Bear Creek is a popular multi-use trail frequented by mountain bikers. It's the perfect summer trail due to it being well-maintained and fairly wide in most places. The trail is somewhat confusing to look at on a map since it is intertwined with the Pinhoti Trail. Many bikers start the Pinhoti Trail on the Conasauga Road/FS90 or drive up Gates Chapel Rd and begin the Pinhoti Trail further up which joins Bear Creek trail in short order.
Bear Creek's trailhead is located near the three-way intersection at the top of Potatopatch Mountain. It's elevation is 2,822 feet. The trail described here will follow Bear Creek Spur to Bear Creek Loop and back. The trail is well marked with signage. As the images on this page show.
The mileage is approximately 8 to 9 miles. The GPS app I used that day was recording it short due to incorrect filtering and other factors. It recorded my last mile as 19:47 minutes which was significantly off due to my hiking pace of 17 to 18 minutes a mile. So mileage is best estimate.
The trail starts off on the section called Bear Creek spur. From the trailhead the trail begins a gradual decline on a narrow footpath overlooking the Forest Service road just driven. It continues for approximately 1/2 a mile arriving at Barnes Creek. This will be your first of many chances to replenish your water. You passed Barnes Creek picnic grounds driving up FS68 on your right which has a quaint little waterfall.
After this the trail begins on an old forest service road and gradually declines to the three-way intersection of the start of Bear Creek Loop. From the trailhead to the beginning of the loop is approximately 2 miles. The elevation change is slightly over 400 feet.
From here you can go left or right. I always go left because I believe it is prettier this way. The northern section of the loop follows the same old forest service road and feels much more remote than the southern section of the loop. It is a fairly level section of the trail losing only a little over 200 feet in the next 2 miles.
Less than a mile after turning left the trail crosses Bear Creek for the first time of many. A little bit further and the trail will come to a Road Closed gate. Just walk around it. And a little bit further the trail appears to fork with another service road going left. Continue to the right on the current road.
Around mile 4 the trail comes to a junction with Pinhoti Trail on the left. The Pinhoti Trail connects to Mountain Town Creek Trail approximately 1.5 miles descending the mountain from here. The elevation here is 2,156 feet. Bear Creek Loop Trail continues pass this junction for less than a 1/2 mile before arriving at another trail junction with the Pinhoti Trail on the right.
You must take a right here onto the Pinhoti Trail to continue following the loop correctly. The Pinhoti Trail here is a footpath and no more than a 1/4 of a mile plus or minus before arriving at the trail junction of Bear Creek Loop. The elevation here is 1,978 feet and the lowest point on the trail.
From here the trail begins the 800+ feet climb back to the trailhead. Where the northern section of the loop trail feels remote the southern part feels well- traveled. There is a good chance of encountering another hiker or biker.
The trail is no longer following an old service road but a footpath. The climb is gradual and no more than moderate in intensity if that. The trail continues ascending with Bear Creek on its right for approximately a mile. It then detours away to the south into the forest and blazing a horseshoe path swinging back north before coming back to the 3-way intersection of Bear Creek Spur-Bear Creek Loop.
This part of the trail is the prettiest in my opinion. Back at the three-way take a left onto Bear Creek Spur and continue for approximately 2 miles back to the trailhead and your vehicle.
"Laws change; people die; the land remains."
- Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States
Eton, GA Access: From Eton, GA (one-red-light town) take a right from Hwy 411 if going north onto CCC road at the red light. Go 6.0 miles until the road turns into gravel and Forest Service Road 18. Drive 1.1 miles on the FS18 and the trailhead for Emery Creek is on the left at Holly Creek.
At the 3.3 mile mark FS18 crosses a one-lane bridge. Continue another 0.6 miles and take a left onto FS68. Continue for another 2.4 miles and take a left ascending up the mountain. FS90 begins here if you go straight. This is the 6.3 mile mark on the gravel roads.
Continue ascending up the mountain and you will pass Barnes Creek Picnic area on your right at the 7.4 mile mark. Continue another 0.7 miles to the trailhead on your right.
Total distance from Eton, GA: 14.1 miles - Paved: 6.0 miles - Gravel: 8.1 miles. Have Fun!
|Bear Creek Loop|
|Distance:||8 - 9 miles|
|Access:||FS68 service road|
|Hike:||Easy to Moderate|
|Trailhead Elevation:||2,822 feet|
|Low Elevation:||1,978 feet|
|Trail Junction:||Pinhoti multiply times|
|Maintenance(1-10):||9 - Northern Section|
|10 - Southern Section|