Pinhoti Trail: Mulberry Gap Road to Highway 52 and Cohutta Overlook, Ellijay, Georgia
The Pinhoti Trail is a long-distance trail that runs for over 300 miles across Alabama and Georgia. Portions of it are still in the development stage, particularly in West Georgia where little public land is available. The northernmost part of the PT is in the Cohutta Mountains, where the trail is remote and little-traveled due to an overall lack of significant features. The section of the Pinhoti between Mulberry Gap Road and Highway 52 is on the southern fringe of the Cohutta Mountains is a well-constructed trail that is great for a mostly relaxing walk with good exercise. Even though this segment of the trail is a bit more popular due to its proximity to two roadways, you will still find it mostly peaceful except where it approaches Highway 52. As a bonus, a very short road-walk from the end of the segment will lead you to a grassy clearing with panoramic views of the Cohutta Mountains. This hike occurred on Saturday, August 19th, 2017. My plan was to hike out and back along the Pinhoti Trail from Mulberry Gap Road to Highway 52 and to Cohutta Overlook.
R/T Length of Trail: 8.3 Miles
Duration of Hike: 4:45
Type of Hike: Out and Back
Difficulty Rating: 6 out of 10
Total Elevation Gain: 1750 Feet
Pros: Well-constructed trail with no steep grades and many switchbacks
Cons: Motor noise near Highway 52; short road-walk necessary to reach Cohutta Overlook; some biking traffic on trail
Points of Interest: Cohutta Overlook - 4 stars (not remote due to easy highway access)
Trail Blaze Colors: Pinhoti Trail - both White Rectangle and White Diamond with Turkey Foot Symbol
Best Seasons to Hike: Winter
Beginning Point: Mulberry Gap Road
Directions from Ellijay, GA: From the roundabout in downtown Ellijay, follow North Dalton Street (GA 52/2 West) for 9.3 miles, and then, turn right onto Conasauga Road. In 1.3 miles, there is a slightly confusing intersection. Continue straight onto unpaved Mulberry Gap Road (Forest Service Road 18) that begins with a narrow bridge across Stillhouse Branch. In another 1.2 miles, the road reaches the signed trailhead for the Pinhoti Trail to Cohutta Overlook on the left. There is a small wide spot here with space for one or maybe two cars on the side of the road. If the space is full, it may be possible to park in the clearing to the left of the road depending on how overgrown it is.
Click the link below to download a .GPX file with a track of this hike.
After following Mulberry Gap Road for 1 mile, the Pinhoti Trail departs the road in the southbound direction at the Pinhoti Trail arrow where you parked. Follow the path through a small field and past the "Foot Travel Welcome" sign. The trail quickly begins an easy ascent up Turkey Mountain. After initially paralleling the road, the trail makes a sharp switchback at a powerline cut at 0.2 miles. The trail ascends at an easy to moderate grade in and out of hollows Between 0.75 and 1.25 miles, the Pinhoti Trail makes five switchbacks. The trail is narrow and a bit overgrown at times but always very distinct and well-built. At 1.1 miles, there are some large rock outcrops above the trail on the steep slopes to the right. There are good winter views north toward the Cohutta Mountains in this section. After the fifth switchback, the trail reaches the crest of the ridge in a gap east of Turkey Mountain at 1.4 miles.
The Pinhoti Trail turns right and crosses over to the south side of the ridge, becoming a bit more overgrown and skirting the summit of Turkey Mountain. After passing through another gap at 1.75 miles, the Pinhoti Trail begins to skirt the south side of another knob before dropping off the ridge completely. The trail leaves the ridge to bypass an area of private property, which explains the unnecessary elevation change. The trail makes two pairs of switchbacks before leveling out around 300 feet below the top at 2.25 miles. After a brief level stretch, the trail begins an easy ascent back toward the ridge, curving in and out of numerous small hollows and making a pair of switchbacks near the top. The trail never actually quite reaches the ridge though, dropping into a gap below Highway 52 at 2.95 miles. The trail bears right onto an old forest road, which also continues to the left in an overgrown state. The forest road actually descends gradually for nearly a half-mile, contouring along the slopes north of Highway 52 and below the knob with Cohutta Overlook.
At 3.35 miles, the trail makes an acute left turn and begins the final ascent to Highway 52 and Cohutta Overlook - even though it is perhaps the steepest grade on the hike, it is still a moderate climb through dense hardwood forest with some winter views to the north. After passing directly below Cohutta Overlook, the Pinhoti Trail reaches Highway 52 at 3,9 miles. The route of the Pinhoti Trail turns right and follows the highway for a half-mile before diving southward into the woods. However, the destination of this hike is Cohutta Overlook, so you actually have to turn left to follow Highway 52 East for about 0.1 miles. At 4.05 miles, a one-way paved road ends on the left. This is the access road for Cohutta Overlook. The gated service road between Highway 52 and the one-way road leads to the overlook. Walk around the gate and to the top of the hill, reaching the stone observation area at 4.15 miles.
The Cohutta Overlook sits at the top of an unnamed knob at an elevation of about 2400 feet. The large clearing that provides the views appears to have been created artificially, as it resembles a wildlife clearing. The best views face northwest to northeast, as you can see several long ridges of the Cohutta Mountains. While this isn't a long-range view, it is still pretty due to how well you can see all the minuscule features of the ridgelines. There is also a long-range but limited view to the east. A major drawback of Cohutta Overlook is that it is very close to a major roadway and is thus easily accessible. Even if you have most of the hike to yourself, you're very likely to see at least some people at the overlook.
From Cohutta Overlook, simply retrace your steps back to Mulberry Gap Road. Even though a good portion of the return route consists of relaxing downhill, the ascent back up Turkey Mountain around the halfway point will feel a bit harder. You will return to the trailhead at 8.3 miles, concluding the hike.
0.0 - Mulberry Gap Road
1.4 - Ridge Crest near Turkey Mountain
2.95 - Gap, Old Road Junction
3.9 - Highway 52
4.15 - Cohutta Overlook
8.3 - Mulberry Gap Road
Hike out and back to the ridge crest near Turkey Mountain - 2.8 Miles
The best bonus hike in the area is the Emery Creek Trail to Emery Creek Falls and several other waterfalls above it. However, the hike is fairly lengthy, because even if you hike just to the first two waterfalls, the total distance will be 5.4 miles.
9/17/2017 02:57:24 pm
thank you . It is very beautiful up there. I am trying to arrange a short trip for this fall but am not moving very quickly. please keep up the good work. It seems like today in dekalb county alabama it is very hot still, i was hoping for my time to be in a cooler spell. Altho i live now in north florida , I have never really aclimated to this sort of heat and dont enjoy the outdoors after about 78 degrees if i have a choice. But my travels so far around that area have only whetted my appetite to go and see some more. You are the future and I am so glad.
1/6/2019 02:58:47 pm
A group of friends and I went yesterday, and your write-up was both helpful and spot on. Thank you for the beta on this trail.
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Mark Oleg Ozboyd
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