This reasonable loop starts at Lake Winfield Scott, a great swimming and fishing destination, and explores sheltered mountain valleys divided by an Appalachian Trail ridge walk. It heads up Slaughter Creek, crossing streams galore on a moderate grade to meet a rerouted section of the AT. It then travels atop a lightly wooded ridge line on the world's longest marked footpath to reach Jarrard Gap. You complete the hike with an easy descent on the Jarrard Gap Trail. This hiking trail near Lake Winfield Scott could be a one-night starter backpack or just a good initiation into the North Georgia Mountain country.
Leave the day-use parking area and cross the bridge over Slaughter Creek. Lake Winfield Scott is to you left. The Slaughter Creek Trail starts on your right. Begin walking up a grass-lined gravel track to reach a bridge over the creek. Veer left here into thick woods. Suddenly you are in rhododendron-hemlock woodlands sprinkled with Fraser magnolia trees. The blue-blazed path crosses Slaughter Creek on a wood bridge to emerge onto a gravel road. Keep forward, crossing the gravel road, and begin the loop portion of your hike. Tunnel under rhododendron. Gaddis Mountain rises to your right. Cross the first of several branches of Slaughter Creek emanating from the ridge line to your right, where the AT is and where you soon will be. Most of these crossings are bridged, and this well-maintained trail leaves and joins old roadbeds with regularity. Worry not, for the path is well marked.
Oak, hickory, and white pine dominate the woods along with locust and birch, representing both moist and dry forest flora. It is a somewhat confusing mix, but it's really indicative of the biodiversity of the Southern Appalachians, which is rich in ecosystems with varying forest habitats. The walking is easy in the lightly wooded terrain. The trail avoids the mountaintops but does pass through the gaps.
Total Distance: 5.9 miles
Hiking Time: 3 1/2 hours
Vertical Rise: 885 feet
Go Hwy 60 to GA 180, Wolf Pen Gap Road. Turn left and go 4.4 miles to Lake Winfield Scott recreation Area, on your right. Enter the recreation area and continue 0.4 mile to a parking area on your left, just before the bridge over Slaughter Creek, where the creek enters Lake Winfield Scott.