ROAD TRIP: Ellicott Rock Wilderness is about 140 miles north of Atlanta, Georgia, and 80 miles southwest of Asheville, North Carolina.
THE WAY: From Cashiers, North Carolina, drive south 7 miles on NC 107. Look for County Road 1100, also called Bull Pen Road, and head about 2.5 miles down this gravel road. Bad Creek trailhead is on the right, just before Fowler Bridge.
TRAILS: Bad Creek Trail (3.1 miles), Fork Mountain Trail (6.4 miles), and Ellicott Rock Trail (3.5 miles) drop into the gorge and join the Chattooga River Trail near Ellicott Rock. The Chattooga River Trail intersects the East Fork Trail (4.8 miles) and Foothills Trail (8.5 miles) while paralleling the river 16.7 miles to SC 28.
ELEVATION: The high point is Ellicott Mountain at 3,720 feet; the low spot is the rocks along the Chattooga at 2,160 feet.
CAN’T MISS: Pools upstream from Ellicott Rock, which are great for cooling your feet.
CROWD CONTROL: Early fall is the best time to explore-summer crowds have left and autumn leaf-gazers have yet to arrive.
GUIDES: Chattooga National Wild and Scenic River Recreation Guide (USDA Forest Service) is available from the ranger station (see Contact below). The best trail book is North Carolina Hiking Trails, by Allen de Hart (AMC Books, 800-262-4455; www.
PIT STOP: At Tommy’s in Cashiers, North Carolina, where the burgers can’t be beat.
WALK SOFTLY: It’s tempting to cut switchbacks on the trails that descend to the river, but always stay on marked paths.
Contact: Highlands Ranger Office, (828) 526-3765.