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Cohutta Mountain Loop - East Cowpen, Hickory Ridge, Beech Bottom & Rough Ridge

The Basics:
Event Type:Backpacking
Event Location: Cohutta Wilderness Area   Backpacking: Cohutta Mountain Loop - East Cowpen, Hickory Ridge, Beech Bottom & Rough Ridge  National Weather Service Forecast
Date(s) & Time:Sat, Sep 13 2014  7:00 am >> Sun, Sep 14 2014 5:00 pm  (Carpool Departure: 7:00 am   *log in for location*)
Registration Opens: Mon, Aug 25 2014 8:00 pm
Registration Cut Off: Fri, Sep 12 2014 6:00 pm
Event Duration:1 Days 10 Hours
Difficulty Rating:D5: Difficult (Exploratory)
Distance:16 Miles
Trip Leader(s):
Mike Pawloski
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Member Cost:None

Participant Info:
Who's Invited: Members Only, 21 And Older Only
Maximum Group Size:10
Minimum Group Size:3
Number Registered So Far: 5 / 0 (To see who's signed up, log in to the Member Area)
Are Dogs Permitted: Yes

Note: This is an "EXPLORATORY" trip. This means that there are parts of this trip, or perhaps the whole trip, that is new to your Trip Leader(s). However, they are confident that this will not be an issue.
This note is here so that you can make an informed decision. When a Trip Leader isn't personally familiar with a trip, there is an increased chance of things not going as planned and you need to be prepared. The Trip Leader may have additional details in the itinerary.


The Cohutta Wilderness covers 36,977 acres (about 60 square miles) that spill over the Georgia/Tennessee border and lie within the 95,265-acre Cohutta Wildlife Management Area. It was designated as a wilderness in 1975. Hemp Top was added in 1986, making this the third largest mountain wilderness area in the East.

Please note this particular backpack covers a demanding route.  If you have not completed a recent D5 hike/backpack or we have not been on an event previously, expect to have a conversation regarding fitness and capabilities. 

This loop will traverse four trails - East Cowpen, Hickory Ridge, Beech Bottom and Rough Ridge.  The hike in and descent down Hickory Ridge is steep.  Once at Beech Bottom. we'll cross the Jack's River twice and then continue along Rough Creek.  We will traverse Rough Creek then look to secure our sites for the night.  

This is where it gets exploratory.

I have not stayed at our target camp site, but did hike by there.  It looked feasible...and tight.  If you are not comfortable being in close quarters or on uneven terrain, this might not be the trip for you.  (Protip:  A hammock might be a good option.)

After set-up we can hike back to Beech Bottom for a swim then hike over to the falls and spend the afternoon swimming and enjoying the area.  There are lot's of options and you're free to roam or just hang near camp.

The evening will include the fellowship and camaraderie that are hallmarks of AOC events.

Departure time from camp will be determined by team consensus. The ascent up and hike out along Rough Ridge Trail is a knee-buster and quad-burner.  We will move at a moderate pace and take breaks as needed. 

In the Notes section below is a map of the route, Concurrent Mapping and Localization (CML) points, an elevation profile, and some trail signage we'll encounter.  I've also included a possible back-up camp site should we determine our intended target area is not feasible.  Thanks to Kristi Eide for the back-up site information. 

Required Items to Bring:
  • Hiking Boots / Water Shoes
  • Backpack
  • Tent / Tarp / Hammock 
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Sleep Pad
  • Food and Snacks (1 breakfast, 1 lunch, 1 dinner, snacks to share)
  • Water and Filtration / Purification device, Drops, or Tablets
  • Headlamp and spare batteries
  • Fun, positive attitude!
Recommended Items to Bring:
Use our Event Checklists to make sure you have everything you need.
  • Hiking Poles
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug Spray
  • Stove
  • Matches/Lighter
  • Change of Clothes and Towel
  • Sven Saw
  • Bacon

How to Get There:
Event Directions:

