Chestnut Lead is a 2.0-mile trail that descends from Cohutta Mountain down to the Conasauga River Trail and its namesake river.
The trail immediately begins losing elevation going east. The descent is fairly gradual for the first 0.7 miles before turning north and leveling off entering a hardwood hollow still in the first mile. Around the 1.0 mile mark, the trail comes in from above where it joins Chestnut Creek on its left. It parallels the creek from above before descending further down and paralleling the creek on its right bank.
The trail crosses Chestnut Creek for the first time around mile 1.2 from right to left marked with some pretty good size boulders for a creek crossing. Now the trail parallels the creek on its left bank and continues northwest following the creek before ascending slightly up and away to the left with the creek still in view below. At mile 1.6 the trail descends back down and crosses Chestnut Creek for the second time from left to right.
After the second crossing the trail goes a short distance and crosses Chestnut Creek for the third time from right to left at mile 1.75. The trail follows Chestnut Creek on its left bank before its final fording of an ankle-deep Conasauga at mile 2.0 crossing west to east arriving at its junction with the Conasauga River Trail.
At the Chestnut Lead - Conasauga River Trail junction there is a nice campsite to the left next to the Conasauga River. At this particular place, there are large boulders in the Conasauga River that create some pretty cascades.
There are 3 trails that may be assessed via a forest service road and their associative trailheads which lead to the Conasauga River and its trail. All of them descend into the Conasauga River Valley. Starting from highest elevation to lowest they are Tearbritches, Chestnut Lead, and Hickory Creek: FS630 Trail.
Tearbritches Trail descends directly into Bray Field. It is by far the most difficult out and back of the three approaches to the Conasauga River.
Hickory Creek Trail: FS630 is the easiest and most popular approach. From its trailhead, at the end of FS630, the trail continues 1.9 miles before it ties in with the Conasauga River Trail and its namesake river. This junction is further downstream than the other approaches. The Conasauga River is much wider here due to being further downstream than the other two approaches.
After tying in with the Conasauga River Trail at mile 1.9, Hickory Creek and the Conasauga River Trail become the same trail for 1.2 miles, following the Conasauga River upstream to Bray Field where the two trails diverge again.
Chestnut Lead junctions with the Conasauga River Trail and its namesake river further upstream than the other approaches. The junction is 3.5 miles and 17 river crossings further upstream from Bray Field. Chestnut Lead leads to a less turbulent Conasauga and almost guarantee of solitude since the trail is rarely used.
The maintenance is excellent on the trail with no deadfalls as of March 2016.
"A wilderness...is hereby recognized as an area where the
earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man,
where man himself is a visitor who does not remain."
- Wilderness Act of 1964
Eton, GA Access: From Eton, GA (one-red-light town) at the red-light take CCC road heading east. Drive 6.0 miles until the road turns into gravel and Forest Service Road 18. Once on gravel, it is approximately 10 miles from Potatopatch Mountain. Drive 1.1 miles and the trailhead for Emery Creek is on the left at Holly Creek. Continue 2.9 miles until the three-way intersection with FS68. Take FS68 and begin going uphill.
Stay on FS68 for approximately 6.0 miles until the T - intersection of FS68/FS64 at Potatopatch Mountain and take a left. Drive 2.0 miles to the trailhead on the right.
Total distance from Hwy 411: 18.0 miles - Paved: 6.0 miles - Gravel: 12.0 miles. Have Fun!
Crandall, GA Access: From Eton, GA go north on Hwy 411 until the 4 lane highway converges into a two-lane. 3.0 miles from Eton, GA will be Grassy Street represented by the usual small green street sign. Turn right onto Grassy Street.
Follow Grassy Street for 0.4 miles crossing the railroad tracks. Turn right onto Crandall-Ellijay Road. Drive .1 mile and then take an immediate left onto FS 630 (Mill Creek Road). Continue on the pavement for 0.6 of a mile before driving on gravel for a total of 9.1 miles on FS630 to the FS630-FS17 intersection.
Once here take a sharp right and drive up a steep grade onto FS17 and continue for 3.3 miles to a three-way intersection. Take a left onto FS68 and drive .4 miles where Tearbritches Trailhead is on the left and Emery Creek Trail #72 is on the right. Continue another 1.5 miles and the Chestnut Lead Trailhead is on the left.
Total distance from Hwy 411: 14.8 miles - Paved: 1.1 miles - Gravel: 13.7 miles. Have Fun!
|Hiking to Conasauga:||Easy|
|Chestnut Lead Trailhead:||3,274 feet|
|Conasauga River Terminus:||2,283 feet|
|Features:||Hardwood Forest, Conasauga River|