Pigeon-Crockford Mountain Wildlife Management Area: Chamberlain Trail to Nash Pit Falls and High Point, LaFayette, Georgia
Chamberlain Trail is one of only two trails that ascends the east side of Pigeon Mountain from base to top. This lesser-known trail climbs at an easy to moderate pace through Atwood Gulf before meeting up with the Atwood Trail atop the mountain. While there aren't any notable attractions along the trail itself, a fantastic natural sight lies off-trail in Atwood Gulf: Nash Pit Falls. Have you ever heard the words pit and waterfall in one sentence? At Nash Pit Falls, a small stream flows out of a cave and instantly drops over 70 feet into the Nash Pit, a small but deep hole in the ground. In addition to the stunning Nash Pit Falls, this hike also visits a pair of McLemore Cove vistas on High Point - the highest point on Pigeon Mountain. This hike occurred on Saturday, January 13th, 2018. My plan was to hike the Chamberlain Trail from Chamberlain Road to Atwood Trail, making the bushwhack to Nash Pit Falls along the way. Next, I would follow the Atwood Trail to the Pocket/Bluff Trail. I would then follow the Pocket Trail and Bluff Trail in conjunction to the views on High Point. I would retrace my steps the same way.
R/T Length of Trail: 9.6 Miles
Duration of Hike: 4:40 plus 50 minutes of stopping and photography
Type of Hike: Out and Back
Difficulty Rating: 6 out of 10
Total Elevation Gain: 2023 Feet
Pros: Easy-to-follow trails
Cons: One of the main attractions, Nash Pit Falls, is off-trail
Points of Interest: Nash Pit Falls - 8 stars with good flow; High Point Views - 4 stars
Trail Blaze Colors: Chamberlain Trail - Red (very few blazes); Atwood Trail - Orange; Bluff Trail - White; Pocket Trail - Blue
Best Seasons to Hike: Winter
Fees: A WMA Hunting or Fishing License is required for this hike. The license costs $15 annually and can only be obtained online at www.gooutdoorsgeorgia.com or at certain retailers.
Beginning Point: Chamberlain Trailhead
Directions from LaFayette, GA: From the intersection of US 27 Business (South Main Street) and GA 193 (West Main Street) in downtown LaFayette, follow GA 193 North for 2.8 miles. Then, turn left onto Chamberlain Road. In 2.6 miles, turn right onto the unnamed and unpaved road that leads to the Chamberlain Trailhead. Reach the dead-end parking area in 0.2 miles.
Click the link below to download a .GPX file with a track of this hike.
That mysterious waterfall dropping into a cave had been on my list for years ever since I first saw a photo on Flickr. Discovering the location of Nash Pit Falls turned out to be a daunting task due to the lack of online information. I was surprised to learn about relatively easy access to Nash Pit Falls. It didn't seem like the bushwhack to it would be formidable, so I quickly put it on my list to visit this most unique falls. Even though it took me over a year to get there since I learned about the location, I'm excited to have finally crossed Nash Pit Falls off my list.
The Chamberlain Trail begins by the kiosk at the far end of the huge parking area. Near its beginning, the trail crosses a minor powerline cut and a service road leading to a private field. Then, the trail makes an easy ascent on the lower slopes of Pigeon Mountain well below Atwood Point. At 1.05 miles, after circling a small hollow, the Chamberlain Trail enters a valley-like area known as Atwood Gulf. Shortly thereafter, as the trail joins an old roadbed, the ascent becomes steeper. At 1.4 miles, a very faint old roadbed angles to the right. If you look right, you can see a notable tall peak (part of Pigeon Mountain) across the valley. This is the place where you should leave the trail to see Nash Pit Falls. The off-trail section is about 0.25 miles one way. It's okay to initially follow the faint old roadbed, but the roadbed dissipates in less than 0.1 mile. From there, turn right and walk through the open woods in the direction of the prominent peak. There's a couple of spots where you have to descend steeply before you reach a normally dry gully at the bottom of Atwood Gulf. Cross the rocky gully and continue straight 250 feet to Nash Pit Falls, reaching it at 1.65 miles. In the winter and if the flow is good, you should be able to glimpse the falls before you descend all the way to the gully.
Nash Pit Falls may not be a powerful waterfall but it's about as unique as a natural sight can get. The falls is located on a tiny unnamed stream that's mostly underground. Just above the waterfall, the stream exits a cave, cascades down a series of ledges, and drops over 70 feet into the Nash Pit - much of it a free-fall! The small overhang near the top of the pit features a beautifully lush spray plant community. Usually, the flow is low and spread out, but the falls is truly special when its setting and uniqueness is factored in. Nevertheless, a disclaimer for Nash Pit Falls is needed. The area around the pit is extremely dangerous. If you slip into the pit, you would likely die, and even if you didn't, you wouldn't be able to get out without a rope. For your own safety, please stay away from the edge of the pit.
From Nash Pit Falls, return to the Chamberlain Trail. The trail soon levels out and travels northward into the upper reaches of Atwood Gulf at a very easy grade. At 2.95 miles, the trail crosses an intermittent stream shown on topographic maps. There are two waterfalls on this stream: Lower and Upper Atwood Gulf Falls. The waterfalls are close to each other and are about 0.1 mile above the trail crossing. Although Upper Atwood Gulf Falls is fairly tall, it's worth it only after extended periods of heavy rain. The stream normally has very low volume, so the falls look good only during excessively wet periods. A rather steep ascent with a couple switchbacks to the plateau begins after the stream crossing. Pretty boulder fields surround the trail near the top. As the trail reaches the top, it crosses a small stream twice at 3.4 miles. The Chamberlain Trail then reaches its upper end at 3.7 miles, where there's a junction with the Atwood Trail.
The northernmost part of the Atwood Trail that the Chamberlain Trail meets up with follows a seasonal forest road that leads to Atwood Point. As far as I know, there's no good views at Atwood Point, so it's probably not worth the side trip. While the trail to Atwood Point continues straight, this hike turns right onto the Atwood Trail toward High Point. At 3.9 miles, the Atwood Trail ends at a junction with the Bluff Trail and Pocket Trail (they run in conjunction). Turn left onto a narrower footpath, blazed blue and white, to hike to High Point. This is where the final easy-to-moderate 400-foot ascent to High Point starts. Winter views north into McLemore Cove abound along the trail. At 4.9 miles, the trail reaches the summit of High Point - the highest point on Pigeon Mountain. A rock outcrop provides a nice view of McLemore Cove and Lookout Mountain, but the best view lies ahead along the trail. 0.15 miles later, at 5.05 miles, the Bluff/Pocket Trail passes a campsite by some rock outcrops to the right. This is where the best view atop High Point is at. Walk to the campsite and onto the far rock outcrop. From here, there is an unimpeded 180-degree panoramic view of McLemore Cove's patchwork fields. The long flat ridge of Lookout Mountain is on the far side of the cove. To the left, you can see Dougherty Gap in the distance at the head of the cove.
Simply retrace your steps from High Point back to the Chamberlain Trailhead, concluding the hike at 9.6 miles.
0.0 - Chamberlain Trailhead
1.65 - Nash Pit Falls
3.7 - Upper end of Chamberlain Trail
4.9 - High Point
5.05 - Main View from High Point
9.6 - Chamberlain Trailhead
Hike out and back to Nash Pit Falls - 3.3 Miles
A nice bonus stop for this hike is the short trail to 70-foot Dickson Falls off Rocky Lane.
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