Hiking Brasstown Bald for Sunrise Photos

Let’s Go to Brasstown Bald

At night, have you said to yourself that you are waking up at a specific time to get sunrise pictures and never quite make it past the snooze button?  I’ve done it so many times, and while it feels like the best choice at the moment, I later regret it!

To better ensure my success at waking up early, I try to pack the night before and lay out my clothes to get up and go. But this isn’t always a foolproof plan for me.

To put me to the test, my husband suggested late on a Saturday night that we should get up early Sunday morning to see the sunrise at Brasstown Bald, something we’ve never done before. We’ve been to Brasstown Bald before, but definitely not for sunrise pictures.

Located in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, Brasstown Bald is the highest point in Georgia at almost 4800 feet!  While it is smaller compared to some of the mountains out West, it offers stunning Georgia views, especially at sunrise or sunset. You can also see three other states on a clear day: North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee!  

The image was taken shortly after hiking Brasstown Bald and sunrise. Shot on Lomo 100.

It is located more than an hour and a half from my home, meaning I had to wake up before 5am to make this trek happen. I am not a morning person, and anything before 7am sounds like the start to a very, very long day.

I did my pre-planning late at night, and somehow I sucked it up, got out of bed the following day, and we were on our way at 5:15am. While I wouldn’t say I like waking up this early, there is always something eerily calm about driving around town with little to no cars or people in sight. It’s almost as if you have the entire town for yourself and everything seems so still in time!

En Route to Brasstown Bald

The address to Brasstown Bald is 2941 Highway 180 Spur, Hiawassee, Georgia 30546.

We took GA State Route 515 and U.S. Route 76, passing through Ellijay, Blue Ridge, and Blairsville. Once you reach Blairsville, GA, you are approximately 30 minutes from Brasstown Bald. If you have extra time during the day, I recommend visiting one or two of these small towns. They have great downtown areas to shop and eat.

Brasstown Bald makes a nice day trip from Atlanta as it is a little over a two-hour drive, and it is also not far from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Chattanooga, TN, coming in those directions. 

We found Brasstown Bald with our GPS, and you will see signs indicating you are near. Unfortunately, as it was completely dark outside when we arrived, I do not have any pictures of the drive going up the mountain, but it quickly gained elevation. At one point, I thought we would go off the road.  Sharp, elevated turns in the dark always make me cringe, and I often tell my husband to slow down!  

Shortly after sunrise, taken at the top of Brasstown Bald.

Parking, Fees, and Shuttle Information


We did make it up to the parking lot alive, which is a win in my book.  There were already some cars in the lot, but there are ample parking spots if you come later in the day. It might be harder to find a parking place if you visit in the fall since many people visit the North Georgia mountains for fall colors. If you go in the fall, you might want to consider going early.


There is a small fee to enter, but no one was there to collect our money for sunrise. Therefore, we paid when we left. However, the fee is 7 dollars per person (includes shuttle fare) during regular business hours. Children 15 and under are free. You get in without the costs if you have the America the Beautiful Interagency Pass or the Golden Pass.

The after-hours fee is 3 dollars, and you can place your money into the envelopes on-site.

Operating Hours and Shuttle

Brasstown Bald is currently open from Thursday to Monday, 10am to 5pm; however, you can access the observation deck for sunrise and sunset photos.  There is a visitor center, gift shop, and a small theatre in addition to the observation deck.

A shuttle bus can take you to the top if you wish to skip the hike. However, the shuttle doesn’t run at sunrise, and it wasn’t in operation on the day we went due to the pandemic.

The shuttle runs daily except between 12:30pm and 1:10pm, with the last shuttle at 4:30pm. I recommend visiting Brasstown Bald’s Facebook page for updated information on the shuttle service and their hours/events.

Additional fees, pass information, operating hours, and event information can also be found on the USDA website and FIND Outdoors.

The observation tower at Brasstown Bald.

Hiking Brasstown Bald

You can see the observation tower from the parking lot, and the distance from the tower to the parking lot is intimidating. I thought hiking Brasstown Bald would be terrible as the tower appeared miles away! The thought crossed my mind that I wasn’t going to be able to do this, but we had already made the drive, so it was time to try.

The observation tower is way off in the distance. Shot on Lomo 100.

While the hike was not terrible (it is actually quite fun!), it is a paved, short, and steep hike approximately 0.6 miles from the parking lot to the observation tower.  If you are going for sunrise or sunset, you might want to bring a flashlight. We are great at forgetting the helpful little things for our trips.

But we did have our iPhone flashlights which were still handy; however, our cell phone batteries drained quickly since it was frigid outside. By the time I got back to our car, my phone battery was at 1 percent.    

My biggest advice in hiking Brasstown Bald is to wear gloves in the late fall and winter seasons. I did not bring my gloves, and my fingers quickly turned red and numb.  It is also chillier and windier up at the tower compared to the parking lot. I am not sure why I didn’t think of this earlier, but I wish I did.

Due to my lack of gloves, I regretfully missed getting some photos as my fingers were just too numb to take additional pictures when hiking back down. It took about twenty minutes to warm them up in the car when we left.

The hike down is usually easier, isn’t it? It was also nice to see what we couldn’t ‘see’ earlier on the trek, allowing me to snap a few more pictures of interesting things on the trail. In fact, it makes it feel like a whole new trail and not the one we took an hour earlier.

A Note on My Film Photography: 16 Sunrise Photos

Even though it was early, several photographers were there for sunrise on a Sunday morning. It probably wasn’t as crowded as a typical fall day, but plan accordingly if you want a decent spot to set up your gear and camera.  

The sunrise is gorgeous and makes hiking Brasstown Bald absolutely worth it.  I really wanted to get that morning fog in the valley, but that did not happen. However, the sunrise colors were stunning – blue, red, pink, orange, and yellow pierced the crisp fall sky.  The sunrise happened as quickly as getting my camera equipment out of my bag. 

We saw many trees, some lakes in the distance, and tiny houses and buildings that dotted the landscape. I don’t know if I could see the other three states in the distance, but I like to think that I did.

With that said, I went through an entire roll of Lomography 100 Color Negative 35mm film! As of now, I can confidently say I have 16 sunrise photos of Brasstown Bald!

I think 16 pictures of the sunrise might be enough, but I wanted to ensure I got the correct exposure. I hope one day I can be confident in my ability to get proper exposure with just one shot (sigh…okay, possibly two shots).

We haven’t been for sunset pictures yet.  Has anyone been to Brasstown Bald for sunrise or sunset, and how was your experience? 

Were you able to see the three other states on a clear day?  Share your thoughts and experience in the comment section below!

It was so cold at the top! iPhone image.

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