Atlanta, GA: Coosa Backcountry Loop

On the edge of Chattahoochee National Forest, this 13.4-mile loop treks up several Blue Ridge peaks and meanders through north Georgia wildflowers and hardwood forest.
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On the edge of Chattahoochee National Forest, this 13.4-mile loop treks up several Blue Ridge peaks and meanders through north Georgia wildflowers and hardwood forest.

Hiking west from the Vogel State Park Visitors Center, this 13.4-mile loop escapes deep into the Blue Ridge Mountains on a challenging loop on the Coosa Backcountry Trail. Rangers discourage dayhiking this route, but it is doable for fit hikers. Hiking through a mixed hardwood forest of oak, hickory, and white pine, the route crosses multiple forest creeks and (in season) samples a wide assortment of north Georgia wildflowers. Water sources are scattered throughout the loop (with the exception of the stretch from Slaughter Gap to Long Branch).
Hiked clockwise, the trail starts with a 3.5-mile, 1,700-foot climb up to Slaughter Mountain. From there, you’ll descend steeply to Wolf Pen Gap, before beginning another slog up Wildcat Knob and Coosa Bald. From there, the trail descends 2,100 feet over the next 3.6 miles before the final effort of the day, a gradual 700-foot climb around the contours of Frady Mountain and Sheriff Knob: not difficult in its own right, but tough on the legs after a long day of hiking. The final descent to the park is a welcome grade back to Vogel State Park.
-Mapped by Scott Sanders

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 21.7

Waypoints

CBL001

Location: 34.7658958, -83.9241333

From the Visitors Center, walk southwest up the paved road towards the campground area.

CBL002

Location: 34.763855, -83.9264755

Turn right off the paved road up a set of stone stairs. At the top of the stairs, bear left onto a dirt path in front of a vending machine location. Though you'll start seeing some green blazes here,the Coosa Backcountry Trail is primarily blazed with Yellow Rectangles. For the majority of this trip, you'll be following yellow blazes, not green.

CBL003

Location: 34.7640724, -83.9283676

Bear left @ 3-way junction marked by a trail kiosk. Don't take the Byron Reece trail (to the right).

CBL004

Location: 34.763504, -83.9303741

Cross a small wooden bridge, and immediately turn right at @ 3-way intersection, heading uphill. Here, the trail is marked by yellow and orange blazes.

CBL005

Location: 34.7631416, -83.932457

Go straight across an old dirt road bed at 4-way intersection onto a narrow dirt trail heading south uphill. Note: the loop of this route closes at this junction, and returns from here to the Visitors Center (after the loop).

CBL006

Location: 34.7555313, -83.9329529

Step over a small creek and turn right @ 3-way intersection. A picnic shelter is downhill to the left.

CBL007

Location: 34.7549362, -83.9334183

Turn right @ 3-way intersection, continuing to follow yellow/orange blazes.

CBL008

Location: 34.7546654, -83.9346542

The trail passes a small campsite next to a set of waterfalls. Ahead the trail climbs steeply up the north side of the drainage.

CBL009

Location: 34.7540779, -83.9362488

Cross the stream on a log bridge and then continue uphill (now following orange blazes). An old trail sign here might be confusing, but if in doubt, keep heading uphill. Immediately after this stream crossing the trail makes a switchback to the right between two huge boulders and starts a long series of switchbacks.

CBL010

Location: 34.7518806, -83.939743

Turn left @ 3-way intersection, following the wooden sign with a yellow arrow on it. Wolf Creek is on your right here. Ahead the trail continues to climb (passing a small campsite with no water) en route to Slaughter Gap.

CBL011

Location: 34.7471733, -83.9438095

Turn right @ 3-way intersection. The route to the left heads to Blood Mountain. Here, the Coosa Backcountry Trail shares a trail with Duncan Ridge Trail (and is marked by orange and blue blazes). A small campsite is 50 yards down the ridge from this intersection. Ahead, the trail will summit near the top of Slaughter Mountain and begin a long steep descent to Wolf Pen Gap.

CBL012

Location: 34.7639389, -83.9523773

Continue straight, crossing GA-180 at Wolf Pen Gap. Look for the yellow and blue blazes to the right of a gravel road (Duncan Ridge Road) that marks the trail's return into the woods. From here, the trail climbs a steep stretch up Wildcat Knob.

CBL013

Location: 34.7719803, -83.9587173

Here, the trail descends from Wildcat Knob and merges with the gravel Duncan Ridge Road for about 50 yards. The return into the woods is marked by yellow and blue-blazed trail markers on the right.

CBL014

Location: 34.7774963, -83.9606476

Turn right @ 3-way intersection. To the left, the blue-blazed Duncan Ridge Trail continues another .25 mile or so to the Coosa Bald summit. Turning right to continue on the Coosa Backcountry Trail, you'll head through a small campsite. From here on, the blazes are almost entirely yellow.

CBL015

Location: 34.7859306, -83.9537354

Continue straight across a gravel road. The trail immediately angles downhill and to the right after crossing the road. Ahead are a few campsites.

CBL016

Location: 34.788372, -83.9277267

Turn left @ 3-way and cross a small stream. There are several small campsites scattered throughout this area.

CBL017

Location: 34.786293, -83.9249496

Go straight across a gravel road into a gravel parking area with campsites, cross the wooden bridge, and turn left @ a 3-way junction. The Coosa Backcountry Trail is signed here. Ahead the trail climbs about 700 feet, following contour lines west around Frady Mountain and Sheriff Knob.

CBL018

Location: 34.7680664, -83.9395752

Continue straight across GA-180. On the other side of the road, the trail heads back into the woods and is marked by a yellow blaze.

CBL019

Location: 34.763195, -83.9330521

Cross a wooden bridge and then turn left @ 3-way intersection. Proceed to waypoint 5 and backtrack to the Visitors Center.

Blood Mountain View

Location: 34.7493704, -83.9491081

From Slaughter Mountain, a view of Blood Mountain (large on right) and Yonah Mountain (small half dome on left in the distance).

Visitors Center

Location: 34.7658711, -83.9240026

The Visitors Center at Vogel State Park

Vogel State Park

Location: 34.7662589, -83.9237452

A lake view from the Vogel State Park Visitors Center

Metal Blazes

Location: 34.7585731, -83.9304399

Most Coosa blazes are paint, but occasionally you'll see metal ones.

Blood Mountain Wilderness Area

Location: 34.7548005, -83.9337444

Just Below Slaughter Gap

Location: 34.7491236, -83.9421129

Wildcat Knob View

Location: 34.7562814, -83.9487648

A view of Wildcat Knob across GA-180

Wolf Pen Gap View

Location: 34.7621341, -83.9510822

Warning Sign

Location: 34.7636501, -83.9523268

Vogel State park is 3 miles down GA-180 to the east if you need to re-route and cut the trip short. Otherwise, it's almost 9 miles back to the Visitors Center if you continue on the Coosa Backcountry Trail.

Wildcat Gap

Location: 34.7720757, -83.958807

Wildcat Gap next to Duncan Ridge Road

Chattahoochee Views

Location: 34.7809939, -83.9573908

Long Branch Creek Campsite Area

Location: 34.7827211, -83.9580345

The Long Branch Creek camping area is set along an old logging road.

Trailside Rock Formation

Location: 34.788008, -83.9265347

Wolf Creek

Location: 34.786422, -83.9254189

Trail Waterfall

Location: 34.7786323, -83.9331007

Trailside Creek

Location: 34.763227, -83.9302683