The Tennessee Section of Hemp Top Trail is a 5-mile trail beginning from its northwest Chestnut Mountain Trailhead in the Cherokee National Forest. This is a horseshoe-shaped trail which marks the northern boundary of the Cohutta Wilderness. The trail traverses the Chestnut Mountain ridge to the top of Big Frog Mountain which is the highest western peak east of the Missippi and continues all the way to the Tennessee-Georgia border at Double Spring Gap. From here it enters its Georgia section and ends at its trailhead at Dally Gap near Blue Ridge, GA.
The trail has the decided advantage of joining the Cohutta and Big Frog's Wilderness Trail System into one continuous entity making it the largest contiguous federally designated Wilderness east of the Mississippi. This section of Hemp Top Trail gives hikers access to three trails in the Big Frog Wilderness. At mile 1.8 Wolf Ridge Trail intersects from the left, continue another 1.9 miles and the Big Frog Trail intersects from the left at mile 3.7, marking the high elevation point of Big Frog Mountain at 4,224 feet. And go another .5 mile and the trail intersects with Licklog Ridge Trail which is the most western trail in the combined Cohutta-Big Frog Wilderness.
From here the footpath descends rapidly down the right side section of the horseshoe-shaped trail, viewed from above, down to Double Spring Gap which has a sign there marking the Cherokee National Forest boundary which is the Tennessee-Georgia state line.
Warning! In 2006, The Forest Service decided to simplify the trail system and reduce trail confusion to horse riders by converting all the trails and trail segments along the northern rim of the Cohutta Wilderness to Hemp Top Trail. This resulted in Chestnut Mtn. Trail, all of it, and a segment of Wolf Ridge Trail to be converted to Hemp Top Trail. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of USFS: Cohutta And Big Frog Wilderness Georgia-Tennessee topography laminated maps out there with the old trail names.
To be precise the map shows Chestnut Mtn's Trailhead starting at the current Hemp Top's Tennessee Trailhead and continuing for 1.9 miles where it junctions with the Wolf Ridge Trail.
As of March 2016, there is no physical trail sign marking this junction. However, Wolf Ridge Trail is easily discernible coming in from the left intersecting on a flat ridge with a campsite.
From there this outdated map shows the Chestnut Mtn Trail ending at this trail junction and the Wolf Ridge Trail continuing for the next 1.8 miles to the top of Big Frog Mtn. intersecting with the Big Frog Trail at mile 3.7. At this trail junction atop Big Frog Mtn. the outdated map shows Wolf Ridge Trail becoming Hemp Top Trail.
The old Hemp Top Trail designation on the outdated map starts at the top of Big Frog Mtn and continues 6.6 miles to the Dally Gap Trailhead located near Blue Ridge, GA. This trail section of the outdated map is still correct today.
To add to the confusion the trail sign atop of Big Frog Mountain refers to the old trail name designations. The trail sign at this junction has Big Frog, Wolf Ridge, and Licklog Ridge Trail on it. No mention of Hemp Top Trail. There is a picture of this in the image gallery below.
From this trail junction atop of Big Frog Mountain, the trail continues for a short .5 mile arriving at the Licklog Ridge Trail junction which intersects from the left. At this junction, the trail sign has only two names on it. Licklog Ridge Trail and Benton MacKaye Trail (BMT). No mention of Hemp Top Trail.
This sign is technically correct since the BMT and Hemp Top Trail share the same treadway for 5.7 miles from atop of Big Frog Mtn to within a mile of Hemp Top's Trailhead in Georgia. It is what it is. There is a picture of this trail sign junction in the image gallery below.
This is all confusing and possibly dangerous for a novice hiker since there is not one trail sign in the Tennessee section of the Hemp Top Trail that actually refers to the existence of the Hemp Top Trail. The only answer is the Cherokee National Forest Ranger office hasn't deemed it important enough to change the interior trails signs to accurately reflect the new trail name designations. It's only been a decade since Chestnut Mtn. Trail and a section of Wolf Ridge Trail were converted and added to the Hemp Top Trail.
In consolation, the Cherokee National Forest Service has the correct trail names and total distance for Hemp Top Trail at its Tennessee Trailhead which is a total of 10.3 miles when you add in the Georgia section.
There is a way to make this easy and ensure the trail hiked is Hemp Top section Tennessee. Starting from Hemp Top's Trailhead in the Cherokee National Forest at Chestnut Mtn. hike straight at every junction all the way to Double Spring Gap which marks the Tennessee-Georgia border.
