For fun in the outdoors the Cohutta Wilderness Area cannot be beat. With more than 40,000 acres in Georgia and Tennessee (where its known as Big Frog Wilderness Area), the Cohuttas comprise the largest wilderness east of the Mississippi.
The Cohutta Mountains are part of the oldest known mountains in the world. They run from Fannin County northeast to the Tennessee-North Carolina border, where they are known as the Smoky Mountains, and once bordered a prehistoric ocean. It is from these mountains that the Cohutta Wilderness Area gets its name. As settlers moved west they avoided these mountains because of difficult access and scant level ground for farming. Only a few hardy Scot-Irish settlers scratched out a meager existence in this section of Appalachia.
Around 1900, the Cohuttas became one of the last areas of Georgia to be forested. Logging continued in these areas until World War II when the federal government took over management of the land. In 1976, 36,000 acres were deemed wilderness. Since that time more wilderness area has been added.
Within the Cohutta Mountains are peaks that rise to 4,200 feet and more than a hundred miles of hiking trails. Within the Wilderness Area itself are 13 trails that total more than 87 miles of unusual remote hiking. Other than on the popular Jacks River Trail, it is possible to hike in this area for days during the Spring and Fall and not see other backpackers.
Two rivers (Conasauga and Jacks) flow through the Cohuttas, forming the major valleys on the east and west sides of the Wilderness Areas. In the river valleys the flora is prolific. It is not uncommon to see a wide array of plant life, thickly covering any land that gets available sunlight. As the trails climb the mountains the plants lessen, mostly because the trees block the sun.
The Chamber of Commerce Scenic Drives #2 and #3 are Cohutta Mountain Adventures. Be sure to stop by the office on the way to the mountains to get the brochure detailing the drive.
Trails of the Cohutta Wilderness
Jacks River – According to tradition, this trail is named for a Cherokee Indian who lived in the Cohutta Mountains. By far the most popular of the trails in the Cohutta Wilderness, Jacks River crosses the entire wilderness and intersects most of the other trails. The trail begins at Dally Gap and ends almost 17 miles later in the Alacusy Valley. Jacks River Falls at 9.2 miles is a highlight.
What is a Wilderness Area? A federal designation resulting from the Wilderness Act of 1964, Wilderness Areas are set aside from Forest Service Management and allowed to return to a natural state. Activities such as logging are prohibited