Only 60 miles from Chattanooga, with a drive through some of the prettiest country in the southeast, the Cohutta Wilderness is one of the premier destinations in the southern Appalachians for hiking and backpacking.
What Makes It Great
At almost 37,000 acres, the Cohutta Wilderness is the largest National Forest Wilderness in the southeast. When combined with the Big Frog Wilderness across the Tennessee-Georgia border, this is the largest Wilderness area in the eastern United States. With over a hundred miles of trails, the Cohuttas are a mecca for backpackers and hikers alike, who will enjoy creek crossings, great climbs, mountain vistas, and waterfalls.
The headwaters of the Conasauga River and Jacks River provide some of the southeast's best trout fishing along with beautiful plunges through rocky gorges. Jacks River Falls, a 40 foot plunge, is such a wildly popular destination that camping there is restricted to the winter months. The 15.7-mile Jacks River Trail, with over 40 creek crossings, is one way to reach the falls and may just be the best summer hike around. Check the forecast, because after heavy rains the river can become a dangerous torrent. Fortunately, you can also reach Jacks River Falls without fording the river in just four miles using the Beech Bottom Trail, which is probably why Beech Bottom is the most popular hike in the Cohuttas.
Who is Going to Love It
Although there are places to accomplish an easy dayhike in the Cohuttas, it's more often a destination for seasoned hikers or backpackers.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The potential trailheads are many, typically some distance up gravel Forest Service roads. For maps, contact the Conasauga District Ranger Office in Chatsworth at 706-695-6736.
Camping is prohibited in the area of Jacks River Falls from April 1 to October 31; alcohol and campfires are not allowed there at any time.
Backpackers anywhere in the wilderness should hang their food to prevent bear problems.