East Cowpen Trail

Black Bear

Cohutta Wilderness

East Cowpen Northern low elevation Terminus

Northern (Low Elevation) Trailhead on left

Old Georgia Highway 2

Old Georgia Highway 2

East Cowpen is a 7-mile ridge trail running the length of the Cohutta Mountain which bisects the Cohutta Wilderness and separates the Conasauga and Jacks River Watershed. All the rainfall to the east of Cohutta Mountain flows to Jacks River and all the rainfall to the west flows into the Conasauga River.

East Cowpen Trail was an actual highway in the past. It was designated Georgia Highway 2. Even though Congress had designated the area a wilderness in 1975 up until 1987 it was legal to drive a vehicle on it. It was mostly off-terrain vehicles from 1975-1987 according to local sources and all motor vehicles were banned in 1987.

In many areas of the trail, it still resembles a road. In other parts of the trail, nature has reclaimed much of the road and the trail becomes a footpath.

There are only two trails in the Conasauga River Watershed that connect the smaller western part of the wilderness with the Jacks River Watershed which is the rest of the wilderness. East Cowpen Trail is one of them. The other is Hickory Creek Trail.

East Cowpen Trail has the advantage of being the only trail in the Cohutta Wilderness that connects the interior trails in the Conasauga River Watershed with the interior trails in the Jacks River Watershed without crossing a forest service road. It's also the shortest route. From the Conasauga River Trail and its namesake river, one can arrive at Jacks River via the East Cowpen Trail in 9 miles.

East Cowpen is most often hiked from the Three Forks Mountain Traihead to Panther Creek Falls which is the shortest route to the falls at 4.2 miles. The second most often trail usage is from its northern terminus at Rice Camp Trailhead to the Hickory Ridge junction at 2.7 miles. Then Hickory Ridge Trail to Jacks River.

There are 3 trail junctions on East Cowpen Trail. Starting from the high elevation Three Forks Mountain Trailhead the trail intersects with Rough Ridge Trail at .4 miles. Continue another 2 miles and Panther Creek Trail junctions in from the left. This part of the trail is a cakewalk. From here the trail continues another two miles and Hickory Ridge Trail junctions in from the right. Continue another 2.7 miles to its low elevation terminus where it junctions with the Rice Camp Trailhead and Hickory Creek Trail's northern terminus.

There are two ways to access East Cowpen Trail by a forest service road. The northern terminus (low elevation) is located at the end of FS51 which houses the Rice Camp Trailhead, Hickory Creek's northeastern terminus, and East Cowpen's northern terminus.

The more popular southern terminus (high elevation) for East Cowpen Trail is located at Three Forks Mountain Trailhead which is accessed by FS64. Three Forks Mtn. Trailhead is closed every year from January 1st to early March by the Forest Service due to winter weather.

Winter on East Cowpen Trail

Winter on East Cowpen

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"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

Three Forks Mountain Trailhead

Three Forks Mountain Trailhead

Map of East Cowpen Trail

Blue Line is East Cowpen Trail

East Cowpen FS51
Distance: 7.1 miles
Hiking South: Moderate to Strenuous
Northern Terminus FS51: 1,831 feet
Hickory Creek Junction: 2.7 m: 3,189 feet
Panther Creek Junction: 4.7 m: 3,770 feet
Highest Point on Trail: 4,111 feet
Rough Ridge Junction: 6.7 mile: 3,760 feet
Southern Terminus: Three Forks Mtn. 3,504 feet
Scenery(1-10): 8
Features: Connects Conasauga and Jacks Watershed
East Cowpen Three Forks
Distance: 7.1 miles
Hiking North: Easy
Southern Terminus Three Forks Mtn: 3,504 feet
Rough Ridge Junction: 0.4 mile: 3,760 feet
Highest Point on Trail: 4,111 feet
Panther Creek Junction: 2.4 m: 3,770 feet
Hickory Creek Junction: 4.4 m: 3,189 feet
Northern Terminus: FS51 1,831 feet
Scenery(1-10): 8
Features: Connects Conasauga and Jacks Watershed


Northern terminus at Rice Camp Trailhead: FS51

Cisco, GA Access: From Eton, GA, (one-red-light town) go North on Hwy 411 8.8 miles until GA2. Take a right onto Old Hwy GA2. The road is paved for the first 1.8 miles. At mile 3.1 you will come to the West Cowpen Check Station on your left and the first road intersection. FS17 goes right. Continue straight on FS16.

At mile 7.5 there is another intersection. If you continue left then the road will take you to Iron Mountain, Jack's River, Beech Bottom Trailheads. Instead, you will turn right on FS51. There is a road sign pointing you in the right direction which is shown immediately below in the image gallery.

After taking a right on FS51 the road literally crosses two small creeks at mile 9.4 and mile 9.5. The crossing is not a problem even for a small car unless there has been significant rain. The way to drive across the ford is slow and steady (don't stop for pic lol). The stream crossing on FS 51 just adds to the wilderness experience.

After taking a right on FS51 and driving 2.6 miles you will see Horseshoe Bend Trailhead on your left, it does not have a road sign.

Continue another 2.1 miles to the end of FS51 where you will find the Rice Camp Trailhead, the northern terminus of East Cowpen Trail, and the northeastern terminus of Hickory Creek Trail. Total distance from Hwy 411: 12.2 miles Have Fun!

Southern terminus at Three Forks Mtn Trailhead

Eton, GA Access: From Eton, GA, (one-red-light town) take a right from Hwy 411 onto CCC road at the red light. Go 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 right. Drive 4.3 miles to the trailhead on your left.

Total distance from Hwy 411: 20.3 miles - Paved: 6.0 miles - Gravel: 14.3 miles. Have Fun!

Alternative way coming from Ellijay, GA

If coming from Ellijay, GA it is better to take Hwy 52 west and cross Fort Mountain and take County Road 64(Conasauga Road) north which turns into FS18. Drive past the mountain bike place Mulberry Gap and at the next intersection take a right onto FS68.

Continue driving to the next intersection with FS90 and stay left on FS68 going up the mountain. At the top of the mountain is the 3-way intersection of Potatopatch Mountain.Take a right onto FS64 and it is 4.3 miles to the trailhead.

Total Distance from Hwy 52: 13.3 miles Have Fun!

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