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Backpacker Magazine – June 1999

Tennessee/Georgia's Big Frog Wilderness

Why choose between breezy peaks and cool streams when you can have both at Big Frog Wilderness?

by: Hiram Rogers and Jean Gauger

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QUICK TAKE: Big Frog Wilderness, TN

DRIVE TIME: The Big Frog and Cohutta Wildernesses straddle the Tennessee/Georgia line, only 136 miles (21/2 hours) north of Atlanta and 185 miles (31/2 hours) south of Nashville.

THE WAY: From US 64 west of Ducktown, Tennessee, turn south at Ocoee No. 3 Powerhouse onto gravel FS 45. Climb steeply for 2.9 miles before turning west onto FS 221 for the last .6 mile to the Big Frog trailhead.

TRAILS: The wilderness contains 25 trails covering more than 130 miles, including the Benton MacKaye Trail bound from Georgia's Springer Mountain to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

ELEVATION: The Big Frog trailhead is the low point at 2,160 feet, while Big Frog Mountain is the high point at 4,224 feet.

CAN'T MISS: The dramatic traverse of precipitous Peavine Ridge on the Big Frog Trail.

CROWD CONTROL: Try the more secluded campsites near Double Spring Gap, Big Frog Mountain, or along Rough Creek. Midweek and off-season visits yield plenty of alone time.

MAPS AND GUIDES: Don't go anywhere without the Cohutta and Big Frog Wilderness Map from the Cohutta Ranger District (see the address below). Read Wilderness Trails of Tennessee's Cherokee National Forest (University of Chicago Press; 800-621-2736; $17.95) for detailed trail descriptions and the history of the Big Frog.

PIT STOP: Try the Ocoee Inn west of the wilderness on US 64 for your post-hike feast.

WALK SOFTLY: Both wildernesses have healthy and hungry black bear populations, so hang your food high.

MORE INFORMATION: Ocoee Ranger District, Rte. 1, Box 348D, Benton, TN 37307; (423) 338-5201. Cohutta Ranger District, 401 GI Maddox Pkwy., Chatsworth, GA 30705; (706) 695-6736.

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