If you are looking for a premier hiking experience in the Southeast, consider the Cohutta Wilderness Area in North Central Georgia. Within a half day’s drive of Atlanta, and even closer to cities such as Dalton or Rome, Georgia, Cohutta is the perfect get away for weekend backpackers. Just outside of Chatsworth, Georgia, the Cohutta Wilderness is arguably the most remote area within the Chattahoochee National Forest. As such, the area offers hikers the opportunity to experience solitude and adventure that is unparalleled in the southern portion of the Appalachian Mountains.
At over 35,000 acres, Cohutta is the second largest designated wilderness area in Georgia and the largest found in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Designation as a Wilderness Area means that only foot traffic and pack stock are allowed within its boundaries. This is good news for those seeking a more natural and primitive experience. With over 90 miles of designated trail, there are many options for planning a trip. A favorite hike is the Conasauga River Trail. The trail is approximately 13 miles in length. The trail follows along the Conasauga River, so expect to cross the river several times. Caution should be taken at every crossing as the river can be fast flowing. If you enjoy fishing, the Conasauga River boasts some of the best trout fishing in all of Georgia. This is not a loop trail so plan on hiking out and back, coordinating a car shuttle or connecting with other trails in the wilderness area. The popular Benton MacKaye Trail etches its way through the Cohutta Wilderness as well. Most of the trails in the Cohutta Wilderness are considered moderate to difficult.
Locals appreciate Cohutta for its rugged, unspoiled nature and abundance of wildlife. Black bear, Whitetail deer, and wild hogs are commonly sighted. Native brook trout and rainbow trout inhabit the Jacks and Conasauga Rivers.
Cohutta can be difficult to find. There are no signs saying, “Cohutta Wilderness This Way”. Several gravel forest service roads can be used to access Cohutta (too many to provide a comprehensive overview). To access the southern terminus of the Conasauga River Trail find the community of Crandall, just north of Chatsworth, Georgia. From Highway 411, turn onto CCC Camp road, this road leads you into the Chattahoochee National Forest. At the junction with USFS-64 turn right. After a few miles, a trailhead parking area for the Conasauga River Trail will be on your left. Maps can be very helpful for getting to the wilderness, as well as for hiking information.
Hiking in the Cohutta Wilderness is a challenging, pristine, and wild experience. So, come prepared with the essential gear and skills for backcountry travel. Leave No Trace Principles are encouraged. Good luck and safe journeys!