Backpacking in Jacks River Area

Brian Danos, Anuj Girdhar, Jason Boltz, Brandon, and myself went backpacking over Georgia Tech's fall break to get away from things for a while.

We weren't really sure where we were going until we got on the road, but the general decision was to head toward the Jack's River area in the Cohutta Wilderness area. The Cohutta Wilderness area is composed of 35,268 acres in Georgia and about 1700 in Tennessee. Our guide book was Tim Homan's The Hiking Trails of North Georgia, 3rd ed, which I picked up at Craig's party on Friday night. ISBN 1-56145-127-4.

Pictures from this trip are online.

Our route took us from Dally Gap along Hemp Top Trail to Penitentiary Branch Trail, which we took down to the Jacks River Trail. We followed the Jacks River Trail back around in a loop to the cars at Dally Gap. The first evening was mostly spent going up away from the parking spot to a camping place near the intersection of Hemp Top Trail and Penitentiary Branch trail. Hemp Top Trail runs along a ridge, so the view in the morning was quite beautiful.

History (from Tim Homan's book). The Jacks River trail partially follows the old logging railroad used in the 1930's to carry timber out of the woods. The only evidence we saw of this activity were several pieces of steel cable and piled rocks left over from bridges and a few straight sections of trail that were once railbed.


From the US 76-GA 5 intersection just north of Blue Ridge, travel north on GA 5 toward McCaysville for 3.7 miles. Turn left onto Old GA 2 at the "Old State Route 2" sign and small Watson Gap sign. Continue on this road for approximately 10.5 miles (the pavement ends at mile 9.0 or so, although they appeared to be extending this when we were there) to the Forest Service intersection at Watson Gap. Turn a hard right (almost a 180) onto FS 22 and drive about 3.6 miles to the trailhead at Dally Gap. We were able to make the trip on FS 22 with a Chevrolet Lumina with no scrapes on the bottom, but I'd recommend something with more ground clearance if you have it. I would be hesitant to recommend this road if it's been raining recently due to lack of guard rails and fairly steep plunges. We guessed that the Forest Service closes it off when it's raining, as there was almost no vehicular rutting.

annotated USGS map of Jacks Creek area