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cneill13
10-06-2016, 20:51
I am planning on hiking a 21 mile(ish) loop this weekend in the Cohutta Wilderness in North Georgia.

I'll park at Three Forks, hike north on the East Cowpen Trail to Panther Creek Trail.

I will then turn west onto Panther Creek and hike it until it meets Hickory Creek Trail.

The problem is that is doesn't look like Panther Creek and Hickory Creek Trail meet. At least on my map.

If I can get onto Hickory Creek Trail, I plan to hike it north to East Cowpen and then take East Cowpen south back to the Three Forks parking lot completing the loop.

Has anyone hiked this part of the Cohutta that might be able to give me some information? Specifically, can I access Hickory Creek Trail from Panther Creek Trail or possibly Tearbritches Trail?

Thanks in advance for any feedback I can get. Looking forward to this hike but I have never explored this part of Georgia yet.

Carl

Traffic Jam
10-06-2016, 20:56
i don't know these specific trails but was in the Cohutta wilderness this past weekend. Many of the water sources are dry so carry extra water. :)

TNhiker
10-06-2016, 20:59
No....Panther and hickory don't meet....

but it they are close by...

after coming down Panther creek---it's a steep one---cross the river (ford) and hang a right on conasauga river trail and hickory is a couple of tenths of a mile away...

cneill13
10-06-2016, 21:38
TNHIcker

That is what I was worried about but not too big a deal. I want to stick with trails along water as the Ridge trails are totally dry.

Could you tell me how wide or deep the river is?

Thanks for the help. I really appreciate it.

Carl

TNhiker
10-06-2016, 21:55
When I did it---the river was just about mid shin...

enough where I could not rock hop or not get wet trying....

and its maybe 12-15 feet across...

its to not a bad crossing----I wouldn't let it inferere with your route....

cneill13
10-06-2016, 21:56
Thanks again for the comments

TNhiker
10-06-2016, 21:58
The loop I did was take hickory creek trail from the parking lot near the end of east Cowpen----then down to the river and hit Panther creek and go up it...and then east Cowpen back over to parking lot...

great camping areas near the river along with at the top of Panther creek falls....

the falls is a great place to watch the sunset....

after I left Panther creek----I didn't see any water along east Cowpen (and this was in a year not as dry as this year)

cneill13
10-06-2016, 22:14
I am worried about the water situation. It is so incredibly dry in Georgia.

I think I might bag the hike and camp out along Panther creek.

Wait until some good rains come in.

Rain Man
10-06-2016, 22:31
If Hurricane Matthew dumps a few inches of rain, it may no longer be dry!

Dan Roper
10-06-2016, 22:34
Your Loop is this: East Cowpen Trail, Panther Creek Trail, Conasauga River Trail, Hickory Creek Trail, East Cowpen Trail.

Hiking it in the direction you're hiking is going to give you water problems on your second night.

There might be some where at Panther Creek Falls or the stream downstream. There will be plenty of water in the Conasauga River (the trail follows the river for a mile). The Hickory Creek Trail does NOT follow Hickory Creek. It crosses it and a number of other small creeks (Thomas Creek, Broke Jug Creek, etc.) I crossed most of those streams on September 8 at their mouths (while hiking Conasauga River Trail) and they were all exceedingly low. I have serious doubts whether you will find any water on Hickory Creek Trail after fording the Conasauga. You might, but you might not. After that there will be no water for the rest of your hike (East Cowpen is a ridge crest trail that doesn't have water except after hard winter rains).

A better way to do a similar 14-mile loop would be this: Park at the lower end of East Cowpen Trail, hike about five or six miles up East Cowpen, go down Panther Creek Trail to the falls to camp on night one (you will possibly find water at or just above the falls; if it's completely dry, just hike another few miles down to the Conasauga River to guaranteed water). On the second day, take it relatively easy and just move down the Conasauga River Trail to it's junction with Hickory Creek Trail at Bray Fields. Camp there. Enjoy the beauty and the abundant water. On day three, hike the remaining 5.8 miles to your car. (I'll be hiking this in reverse on October 17 for a long day hike.)