Three Forks Parking Area Coordinates are 34.8815613, -84.5658722

Directions: From Atlanta, GA: Take I-75 to I-575, and follow I-575 up into North Georgia. I-575 will become Route 515. In Elijay, take a left onto Soule Bridge, and immediately another left onto GA Route 52. In downtown Elijay, take the second exit to the right on the roundabout. Follow GA 52 for 5.2 miles until Gates Chapel Road. Turn right onto Gates Chapel Road and follow it for 5.4 miles. When pavement will end, keep right onto Wilderness Trl. Follow it for 1.5 miles, and then take a right onto Old CCC Camp Road. Follow it for 3.2 miles to the top of the mountain and USFS 64. Turn right onto USFS 64, and follow it for 4.2 miles until you will see a large parking lot on the left of the road, while the road itself sharply switchbacks to the right. This is Dally Gap. 


Carpool to Event Distance (round trip):150Mile(s)
Carpool Departure Time: 7:00 am
Carpool Location:   Log in for location
Carpool Directions:   Log in for directions
Carpool Cost: Estimated cost per vehicle for this event is $60.00 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.



Dotted with place names like Crooked Dog Gap and Rough Creek, this 15.5-mile route mixes rugged ridgeline
climbs and quiet riverside campsites.
Distance: 15.5 miles
Concurrent Mapping and Localization (CML) points are below.
Map is at

CML001 Location: 34.8815613, -84.5658722
From Three Forks parking lot, begin gentle ascent amid mature hardwoods

CML002 Location: 34.8852959, -84.5707321
L @ Y, bearing NW on East Cowpen Trail to begin the clockwise loop. Ahead, skirt the E edge of Cowpen Mtn. (4,151 ft.)

CML003 Location: 34.9073372, -84.5796661
Straight @ 3-way; to R, hemlocks and oaks shade campsite with space for 4 or 5 tents. Trail heads N past Buckeye Mtn.

CML004 Location: 34.9329491, -84.5826797
Cross wide spot on ridge; go straight @ T bearing NE on Hickory Ridge Trail

CML005 Location: 34.9384308, -84.5780411
Pass lone 12-ft. American holly tree; heading N, descend along gully on N side of Turkey Stand Lead

CML006 Location: 34.9689865, -84.5712128
Forest transitions from hardwood to hemlocks with lush undergrowth

CML007 Location: 34.9699326, -84.5683899
Beech Bottom: fish for trout, soak in stream, enjoy starry skies.
To continue, head SE on Jacks River Trail.  Cross Jacks River twice.

CampsiteLocation: 34.9689903, -84.5648193
Small camp site here along Rough Creek; room for one or two tents

CML008 Location: 34.9693756, -84.5659027
Cross Rough Creek and turn R, traveling SE; we will make our camp site in this area

CML009 Location: 34.9631729, -84.556778
R @ Y into Rough Creek; climb side gully to reach N end of Rough Ridge

CML010 Location: 34.9504128, -84.5650253
Look SW for vantage of Rough Creek cutting through deep, forested gorge; pass spring just S of Crooked Dog Gap

CML011 Location: 34.9343452, -84.562294
Rollercoaster over oak-dominated hills and saddles on Rough Ridge

CML012 Location: 34.9119568, -84.561615
Straight @ unsigned 3-way; head S along crest away from Sugar Cove; in 2.1 mi., close loop @ CML002; backtrack to start


Here's an elevation profile of the hike:

Survey Elevation: Total Gain: 4260 ft
Total Loss: 4018 ft
Net Change: 242 ft


Here's a sign at the intersection of Rough Ridge Trail and Jack's River Trail which we will encounter after our second Jack's River crossing.  Just before reaching this sign is a small campsite with room for one or two tents.  We will continue towards Rough Ridge Trail from here and traverse Rough Creek in .25 miles.  Once on the other side of Rough Creek we will set-up our camp.


Here's a map to a back-up camp site if we need it.  Thanks to Kristi Eide for the information.  
The camp area is visible from the Jack's River Trail and is down a slope from the trail. (See white circled area.)  If you're hiking north (up river) on the Jack's River Trail, with the Peniteniary Trail behind you, the campsite is down on the left, before crossing the creek.

If you're hiking south towards Peniteniary Trail, you'll cross the creek and the Jack's River Trail starts climbing up a hill; you should see the campsite on the right... there is a little trail going towards it.

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

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