The Hemp Top Trail begins from the Chestnut Mtn. Trailhead with an elevation of 2,210 feet and climbs 800 feet to the Wolf Ridge Trail junction by tracing the ridge of Chestnut Mtn. to the famous Blue Ridge and Tennesse Valley Divide. The trail in short order traces the ridge on the northwest side and offers immediate views west and north into Tennessee of long, low ridges as far as the eye can see. The trail switches back to the southeastern side of Chestnut Mtn. further up and gives an awesome bare-branch view to the right of Big Frog Mtn. towering above, at 4,224 feet, and the Blue Ridge spanning to the right before it drops off to Double Spring Gap. Reminder, there is no trail sign marking the Wolf Ridge Trail junction.
Hemp Top Trail continues from the Wolf Ridge Trail junction at mile 1.8 to Big Frog Trail junction atop of Big Frog Mountain at mile 3.7. The trail alternates between moderate inclines to a flat trail walking on top of the widest ridgelines in the combined Wilderness. The trail up to mile 3.7 atop Big Frog offers tremendous views of two distinct geographic regions depending on which side of the trail the ridge is transversing.
The final mile to the top of Big Frog the trail changes character with large rocks and boulders framing the trail sometimes in narrow ridgeline passages. Once atop of Big Frog, the best bare-branch views oblige you to hike back approximately 150 to 200 yards on the trail just hiked. Find some of the larger boulders near the trail and bushwack to them and you will be rewarded with a wonderful view of both the Cohutta Wilderness and the Tennessee Valley at the top of the Tennessee Valley Divide.
Hemp Top Trail continues straight from the Big Frog Trail junction atop of Big Frog passing a spring nearby on the way to Licklog Ridge Trail at mile 4.2. This part of the trail on top of the Blue Ridge is on a wide ridge declining slightly to the Licklog Trail junction.
From the Licklog Trail junction, the trail continues straight and turns to the South descending rapidly for .8 miles 810 feet to Double Spring Gap which marks the end of the Tennessee part of Hemp Top Trail. There is a nice campsite located at Double Spring Gap and also on top of Big Frog Mountain.
Cisco, GA Access: From Eton, GA (one-red-light town) go North on Hwy 411 for 11.2 miles to GA2 in Cisco, take a right onto Old Hwy GA2, the first 1.8 miles is paved, then it becomes gravel eventually becoming all dirt, at mile 3.1 you will come to the West Cowpen Check Station on your left and the first road intersection, FS17 goes right, you want to continue straight on FS16, at mile 7.5 you come to another intersection, FS51 is to the right and FS16 continues left. You will continue left where you will also see a small road sign for Iron Mountain Trail here pointing the correct direction. You will immediately pass the Cottonwood Patch Campground on your left which houses Iron Mountain's Trailhead. From this 7.7 mile mark, you continue straight and will proceed over a small well-built bridge crossing the Jacks River into Tennessee coming to a T-intersection.
Left takes you to the Conasauga River Watershed. Take a right onto FS221 and the Jacks River's Trailhead is immediately on the right at the 8.5-mile mark. Continue straight on FS221 for another mile and approximately at the 9.5-mile mark you will take a sharp right turn and up onto FS62 (Big Frog Loop Road). From this mark, you will be driving twisting and turning gaining elevation. At mile 13.8 you will see the Beech Bottom Trailhead on your right and its parking place on your left. Continue another 1.7 miles to the trailhead which is on the right. Be careful and don't miss it since the road does continue pass Hemp Top's Trailhead looping back to FS221.
Total distance from Hwy 411: 15.5 miles Have fun!
|Hemp Top: TN Section|
|Distance to atop Big Frog:||3.7 miles|
|Distance to Double Spring Gap:||5.0 miles|
|Double Spring Gap to Big Frog:||Strenuous|
|Chestnut Mtn.Trailhead:||2,205 feet|
|Wolf Ridge Trail Junction:||3,097 feet|
|Big Frog Mountain:||4,219 feet|
|Big Frog Trail Junction:||4,215 feet|
|Licklog Ridge Trail Junction:||4,049 feet|
|Double Spring Gap:||3,228 feet|
|Trail Junctions:||Wolf Ridge,Big Frog,Licklog,Benton MacKaye|
|Features:||Winter Vistas, Double Spring Gap|