Fort Mountain State Park

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Fort Mountain State Park is home to the Gahuti Backcountry Trail, which rolls through the Cahutta Wilderness and offers scenic vistas of Chatsworth. Despite being in the state park, this trail feels primitive and withdrawn into the wilderness.

Written by

Alexa Lampasona


6.0 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

72.1 miles


3 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

3 hours

3-3.5 hrs


All Seasons

Dog Friendly


Fees Permits


$5 per vehicle

Land Website

Fort Mountain



Just 2 hours north of Atlanta, backpackers can find a weekend retreat at Fort Mountain State Park. There are 4 primitive campsites along this trail that give the illusion that you are in the Appalachians or Blue Ridge Mountains. For hikers looking to build up a solid distance hike with rolling elevation, the Gahuti Backcountry Trail is a single-track, dirt-packed trail that traverses ridgelines, winds by creeks, and leads you to a historic Fire Watch Tower and Stone Wall.

What Makes It Great

It’s worth going early mornings, because the drive into the park offers some scenic views of fog rolling across the mountains. Even in summers, the cool mountain air makes you want to stick your head out the window. 

Once you park at the trailhead, Cool Springs Overlook is just north of the parking lot. The first junction in the trail offers the choice of taking the 1.6-mile loop to Stone Wall, Overlook and Tower trail, or following the orange blazes for Gahuti Backcountry Trail.

If you have the time to make the detour, the white-washed stone of the Fire Tower and demolished Stone Wall both provide a stark contrast to the surrounding vegetation, whether trees are golden in the fall or green in the spring. As part of the Civilian Conservation Corps, the 4-story Fire Tower was built in the 1930s. The boulders and rocks that make up the 885 foot long Stone Wall snake down the sloping mountainside.

Once you rejoin with Gahuti Backcountry Trail you’ll forget you are located in a state park. The hardwood forest of pines and deciduous trees wraps you in the vast wilderness. 

The trail meanders on the rim of a valley, and in the summer, the lush green vegetation is reminiscent of a rainforest. Moss-covered rocks and mushrooms line the trail, and in warmer months snakes can sometimes be found sunbathing on the path. Several side trails lead to overlooks, where the Cahutta Wilderness and Blue Ridge Mountains rise in the distance. Sometimes clouds hang below the mountain peaks, giving the illusion of hiking at higher elevation.

Just after 2.5 miles, you’ll reach Goldmine Branch Falls. These ash-grey rocks carve through the trees mimicking a staircase. The water splashes off the rocks and trails into Goldmine Branch Creek.  It’s cool enough to splash on your face if you need a reprieve from the heat.

By hiking early morning, you’ll most likely see campers emerging from their primitive campsites, cooking up breakfasts, or preparing to hike back. 

Who is Going to Love It

The hike is rated moderate to difficult due to the 4,000 foot rise and fall in elevation. It poses a conquerable challenge for hikers of most skill levels, however children may enjoy the Fort Mountain loop that leads to the Fire Watch Tower. It averages 1 mile in length.  

Backpackers who don’t want to deal with the crowds that frequent the Appalachian Mountains can get a similar experience here. Below are the 4 primitive campsites. 

Rock Creek: By traveling counter-clockwise from the Cool Springs Overlook parking lot, this is the first campsite you will reach at 1.5 miles. Water is available.

Moonshine: This trail can be accessed from the lake parking lot. Follow the Big Rock Trail east and then continue east onto Gahuti Backcountry Trail. Water is available.

 Goldmine: This trail can also be accessed from the lake parking lot. Follow the Lake Trail west to Goldmine Creek Trail, and at the intersection with the Gahuti Backcountry Trail, travel east to your site. It is the only site without water.

Hogpen: Although you are tucked in the woods, this campsite is close to the main park road, and can be noisier than others. It is farthest from a trailhead, just over 3 miles south of the Cool Springs Overlook trailhead. Water is available.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

The drive to Fort Mountain is scenic enough as you drive on Highway 52 through the Cahutta Wilderness. The park sits between Chatsworth and Elijay, and can be accessed from either town. The park entrance fee is $5 and puts you at the east end of the park.

Fort Mountain Park Road winds through the park, and there are several parking lots to choose from. The Cool Springs Overlook parking lot is directly at the Gahuti Backcountry Trailhead. On the east end of the park is Fort Mountain Park Lake, a 7-acre lake open seasonally from Memorial Day to Labor Day for swimming. 

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Fort Mountain State Park

181 Fort Mountain Park Rd
Chatswroth, GA, 30705
34.77851, -84.70925

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