Hike: Ash Loop Trail at Smithgall Woods State Park

Greg and I are on day 3 of a week-long vacation. Keeping to a typical Sunday ritual, we left out early this morning to hike at Smithgall Woods State Park outside of Helen, GA. There are several options to choose from, but today, we decided to go on the Ash Loop Trail.

Covered Bridge at Smithgall Woods
I love the covered bridge at Smithgall Woods State Park

Scotch was the lucky corgi who got to go on the hike with us today. He’s getting older, and arthritis is starting to affect him. However, he’s been doing really good with his meds and it’s been a long time since he’s gotten to go hiking. We chose the Ash Loop Trail because it isn’t too strenuous (only a 615 ft elevation change). Clocking in at just a hair under 4 miles (3.96), it is long enough for the humans to feel like we accomplished something and short enough to where our buddy boy Scotch could make the journey without injury.

Purple flowers with blurred background
Purple flowers along Tsalaki trail near the wetland area.

From the visitor’s center, we hiked down Tsalaki Trail (the paved road that runs through Smithgall) to the southern trailhead for the Ash Creek Loop. We prefer hitting the south end first because you do have to wade through the creek at one point on the trail, near the northern end of the trail, so we like to keep it for later in the trip.

It’s rained here a little bit the past couple of days. Enough to settle the dust a bit, but not much else. It hasn’t been helpful with the heat or the humidity. This morning, while not miserable, was sticky. I’m glad we were on the trail by 8am and finished by 10am. Much later and it would have been uncomfortable, even in the woods.

Clearing on top of a hill. A corgi runs in the bottom left corner
One of the clearings on the trail.

Oddly enough, we didn’t see a single other (human) soul during our time at the state park this morning. Only one other car was parked in the parking lot as we were leaving. Smithgall is usually a more hopping place, especially with Octoberfest activities going on in Nearby Helen.

While we met no humans, we did see and come face-to-face (literally) with several spiders and a couple rafters of turkey.  (Yup, a group of turkeys is called a “rafter.” I totally had to Google that one.)

A Corgi in a creek, lapping up water
Scotch taking a quick dip and drink in the Creek

One of the things about the trails at Smithgall that make these hikes interesting is that on several of them, you have to ford one or more creeks. On Ash Creek Loop, you have to go through two. The first one (if you start from the south) is tiny and if your boots are water-proofed, you can just splash through it no problem. The second one, though, it deeper than it looks. The first time Greg and I did this trail, we were unprepared. We hiked up our pants, took off our boots, and waded across barefoot with two corgis swimming beside us (Twinkie and Scotch). This time, we were better prepared.

Greg sitting by the creek, putting his boots back on
Greg sitting by the creek, putting his boots back on.

Zip off pants – Check.

Watershoes to change into – Check.

Folding tripod trail chairs to make changing shoes easier – Check.

Soon after wading through the creek, we returned to the paved part of Smithgall Woods and made our way back to the visitor’s center parking lot.

A fun way to start our Sunday. Afterwards? Nachos and vegging on the couch. Sundays afternoons are made for relaxing and re-energizing.

More Pictures from the trail:

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