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Firsthand Experience in Cohutta/Big Frog?
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Tim Hollingworth
(TimH.) - F

Locale: Northwest Georgia
Firsthand Experience in Cohutta/Big Frog? on 12/01/2008 08:52:57 MST Print View

Looking for firsthand info on the Cohutta/Big Frog areas in North Georgia and TN.

I am interested in day hikes in late winter (Feb?) to start with and them move to one-nighters in the spring with longer outings possible in the summer.

Is water readily available with the drought? My guess would be that most of the springs are dry.

Thoughts on routes would be appreciated as well. Day hikes would be light and fast (Camelbak, Cliff Bars and Go!) in the 10 to 13 mile range. I am looking at the loop from Daly Gap using Jacks River, Hemp Top and another trail who's name I can't remember as I don't have my map on me right now. I was also looking at another loop using the Conasauga River and Panther Creek trails through Bray Field from the south end of the wilderness. Any thoughts on which directions these should be hiked?

Are there many hunters after Jan 1 or should I wait to the end of February?

Any info at all would be appreciated, especially suggestions on longer loop routes.



Edited by TimH. on 12/01/2008 08:55:59 MST.

Bill Reynolds
(billreyn1) - M

Locale: North East Georgia Mountains
Re: Firsthand Experience in Cohutta/Big Frog? on 12/01/2008 14:49:20 MST Print View

I would stay away from the Conasauga River trail in the winter as it has about 40 river crossings. I haven't done any other trails as I hike mostly in The Nantahala and Chatooga river area. The Cohutta is wild and beautiful though.

Mike Feldman
(harpin) - F
Be careful w/winter on 12/01/2008 15:25:00 MST Print View

Cannot speak for present years, but have in previous years 4-5 times done late spring/early summer 3 day/2 night trips in Panther Bluff, Conasauga River area trails great trip, been awhile! Get a trail map from USFS and maybee call ranger station. I would be careful with trips in winter on Conasauga and Jacks River trails, which cross the river numerous times. There are some of the Benton Mackay trail that goes thru part of Conasauga National Wilderness area on I think the eastern section.

Malcolm Foss
(mfoss01) - F

Locale: North Georgia
RE: on 12/01/2008 15:41:41 MST Print View

Penitentiary Branch Trail makes a loop with Jacks River and Hemp Top. I have done it as an overnight. I can't recall the distance, but I believe it would be in the range that you mentioned. Counterclockwise from Dally Gap would be easier (i.e. the steepest part being Penitentiary Branch would be downhill), but neither direction would be too difficult, especially going light and fast.

As Bill mentioned, the Cohutta is a challenge in winter because both the Conasauga and the Jacks River trails cross their respective namesakes about forty times each. In summer, at normal water levels, these crossings vary from boot top depth to mid thigh depth. In winter I would expect the water to be a little higher, and after a heavy or sustained rain, the water level will DEFINITELY rise, sometimes dangerously high, so be aware that you could get stranded on one side or the other if inclement weather strikes. I have covered all of the trails in the Cohutta at least once, but I have only made the river crossings on one cold weather trip in March or February. The weather that day was warm, so we were able to hike in shorts and make the crossings during the warmest part of the day, but it was still pretty frigid for this southerner. Personally, I wouldn't plan on hiking either of these two trails in winter without some extra layers stored in a dry-bag (those rocks are are super slick, so going in is always a possibility, you know), but that's just me.

The other trails in the wilderness don't cross large streams for the most part, but a lot of your loop options will incorporate the two river trails.

Water is scarce on the ridge trails (Rough Ridge, East Cowpen, Hemp Top, etc.) but if you are daytripping with a camelback you should be able to work around this.

Christopher Holden
(back2basics) - F - MLife

Locale: Southeast USA
Re: Firsthand Experience in Cohutta/Big Frog? on 12/01/2008 16:05:42 MST Print View

I've been looking this area for a future trip. Hearing about the water crossings is definitely good info as I wasn't expecting that many crossings or water that deep. Since it's only knee to thigh deep, my chest high waders would be a good addition to the pack, but not exactly UL. For me, being dry in the winter is more important than being light. Most fly fishermen have these, so if you need a set and have a friend with a fly rig, you may ask to borrow the waders for the trip.
Thanks for the comments. Keep 'em coming if you think of anything else.

Tim Hollingworth
(TimH.) - F

Locale: Northwest Georgia
Thanks... on 12/01/2008 20:40:53 MST Print View

Thanks for the 411 everyone.

I've read about all the water crossings on the rivers and wouldn't attempt fording anything bigger'n a mud puddle on a solo winter day hike anyway.

I've driven the perimeter road but never got a chance to get out of the car more than 50 feet into the woods.

Three Forks Mountain lookout tower --> 2.4 mi north on East Cowpen Trl --> 2.3 mi west on Panther Creek Tr would get one to the top of the falls. A memorable nine mile run/power hike workout?

Does anyone think there would be ice? I'm very concerned about hunters.

Awe heck... Less talk and more walk. I should stop posting and just go and see for myself.


Jesse Glover
(hellbillylarry) - F

Locale: southern appalachians
Re: Thanks... on 12/02/2008 07:04:06 MST Print View

Tim your hike sounds good the climb up panther creek falls is pretty hard. there may be some ice around springs in the trail but I wouldnt too much worry about it.

