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Backpacker Magazine – May 2009

Rip & Go: Jacks River Trail - Cohutta Wilderness, GA

Disappear into the largest–and probably the wettest–wilderness east of the Mississippi.

by: Joanna Nasar

Jacks River Trail (Scott Sanders)
Jacks River Trail (Scott Sanders)
Keen Newport H2 (Courtesy photo)
Keen Newport H2 (Courtesy photo)
Jacks River Falls (Scott Sanders)
Jacks River Falls (Scott Sanders)
Ovenbird (Johann Schumacher)
Ovenbird (Johann Schumacher)

Take it With You
Download a printable PDF of this entire weekend.

GPS-Enabled Trip Report
See this trip on a map, download it to your phone, GPS, or computer, and more.
On The Menu Breakfast 1
Cheesy grits
Lunch 1
Bagel with peanut butter
Dinner 1
Bigfoot jerky potatoes
Breakfast 2
Bagel with cheese and pepperoni
Lunch 2
Instant ramen
Roasted pecans

Cheesy Grits
Dive into a bowl of the South's favorite breakfast.

3/4 cup instant grits
1 cup water
1 ounce cheddar cheese
Pinch of salt and pepper

Boil water. Take off heat, add instant cooking grits and diced cheese. Stir well and cover. Let it sit for 3 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Bigfoot Jerky Potatoes
Tasty enough to satisfy anyone. Or anything.

2/3 cup instant potato flakes
1 ounce of jerky
1 cup dehydrated milk
1/4 tablespoon garlic powder
Pinch of salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup water

Cut jerky into small pieces. Bring water to boil. Add dry ingredients, take off heat and cover for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add olive oil and serve.

The Grocery List (Aisle #) In Nearest Store Below

1/2 C. instant cooking grits (9)
15 oz. of cheddar cheese (13)
4 plain bagels (deli)
1 jar of peanut butter (3)
2 packets ramen (any flavor) (5)
pepperoni (back wall) 8 oz. pecans (produce)
2/3 C. instant potato flakes (4)
1 oz. jerky (12)
1/2 C. powdered milk (6)

Pack garlic powder, salt, pepper, and olive oil

Food Lion
505 Gi Maddox Pkwy. # C, Chatsworth, GA; (706) 695-1470

THE PIT STOP: Little Rome, 1201 N 3rd Ave., Chatsworth, GA; (706) 695-7309.
Try a slice of lasagna with homemade meat sauce and a side salad with "the best blue cheese dressing this side of the Mississippi."

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May 04, 2012

It's more like 3-3.5 hours because of the forest service road to jacks river falls. The mileage isn't bad..just have to drive so slow on that bumpy dirt road.

Dan M
May 23, 2011

Also - there are good sites after the falls, on the way down, but the better sites are before the falls, and one would want to hit the falls during the day, not at the end of the day. The falls (at mile 10 or so), are the highlight.

Dan M
May 23, 2011

This is an awesome trip. But it's good to be prepared. 1) The shoes advice is great. I wore Tevas, but closed water-sandals would be better. Folks wore sneakers as well. DO NOT bring boots. 2) You need hiking poles, or at least a stick. The river crossings can be treacherous. The trail itself is easy... but the crossings make everything slow, and you need the poles. 3) This is ok for newer hikers, but be prepared on these river crossings. 4) It will take longer than normal, because of the crossings. We averaged 1.5 miles/hr or so. 5) The blazes are generally green, but sometimes vary. Red-Orange was the old color. 6) DO NOT ATTEMPT in rainy weather. The gorge can fill up quickly, and folks have drowned there. The crossings become too dangerous. Plus, it wouldn't be pleasant to be wet and cold. 7) Plan for wet conditions. Some advice follows below.

The directions to the trail head are not particularly good, but if you follow the directions, plus some signs, you'll probably get there. I advise getting a map or better directions.

The trail end, is, in fact, 1.5-2 hours from Atlanta, but once you do the shuttle to the trail head, it's definitely 4 - 4.5 hours from Atlanta. As such, it would be helpful to get either a really early start on Saturday, or get up on Friday and pack in a mile. There are, in fact, 42 crossings of the Jack's river, and 1 crossing of a tributary of the Jack's river. There are also several minor creek crossings. All of the jack's river crossings are above your knees (or, at least they were in May), and some are as high as your navel / waist. It would make sense to bag your sleeping bag in a waterproof bag, so when your pack gets in the water (it will), your bag will remain dry. You might want to do the same for your tent. However, most of the difficult / slippery crossings are below the falls (most likely during day 2).

There are campsites along the entire way, though, the sites are much better at the up-stream side of the trail than the downstream side. You are not supposed to camp within 1 mile on either side of the falls. After 16(ish?) crossings, there are limited campsites available before the restricted area. There are some great sites between 13 and 16. There are a couple good ones after 16 too, but once you start to ascend the gorge, there's not much that's legal. There are a few sites just after the restricted area that people use still.

Hope all this info helps!

Scott Sanders
Sep 16, 2009

It is about 1.5 to 2 hours to the trail head. If one wanted to follow the hike as written, you would need to shuttle to the start of the trail on the opposite side of the Cohutta wilderness. It can easily add another 1.5 hours. The road can be very bumpy. Occasionally, trees fall down and you'll have to re route. One shold expect 4 hours and be happy for every minute they're not jarring their kidneys on the rutted gravel roads. The hike is WORTH the price.

Robert E.
Jul 20, 2009

Traveling on Friday after work. Any campsites near the trailhead? Great article.

Anne B.
Jul 14, 2009

It would be helpful if you gave more specific directions.

Dan Stewart
Jul 06, 2009

Good article, very informative.

Except, the Cohutta Wilderness is not "four hours north of Atlanta." More 1.5 to 2 hours.


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