Horseshoe Bend is a 3.2-mile trail which begins in the Chattahoochee National Forest and ends at Jacks River in the Cohutta Wilderness just downstream from the geographic region called Horseshoe Bend.
On a map, this geographic region looks like an amoeba with 5 horseshoe shaped protrusions. It swings east toward Ken Mountain bringing the river that parallels it. If hiking the lower section of Jacks River Trail you will be able to see the bluffs of Horseshoe Bend high above the river.
Horseshoe Bend Trail starts off level and travels northeast crossing a minor stream after 1/4 mile. The trail continues flat and easy going to the northeast before turning to the east and crossing a bigger stream at approximately the 0.6-mile mark. After crossing the creek the trail begins ascending the picturesque hill pictured on the right.
After ascending 100 feet the trail levels off again with the ridge on the left becoming more apparent. The trail crosses another small stream and again begins ascending at a sharp angle for about 40 feet before leveling off again.
After this short steep ascent, the trail comes to a road with NO SIGN around mile 1.2. The trail takes a right and immediately comes to another intersection. The trail takes a left going up the ridge. The picture immediately below is this trail intersection.
As the trail ascends the ridge the character of the forest changes from its lower section. It is a serene walk through the woods. After ascending briefly the trail flattens out traversing the left side of a small ridge to the east switchbacking to the south for .2 miles before switchbacking again to the southeast and finally turning back northeast on the east side of Ken Mountain into the Cohutta Wilderness at approximately mile 1.9.
The trail begins climbing again so gradually that it is hardly noticeable until the trail is on top of Ken Mountain walking the top of its ridge at 1800 feet. Around mile 2.4 the trail comes to an opening on its right offering a scenic view of Big Frog Mountain to the northeast and Hickory Ridge and Rough Ridge to the east.
Approximately .2 miles further the trail winds around to the right and comes to an opening in the trail marked with a sign indicating "No Horses Beyond This Point". This marks Horseshoe Bend Overlook. There is a side trail to the right of the sign that will take you to the bluff. From the rock bluff, you are able to see Jacks River make one of its five horseshoe-shaped turns in Horseshoe Bend. After leaving Horseshoe Bend Overlook, the trail climbs slightly higher for a short distance before turning toward the east for the final time.
At the end of the ridge, the trail begins a steep descent for the final 0.4 miles until you reach the intersection with the Jacks River Trail and its namesake river. A 2012 trail assessment done by Applied Trails Research out of Pennslyvania for the Conasauga Ranger District stated in their report that the fall line trail to the river is at a 60%+ and is rated extreme.
The steep decline hiking in equals a steep incline on the return trip during an out and back which is rated strenuous. The trail has two distinct features which are Horseshoe Bend Overlook and Jacks River. The trail is low use even though it is the third shortest route to Jacks River in the Cohutta Wilderness.
"The land belongs to the future ... that's the way it seems to me. How many names on the county clerk's plat will be there in fifty years? I might as well try to will the sunset over there to my brother's children. We come and go, but the land is always here. And the people who love it and understand it are the people who own it - for a little while"
- Willa Cather, Writer
Cisco, GA Access: From Eton, GA (One Red-Light Town) go north on Hwy 411 8.8 miles to Cisco, take a right onto Old Hwy GA2 next to the Cisco Baptist Church, the road is paved for 1.8 miles before turning into gravel and Forest Road 16.
At mile 3.1 FS16 comes to the the West Cowpen Check Station on the left and its first road intersection, FS17 goes right, continue straight on FS16, at mile 7.0 FS16 crosses a bridge spanning the Conasauga River.
At mile 7.6 FS16 comes to its second intersection, FS16 continues straight and to the left to Iron Mountain, Jack's River, Conasauga River Trail #61, and the Beech Bottom Trailhead.
Instead turn right on FS51, there is a sign there 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 crossing the second creek continue another 0.6 miles to the trailhead for Horseshoe Bend which will be on the left, it does not have a road sign, There is a picture of the trailhead in the image gallery.
Total Distance from Hwy 411: 10.2 miles Have Fun!
|Hiking Out:||Strenuous then Easy|
|Trailhead Elevation:||1,535 feet|
|Trail(High Elevation):||1,821 feet|
|Jacks River:||1,165 feet|
|Trail Junction:||Jacks River|
|Features:||Horseshoe Bend Overlook, Jacks River|