Grassy Mountain Tower: hiking from Lake Conasauga in Georgia's Cohutta Wilderness

Grassy Mountain Tower Trail at Lake Conasauga

Hike to gorgeous views of Fort Mountain and the Cohutta Wilderness from the historic Grassy Mountain fire tower, climbing from the shores of Lake Conasauga, a small, glassy mountaintop lake.


SEASONAL CLOSURE:
The roads to Lake Conasauga are closed for the winter, and will reopen after March 31.


It’s one of the best views in all of Georgia. Perched on the summit of Grassy Mountain, nestled deep in the Cohutta Wilderness, is a weathered, gray, steel fire lookout tower that climbs from a grassy mountaintop, offering exceptional, long-range views of nearby Fort Mountain. The Grassy Mountain Tower Trail hikes to this tower-topped summit, a scenic trek from the shores of Lake Conasauga that passes a marshy beaver dam and crosses through a scenic swath of forest.

Hike the Grassy Mountain Tower, a historic fire lookout tower in Georgia's Cohutta Wilderness, climbing from the shores of Lake Conasauga

The Cohutta Wilderness is simply stunning: it’s rugged, remote, broad and beautiful. And it’s immense, spanning over 36,000 square miles, the largest wilderness area east of the Mississippi. This hike explores a glassy mountaintop lake near the Cohutta’s western border, climbing from lakeside vistas to the Grassy Mountain fire lookout tower, and exploring some beautiful forest and marsh along the way. The views from the historic metal tower are simply incredible, the perfect place to soak in some classic Blue Ridge beauty.

Hike the Grassy Mountain Tower Trail from Georgia's Lake Conasauga to a stunning mountain views in the Cohutta Wilderness

If you go, be prepared for an extended drive on wilderness gravel roads. Pack hiking gear essentials, including safety and wayfinding gear, since the wilderness is vast and remote. Consider spending the night: the Lake Conasauga Campground at the eastern edge of the lake offers some prime, off-grid lakeside campsites. And have fun out there; at just over five miles, this is one amazing hike.

Grassy Mountain Tower Trail: the hike

The adventure starts at the Lake Conasauga picnic and day use parking area (view maps, parking info and driving directions, dropping elevation from the trailhead northbound to the shores of Lake Conasauga. Reaching the lake, this hike turns right, following the lake counterclockwise, skirting the lake’s shore. (The actual trailhead for the Grassy Mountain Tower Trail is on the opposite shore of the lake.)

North Georgia top trails: hike the Grassy Mountain Tower Trail from the shores of Lake Conasauga

The trail dives through a forest of hemlock and rhododendron, crossing a series of small wooden bridges and boardwalks on the lake’s shore. Reaching the Lake Conasauga Campground at .5 mile, the hike hangs a left on a gravel road, trekking through the campground and continuing to skirt the lakeshore. The route veers left at just under .6 mile, leaving the campground and crossing the lake’s earthen dam. Views across the lake are broad and beautiful.

The hike reaches the Grassy Mountain trailhead near the end of the dam, hanging a right on the Grassy Mountain Tower Trail. The hike ascends through a forest of fern, mountain laurel, and hemlock, rolling elevation over a small, shady knob.

At 1 mile, the hike reaches a small beaver dam at the end of a grassy marsh, meeting the Lake Conasauga Songbird Trail.

Hike the Grassy Mountain Tower Trail at Lake Conasauga, exploring a beaver dam and grassy marsh in North Georgia

The route veers right at the beaver dam intersection, following the Tower Trail westbound on a joined segment of the Songbird Trail. The trail climbs elevation, beginning a nearly unrelenting ascent to the summit of Grassy Mountain and climbing through leafy brush and vibrant green fern.

The hike veers right at 1.25 miles, following the Grassy Mountain Tower Trail. Pungent, onion-scented galax line the trail. (Galax is a low-lying, natural, evergreen ground cover that’s native to the north Georgia mountains.) Twisted, gnarly branches of rhododendron line the trail’s sides, and evergreen needles from the scattered, sporadic hemlock overhead litter the forest floor.

Hike from Lake Conasauga to the Grassy Mountain lookout tower in Georgia's lush Cohutta Wilderness

The hike parallels a boulder-filled creek, switching back as it rolls over several small knobs. The climb intensifies, grabbing elevation on a rocky, rooty trail bed, before the trail reaches a gravel road at 2.2 miles. Making a final ascent to the Grassy Mountain summit, the hike turns right on the gravel road, trekking southwest through abundant wildflowers and breeze-blown grasses.

The hike reaches the summit at 2.6 miles. The Grassy Mountain fire tower rises several stories from the rocky, grassy summit, stretching over the treeline. A careful climb to the first platform reveals a spectacular panorama, stretching nearly 360 degrees to the nearby Fort Mountain and over the rolling, tree-covered, mountainous landscape of the Cohutta Wilderness.

Hike the Grassy Mountain Tower Trail to a historic lookout fire tower in Georgia's Cohutta Wilderness, catching stunning views of nearby Fort Mountain

In warm-weather months, the only view is from the tower’s rickety stairs – but the grassy mountaintop is a great spot for a mid-hike snack and a perfect place to soak up the summit’s abundant sunshine and steady breezes. When it’s time to hit the trail again, the hike descends from Grassy Mountain, following the outbound hike in reverse to the Lake Conasauga Trail. The hike reaches the lake at 4.5 miles and turns right on the Lake Trail, meandering along the lake’s shore. The trail reaches the swimming beach and picnic area at just over 5 miles, turning right on the lake spur trail to return to the parking area, and completing the adventure.

Grassy Mountain Tower Trail: Directions & Details

Parking

$2 per car (day use), $10 per night (campsites). Before you go, check the official Cohutta Wilderness site at fd.us.gov for road closures and updates.

Please Remember

Always leave no trace, tell someone where you're going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, don't rely on a cell phone signal to find your way, and follow these trail etiquette tips.

GPS Coordinates

34.857924, -84.650595     //     N34 51.476 W84 39.037

Driving Directions


Elevation Profile

Lake Conasauga to the Grassy Mountain Tower: Elevation Profile

Grassy Mountain Tower Trail Map

Trail data and photos © Summit19 Studio LLC. This map is not a substitute for official trail maps or topographic maps.
 
Eric Champlin is a writer and photographer who loves to hike, run, backpack, kayak and cycle the southeast. He’s the editor and founder of Atlanta Trails and Asheville Trails, online magazines that cover the South’s best outdoor adventures. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.