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Cohutta Loop
About North Georgia

Almost 70 square miles of North Georgia wilderness is surrounded by a drive many refer to as the Cohutta Loop. For the outdoor enthusiast, this is heaven. The drive provides access to the largest wilderness area east of the Mississippi, abounds with walking trails and wildlife, and features occasional campgrounds as it follows the perimeter of the wilderness.

sign at Colwell entrance


To call this road a loop is misleading, for there is no road across the northern end of this federal land. The Forest Service considers the loop a ragtag of roads that it refers to by number. Along the way the road offers babbling creeks nearby, climbing steadily to spectacular vistas along the southern and southwestern end of the wilderness. Access to the road is extremely limited.

Our journey begins in the southeastern corner of Tennessee, near the northeastern corner of the wilderness. Highway 251 west from State Road 68 takes us across the Ocoee River to Tumbling Creek. To the right is Tumbling Creek Campground.

To the left is the start of the Cohutta loop. Here the narrow road rises along Tumbling Creek. A single lane with turnouts, traffic on this portion of the road is rarely a problem. Downed trees and other debris are. Although the Forest Service does a remarkable job keeping the road clear, it is not uncommon to have large trees fall and close the road for days at a time. One recent occurrence of a downed tree closed this portion of the road on a busy July 4th weekend. The road meets a crossroad that to the west follows a ridge to Hemp Top. Straight ahead lies the continuation of Forest Service Road 22.

Primitive camping is allowed throughout the wilderness, except directly on trails. There are a number of federal fee-based campgrounds along the Cohutta Loop, and they are well maintained, however, facilities are extremely limited. We recommend only experienced campers plan on using these sites.

The road continues to climb along a ridge until it meets old Highway 2 from Colwell. Now the road widens and two cars can normally pass without a problem. Highway 2 faithfully follows one of the first routes across the mountains. Cherokee would use this route through the mountains and significant Native American communities developed over much of this land. Land acquired by settlers in this area during the sixth land lottery (1832) was not greatly desired and much of it was quickly sold to mountain folk from further north at rock-bottom prices.

Undeveloped at the turn of the century, lumber companies consolidated the purchases and systematically stripped the land of the lumber resources, build roads and rails to get to the trees. Even today it is not uncommon to realize you are walking on a rail grade or spot the remnants of a trestle across a river. The over-foresting would continue, with a brief halt for the Depression, until 1937.

View towards the southern Blue Ridge Mountains
The road now enters the poles of the shed. Cohutta is from the Cherokee expression Ga-hu-ta-yi, which means, "place of shed roof on poles." The poles of the shed are the mountains on the southern outer rim of the wilderness and they "hold up" the sky, or the roof of the shed. Our direction of travel has shifted from south to west, and scenic views open to the south frequently as we cross Rocky Face and Potatopatch Mountain. This road is especially beautiful in autumn because of the hardwood mix. Now we begin to climb Grassy Mountain and our destination, the Songbird Trail, for while we love scenic drives, our first love is quiet backwoods trails, and this is one of the best. Created by the Forest Service using clearcuts and burns, songbirds are attracted in such numbers that it is difficult to distinguish individual calls from the cacophony of sound that develops deeper into the walk. Lake Conesauga Recreation Area also has camping along the lakeshore that is rarely full, even on long weekends. If time permits, a longer hike to Grassy Mountain affords the best view of the area.

This marks the high point of the drive, and indicates a slow return to civilization. We continue to follow the loop to the Crandall "exit" and head south towards home along Highway 411.

After heavy rains a four-wheel drive may be required to traverse the road. Check with the local Forest Service office for detailed information. A map of the Chattahoochee National Forest is available from the Forest Service for a modest fee, and most state and federal parks in North Georgia sell the map at their gift shops.


Map showing the Cohutta LoopTo
do along the way:

A number of hiking trails including the Beech Bottom and Jack's River Trail.

Camping.

Scenic Views and off route drives.

Lake Conasauga Recreational Area, with camping and a picnic area.

How to get there

Copper Hill, McCaysville - Take Highway 68 North to State Road 251, which dead-ends at Tumbling Creek Road. Turn left. This is the start of the Cohutta Loop.

From Colwell - Stay on Old Highway 2. At the Cohutta Wilderness sign, follow the road to the left.

From Blue Ridge - Take Highway 52(U.S. 76) to Forest Service Road 68 and follow Lake Conasauga signs.

From Chatsworth - head north on 411 to Eton. Make a right at the traffic light and follow signs to Lake Conesauga.

From Crandall - Turn right on Grassy Mountain Road. Cross railroad tracks and turn left at Lake Conesauga sign. The road winds as it climbs to the Cohutta Loop.


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