The Jacks River Trail runs nine miles through the beautiful and rugged Cohutta Wilderness in North Georgia. As the trail follows its namesake river, it winds through the lush green river valley past many waterfalls and through several streams. This trail showcases Georgia's wilderness at its best and provides a thrilling hike as hikers traverse the rocky and rough trail along the river. The trail is an out-and-back trail that measures at 9.3 miles and although the trail is rough, it is relatively flat making it perfect for any level of hiker that wants to enjoy the scenery. However, it does involve a number of creek and river crossings, so hikers should plan to get a bit wet. Considering the trail runs primarily through thick forests, a change of socks or shoes may be required, it's difficult to find a sunny spot to dry them.

Cohutta Wilderness

Quick Stats:

Trail Length: 9.3 miles City/State:   Cisco,
Bikes Allowed: No
Elevation: 593 feet gain
County:   Fannin Dogs Allowed: No


Getting There:

The Jacks River Trail is easy to access from both Georgia and Tennessee. The Forest Service Road 22 runs straight through the wilderness, past the trailhead and all the way into Tennessee. Those coming from southern Georgia can access this road by taking the Forest Service Road 64 from the south. The trail officially starts at the Dally Gap Trailhead where there is a small parking area and bathrooms.

The Hike:

After arriving at the trailhead, the trail will descend through a mix of deciduous and coniferous forest on a pleasant and well-maintained trail as it heads down to the river to the southwest. Even just after leaving the parking lot behind, visitors will feel a bit like they have been transported into a rainforest. Georgia is humid much of the year and the trees tower above the landscape. The forest floor is given a crowded feel to it by ferns, wildflowers and, in the warmer months, wild mushrooms.

After passing the intersection for the Benton Mackeye Trail and then further down the intersection for the Blue Mountain Trail, the Jacks River Trail veers off down towards the Jacks River and the proper trail formally begins. The roar of the river is easily heard before spotting it. It is amplified by the dense forest. Once it comes into view, visitors will realize that this rocky, quick moving river is one of the most picturesque they have ever seen.

Shortly after joining the trail along the river, the trail gets rocky and rooty due to constant erosion from the rains. It doesn't make the hike more difficult, but hikers do need to watch their steps. At just under a mile in, hikers will come to the first of many creek crossings. This one is also the easiest as there are plenty of rocks step across, but it is narrow enough to just hop over. This area of the hike is especially scenic due to the number of rhododendrons lining the river bed. After the first mile, hikers will have to cross two creeks before they reach the second mile. After crossing the first mile, the first creek that hikers come across--the Bear Branch tributary--can be especially tricky if there was rain in the area recently. Hikers may have to get a little wet crossing it.

After crossing the third creek of the hike, the trail reaches a junction for the Bear Branch Trail. Hikers will want to follow the river and keep left. Just after the junction and rounding a bend, the trail disappears into the water. This is the first of several fords that hikers will have to make across the Jacks River. Rock hopping is not recommended here, the Jacks River produces both green and clear algae that makes the rocks very slippery at times. When the river is low, this portion is easy to cross on land bridges. It can be easy to lose the trail when crossing the river due to the markers being hidden by vegetation, but if hikers cross straight, it should not be a problem.

After the crossing, hikers shouldn't worry about getting dry again. After under a mile of meandering down the western bank of the Jacks River, it is time to cross again. The water at this crossing is usually at least knee high, but the crossing does provide spectacular views of waterfalls just downstream. After crossing the stream, it's just a short scramble down some large, but dry (providing there was no rain) boulders to get a closer look at the falls.

After visiting the waterfall and returning back to the trail, the Jacks River Trail climbs in elevation above the river and through a fractured rocky outcrop. Visitors can get some wonderful aerial views here and many of the rocks are sunbathed and good for drying off. Descending the hill, hikers go through some switchbacks before returning to the river, which has a good surprise in store for them. When the trail returns to the waterside, hikers are greeted with a large set of waterfalls as well as large boulders throughout the river bed. At the bottom of the falls, the little pool is a good place for a quick swim from boulder to boulder, and it is not too deep to have a dangerous undertow.

Downstream, the river quickens and turns into rough white water. However, this is also the portion of the trail where the trees open up and the trail and riverbed are both bathed in sunlight. There is also a good view of rolling mountains in the backdrop as well.

After diving back into tree cover, the scenery isn't any less pleasant. The river provides a multi-tiered waterfall, after which, hikers will need to cross the river at some shallows yet again. Further proving the diversity of the scenery in Georgia, after crossing the river, the trail runs through a high walled gorge so hikers are sandwiched between on a thin spit of dirt and the river. When the gorge walls fade, there is the opportunity for another river crossing, but it's not worth it. Across the river, the trail ascends up a bit to an average overlook of the area and ends. Essentially, hikers just have to turn back around and cross it again.

Either at this last crossing or after, now all that is left of the hike is to re-trace the trail and head back to the parking lot to change out of those soggy clothes. Although the trip back features sights that have all been seen before on the way there, seeing them from the different angle makes them seem brand new.

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