Deep in the mountains of North Georgia lies a rugged, untamed wilderness. Thundering waterfalls cascade over rocky cliffs into pools of crystal clear water. Forests filled with shady, moss-covered creek banks, fern, rhododendron and towering hardwoods stretch mile after never-ending mile. And fresh, sweet mountain air carries the cool of spring well into the summer months; a welcome relief in Georgia’s typically hot and humid summertime weather. The Cohutta Wilderness is one of our all-time favorite destinations for hiking and backpacking in Georgia.

The wilderness offers some extraordinary backcountry hiking and backpacking, and it’s packed with outdoor adventure opportunities. It’s the largest Wilderness area east of the Mississippi River, encompassing more than 36,000 acres. It’s been untouched and untamed for decades, and its deepest sections are some of Georgia’s most remote.

Bisected by two rivers, the Conasauga River and Jacks River, the Cohutta Wilderness is home to stunning waterfalls, clear, rushing streams and over 70 species of fish. Its hiking trails explore lush forest and dozens of stream crossings across emerald-hued, mossy stream banks. Campsites are tucked throughout the Wilderness, making it a popular destination for primitive camping and backpacking.

The trails through this gorgeous slice of wilderness can be a fantastic but challenging adventure for experienced hikers. Where ever you hike, please leave no trace to preserve the beauty of the Wilderness. (What is Wilderness, and why is it important? Read more in our guide to Wilderness areas in the South.)

Georgia’s Cohutta Wilderness is filled with lush forests, cascading waterfalls, crystal-clear rivers and some of the most remote hiking trails in the state.  Hike, camp and backpack our favorite trails in the Cohuttas and explore some of the most pristine wilderness in the South. #hiking #running #camping #backpacking #atlanta #georgia #travel #outdoors #adventure

Cohutta Wilderness: our favorite backpacking and hiking trails

  • Jacks River Falls on the Beech Bottom Trail

    Jacks River Falls via the Beech Bottom Trail

    9 MILES

    Hike the quickest (and easiest) access to Jacks River Falls, one of Georgia’s most beautiful waterfalls. The Beech Bottom Trail bypasses most of the major river crossings on the Jacks River Trail, but still crosses several small tributaries before reaching the tumbling, rocky falls.
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  • Hike from Lake Conasauga in Georgia's Cohutta Wilderness to beautiful views from a historic Grassy Mountain fire lookout tower

    Grassy Mountain Tower Trail at Lake Conasauga

    5.3 MILES

    Score some of the best views in the Cohutta Wilderness! Hike the Grassy Mountain Tower Trail from the shores of Lake Conasauga, the highest-elevation lake in Georgia. The trail climbs through a scenic forest and visits a beaver dam on a grassy marsh before summiting Grassy Mountain, the site of a historic fire lookout tower.
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  • Explore Georgia's lush, mossy, remote Cohutta Wilderness on the Jacks River Trail

    Jacks River Trail

    9+ MILES

    Get your feet wet splashing through multiple river crossings on the Jacks River Trail. Explore the rocky forest of Jacks River Gorge and chase waterfalls on this 9 mile adventure.
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  • Conasauga River Trail: hiking the Cohutta Wilderness from Betty Gap

    Lower Conasauga River Trail

    13.2 MILES

    Hike the Lower Conasauga River Trail from Betty Gap to explore the river’s southern half. The hike descends into the river’s valley, splashing through multiple river crossings and along emerald green moss and fern covered stream banks. Not ready to end the fun? Continue on the Upper Conasauga River Trail for an epic 25 mile roundtrip adventure.
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  • Panther Creek Falls in North Georgia's Cohutta Wilderness

    East Cowpen Trail to Panther Creek Falls

    8.4 MILES

    Hike through a lush stretch of the Cohuttas, following the East Cowpen Trail northbound from the Three Forks Trailhead and dropping through a fern and wildflower-filled forest. The hike dips into a rocky creek valley to catch stunning views above Panther Creek Falls, and then drops beside an enormous cliff framed by boulders and fragrant hemlock to the base of the tumbling waterfall.
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  • Songbird Trail at Lake Conasauga

    Lake Conasauga Songbird Trail

    1.7 MILES

    It’s one of the shortest of our favorite hikes in the Cohuttas, but what this trail lacks in length, it sure makes up for in beauty. Follow a lollipop loop near the shores of Lake Conasauga to a series of mountain bogs and beaver ponds, visiting a weathered gray beaver dam. Then make a gentle climb through a hardwood and hemlock forest, crossing several shallow creeks on wooden boardwalks and ducking through tunnels of blooming rhododendron.
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  • Hike the Conasauga River Trail in Georgia's Cohutta Wilderness

    Upper Conasauga River Trail

    12 MILES

    Splash through more than 20 major river crossings (in each direction) on the northern section of the Conasauga River Trail, one the most challenging of the hikes in the Cohutta Wilderness. The river runs swift, deep and slick on its northern stretch, making this an extremely difficult, but extremely beautiful, hike.
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  • Emery Creek Falls: hiking to double North Georgia waterfalls on the Emery Creek Trail

    Emery Creek Trail

    6.2 MILES

    Hike the Emery Creek Trail to two gorgeous waterfalls. The trail fords its namesake creek 20 times on a splashy, 6.2 mile hike. (It’s not technically in the Cohutta Wilderness, but close – and is a great primer before hiking the more challenging Cohutta river hikes on the Conasauga and Jacks.)
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  • Hiking gear list: our favorite backpacks and trail essentials

    Our favorite hiking gear

    What to pack for a Cohutta Wilderness hiking or backpacking adventure?

    Ready to hit the trail, but wondering what to pack? Our hiking gear list and backpacking gear list feature our favorite, trail-tested day hiking gear and backpacking gear for hikes in the Georgia backcountry. We print and stitch our Atlanta Trails shirts and hats locally in Atlanta and Asheville, and they’re our favorite for trail adventures all over the South. Our outdoor apparel reviews feature our favorite trail-worthy hiking boots, running shoes, jackets, and layering essentials for the South. And no matter what you pack in, pack it all back out. Please leave no trace and help preserve Georgia’s beauty.
    OUR HIKING GEAR LIST

Cohutta Wilderness: hiking safety

The peaceful serenity, rugged beauty and remote location of the wilderness are what draws most people to the area. But this remoteness poses challenges of its own. When planning an adventure in the Cohuttas be sure to pack gear essentials and hike safely.

Since most of the wilderness has zero cell service, travel with a group, and let someone know where you’re hiking and when you expect to return. The remote trails in the Wilderness are often far from any roads or civilized areas. Pack extra food and water for the trip, in case weather or injury prevent a quick return to the trailhead. And always hike with a first aid kit, bug spray and sunscreen. Check the weather forecast before hitting the trail. Unexpected rainstorms can cause river levels to rise quickly, and might strand hikers in the wilderness. Stream crossings can be difficult, swift currents and slippery rocks can be challenging and trails can be hard to spot across the river, so be vigilant and aware of your surroundings. It’s rough and it’s remote, but it sure is beautiful.

 
Leave No Trace: Atlanta Trails, Asheville Trails and Trailful are official Leave No Trace partners

Please Remember

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