Hike the Chattooga River Trail and Bartram Trail from Russell Bridge, exploring an old abandoned homestead, and ending at the Chattooga’s ultra-scenic river banks at Adeline Ford.

georgia hiking trails: 4-6 miles 5.5 miles
(round trip)
? Your mileage may vary! Accuracy of your GPS device, weather conditions, and stops along your route will affect your own recorded distance.
georgia hiking trails: easyeasy to
moderate
?Our difficulty estimate, based on distance, terrain, elevation change, & ease of wayfinding. May vary daily due to weather, trail reroutes, downed trees, etc.
georgia hiking trails: dog-friendly Dog-
friendly
?Leashed dogs are allowed on this trail. We’ve loved hiking this route with our trail-loving Labrador Retrievers! Check out more of our favorite dog-friendly trails in Georgia for a great hike with your pup.

LOCATION:Rabun County near Clayton, Georgia

GEAR: Osprey Stratos 24 Backpack, our hiking gear list and Canon 6D Camera

WEAR: Our ultra-soft Atlanta Trails shirts and mountain logo hats

OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 778 Trails Illustrated Map

RATED: 4/5 (4 reviews)

The Chattooga River is simply breathtaking. The river runs a course from North Carolina to North Georgia, meandering through beautiful scenery, rushing whitewater rapids, and calm pools of crystal-clear water. Officially named a National Wild and Scenic River in the 1970s, it’s one of the South’s few wild, unaltered rivers, and it’s a popular destination for kayaking, rafting, and fishing. The river hosts many trails on its banks, including the Chattooga River Trail and a segment of the Bartram Trail, popular with hikers and backpackers in the river’s scenic, remote wilderness.

Hike the Chattooga River Trail to views of this beautiful, crystal-clear river in Georgia, following a scenic stretch of the Bartram Trail

The river collects in its headwaters near Whiteside Mountain in Highlands, NC before flowing south on the border between Georgia and South Carolina. In eastern Rabun County, the river crosses under Russell Bridge, flowing wide and serene. Downriver, north of its confluence with the Tallulah River, the river earns its ‘wild’ name, crashing and churning in legendary whitewater rapids, a stark contrast to its gentle flow further north.

This hike follows the Bartram Trail and Chattooga River Trail from Russell Bridge, exploring a tame, smooth-flowing stretch of the river. It’s a relatively easy hike despite the distance, thanks to the river’s nearly flat, gently rolling banks. The hike weaves through a wildlife and wildflower-rich forest to the remains of an old homestead, catching some great views of the scenic river throughout the hike, and exploring some beautiful riverine forest along the way.

Hike the Chattooga River Trail and Bartram Trail from Russell Bridge, exploring an old abandoned homestead, and ending at the Chattooga's ultra-scenic river banks at Adeline Ford. #hiking #trailrunning #camping #backpacking #atlanta #georgia #travel #outdoors #adventure

Chattooga River Trail: the hike

The adventure begins at the trailhead at Russel Bridge (view maps and driving directions), following the yellow trail blazes to the southwest. A side trail immediately darts left, catching views of the river’s often crystal-clear water as it flows broad and serene over a pebbled river bed.

The Bartram Trail is a long-distance trail that follows the late-1700s journey of William Bartram, a naturalist, writer, and illustrator. This stretch of the Bartram Trail shares a path with the Chattooga River Trail, following its namesake river downstream from the state line. This adventure follows both of these trails on one combined pathway, and explores a whole lot of classic North Georgia outdoor beauty along the way.

Hike the Chattooga River Trail along the scenic banks of a clear-flowing river in Northeast Georgia

The hike passes the remains of an old bridge on the trail’s left side and then darts northwest from the river’s banks, following the river’s western fork upstream. The trail crosses an arched wood and metal bridge over the West Fork Chattooga River at .3 mile.

The trail rolls elevation through a forest rich with wildflowers, mosses, and ferns. The hike crosses Holden Branch, a small Chattooga tributary, over a wooden bridge. A boat launch stands on the river’s opposite shore.

The hike crosses a second wood bridge at 1.5 miles, and views of the river break sporadically through the forest. The trail crosses a steep-walled creek ravine before reaching a flat plain at 2.1 miles. The rusted remains of antique farm equipment lie just off-trail in an old field. Just before crossing a small creek, a side trail departs the to the right, leading to the remains of an old homestead. A stacked-stone chimney and scattered household remnants are all that remains of the house.

Explore an old farmstead on the banks of the Chattooga River on the Bartram Trail in Georgia

Departing the house ruins, the trail rolls elevation through a forest of young pine and mountain laurel before reaching a small tributary, Adeline Branch, at 2.6 miles. At a trail junction, the Bartram Trail veers to the right, following yellow blazes away from the Chattooga River. This hike turns left at the junction, following the Willis Knob Horse Trail and following Adeline Branch downstream. The hike reaches Adeline Ford on the river’s banks at 2.75 miles.

The Chattooga River flows wide and clear through a double meander at Adeline Ford. Colorful, rounded pebbles and rocks fill the river’s bed, clearly visible in the nearly crystal-clear water. A campsite with a horse hitching post lies just off the trail near the river. The river’s banks are a great, sun-filled spot for a mid-hike snack break or a quick mid-hike swim.

Hike the Chattooga River Trail and Bartram Trail through a beautiful wildflower-filled forest in North Georgia

After soaking up some views and sunshine, this hike departs the river, retracing its outbound steps in reverse to the trailhead. Reaching Russell Bridge, the adventure completes at 5.5 miles.

Nearby adventures

The Bartram Trail’s path through Rabun County offers a fantastic exploration of Northeast Georgia’s ruggedly beautiful wilderness. The trail explores the scenic waterfalls at Warwoman Dell and Becky Branch Falls. And from Warwoman Dell, the trail scales to the view-packed Rabun Bald, Georgia’s second-highest peak, catching stunning 360-degree panoramic views from the mountain’s summit.

Downriver from Adeline Ford, hike to the enormous cascades of Dicks Creek Falls as it spills into the Chattooga from a towering, rocky cliff. Or to catch sight of another beautiful cascading waterfall, cross the Georgia border into South Carolina to visit the stunning Issaqueena Falls, a several-hundred-foot cascading fall that’s accessible by a short quarter mile hike.


Chattooga River Trail and Bartram Trail Map, Directions & Details

Trails and routes may change – so please refer to official trail maps for the latest route.

Trail Rating

RATED: 4/5 (4 reviews)

Love the trail?

This trail is maintained thanks to the hard work of countless volunteers and donations from supporters of the Chattahoochee National Forest. Please support them by making a donation or joining a volunteer day. Let's work together to keep these fantastic trails maintained and open for use!

Updates

Did you have trouble accessing the trail, or notice some recent trail updates or storm damage? We'd love to know! Contact us here, and thanks for helping us keep this site updated!

Driving Directions



Parking

Free.


GPS Coordinates

34.920083, -83.169317     //     N34 55.205 W83 10.159

 
 
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.

Rob Sollie
Author

Rob Sollie fell in love with the outdoors while growing up in Montana near Glacier National Park. Since he moved to Atlanta in 2001, he’s made it a mission to find great outdoor adventures in Georgia and throughout the South. Rob’s favorite trails include the Conasauga River Trail in Georgia and the Deep Gap Trail at Mount Mitchell near Asheville.