Dan Roper
10-06-2016, 22:34
Hurricane Matthew will have absolutely no affect on the Cohutta Wilderness with regard to precipitation.

Dan Roper
10-06-2016, 22:40
The Conasauga will be ankle or maybe shin deep at both crossings (Panther Creek Trail and Hickory Creek Trail).

TNhiker
10-06-2016, 23:16
A better way to do a similar 14-mile loop would be this: Park at the lower end of East Cowpen Trail, hike about five or six miles up East Cowpen, go down Panther Creek Trail to the falls to camp on night one (you will possibly find water at or just above the falls; if it's completely dry, just hike another few miles down to the Conasauga River to guaranteed water). On the second day, take it relatively easy and just move down the Conasauga River Trail to it's junction with Hickory Creek Trail at Bray Fields. Camp there. Enjoy the beauty and the abundant water. On day three, hike the remaining 5.8 miles to your car. (I'll be hiking this in reverse on October 17 for a long day hike.)




i was thinking the same thing........changing the route...

get off that ridge and down to the water......

Rain Man
10-07-2016, 10:21
Apologies if this has already been said, but just an FYI,-- there is a road closure you might want to be aware of. FS #64 is closed between the Three Forks Trailhead and the Jacks River Fields Campground. I found out Sunday when I was there.

Up-to-date info (and maps) available from the Conasauga Ranger District. 706-695-6736.

Tipi Walter
10-07-2016, 10:52
Apologies if this has already been said, but just an FYI,-- there is a road closure you might want to be aware of. FS #64 is closed between the Three Forks Trailhead and the Jacks River Fields Campground. I found out Sunday when I was there.

Up-to-date info (and maps) available from the Conasauga Ranger District. 706-695-6736.

I pulled a long winter trip a couple years ago in the Cohutta and pulled all these trails we're talking about. I even took the BMT south past Watson Gap and on the South Fork of the Jacks I crossed and got on the northern terminus of the Pinhoti trail which took me to Buddy Cove Gap and a roadwalk on forest road 64 to Three Forks Mt and my return to the Cohutta on the Cowpen trail. See---

https://tipiwalter.smugmug.com/Backpacking2013-1/18-Days-in-the-Cohutta/i-FjBK6LF

If you pull Cowpen from the 3 Forks side you'll intersect Rough Ridge trailhead on the right which may have a flowing spring not too far down the this trail. It also has a good campsite.

And on Cowpen there's an excellent campsite at the Panther Creek trail jct where I have camped several times. I dayhiked from camp one day and went down Panther trail and found water off the mountain in a dry gully which had a few pools.

https://photos.smugmug.com/Backpacking2013-1/18-Days-in-the-Cohutta/i-9L6qWGg/0/L/TRIP%20142%20087-L.jpg
Here's the jct with the BMT and the Pinhoti northern terminus just south of Watson Gap. By taking Pinhoti south you reach forest road 64 and Buddy Cove Gap and a roadwalk on 64 to Three Forks Mt.

https://photos.smugmug.com/Backpacking2013-1/18-Days-in-the-Cohutta/i-FjBK6LF/0/L/TRIP%20142%20106-L.jpg
Here is the Gap where you make a right and hike up to Three Forks Mt.

https://photos.smugmug.com/Backpacking2013-1/18-Days-in-the-Cohutta/i-DVch5Fn/0/L/TRIP%20142%20109-L.jpg
The roadwalk on forest road 64 (now closed and always closed in the winter).

https://photos.smugmug.com/Backpacking2013-1/18-Days-in-the-Cohutta/i-pVXvQdv/0/L/TRIP%20142%20111-L.jpg
My roadwalk ends here at Three Forks Mt and the start of the East Cowpen Trail.

https://photos.smugmug.com/Backpacking2013-1/18-Days-in-the-Cohutta/i-mMMzfTp/0/L/TRIP%20142%20120-L.jpg
After hiking on East Cowpen a ways you reach the Rough Ridge trail jct heading to the right. If you follow this trail a ways you'll reach a spring water source and a good campsite---though the source is probably dry right this minute.


https://photos.smugmug.com/Backpacking2013-1/18-Days-in-the-Cohutta/i-nZw4RgZ/0/L/TRIP%20142%20124-L.jpg
Here is the nice camping area where Panther Creek trail jcts East Cowpen.

Tipi Walter
10-07-2016, 11:08
Oh and btw, you can easily connect Three Forks and East Cowpen with Betty Gap and the headwaters to Conasauga River by pulling the 64 roadwalk. See---

https://tipiwalter.smugmug.com/Backpack-2015-Trips-161/Quest-For-The-Connie/i-7NDgBGN

https://photos.smugmug.com/Backpack-2015-Trips-161/Quest-For-The-Connie/i-BXQLcPr/0/XL/TRIP%20169%20135-XL.jpg
Here's the 64 roadwalk between Three Forks Mt and Betty Gap.


https://photos.smugmug.com/Backpack-2015-Trips-161/Quest-For-The-Connie/i-CDPX4kt/0/XL/TRIP%20169%20138-XL.jpg
Betty Gap and the trailhead down to Conasauga River.

https://photos.smugmug.com/Backpacking2013-1/18-Days-in-the-Cohutta/i-XxcLTTg/0/L/TRIP%20142%20119-L.jpg
Btw, when you leave Three Forks Mt on the East Cowpen trailhead you see this sign which is a trail veering off the Rough Ridge trail further up ahead. The Sugar Cove trail used to connect the BMT by Jacks River (if you go up Jacks from the Sugar Cove jct and hit the BMT near Dally Gap) and so it was a good way to connect the BMT/Jacks to East Cowpen/Panther without a roadwalk. Alas, the trail has been closed.

https://photos.smugmug.com/Backpack-2015-Trips-161/Quest-For-The-Connie/i-djwz8qK/0/XL/TRIP%20169%20116-XL.jpg
When you get on the Rough Ridge trail from East Cowpen you eventually hit this spot which is the Sugar Cove trailhead. I hiked down the trail a ways (there's water not far) and the trail starts right behind my pack although it's overgrown but could be followed probably all the way down to Jacks River.

cneill13
10-07-2016, 12:25
Wow. I had no idea 64 shut for the winter. That is like the main artery to the parking areas.

Thanks Rain Man and Tipi. You saved me a lot of trouble.

I am going to have to rethink this trip. Not working out as expected.

Traffic Jam
10-07-2016, 14:05
Oh and btw, you can easily connect Three Forks and East Cowpen with Betty Gap and the headwaters to Conasauga River by pulling the 64 roadwalk. See---

https://tipiwalter.smugmug.com/Backpack-2015-Trips-161/Quest-For-The-Connie/i-7NDgBGN

https://photos.smugmug.com/Backpack-2015-Trips-161/Quest-For-The-Connie/i-BXQLcPr/0/XL/TRIP%20169%20135-XL.jpg
Here's the 64 roadwalk between Three Forks Mt and Betty Gap.


https://photos.smugmug.com/Backpack-2015-Trips-161/Quest-For-The-Connie/i-CDPX4kt/0/XL/TRIP%20169%20138-XL.jpg
Betty Gap and the trailhead down to Conasauga River.

https://photos.smugmug.com/Backpacking2013-1/18-Days-in-the-Cohutta/i-XxcLTTg/0/L/TRIP%20142%20119-L.jpg
Btw, when you leave Three Forks Mt on the East Cowpen trailhead you see this sign which is a trail veering off the Rough Ridge trail further up ahead. The Sugar Cove trail used to connect the BMT by Jacks River (if you go up Jacks from the Sugar Cove jct and hit the BMT near Dally Gap) and so it was a good way to connect the BMT/Jacks to East Cowpen/Panther without a roadwalk. Alas, the trail has been closed.

https://photos.smugmug.com/Backpack-2015-Trips-161/Quest-For-The-Connie/i-djwz8qK/0/XL/TRIP%20169%20116-XL.jpg
When you get on the Rough Ridge trail from East Cowpen you eventually hit this spot which is the Sugar Cove trailhead. I hiked down the trail a ways (there's water not far) and the trail starts right behind my pack although it's overgrown but could be followed probably all the way down to Jacks River.

Tipi, Is Sugar Cove trail the trail at Dally Gap on FS 22 that links up to the BMT at Spanish Oak Gap?

Dan Roper
10-07-2016, 15:30
Sugar Cove Trail is closed and all signs removed. I don't believe the Forest Service ever plans to restore or maintain the trail. Of course, hikers can still bushwhack the terrain, along with anywhere else in the Cohuttas. But as a dedicated trail, Sugar Cove ceased to exist a few years ago.

Sugar Cove Trail was an interior trail with no road access. To reach its higher end, the closest route was to park at Three Forks, hike up East Cowpen Trail about 0.5 miles, then down Rough Ridge Trail a few miles. The upper Sugar Cove trailhead was on the Rough Ridge Trail. From there, Sugar Cove descended very, very steeply for about 2 or 3 miles to the Jacks River. At that point, the quickest return route was up the Jacks River Trail (with numerous fords) back a parking area on the forest service road (I can't remember the landmark, but it might be Dally Gap?).

Traffic Jam
10-07-2016, 16:02
Sugar Cove Trail is closed and all signs removed. I don't believe the Forest Service ever plans to restore or maintain the trail. Of course, hikers can still bushwhack the terrain, along with anywhere else in the Cohuttas. But as a dedicated trail, Sugar Cove ceased to exist a few years ago.

Sugar Cove Trail was an interior trail with no road access. To reach its higher end, the closest route was to park at Three Forks, hike up East Cowpen Trail about 0.5 miles, then down Rough Ridge Trail a few miles. The upper Sugar Cove trailhead was on the Rough Ridge Trail. From there, Sugar Cove descended very, very steeply for about 2 or 3 miles to the Jacks River. At that point, the quickest return route was up the Jacks River Trail (with numerous fords) back a parking area on the forest service road (I can't remember the landmark, but it might be Dally Gap?).

Thank you for the clarification, it's driving me crazy that I can't remember the name of the 0.8 mi section of trail that takes you from Dally Gap to meet up with the BMT...is it the JRT?

TNhiker
10-07-2016, 16:14
Sugar Cove Trail is closed and all signs removed. I don't believe the Forest Service ever plans to restore or maintain the trail. Of course, hikers can still bushwhack the terrain



has anyone bushwhacked it in recent years?

and yeah, ive heard the forest service has it permanently closed.......

Tipi Walter
10-07-2016, 16:35
has anyone bushwhacked it in recent years?

and yeah, ive heard the forest service has it permanently closed.......

Due to a hurricane several years ago, or some wind event. Toppled many trees on the trail. But like I said, it's the only foot trail offering a connection between Jacks River and the Conasauga unless you pull Rice Camp or some of the ridge trails like Rough and Hickory Ridge etc.

Dan Roper
10-07-2016, 20:02
Sugar Cove isn't "closed." It just no longer exists as a trail. But the Cohutta Wilderness is open land that any can hike, bushwhacking to their heart's content. That means intrepid folks can blaze the old Sugar Cove Trail if they wish to.

I haven't hiked Sugar Cove since about 2005, but one of my hiking companions has. He says the old trail isn't apparent any more due to the big fire of about six or eight years ago. I think that fire was what prompted the closure. The trail was very steep.

Sugar Cove was a poor route to travel between the Jacks and the Conasauga. It's wasn't directly linked. It required several other trails (Rough Ridge, East Cowpen, Panther Creek or Hickory Creek). Too, walking Sugar Cove uphill with a pack was a mighty haul, especially in summer.

I'll be doing a big day hike in the Cohuttas in 10 days with a hiking companion who bushwhacks all over the mountains and knows them well. I'll get more details from him about Sugar Cove.

Rain Man
10-08-2016, 00:27
Wow. I had no idea 64 shut for the winter.

Right now it is closed due to 25" of rain that dumped on Cohutta in January (I think it was), which cause a landslide of some sort. They are waiting on a contractor to make a major repair.

Tipi Walter
10-08-2016, 09:56
Sugar Cove was a poor route to travel between the Jacks and the Conasauga. It's wasn't directly linked. It required several other trails (Rough Ridge, East Cowpen, Panther Creek or Hickory Creek). Too, walking Sugar Cove uphill with a pack was a mighty haul, especially in summer.


Let's say you're standing in Dally Gap or heading south on the Hemp Top trail (BMT) and you want to connect on foot to the Conasauga River without hiking all the way south to Watson Gap on the BMT and then to Rich Cove and getting on the Pinhoti trail to Buddy Cove Gap and the long roadwalk to Three Forks Mt and the long roadwalk to Betty Gap and the start of the Conasauga trail.

With Sugar Cove open you could easily leave Dally Gap and get on the upper Jacks River trail near Bear Branch Creek and follow Jacks downstream to the Sugar Cove jct (good luck in finding it across the Jacks) and then take Sugar Cove up to Rough Ridge trail and follow it south to East Cowpens and north to Panther Creek jct and ZAP you're down on the beloved Connie!!

Just think, no road walking.

On my next Cohutta trip I'm gonna make every effort to use Sugar Cove trail and "open up" this part of the wilderness. As far as Sugar Cove being a nutbuster, it can't be any worse than the climb out of Double Spring Gap going north to Big Frog Mt; or the climb from Jacks River up the Hickory Ridge or Rough Ridge trails. Or the hellslog up Panther Creek from the Connie to East Cowpen. All tough trails.

Dan Roper
10-08-2016, 14:17
Sugar Cove was tougher than the climbs up Rough Ridge Trail or Hickory Ridge Trail from the Jacks River, I think. My memory is that it was roughly comparable to the climb from the Conasauga River up Panther Creek Trail to East Cowpen, which is quite pull. The climb up Horseshoe Bend Trail from the Jacks River is very steep but relatively short.

Probably the toughest climb I've done in the Cohuttas, though, is Tearbritches Trail. That's steep and long.

I've never down Hemp Top going up Big Frog Mountain. I've come down it twice, including July 8 of this year. It's obviously a booger, though...and in dry seasons there's no water (the little spring near the top often being dry).

Before I began hiking the AT in 2007, a well-meaning person told me the grades on the AT in Georgia were as tough as the Cohutta Wilderness Area trails. That news gave me serious heartburn. But that information was wildly inaccurate. There's nothing on the AT like the steep Cohuttas trails with the exception of Jacob's Ladder (a/k/a Sweetwater Cliffs?)

Tipi Walter
10-08-2016, 21:39
I do most of my backpacking currently in the Citico/Slickrock wilderness of TN/NC and consider Cohutta/Big Frog trails to be easier. Why? Because Big Frog Mt is the highest point at 4,224 feet whereas Citico/Slick's highest point is 5,300 feet. In other words, you're backpacking an extra thousand feet up on the Cit/Slick trails. The worst is probably the Upper Slickrock Creek #42 trail aka the Nutbuster and it's devilish. Another tough one is leaving Calderwood lake on the Slickrock Creek trail to Ike Branch to Yellowhammer Gap to Hangover Lead North trail to Big Fat Gap to Hangover Lead South to Hangover Mt, a climb of around 4,200 feet. There's nothing like this in the Cohutta.

In fact, Backpacker magazine once called the Nutbuster trail one of the 12 toughest humps in the country. See---

http://www.backpacker.com/trips/wyoming/twelve-toughest-trails/



(http://www.backpacker.com/trips/wyoming/twelve-toughest-trails/)

Dan Roper
10-08-2016, 23:59
It's not a matter of elevation; it's elevation change. If I climb from sea level to 2,000 feet over the course of two miles, that's going to be much tougher than a climb from 4,000 to 5,000 feet over two miles. Tearbritches in Cohutta Wilderness climbs 2,100 feet in three miles. That's the same as North Kaibab Trail in Grand Canyon from the bridge to the North Rim. There are undoubtedly steeper trails out there, but the climbs in the Cohutta and Big Frog are the toughest I've experienced with the exception of Jacob's Ladder on the AT (but at one mile in length it isn't the lengthy grind of some others).

