Hiking the Jacks River Trail in the Cohutta Wilderness was a real adventure. With all the research I did before the hike, one thing was certain, I knew I would be crossing the Jacks River quite a few times. Little did I realize just how many times. The Jacks River Trail is approximately 16 miles, and although you could probably do this in one day, why would you want to? Not to mention the fact the 40 plus river crossings you will have to encounter may hold you back from your normal fast pace. The campsites are worth making this a two day hike.
Within the Cohutta Mountains are peaks that rise to 4,200 feet and more than a hundred miles of hiking trails. Within the Wilderness Area itself are 13 trails that total more than 87 miles of unusual remote hiking. Other than on the popular Jacks River Trail, it is possible to hike in this area for days during the Spring and Fall and not see other backpackers.
Two rivers (Conasauga and Jacks) flow through the Cohuttas, forming the major valleys on the east and west sides of the Wilderness Areas. In the river valleys the flora is prolific. It is not uncommon to see a wide array of plant life, thickly covering any land that gets available sunlight. As the trails climb the mountains the plants lessen, mostly because the trees block the sun.
I saw just about every kind of Mushroom that grows. If you study Fungi, this is the trail for you. The terrain is pretty easy. Since you are hiking along the river, you never really do any strenuous ups and downs.
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The Jacks River Trail offers a chance to dip in some watering holes and cool off if you plan on hiking this trail in the summer. DO NOT take this river for granted. Plan ahead carefully. This is a river that when it rains more than an inch, you may find yourself stranded. Knowing how to ford a river will come in handy. The bottom of the river is filled with big rocks and rough terrain. It would be easy to sprain and ankle. Very slippery. DO NOT hike this trail on or before a heavy rain fall. I would plan on taking two pair of hiking shoes also. One pair of water hiking shoes, and one pair of sandals. Your feet will be wet most of the day. This softens your skin on your feet. You can tear skin much easier when you skin is soft and wet. Make sure you have a dry pair of sandals to wear at camp.
Jacks River – According to tradition, this trail is named for a Cherokee Indian who lived in the Cohutta Mountains. By far the most popular of the trails in the Cohutta Wilderness, Jacks River crosses the entire wilderness and intersects most of the other trails. The trail begins at Dally Gap and ends almost 17 miles later in the Alacusy Valley. Jacks River Falls at 9.2 miles is a highlight.
Directions: Once you get on “Old Hwy 2”, you will drive on Hwy 2 until it turns into gravel. Keep going up until you see a clearing with the Cohutta Wilderness sign. Your map will tell you, (or just about every web site) will say turn right on “Road Access 22”. Good luck finding that sign. When you get to the clearing look for the sign that says: “Dally Gap”. this is 22. Go up 3 miles to you get to the Jacks River Trail Head. There is enough room for about 10-15 cars.
Have fun, and I will see you on the Trail.