Nomadic Rambles: The Swinging Bridge You Have to Hike in the Blue Ridge Mountains
A Four Wheel Drive to Beautiful River Views:
The Swinging Bridge You Can't Miss in North Georgia
My family lives in a small town called Cumming, Georgia (about 45 minutes north of Atlanta), and my sisters and I head up there as often as we can from Central Florida. When we make the trip, it’s always, always, always worth the drive. On our last trip to Georgia, we experienced some serious rain. But, Floridians host hurricane parties… We’re a weird bunch. Needless to say, the rain wasn’t enough to stop us.
We wanted to hit a new spot this trip and googled up spots in the Blue Ridge Mountains since we usually stay closer to ATL. I stumbled across the swinging bridge which would soon become a new favorite of mine: The Swinging Bridge over the Toccoa River. Nestled off the Benton MacKaye Trail southeast of Blue Ridge, Georgia, this hike is short - 2 miles max - and is an enjoyable one at that.
Our hike to the bridge was enjoyable, but we did have a tough spot finding it. Don’t make the mistake we did and be sure to write down the GPS coordinates before losing cell service. You live and you learn, haha. We winded in and out of scenic, mountain roads, wandering through paved roads off of pastures and open fields, but once we found the entrance off of GA 60 & FR 816, we drove up to the gravel road, turned on our favorite playlist, and followed the trail.
The drive on the gravel trail is honestly more rough than the hike itself. Watch out for potholes and don’t make this trip to the parking area in a car without 4WD. There is not a lot of parking here, so be sure to be courteous to others and leave room for folks to park safely and head back home without issues.
The hike itself is pretty easy - both kid and dog friendly. If you’re just heading to the bridge and back, it’s a .5 mile trek. If you’re exploring past the bridge, you’ll travel roughly 2 miles. No matter which length of trip you choose, you’re sure to enjoy the beautiful river views. The ground is soft and pleasantly covered in greenery and pines. Even early in March there was a heavy amount of wildlife. The river is a real pretty one - wide and flowing strong downstream.
The Swinging Bridge was constructed in 1977 and spans 265 feet in length, making it the longest swinging bridge east of the Mississippi. Constructed by the USDA Forest Service with the cooperation of the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club, the bridge swings with every step, has a rustic touch and wide-eyed view of the river. You’ll be greeted by a small cascading waterfall on the far side of the bank and lush, shady pine and hemlock trees. As you can see in the photos, the trees stretch across the river and provide a beautiful view from up top as well. Head over to my photography website to view more photos from this trip.
I think the best part of this spot is the secluded, covered shady area the trees give you. Nature paves the way for moments that can just freeze you in time. Sitting by the bank watching the river run is one of those things a Florida girl won’t ever take for granted.
The far side of the bank has plenty of room for picnicking and setting up hammocks with friends. The photo opportunities are endless. No matter which way you look at this spot, it’s a great view of the Toccoa River. If you’re into photography, the bridge is a gem to shoot. I, myself, haven’t seen a swinging bridge before, so visiting the longest bridge east of the Mississippi was a treat for myself and my portfolio. I got some great shots of my beautiful sisters Ellynne and Christyne... And let's not forget Tarzan - I mean Luis, my sister Ellynne's boyfriend - up in the trees.
I loved this hike with my family and I wouldn’t mind going back to take a dip in the water. Next time, I’ll bring my pup and a hammock to lounge by the bank for a while. The ease of hike is a plus and makes it a great trip to bring the kids to. As always, remember to be kind to the environment. “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.” Mother Nature appreciates this.
As we hit the trail to head back home, we inhaled the sweet smell of a fresh rain. There’s nothing like that scent and when you’re on a river, you can feel the breeze and really take it in. Make sure you do if you get caught in a light shower like us. Sometimes, the unexpected things make the best memories.
Does the smell of rain take you back to a certain time or place? Tell us about it + your favorite Blue Ridge Mountain travels.
We're always looking for new places to explore, so be sure to tag #livethedetour on Instagram so we can follow along your journey.