Weekend Backpacker: Atlanta
Though once nearly logged out, the Cohuttas have returned to a wild if not pristine state, which makes this a popular area to hike and camp. This mountain range in northwest Georgia forms the end of the Blue Ridge Mountains and is home to black bears, bobcats, deer, wild turkeys, and other wildlife. There are plenty of hiking trails throughout the Cohuttas.
Recommended trip: Jacks River Trail. This is a 16.7-mile one-way hike that follows the Jacks River downstream from Dally Gap to the trailhead in Alaculsy Valley (easy to moderate). If you prefer a tougher hike, follow the same trail upstream. There are 40 fords of the river as you make your way downstream that range from rock-hopping to wading. The trail mostly follows an old logging railway.
A number of the Cohutta's trails interconnect with this trail. Keep an eye out near the fords for the piled rock buttresses that once held the bridges that spanned the river, washed away by a flood more than 60 years ago. You might also see remnants of the old railway, including hand-forged spikes.
Getting there: From Atlanta, take Interstate 75 north to Exit 136 and take US 76 twelve miles to Chatsworth. Take US 411 north from Chatsworth just over thirteen miles to Cisco. In Cisco, turn right on the paved road immediately before the Cisco Baptist Church, known as Old Highway 2. Continue to follow it once the pavement ends (where it becomes Forest Service Road 16), forking to the right past Hopewell Church. Cross the Conasauga River and continue straight at the intersection with Forest Service 51 for nearly nine miles to where the road crosses the Jacks River on a suspension bridge. The trail parking lot is to the right, across the river in Tennessee.
Permit information: No permit is required to hike or camp in the wilderness area.
Maps: A map of the Cohutta Wilderness Area (located in the Chattahoochee National Forest) is available from the United States Forest Service or the Cohutta Ranger District office (see address above). You can also purchase it at most outdoors stores in the Atlanta area.
Practical information: Because this hike involves a number of river crossings, it is ill-advised to attempt the hike after heavy rains. You may become trapped as the creek-fed river rises. Always wear boots, tennis shoes, or river shoes when fording the river; the rocks can be slippery. The Jacks River is a popular trout-fishing spot.
Recommended guides: The Hiking Trails of north Georgia by Tim Homan (Peachtree) is an excellent reference for this hike and others in the Cohutta Wilderness.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication