The Iron Mountain Loop is one of the less-used trails in the Cohutta Mountains. Most folks who visit the Conasauga River choose to hike the Conasauga River Trail #11 in the Cohutta Wilderness proper, well above the Jacks River confluence. On the other hand, the Iron Mountain Trail combines with Cherokee National Forest's Conasauga River Trail #61 to showcase a much broader and equally pristine section of the Conasauga River below the Jacks River confluence, where two mighty mountain rivers join into one. Although much of the Iron Mountain Trail is just a peaceful wooded walk across the slopes of Iron Mountain, a small vista at the halfway point offers a welcome break with a view of the West Cowpen Ridge that forms the Cohutta Wilderness boundary. The Iron Mountain Loop has only one downside: it gets a fair amount of equestrian traffic. This hike occurred on Saturday, September 23rd, 2017. My plan was to hike the Iron Mountain Loop clockwise by first following the Iron Mountain Trail from Cottonwood Patch Campground and then hiking the Conasauga River Trail to FS 221. The loop would be concluded with a short roadwalk along FS 221 and FS 16.
Lower Jigger Creek Falls is a very photogenic waterfall in Cohutta Wildlife Management Area that is easy to access yet off the radar. The falls is only about 25 feet high but consists of a scenic free-fall and steep cascade amidst large boulders and jagged rock outcrops. Lower Jigger Creek Falls' setting is striking thanks to the sizable boulder field that begins at the waterfall and continues for some distance downstream. The short hike to the falls follows distinct paths with exclusively easy grades from East Cowpen Road. This hike occurred on Saturday, September 23rd, 2017. My plan was to hike out and back to Lower Jigger Creek Falls from East Cowpen Road.
Cohutta Wilderness: Panther Creek Falls via Hickory Creek - Conasauga River - Panther Creek - East Cowpen Loop, Chatsworth, Georgia
Panther Creek Falls is one of two well-known waterfalls in the Cohutta Wilderness. During high flow, the falls is quite beautiful as Panther Creek slides 80 feet down a massive cliff. But the many different wilderness approaches to Panther Creek Falls are at least as great as the falls itself. The Hickory Creek Loop approach to Panther Creek Falls is likely the most difficult and least-used, but the spectacular wilderness experience on remote trails is well worth it. On this strenuous loop hike, you'll follow the Conasauga River and cross it twice, scramble through a steep and unique boulder field, visit Panther Creek Falls and the great vista atop it, and gain over 3500 feet in elevation. If you don't feel like completing the Hickory Creek Loop in a long day hike, numerous superb campsites will allow you to split the loop into as many days as you feel comfortable. This hike occurred on Saturday, September 16th, 2017. My plan was to hike the Hickory Creek Loop counter-clockwise from the end of East Cowpen Road by following the Hickory Creek Trail, Conasauga River Trail, Panther Creek Trail, and East Cowpen Trail.
Mill Creek is one of the most scenic small streams in the Cohutta Mountains of Northwest Georgia. In a little more than a half-mile, the creek comes over four waterfalls and many smaller cascades, and an easy unofficial trail follows the creek with access to all of the gorgeous scenery. The third and largest waterfall, in particular, is a beautiful steep slide that drops over 30 feet into a sparkling pool. The last part of the trail is a steep scramble to the base of the third falls, but it still definitely is doable to most folks and well worth the effort. This hike occurred on Saturday, September 16th, 2017. My plan was to hike the Mill Creek Trail out and back from Hickey Gap Campground past the 1st Falls and 2nd Falls to the 3rd Falls on Mill Creek. I would also make a short creek scramble to the 4th Falls from the 3rd Falls.
Cohutta Wilderness: Horseshoe Bend Trail and Jacks River Trail to Jacks River Falls and Alaculsy Trailhead, Chatsworth, Georgia
Looking at a topographic map of the Jacks River area, one can easily make out the iconic Horseshoe Bend in the river, where the land sticks out in the form of a horseshoe. The Jacks River Trail is a trail that is over a dozen miles long and has over forty river fords, as it follows the Jacks River for much of its length and crisscrosses it numerous times. This trail provides the easiest access into the beautiful stretch of the Jacks River at Horseshoe Bend. A lesser-used trail known as the Horseshoe Bend Trail can be used to accessed the area as well, and there's also a catch: it passes mere feet away from one of the most beautiful vistas in the Cohutta Mountains. On this hike, you'll first hike through upland areas south of the Jacks River, passing the spectacular Horseshoe Bend vista, before hiking through the scenic Jacks River Gorge to Jacks River Falls. This hike occurred on Saturday, September 3rd, 2016. My plan was to follow the Horseshoe Bend Trail from FS Road 51 to the Jacks River Trail. From there, I would hike out and back along the Jacks River Trail upstream to Jacks River Falls, and then, I would follow the Jacks River Trail downstream to the Alaculsy Trailhead. I arranged to have two cars for this point-to-point hike: one car was placed at the Horseshoe Bend Trailhead and another car was placed at the Alaculsy Jacks River Trailhead.
The Jacks River is a turbulent waterway that is the main linear focus of the northern Cohutta Wilderness. The Jacks River Trail travels through the wilderness from the river's headwaters near Dally Gap to the wilderness boundary and the place where Jacks River flows into the Conasauga River in Alaculsy Valley. With 42 fords, the trail is the wettest trail in the Cohutta Wilderness, but also the most scenic, passing through a gorge and past a large waterfall. On this hike, you'll have a chance to experience two fords of the Jacks River, as well as see Jacks River Falls - one of the most powerful waterfalls in Georgia. This hike occurred on Saturday, March 14th, 2015. My plan was to hike the Rice Camp Loop clockwise. I would first take the Rice Camp Trail to the Jacks River. From there, I would take the Jacks River Trail upstream, stopping by Jacks River Falls long the way. Next, I would take the Hickory Ridge Trail and follow it to its terminus at the East Cowpen Trail near Buckeye Mountain. I would finish by taking the East Cowpen Trail downhill back to the trailhead.
Fort Mountain State Park has one of the most impressive trail systems in Georgia's state parks. The western section of the park has over a dozen talc mines. While these mines are closed to the public, they can be viewed from the extensive trail system in that area. In addition, the park's two main streams, Mill Creek and Goldmine Creek, both have sets of picturesque cascades and waterfalls. The light snow cover along with ice from the preceding week's cold blast made this hike an excellent one. This hike occurred on February 21st, 2015. My plan was to hike Bike/Hike Trail #301 counter-clockwise. Old Fort Road, the road leading to the trailhead, was closed due to ice and snow, so I ended up also hiking Bike/Hike Trail #303 from Fort Mountain Lake Trailhead.
The Jacks River is the second largest waterway in the combined Cohutta-Big Frog Wilderness. While maybe not the largest, it is probably the most turbulent, with a large gorge and a waterfall along its course. Jacks River Falls is the highest and most powerful waterfall in the combined wilderness. Most routes require at least one deep ford of Jacks River to reach the falls. However, Beech Bottoms Trail is a good winter alternative, being the only relatively "dry" route to the falls. The only crossings will be over Beech Bottoms Creek, which may still be problematic in high water levels. This hike occurred on January 3rd, 2015. My plan was to hike the Beech Bottoms Trail southward to Jacks River Trail. Then, I would take the Jacks River Trail west to Jacks River Falls. I would return the same way.
Fort Mountain is one of the most prominent features in northwestern Georgia. While its elevation is low relative to the Cohutta Mountains just to the north, the steep drop-off of the mountain can be recognized from dozens of miles away. The mountain is pretty significant historically. The very summit of Fort Mountain is marked by a CCC Stone Tower, which is currently closed to the public. Just below the summit, an 800-foot wall of mysterious origin follows the south slope of the mountain. The Gahuti Trail takes you farther from the summit of the mountain into more remote regions, where you can find waterfalls on Goldmine Creek. This hike occurred on Saturday, November 29th, 2014. My plan was to start at the Cool Springs Trailhead, and after checking out the Cool Springs Overlook, to follow the Gahuti to the Stone Tower Loop. After hiking the Stone Tower Loop, I would leave the crowded sections of the park and hike the Gahuti Loop counter-clockwise. If time would remain, I would take the #301 Bike Trail down the mountain to see some of the lower waterfalls on Goldmine Creek.
The Cohutta Mountains of Northwest Georgia are some of the oldest in world, and have many great hiking trails. the southwestern end of the Cohuttas is marked by Grassy Mountain, which houses a fire tower from the last century. Below the fire tower, Conasauga Lake, the highest elevation lake in Georgia, has a campground and some hiking trails. This hike occurred on Saturday, September 6th, 2014. My plan was to approach the Grassy Mountain Fire Tower by the closed forest road leading to it. I would return by the Tower Trail and Songbird Trail.
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