HIKING/HORSE TRAILS OF THE COHUTTA WILDERNESS
"When all the dangerous cliffs are fenced
off, all of the trees that might fall on people
are cut down, all of the insects that bite are
poisoned....and all of the grizzlies are dead
because they are occasionally dangerous,
the wilderness will not be made safe. Rather
the safety will have destroyed the
wilderness." - R. Yorke Edwards
The Cohutta Wilderness occupies 36,977 acres
in the mountains of North Georgia and
Tennessee and is part of the Chattahoochee
National Forest, Conasauga Ranger District.
There are approximately 90 total miles of
horse/hiking trails. Although horses are
considered “foot traffic here, riding off-trail is not
recommended because of the numerous stump
holes form logging operations, old barbed wire,
blowdowns, and the presence of snakes and
various types of bees. Because of steep
terrain, river crossings, the danger of flash floods, and the remote nature of the Wilderness, horses are
restricted from some trails and sensitive areas. Trail markings are minimal and a map and/or GPS is
strongly recommended if you are not familiar with the area. Please read the bulletin boards at the
trailheads. Except for the most popular areas at peak times, you may not encounter another visitor.
There are limitations on where you can ride and camp and the number of riders in a group (3) to preserve
the “Wilderness Experience” of solitude and
absence of civilization. Wildlife viewing
experiences (bears, hogs, deer, turkey, grouse,
etc.) are common if you ride quietly and in small
groups. Riding/hiking in a wilderness area
requires planning, caution, and proper
preparation due to the remoteness of these
areas and the difficulty of summoning help in an
emergency. Watch weather forecasts carefully.
Recent rains can cause the river crossings to
be deep, fast, and dangerous. A trip may get
extended in bad weather, so be prepared for
this possibility with extra food, extra water, and
dry warm clothing. Getting caught after dark in
the mountains can be life threatening for the
unprepared. Take trips here very seriously.
Make sure someone at home knows the route
you are taking and your expected time of
return. Even on good days, plan on getting wet. Cell phone service is sporadic at best and usually
available only from the ridge line trails. Poisonous snakes are common and will sometimes sun
themselves in a trail.
If you are unfamiliar with this area, you can find information about Trailheads by going to
Fires are permitted using dead and down wood only. No permits are required. There are limitations on
fires in Beach Bottoms near Jacks River Falls and camping is not permitted in this area. Please obey all
wilderness regulations posted at trailheads. Horses are prohibited on certain trails. The dedicated
volunteers of "Team Conasauga" spend countless hours maintaining these trails and packing out the
trash users leave behind. Please respect our wilderness areas to preserve them for generations to come.
Be "Gentle on the Land". Pack out what you bring in and any trash you encounter. Practice "Leave No
Please do not poach the plants and animals that live here. It is a balanced ecosystem that depends on
More information and Wilderness maps are available from the U.S. Forest Service Conasauga Ranger
District Office in Chatsworth. Some roads are closed depending on weather conditions. Call the Cohutta-
Armuchee Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service in advance of a trip to check road conditions. (706)
Beech Bottom Trail - Hiking/Horse
4 miles. Easy to moderately difficult, heavily used, access trail to Jacks River and Jacks River Falls.
(Horses are not allowed to ride beyond Beech Bottoms to the Falls on Jacks River Trail)
Chestnut Lead Trail - Hiking Only
1.4 miles. An easy to moderately difficult trail which provides a good look at skeletons of giant chestnut
trees that thrived in this forest before the chestnut blight.
Conasauga River Trail - Hiking Only
13.1 miles. Moderately difficult trail that fords the river 38 times. Large Eastern Hemlock trees are a
feature of this trail, which is the roadbed of an old railroad.
East Cowpens Trail - Hiking/Horse
7 miles. This moderately difficult to strenuous trail is a good, high-elevation trail, which follows the former
route of Old Highway 2, on which erosion control was done before it was closed. Though not necessarily
a good destination trail, it can provide relatively quick access to other trails.
