Chattahoochee National Forest: Grassy Mountain Fire Tower and Songbird Trail, Chatsworth, Georgia
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.
R/T Length of Trail: 4.4 Miles
Duration of Hike: 2 Hours, 15 Minutes
Type of Hike: Loop with Spur
Difficulty Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Very gradual ascent; great views; interpretive information on Songbird Trail
Cons: Top of fire tower is locked off
Best Season(s) to Hike: Year-round
Trail Blaze Color(s): Old road - None/none needed; Songbird Trail - Lime Green
Beginning Point: Songbird Trailhead at Overflow Campground
Directions: From Chatsworth, GA: Follow US 411 North until Grassy Street in Crandall. Turn right onto Grassy Street and after the railroad tracks, turn right onto Crandall-Ellijay Road. Take the second left onto Mill Creek Road. Follow Mill Creek Road for 8.6 miles and take a right onto West Cowpen Gap Road. Follow West Cowpen Gap Road for 3.2 miles, and then turn right onto Conasauga Lake Road. Follow Conasauga Lake Road for 1.6 miles until the parking area on the left.
If you haven't been to Lake Conasauga in the Cohutta Mountains before, you are going to like it. It's a nice place to relax, take a walk, and spend a night or two. The trails on the west side leading up to Grassy Mountain are easy and in pretty good shape, although the Tower Trail gets a bit steep toward the end. I prefer hiking this loop clockwise, like described below, because the climb along the old road isn't steep as opposed to the Tower Trail.
The road is about 2.5 miles long. There are several switchbacks as it winds around the mountain. At 1.75 miles you gain the ridgeline at a junction with the Tower Trail. The Tower Trail is your return route; keep left on the road for now. The road gradually ascended along the ridgeline with winter views to the west, until finally reaching the old turnaround atop Grassy Mountain. This used to be open to the public, as there are still rocks and picnic tables. There's no view from the clearing so you have to ascend the steps up the tower to get your views. The cabin of the tower is blocked off, though. Still, the view to the east is amazing. You can see Bald Mountain on the far left, and Fort Mountain on the far right, like a gate to the vast valley and its rolling hills. The cumulonimbus clouds were hanging above the valley like an overhang, making for a beautiful, panoramic picture. You can't see much to the west at this height, but the sun was setting amidst clouds just above the treeline, making a nice view as well.
After the tower, return down the road the way you came to the Tower Trail junction. Keep forward onto the Tower Trail. It is lime-green blazed, although blazes are very few in amount. The trail follows the ridgeline for a little bit, and then starts descending sharply. There are no switchbacks, which makes climbing up this trail a pain. The descent is that long, but it's hard enough even downhill. Around 3 miles, the descent lessens and seems to follow old road grades along a tiny creek. At 3.5 miles, reach a junction with the Songbird Trail. This is the first of two branches. Turn right (forward brings to the second branch and eventually to Lake Conasauga). The Songbird Trail has interpretive nature signs and even some benches. You'll cross a couple of small streams on footbridges. At 4 miles, cross a long footbridge over a beaver swamp/pond. It's pretty large. On the other side of it, there's a junction with the other branch of the Songbird Trail and the lower part. Turn right here, and follow the old road for 0.4 miles to reach the trailhead.
This is a nice, short afternoon hike. The views are pretty good for a hike under 5 miles. Below are my pictures and a video.
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