Hike a scenic stretch of the Cohutta Wilderness on the Songbird Trail near the shores of Lake Conasauga, visiting a high-elevation mountain bog, beaver ponds, and a beautiful forest frequented by songbirds.
OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 777 Trails Illustrated Map (find it at Trailful Outdoor Co.)
Sunlight filters through the leafy forest canopy. The sounds of bird songs fill the air. Colorful wildflowers and tall grasses blow in the gentle mountain breezes. And everywhere, the beauty of this high-elevation mountain forest is abundant. Near the banks of Georgia’s highest-elevation lake, nestled in the remote and lush Cohutta Wilderness, the Lake Conasauga Songbird Trail rambles through a particularly scenic stretch of forest.
Following a moderately easy lollipop loop, this adventure visits boggy beaver ponds, catches open views from a wooden observation platform, and climbs gently into a leafy forest frequented by songbirds. At just under two miles, the hike explores a wide variety of terrain, and thanks to its remote location, the trail’s wildlife spotting opportunities are plentiful. It’s also a great companion hike if you’re in the area and hiking the Grassy Mountain Tower Trail to the old steel fire tower from the shores of Lake Conasauga. And the Songbird Trail is a great, kid-friendly hike if you’re camping at the lake, or just in need of a scenic nature walk in one of our state’s most beautiful wilderness areas.
Lake Conasauga Songbird Trail: the hike
The adventure begins at a trailhead just off of the gravel Conasauga Lake Road, just west of the main lake entrance and lakeside campsites (view maps and driving directions). The hike follows lime green trail blazes eastbound from the trailhead, and then quickly veers due north. Vibrant green fern, fragrant hemlock trees, colorful wildflowers, and grassy clearings pepper the sides of the trail.
At a third of a mile, the trail splits, beginning the loop portion of the hike. This route veers to the right, continuing northbound and soon reaching a wooden boardwalk and observation deck on the trail’s right side. The deck offers wide, sweeping views of the surrounding beaver ponds, created by dam-building beavers with large piles of wooden debris, mud, and stones downstream. Green grasses, bog plants, and tumbled trees create habitats for the pond’s wildlife. Large old-growth hardwoods and hemlocks ring the pond’s opposite shore.
Departing the platform, the hike continues northbound, ducking through a canopy of rhododendron and hemlock. The hike reaches a weathered, gray pile of timber that forms the beaver dam for the upstream ponds, and then a trail intersection, turning left to hike westbound. The trail winds through several wide switchbacks, meandering through the forest as it climbs, and soon meets a third trail intersection at just under a mile. From here, the Grassy Mountain Tower Trail veers to the northwest. This route veers to the southwest, beginning a descent. The hike crosses a wooden bridge over a shallow creek, passing through dense thickets of rhododendron.
The fores on this western half of the loop is noticeably different in comparison to this route’s eastern half. Blooming rhododendron and tall hardwoods dominate the rolling forest, and the tree-filled terrain is home to a number of species of songbirds. The trail veers southbound, crossing a second wooden bridge at just over a mile. After winding to the east, the hike passes a small wooden bench as it swings to the south at 1.25 miles.
The trail passes through a grassy clearing and then follows a wooden boardwalk over a shallow stream before reaching the end of the loop. It’s a mild climb back to the trailhead from here as this route turns right to hike southbound, doubling back on its outbound route. The hike reaches the trailhead at 1.7 miles, completing the adventure.
Nearby can’t-miss hiking adventures
Up for a challenge? The water-filled hike to Emery Creek Falls is one of our favorite hikes in the area, and visits two especially stunning waterfalls. It’s a challenging hike, for sure, splashing through twenty creek crossings along the way. Or for an easier hike with plentiful views and abundant history, follow the Wall, Tower and Overlook Trail at Fort Mountain State Park, exploring a mysterious serpentine stone wall, a tall stone fire lookout tower, and some of the best views in North Georgia from the park’s mountain summit.
Because this area is so remote, challenging, and the trails are sometimes sporadically blazed or not marked at all, always tell someone where you’re going and pack an official paper map and wayfinding essentials, such as a GPS and compass (and know how to use them if you’re lost). Always pack emergency essentials. And it’s always best to avoid trails along the rivers and creeks in the weeks following a heavy rain.
Always leave no trace, pack out everything you pack in, and if you see trash, pick it up and pack it out.
Stay on the marked trail, tell someone where you're going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, and don't rely on a mobile phone to find your way. Please always practice good trail etiquette. And before you go, always check the trailhead kiosk, official maps, and the park or ranger office for notices of changed routes, trail closures, safety information, and restrictions.
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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!
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34.855967, -84.657750 // N34 51.358 W84 39.465