Cohutta Wilderness: East Cowpen & Panther Creek Trails – Georgia

Went with the fiancée and our three dogs to the Cohutta Wilderness to check out this hike that features a combined waterfall with a nice mountain view.  The view from vista, the waterfall, and the overall secluded environment of the Cohutta Wilderness makes this trek one of my favorite hikes in the southeast.  The total distance is 8.2 miles there-and-back (4.1 miles each way) and is rated moderate to difficult.  Plan on this hike taking approximately 4 hours to complete.

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Directions to the trailhead:From Ellijay, drive on GA 52 west/Dalton Street for 5.1 miles and turn right on Gates Chapel Road.  Eventually the pavement will end, veer right onto Wilderness Trail/Forest Road 90.  Drive on FR 90 for 1.6 miles to Holly Gap and FR 68.  Turn right onto FR 68.  Drive 3.4 miles on FR 68, then turn right onto FR 64.  Drive 4.2 miles to the Three Forks and East Cowpen Trailhead.  Enjoy the preview of the Cohutta Wilderness that the drive to the trailhead will provide you with.

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From the parking area on FR 64, walk past the kiosk and climb uphill on the Cowpen Trail.  This trail was once GA 2 highway and closed sometime after the establishment of the Cohutta Wilderness in 1975.



At 0.4 mile you will pass the junction with the Rough Ridge Trail on your right.


Keep straight and continue to climb until you reach a the ridgeline at 4,100 feet elevation.  Eventually the ridgeline will begin to descend.  At 2.3 miles you will reach the junction with the Panther Creek Trail.

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Turn left on the Panther Creek Trail.  The trail will continue to descend (you’ll remember the steeper sections of the trail on your return trip) and pass through various coves and gaps until you reach Panther Creek in valley.  Along the way you will find some campsites nestled in the trees.  The trail can be difficult to discern at this point as it weaves in and out of the trees and thicker sections of underbrush, so pay attention.

At mile 4.0 you will reach Panther Creek Falls.  At Panther Bluff you get to experience a waterfall that flows over a rock face that also provides a scenic vista of the Conasauga River valley.  Be careful and, if you brought a dog with you, make sure you are using a leash as a fall from this bluff could be fatal.

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Take some time to sit and enjoy this view, or let your furry friends have some fun exploring the rocky formations.

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To get to the bottom of the falls, continue along the trail as it will curve around Panther Bluff to the right of the falls as you are looking out.  The trail moves along the base of the bluff and will zigzag near the bottom of the falls at approximately 4.1 miles.  A quick scramble will lead you from the trail to the base of the falls.


Hope this post was helpful to all you curious explorers interested in visiting the Cohutta Wilderness.  Be safe, enjoy the hike, and leave no trace.


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