I wouldnt worry about hunters either I have never been bothered by them at all. you may see some hunting dogs in TN but again they wont bother you they are mostly beagles.

Water has never been a problem for me at all.

Get the book "the hiking trails of the chahuttah big frog wilderness" by tim homan (sp?)

Bill Reynolds
(billreyn1) - M

Locale: North East Georgia Mountains
Cohutta on 12/02/2008 07:45:31 MST Print View

It wouldn't hurt to have some blaze orange on just to be on the safe side. I usually put some on my pack also.

Tim Hollingworth
(TimH.) - F

Locale: Northwest Georgia
LOL on 12/02/2008 08:17:45 MST Print View

Or I could wear the yellow helmet...


Andrew Wolff

Locale: Chattanooga
Cohutta / Big Frog on 12/02/2008 18:31:54 MST Print View

Tim, this is a great area, I regularly dayhike 20-30+ mile days on these trails. All the advice so far is spot on. Water is not really a problem and you may not even see any hunters. The trails are easy to follow but the junctions are not all marked, I like the NG Trails Illustrated Map personally.

"Three Forks Mountain lookout tower --> 2.4 mi north on East Cowpen Trl --> 2.3 mi west on Panther Creek Tr would get one to the top of the falls. A memorable nine mile run/power hike workout?"

Yeah, you'll be going up hill on Cowpen but by going this way to Panther Creek Falls you avoid the worst uphill in the area which is the section directly below the falls. There are lots of cool places in this area, Jacks River Falls is a classic and I love the knife edge ridge along Chimney Top for winter hiking. Go for it!

the dude
(the_dude) - F
jacks river on 12/04/2008 10:19:16 MST Print View

I did a similiar hike that Malcolm mentioned, except I went clockwise and started below Dally Gap. I parked my car along FS 22, got on the Benton Mackaye trail for a few miles until I reached where Jacks River Trail crossed the BMT and then took the Jacks River trail all the way to Jacks River Falls. I then backtracked to Penitentiary Branch Trail, climbed this trail back up to Benton Mackaye trail where I turned south until I reached Hemp Top Trail. Took Hemp Top to Dally Gap then walked back down the Forrest Service Road back to my car.

I intended to do this as an overnight, but as I had plenty of light just decided to hike out so I did this as a day hike. Someone can correct me but I think this route was around 18 miles. Probably one of the better hikes I've done in Georgia, although since I did the hike in the middle of summer, ran into a lot of people along the Jacks River Trail, but saw nobody along Penitentiary Branch Trail. The height of water wasnt an issue but the slippery rocks were sometimes.

I am looking to go further north along the Benton Mackaye from where it meets Penitentiary Branch Trail. Any possible loop hikes in this area?

Tim Hollingworth
(TimH.) - F

Locale: Northwest Georgia
What is Chimney Top? on 12/08/2008 14:44:07 MST Print View

Andrew, what is Chimney Top? Is this the name of a trail or a mountain or something? I looked in Tim Homans book and didn't see a reference.

Oh man, hearing something called a "Knife edge" makes me want to call in sick tomorrow.


Edited by TimH. on 12/08/2008 14:45:15 MST.

Malcolm Foss
(mfoss01) - F

Locale: North Georgia
RE: Chimney Top on 12/08/2008 16:29:26 MST Print View


I believe the Chimney Top that Andrew is referring to is the name of a peak along Fork Ridge (the ridge, not the trail). It is located near the junction of Big Frog Trail and Big Creek Trail. The footpath of Big Frog Trail, between this point near Chimney Top at the junction with Big Creek Trail and its end atop Big Frog Mountain, does indeed follow a very narrow ridge top (I guess about as close to a knife edge ridge top as you are going to get in the Southern Appalachians). It is a memorable section of trail, especially in winter.

Andrew Wolff

Locale: Chattanooga
Chimney Top on 12/08/2008 21:49:39 MST Print View

Malcolm is correct. And yeah its not exactly tight-rope walking but it does drop away rapidly on both sides with great views in the winter.

Chimney Top

BTW Tim (and anyone else who has'nt seen it) if you are interested look down the page in the Hiking Partners/Trip Announcments page and you will see a post for a Southeast meetup including some discussion of doing the trip on Big Frog.

scri bbles
(scribbles) - F

Locale: Atlanta, GA
Re: Chimney Top on 03/02/2009 13:56:10 MST Print View

I know this thread is aging but we don't get much Cohutta talk around here. I couldn't see Panther Creek Trail being a running trail, the steep elevations are brutal at times just to walk it. Maybe I'm just out of shape!

I've done East Cowpen -> Panther Creek -> Hickory Creek -> East Cowpen as a ~15-17mi (I think!) overnight. Jack's River Trail is also a very nice scenic trail but I believe along it there's a total of 40+ river crossings many waist high. Best kept as a summer group trail.

A great resource of information for this area is available on, most of them aren't UL but always willing to lend directions or info.

Edited by scribbles on 03/02/2009 13:58:32 MST.

walker overstreet
(wtoverstreet) - F
big frog cohuttah on 05/26/2012 08:24:18 MDT Print View

Does anyone know if there is a trail, or combination of trails to get from big frog mountain to jacks river without walking south on hemp top to pen. Branch? I have been to cohuttah numerous times but never to big frog, want to see some of it but get back to jack river falls. Thanks for any input