Brasstown Bald Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

4.7
FIETS
2.5 mi
DISTANCE
1,388 ft
GAINED
10.5 %
AVG. GRADE

FULL CLIMB STATS

Page Contributor(s): John Summerson, The Complete Guide to Climbing (by Bike) 2nd Ed.

INTRO

This is an amazing climb and hike.  This climb is unique for its: (a) horrendously steep grade, (b) portal to the highest point in Georgia, and (c) the 360 degree views at the observation structure at the very top.  (You can only bootleg the ride to the top because it is closed to all vehicles and bikes, but you can hike the final half-mile to the top.)
When we say steep, what we really mean to say is STEEP!!!  As with any climb average, there are always significant sections above the average and Brasstown Bald is clearly no exception.  Other than the final 400 yards at 3.8%, that will feel flat by that point, this climb is pure hell.  1.2 miles (47.3%) are in the 10-15% range and 0.2 miles (9.4%) of the climb average 15-20%.  Although it does not show up in the gradient profile, my Garmin briefly read 23% on the climb (see photo in Full Summary).  The  steepest quarter-mile is 16.5% and steepest continuous half-mile is 14.1%

See more details and tools regarding this climb's grade via the “Profile Tool” button.
Roadway:  Excellent condition with no shoulder but that is of no concern on this ride. 

Traffic:  Mild and slow moving. 

Parking:  I have parked at the bottom  (Jacks Gap - Map, Street View) and ridden to the finish, as well as parking at the top and ridden down to the start and then back up (when I did the half-mile hike to the top), and also ridden to the climb from my hotel in Helen to do Brasstown in conjunction with a couple of the other gaps in the area.

Fee:  As of 2020, there was a fee for motor vehicles but not bicycles to the Brasstown parking lot and Visitor Center at the top of the climb.  
Proper gearing is a must on a grade that hits 20%. 
We stayed in Helen on our two trips to the area.  Helen is located 17 miles south of the start of this bike climb. 

ROUTE MAP

MEMBER RATING

Difficulty: Strenuous
3
Road
5
Traffic
5
Scenery

CURRENT WEATHER

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Mar 9, 2021
scenery: 5
traffic: 5
road: 3
Mar 9, 2021
scenery: 5
traffic: 5
road: 3
VERY steep climb. Have proper gearing or you will regret attempting this one. The gate was closed to traffic in May 2020 which was awesome but also made it really difficult to get clipped in on a 10-12% gradient at the start.
ROUTE MAP
PROFILE TOOL

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CLIMB SUMMARY

Cycling Brasstown Bald, Georgia - sweeping views of hillsides and mountain ranges from the Brasstown Bald Observation Tower

Cycling Brasstown Bald, Georgia

Ride 2.5 miles gaining 1,388’ at 10.5% average grade.

Brasstown Bald Observation Tower center right of photo.

Brasstown Bald is a popular cycling climb to the highest point in Georgia. This mountain is located in the Blueridge Mountain subrange of the Appalachian Mountains.  On a clear day, you can see Atlanta 75 miles to the southwest from the observation tower at the top of the mountain. This is a brutally steep bike climb with the steepest quarter-mile at 16.6% and the steepest half-mile at 14.1%.

Cycling Brasstown Bald, Georgia - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, cyclist climbing on windy portion of road, Garmin device showing 23% grade, sign for Brasstown Bald Visitor Center Chattahoochee National Forest, cycling riding on roadway next to orange lillies

“Bald” is an Appalachian term for a mountaintop with 360 degree unobstructed views.

“Brasstown Bald is an iconic climb in the Southeast United States.  It is located in the far northern section of the state of Georgia and is the steepest climb in that state of any reasonable length.  Within a national forest and through mostly thick woods you are in quite isolated country on this hill.  It also has high level cycling history on its severe slopes as the climb has served as a stage finish through its participation in the professional Tour of Georgia which produced excellent climbing drama during its too short tenure.” (This quote is provided with the approval of John Summerson, The Complete Guide to Climbing (by Bike) 2nd Ed. pg. 104.)

Cycling Brasstown Bald, Georgia - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, sign for Georgia Scenic Byway, cyclist riding on two-lane roadway, cyclist riding near sign that says "Steep Grades Ahead Leave Trailer Temporarily"

Start of climb.  This route is on a Georgia Scenic Byway.

