Chattahoochee National Forest: South Fork Jacks River Loop via Benton Mackaye Trail/South Fork Trail to Shadow Falls & Flat Top Mountain and Pinhoti Trail, Blue Ridge, Georgia
The Jacks River is known best for its spectacular huge waterfall Jacks River Falls, but much further upstream is another waterfall that is much smaller and less-known but still quite scenic: Shadow Falls. Located on the South Fork of the Jacks River, 20-foot Shadow Falls is easily accessible via the South Fork Trail. The waterfall is situated between two knobs near Jacks River Fields Campground in an area of the Jacks River watershed that otherwise has only gradual elevation loss along the course of the river. If you choose to turn the short waterfall hike into a much longer day hike or overnight, a few historic features around Flat Top Mountain await. In addition, you'll find plenty of solitude on the little-used trails on this hike, perhaps with an exception around Shadow Falls and Jacks River Fields. This hike occurred on Saturday, August 26th, 2017. My plan was to hike the South Fork Trail from the trailhead near Elliot Road, shortly joining the Benton Mackaye Trail, south to Shadow Falls and the small lower waterfall. From there, I'd hike the Benton Mackaye Trail to Flat Top Mountain, where there is a historic homestead and the foundations of an old fire tower. I would also make a side trip to the historic Dyer Cemetery along the way. I would then return along the BMT to FS Road 64 and follow FS 64 West past Jacks River Fields Campground to Buddy Cove Gap. I would conclude the hike by following the Pinhoti Trail northward back to South Fork Trail and Elliot Road.
The Blue Ridge area is not known for hiking trails as well as other parts of north Georgia, due to the heavy development of the area (Blue Ridge has become a popular getaway for folks who own a second home in the area but live most of the time outside of the mountains). The Aska Trail System near Blue Ridge has the longest interconnected set of trails in the region, and in fact, these trails are open to bikers in addition to hikers. The Aska Trails meander across the slopes of Rocky Mountain, Davenport Mountain, and Green Mountain, providing good views when the leaves are off the trees. One of the trails also provides access to the shoreline of 3300-acre Lake Blue Ridge. This hike occurred on Saturday, February 4th, 2017. My plan was to hike the east side of the Long Branch Loop Trail and then the Long Branch Connector Trail to the Green Mountain Trail. From there, I would first hike the Green Mountain Trail east out and back to the Lake Blue Ridge Trailhead, and then, I would hike the Green Mountain Trail west to Deep Gap, looping it with the Lower Green Mountain Trail. I would conclude the hike by retracing my steps along the Long Branch Connector and following the west side of the Long Branch Loop.
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