|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
The Jacks River trailhead lies tucked into dense greenery four hours north of Atlanta. Dozens of glass-clear swimming holes line the 16.1-mile route that drops 1,592 feet from trailhead to terminus, near the Tennessee border. Hike .7 mile southwest to a junction with the Benton MacKaye Trail. Stay on the Jacks River Trail (JRT) and prepare for the first of 43 creek crossings in .2 mile. Take in the view of dark and dripping Jacks River gorge at an overlook at 1.6 miles. You’ll drop back down to the river at mile 2.2 to ford its wide, swift current—unclip your hipbelt to slip out of your pack if you go for a swim.
At mile 6.6 veer left at the junction with Penitentiary Branch Trail. An old railroad bed makes the trail appear to head straight at mile 7.2: Stay left on the JRT. Splash through another creek and climb up the bank to the Rough Ridge Trail junction.
Turn right, and—surprise!—traverse another small creek. Cross Jacks River at mile 7.8, then stay straight at the Hickory Ridge junction to find an easy-to-spot campsite. The next day, hike about a half of a mile to 80-foot, two-tiered Jacks River Falls, passing Beech Bottom Trail on the way.
At mile 10.3, there’s a tricky crossing. Look for an island near where the trail meets the river and ford Jacks, hugging the downstream tip of the island. Off course? Look for the blue trail marker on the opposite shore and scramble up the bank. If you want to extend your stay, pitch your tent here on an old railroad grade in a pocket of trees. From here, it’s 2.7 miles to the trailhead along the north of the river. Before shuttling your car, go jump over the state line into Tennessee. Why not? It’s only at the end of the parking lot.
Gear up: North Georgia Mountain Outfitters, 1215 Industrial Blvd., East Ellijay, GA; (706) 698-4453.
-Mapped by Scott Sanders
TO TRAILHEAD: End: From Atlanta, GA, take I-75 north to US 411 north. Continue to Chattsworth, GA, and stay on US 411 for another 13.4 miles to Cisco, GA. Turn right onto Old Hwy 2/FS 16, a paved road right before the Cisco Baptist Church. Follow the paved FS 16 until it ends. Continue on a gravel road and stay right at a fork in the road. From the 3-way intersection with FS 51, continue straight on FS 16 for another 8.7 miles. Bear right at the next intersection and the parking lot/trailhead a short distance away near the Tennessee/Georgia state line.
Start: Return to FS 16/FS 51 3-way intersection and continue on FS 16 to FS 17 and turn left. Continue of FS 17 (passing FS 17B and FS 630) and turn left on FS 68. Continue straight at the next 3-way intersection as the road becomes FS 64. Continue past Betty Gap and Three Forks Mountain, and turn left at the next 3-way intersection to continue on FS 64 toward Watson Gap. At Watson Gap, continue straight on FS 22 for 3.6 miles to the trailhead at Dally Gap.