Hemp Top Trail - Hiking/Horse
6.2 miles from Dally Gap to Licklog Trail in Tennessee. Moderately difficult to strenuous lesser-used trail
that continues into the Big Frog Wilderness in Tennessee. Part of it is also the Benton Mckaye Trail.
There is water at Double Springs Gap on the Georgia-Tennessee line. At this point the trail enters the Big
Frog Wilderness and climbs up Big Frog Mountain where it intersects with Licklog Trail. Licklog Trail to
the East is a hiker trail only. Continuing on Hemp Top Trail to the West connects to Wolf Ridge Trail,
which connects with Chestnut Ridge Trail which leads to a parking lot/trail head on Big Frog Road. These
connector trails Westward from Big Frog Mountainare the only trails open to horses in the Big Frog
Hickory Creek Trail - Hiking/Horse
8.6 miles. Easy to moderately difficult access to the Conasauga River, which can be reached from either
trail head. From the Western trail head, the Conasauga is a little more than 1.5 miles.
Hickory Ridge Trail - Hiking/Horse
3.6 miles. Moderately difficult to strenuous interior trail starting on East Cowpens Trail and ending at
Jacks River Trail between Beach Bottom Trail and Penitentiary Branch Trail. The Western end of the trail
climbs steeply to it’s intersection with East Cowpens Trail. The Eastern end is a more gentle descent to
it’s intersection with the Jacks River.
Jacks River Trail - Hiking only except for the section from Dally Gap to Jacks River and from
Penitentiary Branch Trail intersection to the Beech Bottom Trail and Hickory Ridge Trail
16.7 miles. Moderately difficult roadbed of an old railroad. It is the longest and wettest trail in the Cohutta
Wilderness, crossing the river 42 times. It is often crowded at the falls. The least-used portion of the trail
is the northernmost section from Alaculsy to Jacks River Falls. A short inner section of this trail startng at
it’s intersection with Penitentiary Branch Trail is open to horses, which allows riders to go North on Jacks
River Trail to Beech Bottom Trail, which connects to Big Frog Road or cross the Cohutta Wilderness from
East to West by using Hickory Ridge Trail, which goes West and intersects with East Cowpens Trail on
the Western edge of the Wilderness. (See Penitentiary Branch Trail below)
Panther Creek Trail - Hiking Only
3.4 miles. Moderately difficult to strenuous, very popular and scenic, passing a high waterfall. This trail
has some very rugged, rocky sections.
Penitentiary Branch Trail - Hiking/Horse
3.6 miles. Moderately difficult interior trail with its start on Hemp Top Trail. It ends at Jacks River. From
there, horses can ford Jacks River and ride Jacks River Trail to connect with Hickory Ridge Trail or
continue with another ford of Jacks River and connect with Beech Bottom Trail. The section of Jacks
River Trail from Penitentiary Branch Trail to Hickory Ridge Trail and Beech Bottom Trail requires
negotiating a steep rock wall. The two Jacks River fords can be swift and the footing is uneven. There are
large submerged rocks and drop-offs in the fords. This section of Jacks River Trail is a difficult trail for
young or inexperienced horses.
Sugar Cove Trail - Hiking Only (This Trail is Now Closed!)
2.2 miles. A moderately difficult to strenuous interior trail connecting to Jacks River Trail that descends
through a hardwood cove.
Rice Camp Trail - Hiking/Horse
3.9 miles. Easy to moderately difficult access trail to Jacks River with several stream crossings.
Rough Ridge Trail - Hiking/Horse only for the first 5 miles to a "Horses Prohibited Beyond this
Point" sign where the old road bed ends.
7 miles. Moderately difficult to strenuous, providing access to Jacks River. A ridge trail that descends
gradually down an old road bed to a hardwood cove and then becomes a very steep and sometimes
rocky footpath as it continues to descend to the river.
Tearbritches Trail - Hiking Only
3.2 miles. Moderately difficult to strenuous. Climbs Bald Mountain (over 4,000 feet elevation) and then
descends steeply to Bray Fields at the junction of the Conasauga River and Hickory Creek trails and
nearby Panther Creek Trail.
“Gentle on the Land”