Hiking the Toccoa River Swinging Bridge Near Blue Ridge, Georgia

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Good nature outings and hikes always have a reward of some sort.  Maybe it’s a waterfall, maybe it’s a mountain vista view.  Maybe its cave, spotting some wildlife, or a trail through wildflowers.  This weekend, I took an excursion to see a bridge.  Specifically, a swinging bridge over the Toccoa River near Blue Ridge, Georgia.

There are two ways to arrive at either end the Toccoa River Swinging Bridge, and each approach is fairly different.  I really like that accessing the bridge from either end can make a trip to this Blue Ridge bridge customizable.  It’s a good fit for almost anyone who can walk on unpaved trails and roads.

I hesitate to exclusively use the term “hike” regarding the Swinging Bridge Trail in Blue Ridge.  If the goal is solely a visit to the bridge itself, the shortest way to access either end may not be considered a hike by everyone.  One way requires a quarter-mile trek on an earthen path.  The other requires a walk of about a mile on a gravel Forest Service Road plus a short jaunt on an actual trail. 

Adventurers looking for a Toccoa River swinging bridge hike should opt for the Benton Mackaye Trail / Duncan Ridge Trail.  From the trailhead on GA Highway 60, the round-trip out-and-back hike to the bridge would be just under seven miles.

As one of the most famous bridges in Georgia, the swinging bridge can also be accessed via water on the 13.8 mile Toccoa River Canoe Trail.  Paddlers will encounter the swinging bridge between the put-in at Deep Hole Recreation Area and the take-out at Sandy Bottoms Recreation area.

Swinging Bridge across the Toccoa River
Swinging Bridge across the Toccoa River by Jennifer Worrel

Toccoa Swinging Bridge History

The bridge was constructed in 1977 through a cooperative effort between the US Forest Service, the Benton Mackaye Trail Association, and the Appalachian Trail Club.  At that time, extending the Blue Ridge Parkway all the way to Kennesaw Mountain was being considered.

The Blue Ridge swinging bridge is the longest swinging bridge in the US East of the Mississippi River.  It is 270 feet long.   The swinging bridge is meant for foot traffic only.  Bridges with similar design and engineering intended for automobiles are called suspension bridges.

It is located in the Chattahoochee National Forest, but can be accessed from the South via the Blue Ridge Mountain Wildlife Management Area.  The Toccoa River Swinging Bridge address is located in Fanin County, Georgia and is a very popular attraction near both the towns of Blue Ridge and Suches.

Do not get confused, however!  The Toccoa River Swinging Bridge is not in the town of Toccoa nor is it related to the equally popular Toccoa Falls.  Most people should not attempt to visit the swinging bridge while hiking near Toccoa, GA.  The bridge is over the Toccoa River.  Toccoa Falls is located in Toccoa, Georgia, approximately seventy miles away near the South Carolina border.

Hiking to the Swinging Bridge

I visited the bridge with my children when they were four and six years old.  We accessed the bridge from the shorter Forest Service side. To make the short walk from the parking area, we first had to drive on about three miles of very rough, old Forest Service Roads.  We have an SUV with good clearance, but the road was narrow, bumpy, and had large potholes.  Lower-clearance vehicles may struggle.

Parking area to access the bridge from the north side
Parking Area to access the bridge from the north side by Jennifer Worrel

The parking area is not large.  It has space for one or two cars parked in several pull offs which would accommodate perhaps a dozen vehicles total.  If you plug in “Toccoa River Swinging Bridge” into Apple Maps on an iphone, the directions lead to this parking lot.

The quarter-mile walk from the parking area is hard-packed dirt with exposed roots.  There are a few steep spots to get down to the river and the bridge, but the decline is not sustained. 

The trail from the parking area is uneven, but it is wide without much encroaching vegetation.  In the heat of summer, the trail is also nicely shaded.  This is the most common way to access the bridge and will arrive at the north side. 

Sign directing visitors from the North side parking area
Sign directing visitors from the North side parking area by Jennifer Worrel

This weekend, I preferred a longer walk in the woods.  I drove on GA Hwy 60 and turned off onto Rock Creek Road.  Rock Creek Road is maintained gravel, and also the road to the Chattahoochee Forest National Fish Hatchery, which can be used as a destination in a GPS for finding this route to the swinging bridge.

After driving just over two miles, there was a sign saying “National Fish Hatchery 2 ½ Miles.”  The sign is located next to a bridge spanning a small creek.  I parked my car there along Rock Creek Road, and walked over the low bridge. 

The road over the bridge is called John Dick Creek Road or FS 333.  This road is minimally maintained gravel, and does allow for vehicles.  There is no parking to access the short hiking trail down to the swinging bridge, so I walked it.  There is one water crossing which I managed on foot, and I passed one couple with a dog and one off-road vehicle during my walk.

Park by the sign for the fish hatchery and access John Dick Creek Road by walking across the bridge by Jennifer Worrel

The walk took me past several dispersed tent campsites.  The campsites were very private and some were next to water, although all were primitive.  No running water or restroom facilities. 

At one point, the road ran parallel to a mountain meadow maintained by the WMA.  The lush expanse of grass of the WMA was beautiful, although hikers should be leery of exploring this area during hunting season lest they be mistaken for a deer!

Mountain Meadow, Blue Ridge Mountain WMA
Mountain Meadow, Blue Ridge Mountain WMA by Jennifer Worrel

The Benton Mackaye trail crosses the gravel forest service road that is uphill, and to the south, of the Toccoa River.   After walking one mile on the Forest Service Road, I looked for the White Diamond blazes of the BMT on my right.  At this point, I could hear the rush of the river water down below, and I turned to hike down the hill.

Following the short trail through the woods brought me to the south side of the bridge.  The hike between the Forest Service road and the swinging bridge was less than two-tenths of a mile, but the decent was very steep.  I knew the hike back up would be short, but challenging!  I had to stop and catch my breath once on the way out.

Forest Service road bisecting the Benton Mackaye Trail. Follow the White Diamonds to the bridge.
Forest Service road bisecting the Benton Mackaye Trail. Follow the White Diamonds to the bridge by Jennifer Worrel

The View From the Toccoa River Swinging Bridge

The bridge is made of wood and suspension cables anchored to the banks in huge concrete pilings.  It will move, shake, and sway slightly as people move across it.  I feel the movement of the bridge more strongly near the ends than I do near the middle.  It can be very shaky if a large amount of people are on it, but the bridge is very safe.

My little kids loved running and jumping up and down on the bridge, but I would caution anyone wanting to jump to make sure they were the only group on the bridge.  Not everyone enjoys the movement!

The bridge crosses the Toccoa River right where the flow transitions into beautiful rapids underneath.  The view from one side is serene flat water.  The view from the other is interspersed with rocks and whitewater.  The sound of the river is soothing as it flows over and around the obstacles down below.

Toccoa River Swinging Bridge
Toccoa River Swinging Bridge by Jennifer Worrel

The banks of the river are lined by trees on both sides.  On weekends, it can get quite crowded with people taking pictures from the bridge and enjoying the scenery of the wilderness from the elevated vantage point.  The blue sky reflecting off the clear waters of the Toccoa River and the sunlight filtering through the trees are breathtaking. 

The water of the Toccoa River can be accessed by either bank under each end of the bridge.  There is plenty of space to picnic, fish, or camp along the river.  Dogs are allowed on the trails approaching the bridge, but they must be on a leash.

It should be noted that Toccoa River Swinging Bridge camping would essentially be backpacking or hammock camping.  There are no picnic tables, grills, trash cans, or restroom facilities.  Campers will need to pack-it-in and pack-it-out and be aware of campfire regulations in national forests.

Toccoa River bank as viewed from the swinging bridge
Toccoa River bank as viewed from the swinging bridge by Jennifer Worrel

The river flows north to Blue Ridge Lake, and the depth and current speed can change depending on the weather and the season.  While wading and swimming may be safe at times, it can also be quite dangerous in high, fast water.   Use caution and keep safety in mind if you decide to play in the water.

I visited the bridge late on a summer Sunday afternoon.  There were a handful of people at the bridge and relaxing at the river, but most of them had arrived from the north side parking area.  It was a longer trip for me via foot from the south, but I enjoyed the solitude of the less common access point.  Exploring the river with the backdrop of the bridge in the background was a great end to my week.

Under the North end of the Swinging Bridge
Under the North end of the Swinging Bridge by Jennifer Worrel

Toccoa Swinging Bridge Directions

Here are three options for visiting the Toccoa River Swinging Bridge:

Short Quarter-Mile Walk from Parking Area:  From GA Hwy 60, take FS 816.  Go three miles to the parking lot.  The approximate GPS coordinates are N 34°44.350′ W084°10.213′.  Cars with low ground clearance are not recommended.  

One-Mile Walk + Short Hike via Forest Service Roads:  Turn onto Rock Creek Road off of GA Hwy 60.  Drive just over two miles and park near a sign reading “National Fish Hatchery 2 ½ Miles.”  This access is suitable for any vehicle.

Three-Mile Hike on the Benton Mackaye Trail:  Access the BMT trailhead at GA Hwy 60 & Tooni Gap Road.  Hike south for three-and-a-half miles.

Leave No Trace logo

We encourage anyone who loves the Blue Ridge region to learn about the Leave No Trace principles of responsible environmental stewardship. 

Stay on marked trails, take only pictures, pack out your trash, and be considerate of others who share the trails and parks you explore. 

Remember that waterfalls and rocky summits can be dangerous. Never try to climb waterfalls or get close to a ledge to get a selfie.

When you're exploring the wilderness, it's better to be safe than to be a statistic!