Length: 250 Miles
Bordering Wilderness View Cabins is the Pinhoti Trail.The trail is the longest foot trail in Georgia and connects to the Appalachian Trail (AT It stretches from the Alabama line in Polk County just outside of Cave Spring to the Benton Mackaye Trail deep in the Cohutta District between Ellijay, Blue Ridge, and Chatsworth. It links to the Alabama Pinhoti, which extends for another 100 miles across the Talladega National Forest. To the north it connects with the Appalachian Trail (AT) via the Benton Mackaye Trail.
Fort Mountain State Park
Fort Mountain State Park offers an interesting assortment of natural and human history. It lies on the southwestern edge of the Southern Appalachian range and melds into the Ridge and Valley Province giving it a wide variety of habitat types and geological diversity. Old gold mines and active talc mines are in the vicinity.
The trails vary from a short walk along the ancient stone, from which the mountain got its name, to the 8.2-mile Gahuti Backcountry Trail. Five trails are well marked, interesting and easy to follow.
General description: About fourteen miles of trails varying in length and difficulty.
Length: Old fort Loop and Stone trails 1.6 miles; Big Rock Nature Trail 0.7 mile; Lake Loop Trail, 1.1 miles; Gahuti Backcountry Trail, 8.2 miles; Gold Mine Creek Trail 2.3 miles.
Special attractions: Historically and geologically the ancient stone wall or “fort” is the most unique feature of the area; outstanding vistas of the surrounding mountains and natural history.
The most popular trail is the Old Fort Loop Trail that leads to the ancient stone wall. At the beginning of the trail, a large metal plaque prepared in 1968 by Georgia Department of State Parks tells of the mystery and legends of the stone wall and the mountain. The trail to the north leads to the mysterious and prehistoric wall of rocks from which Fort Mountain takes its name. Many generations of explorers, archaeologists, geologists, historians, and sightseers have wondered about the identity of the unknown builders and the purpose of their handiwork. From the brink of the cliff on the east side of the mountain, the wall extends 855 feet to another precipice on the west side. Its highest part measures about 700 feet, but generally it rises to a height of two or three feet. There are twenty-nine pits scattered fairly regularly along the wall with the wings of a gateway at one point. Speculation regarding the builders and their purpose covers a wide field. It includes references to sun worship and last ditch defense by prehistoric white people, bloody warfare between rival Indian tribes, defense fortification by Spanish conquistadors hunting gold, and honeymoon havens for Cherokee Indian newlyweds. Nobody knows which of the many legends and theories is true or false. The true answer still lies buried somewhere in antiquity and may never be unearthed.
From the sign, the trail with the yellow blaze leads to the stone wall where there are two more plaques that tell of additional mysteries of the interesting arrangement of the stones. Beyond the wall about 200 yards the trail reaches the stone tower built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps on the summit of Fort Mountain. The trail along the stone wall is marked by a blue blaze. The access trail to Chatsworth Overlook extends a short distance from the Fort Mountain Loop Trail and is marked with a red blaze.
Gahuti Backcountry Trail is an 8.2-mile loop that travels around the crest of Fort Mountain. The trail is marked by an orange blaze and can be hiked in either direction. A grand view of the Cohutta Mountains and Wilderness Area greets you at the very beginning. For the most part, the trail is easy to moderate, however, there are some short steep climbs and descents as the trail leads through the ravines and around the ridge crests. These can be slippery when wet or when covered with snow.
Big Rock Nature Trail begins at the sign along the park road a few yards south of the dam on Gold Mine Creek. This .7-mile path is marked by a yellow blaze and is the jewel of the park. After walking under a power line, the trail leads through a stand of small Virginia pines and then into a more dominantly deciduous hardwood forest of oaks, maples, sourwoods, black gums, and yellow poplars. The undergrowth is thick with sweet shrub and spicebush along with mountain laurel as the trail dips into a wet area. Dropping sharply to the bluff line, it intercepts the Gahuti Backcountry Trail, turns to the right and follows the rocky bluff line. The view from here is spectacular.
Catawba rhododendron is in bloom during May and June, along with mountain laurel and many species of spring wildflowers. Rockcap fern is abundant on the large rocks near the wooden steps and short boardwalk that leads to an overlook and down to the falls of Gold Mine Creek.
The orange blaze continues on along the bluff line, while the Big Rock Nature Trail turns upstream beside the picturesque cascades as the creek pours over the rock ledges. Above the tumbling water, the creek and trail become flatter until the base of the dam is reached. Then the trail ascends steeply top the road.
