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REGISTRATION REQUIRED: Once you've reviewed the event details, and decided you'd like to join us, you MUST sign up at the bottom of this page.

Cohutta Wilderness Backpacking - Penitentiary Branch Trail (Friday-Saturday Option)

The Basics:
Event Type:Backpacking
Event Location: Cohutta Wilderness   Backpacking: Cohutta Wilderness Backpacking - Penitentiary Branch Trail (Friday-Saturday Option)  National Weather Service Forecast
Date(s) & Time:Fri, Oct 20 2017  10:00 am >> Sun, Oct 22 2017 4:00 pm  (Carpool Departure: 10:00 am   *log in for location*)
Registration Opens: Fri, Sep 22 2017 12:00 pm
Registration Cut Off: Thu, Oct 19 2017 12:00 pm
Event Duration:2 Days 6 Hours
Difficulty Rating:D4: Moderate to Difficult
Distance:12 Miles
Trip Leader(s):
Mike Pawloski
Scott Kozlowski
Email Trip Leader(s)
You must be logged in to get the Trip Leader contact information.
Member Cost:None

Participant Info:
Who's Invited: Members Only, 21 And Older Only
Maximum Group Size:12
Minimum Group Size:4
Number Registered So Far: 11 / 0 (To see who's signed up, log in to the Member Area)
Are Dogs Permitted: Yes


Trip Leaders will be leaving Friday.  Approved attendees can leave then or drive up Saturday if they prefer.

After parking at Dally Gap, we will locate the sign for Hemp Top Trail and begin our 12 mile out and back backpacking trip.

We'll hike approximately 2 miles up an old logging road with an elevation gain of about 600 feet. Half way up, we will spot the Benton Mackaye trail intersection.  After cresting the ridge at an elevation of 3500 feet, there is about a half mile until the Penitentiary Branch Trail junction. There is a clearly marked sign and fork off to the left.

Penitentiary Trail is a 3.6 mile downhill winding trail.  We'll drop about 1500 feet and cross the Penitentiary Branch creek at around 1800ft.

Penitentiary Branch is not that wide, and should be crossable without removing our shoes unless there have been heavy rains recently. There is a campground located here with a nice fire ring and plenty of flat spots.

Upon arrival, we'll set up our tents, eat lunch if we haven't already, and gather wood for our evening fire.  

Event participants have the option of day hiking or hanging around camp.  Jack's River Falls is about a mile away.    

This trip is rated a D4 since we may extend the day hike.  Also, the hike out on Penitentiary Branch Trail is virtually all uphill for 3.6 miles - you will need to be fit to do this portion of the hike at a moderate pace. 

Dogs are permitted but will require prior approval of Trip Leaders.

Here's a trail map:

Required Items to Bring:

Standard backpacking gear (tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, headlight, stove, water filter or purification tablets, food bag and string/rope to hang away from bears.) 



If you would like to share some gear (i.e. stove, fuel, water filter/treatment) please let the trip leaders know prior to the trip.

Fun attitude!

Recommended Items to Bring:
Use our Event Checklists to make sure you have everything you need.


Camera, musical instruments, scary and funny stories to tell  :-)

Sven Saw

Snacks to share


Gifts for Trip Leaders

At the car: change of clothes, clean shoes, extra water.

How to Get There:
Event Directions:

Take Highway 2, a windy state highway that'll lead into a gravel road. The road is well maintained and should pose no problem for any vehicle. About 2 miles into the gravel, you'll reach an intersection with Cohutta Wilderness signs. You'll want to head to the right on FS-22. This will go for another 2 miles until you reach Dally Gap.


Park at Dally Gap.  Locate the sign for Hemp Top Trail.

Carpool to Event Distance (round trip):100Mile(s)
Carpool Departure Time: 10:00 am
Carpool Location:   Log in for location
Carpool Directions:   Log in for directions
Carpool Cost: Estimated cost per vehicle for this event is $40.00 using a reimbursement rate guideline of $0.400 per mile. The total amount should be divided by the number of people in the vehicle, including the driver. This is a guideline, not a rule, for drivers but the cost should not be higher unless there are extenuating circumstances.


Will this event occur rain or shine? Yes, but not in extremely poor conditions.

* We encourage all members to follow our Etiquette Guidelines while participating in AOC events.

Cancellation/Partial Attendance:   Please review the AOC cancellation policy.