Tipi Walter
10-09-2016, 10:16
Dan, have you done the Citico/Slickrock trails? Like I said, I put the Cohutta/Big Frog in the moderate category versus the difficult category of the Cit/Slick. I've done both trail systems and definitely prefer backpacking the Cohutta "nuts" vs the Cit/Slick. But don't take my word for it, come on out and do these trails and then we'll talk:
CITICO SIDE
North Fork Citico
Brush Mt
Mill Branch
Crowder Branch

SLICKROCK SIDE
Upper Slickrock Nutbuster
Hangover Lead North and South to Hangover Mt
Jenkins Meadow
Deep Creek from bottom Up.

Traffic Jam
10-09-2016, 11:12
Sorry, I have to agree with Tipi. Even the steep climb up Big Frog isn't as difficult as some of the trails in Citico/Slickrock...in fact, I thought that climb was pretty easy. Then again, my pack was only 20lbs, not 70.

Tipi Walter
10-09-2016, 11:17
Sorry, I have to agree with Tipi. Even the steep climb up Big Frog isn't as difficult as some of the trails in Citico/Slickrock...in fact, I thought that climb was pretty easy. Then again, my pack was only 20lbs, not 70.

You bring up a good point. Let me amend my Dan Roper comment: Please do the Cit/Slick trails with a 70 lb pack. Amen, pass the GU gels and gorp.

And let's talk about the climb up to Big Frog Mt. If you're talking about Trail 64 from forest road 221 to the top, well, it's an EASY trail when compared to many others. If you climb to the Frog on Chestnut Ridge/Wolf Ridge it's a little harder. If you come up the Frog on the Licklog trail it's moderate. From Double Spring Gap it's a Nuteater but short (800 gain in .8th of a mile).

Traffic Jam
10-09-2016, 11:36
You bring up a good point. Let me amend my Dan Roper comment: Please do the Cit/Slick trails with a 70 lb pack. Amen, pass the GU gels and gorp.

And let's talk about the climb up to Big Frog Mt. If you're talking about Trail 64 from forest road 221 to the top, well, it's an EASY trail when compared to many others. If you climb to the Frog on Chestnut Ridge/Wolf Ridge it's a little harder. If you come up the Frog on the Licklog trail it's moderate. From Double Spring Gap it's a Nuteater but short (800 gain in .8th of a mile).

I have only done it from Double Spring Gap. So, I should amend me earlier statement and say, "In my limited experience in the Cohutta's...", or maybe I should just keep my mouth shut. :)

Tipi Walter
10-09-2016, 11:43
I have only done it from Double Spring Gap. So, I should amend me earlier statement and say, "In my limited experience in the Cohutta's...", or maybe I should just keep my mouth shut. :)

I guess you came up the Frog from Dally Gap on the Hemp Top side? It's easy except for the final hell climb from Double Spring Gap to the Licklog Jct. It's about a thousand foot gain in about a mile. Pretty tough.

Dan Roper
10-09-2016, 18:09
I wasn't making comparisons. I was just making the point that a 1,000 foot climb in one mile is the same whether that mile winds up at 2,000 feet or at 5,000 feet. The person up above seemed to be making the point that the climb ending at 5,000 feet was harder (he probably wasn't; I don't think any experienced hiker would think so).

Tipi Walter
10-09-2016, 19:35
I wasn't making comparisons. I was just making the point that a 1,000 foot climb in one mile is the same whether that mile winds up at 2,000 feet or at 5,000 feet. The person up above seemed to be making the point that the climb ending at 5,000 feet was harder (he probably wasn't; I don't think any experienced hiker would think so).

Of course climbing from 2,000 feet to 4,224 feet (the top of Big Frog Mt) versus from 2,000 feet to 5,300 feet (in let's say 3 miles) will be harder.