foothills of North Carolina, the opportunities to easily explore a variety of different terrains so close to population centers is a unique one. Whether it's a weekend or an afternoon, any time spent outside is welcome, and there’s no easier way to explore the state of Georgia than the Georgia Adventure Trail.
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