Best Tent Camping Near Atlanta
Set in the rugged highlands of the western Chattahoochee National Forest , 19-acre Lake Conasauga is a mountaintop oasis adjacent to the 34,000-acre Cohutta Wilderness, Georgia's largest wilderness area. Tent campers will be well rewarded after the long gravel drive that deters all but the most determined RVers. Expect a nearly full campground on weekends. Make sure to bring everything you needÂ—civilization is far away. After you go boating, hiking, swimming, fishing, and wildlife viewing, you will be ready to kick back in the breezy campground.
The campground is located near the lake and divided into three areas. The main campground has 31 sites divided into two loops. The upper loop is on a forested ridge with 12 spacious and private sites. It has several water spigots and a central bathroom atop the ridge with flush toilets for each sex. The lakeside lower loop is shaded by white pine with little understory. Five sites are actually lakefront. Those and the other sites offer an appealing view of the clear blue waters ringed in rhododendron. A comfort station and water spigot are located at the head of the loop.
The second loop area holds only four sites in a grassy clearing ringed with trees, but no view of the lake. But the Lakeshore Trail makes the lake instantly accessible. Flush toilets and water are nearby. This small area has an isolated feel to it.
The final five sites sit in the overflow area atop the ridge above the lake. The area has flush toilets but no water, though a short trip to the other loops can amend that problem. The breezes are stronger here, and the area has a mountaintop feel to it. A campground host is located at the largest loop on summer weekends. Recycling stations are in each camping area.
If you find it hard to pick a site, you will really be hard-pressed to decide what to do first. To explore Lake Conasauga, dammed in 1940 by the CCC, you can take the .8-mile Lakeshore Trail that courses through hemlock and rhododendron along the water's edge. A grassy glade with benches covers the dam. Sit down, relax, and absorb the atmosphere. Or use a canoe or small johnboat and fish for bream, bass, or trout. Only electric motors are allowed. Want to take a dip? Across the lake from the campground is a ringed-off swimming beach. You can reach it from the picnic area or the Lakeshore Trail.
Start hiking right from your campsite. The Songbird and Grassy Mountain Trails are instantly accessible. Wildlife viewing is made easy by the .6-mile Songbird Trail. The Forest Service has cleared small plots along the trail to make a better habitat for the likes of the owl, woodcock, and kingfisher. Beavers have dammed the trailside stream, strengthening biodiversity with their ponds that provide a habitat for numerous amphibians. The 2-mile Grassy Mountain Tower Trail climbs gradually to the 3,692-foot fire tower. From the tower you can see the forested Cohutta Wilderness and the Southern Appalachians as they stretch northward into Tennessee.
Just a short distance away from Lake Conasauga are forest roads that circle the southern half of the Cohutta Wilderness. No fewer than six trails lead from these roads into the heart of the Cohutta. Make the most of your adventuring with a map of the wilderness, which can be obtained at the Ranger Station in Chatsworth. The Tearbritches Trail (Forest Trail #9) starts just east of the campground. It crosses Bald Mountain then descends to Bray Field along the Conasauga River. The Conasauga River has a reputation as Georgia's cleanest, clearest waterway. Chestnut Lead Trail (FT #11) drops into the lower Conasauga in 1.8 miles. East Cowpen Trail (FT #30) traverses the high country at the heart of the wilderness. Large trees, wildlife, and good fishing are Cohutta hallmarks.
Conasauga is an area of Georgian superlatives: the highest lake, the cleanest water, the largest wilderness. Come here with high expectations. You won't be disappointed.
To get there, from Chatsworth take U.S. 411 north for 4 miles; turn right at the traffic light in Eton. Follow FS 18 east for 10 miles. Turn left on FS 68 and follow it for 10 miles. Lake Conasauga will be on your right.
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Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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