The Lake Loop Trail is an easy, flat path around the lake marked in blue blazes for a distance of 1.1 miles. It can be accessed at one of several places from the dam around to the swimming area on the north side. On the north side, several wet areas provide the hiker with opportunities to see such wildlife as frogs, salamanders and other aquatic and semi-aquatic animals. Patches of large cinnamon ferns grow in these wet glades along with aquatic plants like lizard-tail, arrowhead and the semi aquatic smartweeds. The trail passes cabins, picnic areas, swimming area, fishing dock and campgrounds. Boardwalks cross some of the wet areas. On the east end and south side of the lake, mountain laurel and rhododendron form a canopy over the trail. This is an excellent birding trail with both water birds and forest species present.
All access trails in this park are marked with a red blaze. One of these trails takes off from the Lake Loop Trail on the southeast end of the lake and connects with the Gold Mine Creek Trail. This loop trail begins at a low gap where it also intercepts with the Gahuti Backcountry Trail. The white blazed Gold Mine Creek Trail is easy to follow as it goes along an old roadbed up a gentle slope to the ridge top and then turns down the watershed of Gold Mine Creek. At this point the access trail top the Gold Mine camping area takes off to the right and the orange blaze of the Gahuti Backcountry Trail continues on.
Dropping down through the cove to the creek, hemlock and other streamside plants begin to show up again. The stream is so small at this point that crossings are of no consequence. After following the watercourse for about .2 mile, the trail leaves the stream and passes through a beautiful glade of New York ferns under an open second growth hardwood forest to connect again with the access trail down to the lake.
Amicalola Falls State Park
Amicalola Falls State Park offers hikers a great variety of outdoor choices. The trails are well marked and carefully maintained. Amicalola is a Cherokee word meaning “tumbling waters.” The falls, formed by Little Amicalola Creek, plunge 729 feet in several cascades, which makes it the highest waterfall east of the Mississippi River. Amicalola Creek is managed as a trout stream and is open to fishing from the last Saturday in March through the end of October.
General description: Three trails of approximately 3.5 miles of easy to moderate hikes and access to the beginning of the famous 2,160 mile Appalachian Trail.
Degree of difficulty: Easy to moderate
Length: Base of the Falls Trail .4 mile; East Ridge Spring Trail 1.3 miles; West Ridge Spring Trail 1.7 miles.
Special attractions: Amicalola Falls, spring flowers growing in a cove hardwood forest, dogwood, mountain laurel, rhododendron, and many other shrubs and trees bloom in profusion. Fall offers brilliant colors from the sourwoods, maples, oaks and many other species of hardwood trees; fishing.
Finding the trailheads: All trailheads are at or near the visitor center near the foot of the falls.
Base of the Falls Trail
This is an easy to moderate paved trail, .4 mile long one-way. It begins at the reflection pool that follows Little Amicalola Creek as it tumbles through a fine stand of yellow poplar trees in a typical southern Appalachian cover hardwood forest. Spring flowers abound along this trail from March through May. Two observation platforms along the path have benches for resting and watching for wildlife. The trail ends in a steeper climb at the second observation platform near the base of the falls.
The trail is markedly different during each season. In spring there is a show of wildflowers; bloodroot, several species of trilliums, Virginia cowslips, trout lilies, foam flowers, jack-in-the-pulpits, and blue and yellow violets just to name a few. Some of the shrubs and trees blooming early in spring are dogwood, redbud, maple, serviceberry and yellow poplar. Because of the popularity of the falls in fishing for trout in the reflection pool and Little Amicalola Creek this is a very heavily used trail.
East Ridge Spring Trail
This trail begins behind the visitor center. It is about 1.3 miles one way. It is a blue blaze trail that climbs about 1000 feet to the Falls Overlook. It starts with a gentle grade through hardwood forest for about 100 yards and then becomes a steep grade with several switchbacks for another quarter mile through a laurel thicket, or as the mountain people call it,” and ivy slick”. The trail breaks out onto an old logging/service road with a moderately steep grade until it reaches the Amicalola Falls Lodge. It continues just behind the lodge to the trail for the Falls Overlook, a grand view of the surrounding mountains from the short wooden bridge. The trail then continues as the Appalachian Approach Trail and proceeds for about 7.5 miles to Springer Mountains, the southern terminus of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.
From the Falls Overlook, you can continue back down the mountain to the visitor center by way of the West Ridge Spring Trail or return down the same East Ridge Spring Trail.
The West Ridge Spring Trail
This trail is broken into several loops all of which are well marked and identified with appropriate blazes. From the beginning of the trail, across the road from the visitor center, there are “Nature Trail” signs that lead eventually to the West Ridge Spring on the paved road to the Lodge. Because of the many switchbacks this trail is easy to moderate and travels through lush cove hardwood forest and open, dry, pine and oak ridge exposures.
Bear Creek Trail
Length: 6.7 miles
Degree of Difficulty: This is an easy to moderate trail that is a double loop trail that follows scenic Bear Creek through hemlock cove hardwood forests and passes by the Gennett Poplar. This is an immense old growth yellow poplar tree. The 2-mile round trip to the “Big Poplar” makes a great family outing. Sections of the trail are narrow, steep and the path crosses several streams. This trail is good for hiking and mountain bikes. Shallow streams to ford are part of your experience.
Be Alert! This is a multi-use trail open to Mountain Bikes as well.
Lake Conasauga Recreation
Description: At 3,150 feet in elevation, Lake Conasauga is the highest lake in Georgia and the southern gateway to the awe-inspiring 34,000-acre Cohutta Wilderness Area. A hiker could not find a better area to explore than this wilderness. Nearly 90 miles of well-marked trails provide access to almost every habitat type in the Cohuttas. Lake Conasauga is a sparkling 19-acre lake with picnic areas, a boat ramp, a grass beach, and nearby camp grounds. Grassy Mountain, at 3,600 feet elevation, provides a beautiful backdrop to this alluring site. Three trails are accessible from the Recreation Area with travel through oak ridge forests, beaver ponds, grass fields, and cove forests.
Viewing Information: The three trails found here offer some of the best high mountain wildlife viewing in the State. Black bears, white-tailed deer, wild hogs, bobcats, raccoons, red and gray foxes, and mink are plentiful in the forests surrounding the lake and might be seen at any time of the year. Around the lake look for kingfishers, wood ducks, and swallows. In the lake you might see bass, trout, or the shallow dish-shaped nests of bluegill. The tower at the end of Tower Trail is an excellent site for watching migrating vultures, hawks, and eagles in the spring and fall. The fall leaf color is also spectacular.
Directions: From Wilderness View Cabins turn left onto Hwy 52. Drive 9 miles to Hwy 411 in Chatsworth, GA, turn right and driver apx. 4 miles. In Eton, turn right (east) at the traffic light onto old CCC Camp Road. Pavement ends after about 7 miles and then road becomes Forest Service Road 18. Travel about 4 miles and turn left (northeast) onto Forest Service Road 68. Continue on this road until you reach the main gate, about 10 miles.
Additional Information: Weather can spoil the trip for those who are unprepared. Rain gear is recommended. Winter weather can be quite severe with temperatures below zero. Drinking water or a personal filtration system should be carried, as well as at least a one-day supply of food. There is a fee to camp at both camping facilities.
Grassy Mountain Tower Trail
Length: 2 miles
Grassy Mountain Tower Trail stretches from the dam on Lake Conasauga to the old fire tower atop Grassy Mountain. This trail makes an easy ascent up the mountain.
Starting from the dam on tiny (17 acres) Lake Conasauga in the Cohutta Wilderness, this trail almost immediately joins its companion hike, the Songbird Trail, and almost immediately bears slightly to the right. Past a beaver dam on the left the trail continues on an uphill path to the top of Grassy Mountain. The trail, which is well worn by the campers, features abundant wildlife and a good spring flower show in late May.
Conasauga is a Cherokee word which according to some sources means “grassy”, although the grassier areas are on the section shared with the Songbird Trail. Leaving this trail the path climbs through a hardwood forest. For a short time it runs next to a Forest Service Road, returning to the woods. At the top of Grassy Mountain is a fire tower. Normally, the gate to the stairs is left open, permitting access to the first floor. The view from the fire tower is spectacular!
This land was originally part of the Cherokee National Forest. When the U. S. government formed the Georgia National Forest they combined purchases made throughout North Georgia Mountains with portions of the Cherokee. Renamed in 1937 to Chattahoochee National Forest the area is the largest wilderness area east of the Mississippi. Novice hikers and family groups will enjoy this relatively easy trail.
Length: 1.7 Miles
A great family hike, this trail follows the Little Conasauga River in then meanders through woods and rhododendron on the return trip. This is an easy trail to follow. The trip down follows a number of beaver dams. The Forest Service has specially constructed docks to permit visitors an up close look at the gentrification process of the lakes formed by the dam.
The river that once flowed is widened and more stagnant thanks to the work of the beaver. Trees, whose stumps are covered by the pond, die providing homes for both waterfowl and songbirds. Well-placed bird housing can be spotted around the perimeter of the lake and in some of the dead trees. Greases begin to grow in the bottom and mud formerly carried off the river and thickens. Water also provides a home for insects on which the songbirds feed.
As the trail continues, the sound of the birds grows louder until a nearly continuous din makes it difficult to tell each call. Cleared and burned fields provide the open areas that attract these birds.
A bridge crosses one of the beaver’s dams. However, extra work has been done to support the bridge. Here the trail veers left and begins to raise to a thicket of rhododendron that the songbirds use for protection from predators. Several bridges later the trail returns to the start of the loop. At this T, turn right to return to the parking area.
Cohutta Wilderness Trails