At 4,784 feet above sea level, Brasstown Bald is the highest point in the state of Georgia. On a clear day, visitors can see four different states: Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina, from the observation deck.
Situated in the Blue Ridge Mountains and surrounded by the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, the Cherokee originally occupied this area prior to the arrival of European explorers.
The museum is packed with information about the bald, starting with the geological history of the Appalachian Mountains. The exhibits also display the history of human occupation, beginning with the Native Americans, moving into logging and industrialization, and into the present day.
Though I’m always excited to check out a museum, regardless of its size or subject, the museum on Brasstown Bald even impressed my tweens.
According to the display in the museum: “About 500 million years ago the mountains had eroded into a plain. The plain sank and a sea was formed. Deep impressions created layer upon layer of sedimentary deposits, setting the stage for another cycle in mountain making.
About 200 million years ago, the heat and pressure from a disturbance in the Earth’s crust caused the layers of sedimentary rock to buckle and fold. They were uplifted and thrust westward to form the Appalachian Mountains.”
At one time, the Appalachian Mountains rivaled the Himalayas in size. But natural erosion over millions of years has reduced them to the size they are today. This means that when you're walking on the mountains, you're touching something that's around 200 million-years-old.
The first human occupation in the state of Georgia dates back about 12,000 years. The museum at Brasstown Bald displays artifacts from this period of Paleo Indian and Cherokee settlement, including pots, tools, a bow drill, sporting equipment, and a flute.
Native groups in the east had lost much of their lands at the hands of European settlers by the 1800s. In 1829, after Dr. Benjamin Parks discovered gold in the north Georgia mountains, both the state of Georgia and the U.S. Government quickly usurped Cherokee lands and forced them out west.
By 1838, the Georgia Militia forced the remaining Cherokee into short-term prisons before moving them to Oklahoma on the treacherous and deadly “Trail of Tears.”
For the settlers, Georgia’s Land Lottery granted 160-acre parcels of Cherokee land to settlers for $18 per lot. Most of the settlers had little money and large families. They raised corn and livestock and distilled their or own whiskey, as it brought it in more money than selling the corn on its own.
Logging and Industrialization
The early settlers logged and cleared the land to make room for farming. They used saws, axes, mules, and oxen to bring the trees down. Later on, companies bought large pieces of land for logging and utilized trains for the transport of these goods.
Two displays with animatronic people discuss current conservation efforts by the forest service. There are also multiple displays with taxidermy animals in their habitats that show visitors how local wildlife inhabit the area.
Kids’ Scavenger Hunt
My kids particularly enjoyed the scavenger hunt offered at the information desk in the museum. Through the hunt, they learned a lot about the wildlife and history of Brasstown Bald. After completing the activities, the park ranger gave them a choice of small coloring books with a pack of crayons.
There is a video about Brasstown Bald available in the small theater next to the visitor’s center. We didn’t make it through the whole thing, as it mostly showed outdated, blurry photos and explained how the seasons bring different changes to the area.
The Observation Deck
The afternoon we visited Brasstown Bald was overcast. Because of this, we weren’t able to see any of the sweeping vistas from the overlook area. Fortunately, the forest service placed signs facing the four cardinal directions that displayed what we would have seen on a clear day.
According to the forest service’s website, weather like this is common for the bald. If you’re planning a visit on an overcast day, don’t let that deter you from visiting. The fog creates a unique experience, even without the far-reaching views of the mountains.
A half-mile trail leads to from the gift shop and parking area to the Brasstown Bald visitor’s center. Though we took the shuttle going up to the top, we took the trail back to the parking lot, and it ended up being the most memorable part of the trip for me.
On the day of our fall visit, the area was moody and thick, with a heavy fog in the air. As we walked down the trail, the fog created an ethereal effect hanging among the stones and trees along our path. My daughter even commented that she felt like she was in a magical scene from Harry Potter.
There’s a nice little gift shop near the parking area that sells the usual park goods: t-shirts, hats, books, stuffed animals, small toys, patches, stickers, bottled drinks, snacks, and locally made products.
Know Before You Go
The drive up to Brasstown Bald is not for the faint of heart. The paved road meanders up a steep mountain with constant turns and switchbacks. We drove our dually truck up to the entrance and were able to fit on the road, but some turns were tight.
After you drive up the steep incline, you’ll reach a staffed ticket/information booth. From there, parking is available to the left, while the general store, restrooms, hiking trail, and shuttle stop are over on the right.
To get to the Brasstown Bald Museum and observation deck, you can either take the shuttle, or walk on the half mile hiking trail mentioned above.
Restrooms are located near the General Store and outside of the museum.
As of 11/2022, the elevator on the observation deck is out of order. Though the ½ mile trail to the observation deck is paved, the trail is very steep. We saw many people struggling on the way up, and as we walked down, we took frequent breaks because of the stress on our knees. The museum is wheelchair accessible.
The park permits leashed pets, except inside the visitor’s center/museum.
Hours & Fees
Seasonal/closed during winter
$7/person (16+), children 15 and under are FREE
Visitors will also gain FREE admittance with an America the Beautiful pass.
The recorded temperature at Brasstown Bald has never surpassed 84F. At this elevation, the weather can change quickly, so it’s best to be ready for anything – whether it’s sunny, foggy, cold, or rainy.
Broaden Your Horizons
Brasstown Bald Website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/conf/recarea/?recid=10542
National Park Service Trail of Tears: https://www.nps.gov/articles/the-trail-of-tears-and-the-forced-relocation-of-the-cherokee-nation-teaching-with-historic-places.htm
Georgia Land Lottery of 1832: https://www.georgiaarchives.org/research/1832_land_lottery
Have you visited Brasstown Bald? Would you like to? Do you have other attractions in this area you like to visit? Please leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!