Cycling Brasstown Bald, Georgia - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, bike parked on roadside against guardrail next to sign for Georgia Scenic Byway, sweeping views of green hillsides and beyond, blue mountain ranges, bike parked in trees next to roadside

We are surrounded by forest on the climb, but there are fleeting distant views of the Blue Ridge Mountains at times.

Climb is on Georgia Scenic Byway and America’s Byway route.

Cycling Brasstown Bald, Georgia - Soapstone Creek running along roadside, bike parked on bank of creek, fall colors, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner

Soapstone Creek to our left right at mile one.

Cycling Brasstown Bald, Georgia - PJAMM Adventure app showing climb gradient and overview for the Brasstown Bald climb

PJAMM Adventure App details this crazy climb.

Purple is rarely seen on the profile and designates 20%+.

Cycling Brasstown Bald, Georgia - Garmin device showing sharp hairpin turn, in front of road sign for 10 MPH on turn, fall foliage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner

Two hairpins on the cycling segment of the climb . . . not enough!

Cycling Brasstown Bald, Georgia - Garmin device showing 23% grade, tiny tower can be seen on summit, fall foliage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner

The grade is like the moat to the tower’s castle . . .  

. . . it protects the observation tower (at least from me - that grade is BRUTAL!!)

The full route to the top via roadway is three miles, but the last half mile at 13.6% is closed to vehicle and bike traffic.  You may take a shuttle or hike the remaining half mile to the observation tower and visitor center. (photos below).

CYCLING BRASSTOWN BALD IN THE FALL

Cycling Brasstown Bald, Georgia - photo collage showing fall colors in foliage along Brasstown Bald climb, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner

PARKING LOT, MILE 2.5

Cycling Brasstown Bald, Georgia - toll booth and signs, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner

No charge for cyclists as of October 2020.

The Brasstown Bald Recreation Area and visitor’s center is owned and operated by the US Forest Service.  This area sits 4,784 feet above sea level, making it the highest point in the state of Georgia.  If you’re visiting the area, you can expect to find “picnic areas with great views, a general store with locally made products, three trailheads just off of [the visitor’s center] parking lot...a natural science and history museum” and a theatre and observation deck offering awesome 360° views of Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina.  More information to help plan your visit can be found here.

Cycling Brasstown Bald, Georgia - Brasstown Bald Visitors Center and Recreation Area

Parking area and access to shuttle or hiking trail at mile 2.5.

Cycling Brasstown Bald, Georgia - inside of the gift shop at Brasstown Bald Visitor's Center

Gift shop -- minimal provisions here.

Cycling Brasstown Bald, Georgia - "no bikes" signs at visitor's center

No bikes on the trail.

SUMMIT - HIGHEST POINT IN GEORGIA

Cycling Brasstown Bald, Georgia - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, sign for Brasstown Bald, aerial drone views of Brasstown Bald Observation Tower and complex

Brasstown Bald Observation Tower and Complex.

Cycling Brasstown Bald, Georgia - historical signs for Brasstown Bald at ride's summit

Cycling Brasstown Bald, Georgia - PJAMM Adventure app

PJAMM Adventure App with the hike remaining.

Cycling Brasstown Bald, Georgia - view from summit facing North, informational sign

Plaques for each compass direction identify distant peaks.

Cycling Brasstown Bald, Georgia - view from summit facing east, informational signs

Cycling Brasstown Bald, Georgia - view from the summit facing South, informational signs

There is a west, but I missed it -- very crowded at the top during leaf peeping season . . . .  😞

Cycling Brasstown Bald, Georgia - inside the summit visitor's center

Summit Visitor Center

NOW DEFUNCT TOUR OF GEORGIA

As a testament to the popularity of this great bike climb, it was included in all but one of the six Tours of Georgia held between 2003 and 2008.  Notable stage winners include Chris Horner, Levi Leipheimer (2007), and Tom Danielson (2005-2007).

Cycling Brasstown Bald, Georgia - Levi Leipheimer riding Brasstown Bald during 2007 Tour of Georgia

Levi Leipheimer on his way to victory on Brasstown Bald, Stage 5 of the 2007 Tour of Georgia.

Photo from sports.franzkelsch.com.