Iron Mountain Trail begins at Cottonwood Patch equestrian campground in the Chattahoochee National Forest just outside the designated border of the Cohutta Wilderness near the Tennessee border. The trailhead is located at the end of the camping ground. There is a separate parking lot at the beginning of the camping ground with a sign indicating Day Use. Day hikers must park there to avoid a permit fee of $8.
The trail was built in 1996 by the Forest Service and several different mountain bike organizations. It is designated a multi-use trail with this trail open to horseback riders, bikers, and hikers. The campground will usually have some equestrians during the warm season.
The trail may be confusing if you are not familiar with the area. There are several random and unlabeled trails branching off the trail. Iron Mountain Trail is described as a 4-mile multi-use trail by the Forest Service Cohutta District, however, the trail signs clearly indicate the trail continues beyond the 4-mile mark.
From its trailhead ( 975 feet ) at Cottonwood Patch campground the trail travels less than 300 yards before it fords the Conasauga River. The crossing is ankle deep and wide and fairly easy since the current is relatively slow.
Shortly after crossing the Conasauga River the trail passes through a large field designated a Wildlife Management Area by the Forest Service. There is a trail sign indicating the way at the end of the field area.
The trail winds a northwesterly direction gradually climbing Iron Mountain for the next 2.0 miles reaching an elevation of 1,410 feet. At mile 1.4 there appears a side trail to the left. Stay right. The trail in this part is rocky in many areas and may prove difficult for a mountain biker. In the winter the trail offers some views of the Chattahoochee National Forest to the south.
After the 2.0 mile mark, the trail begins slightly descending for the next mile declining 220 feet in elevation. The trail now an old roadbed descends into an old growth white pine forest leveling off for a short distance before slightly ascending for approximately the next half mile to its highest elevation at 1,506 feet at the 3.7-mile mark.
From here the trail begins descending slightly for the next .3 miles to its end at the 4.0-mile mark, according to the Cohutta District Forest Service, at the junction with the Doogan Mountain Road which is Forest Service Road 1A.
At this Forest Road intersection, a post in the road indicates the trail continues to the right beyond the gated forest road. The trail is clearly on a closed forest road now and continues north toward Tennessee and the Cherokee National Forest. On this part of the trail, there are a couple of unnamed trails that veer off to the left with the first one having a red diamond trail blaze marked on the trees at mile 4.7. And shortly afterward around mile 4.9 the road forks. Stay Right. This is also the last water stop before the Conasauga River. A creek runs through a culvert.
The trail continues on a closed forest road and begins winding back to the northeast eventually ending at a ridgetop section and an overlook at the 6.0-mile mark. The overlook opens in three directions and offers beautiful vistas of the Cohutta and into Tennessee.
From the overlook, the trail begins its 1.3 mile downhill run to the Conasauga River in Tennessee. The trail narrows back down to a footpath before arriving at a 4-way intersection around mile 1.2. Go straight to the river. The Conasauga River Trail #61 in the Cherokee National Forest is directly across the river and requires a fording to reach it. The river is wide here due to its merger with the Jacks River further upstream. It may be dangerous to ford after a sustained rain and at a minimum is thigh deep under normal conditions.
Many hikers continue on the Iron Mountain - Conasauga River Loop and cross the river to the Conasauga River Trail #61. The Conasauga River Trail #61 from here continues 3.0 miles upstream with the Conasauga River on its right which is wider here than any section in the Cohutta Wilderness due to its convergence with the Jacks River. After hiking the 3 miles to the trailhead continue straight onto FS221 in order to complete the 11.6-mile loop.
Continue east on FS221 for approximately 0.6 miles arriving at the intersection with FS RD 16. Shortly before this intersection, the Jacks River joins the Conasauga River on the right. At the intersection of FS221 and FS16 take a right and walk over the metal bridge spanning the Jacks River. After crossing the bridge it is less than a mile to the Cottonwood Patch campground on the right.
"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
Cisco, GA Access: From Eton, GA (one-red-light town) go North 8.8 miles on 411 until GA2, take a right onto Old Hwy GA2, the road is paved for the first 1.8 miles before turning into gravel. At mile 3.1 the road (FS Rd 16) comes to the West Cowpen Check Station on the left and the first road intersection, FS17 goes right, and FS16 continues straight, continue straight on FS16 for the next 4.4 miles until at mile 7.5 the road comes to another intersection.
FS51 goes right and FS16 continues straight and to the left. Continue on FS16 which immediately comes to the Cottonwood Patch campground on the left. Pull into the campground and park in the first parking lot with the sign indicating Day Use in order to avoid the $8.00 camping permit fee.
Total Distance from Hwy 411: 7.7 miles - Have Fun!
|Iron Mtn. to FS1A:||4.0 miles|
|Conasauga River Loop:||11.6 miles|
|Access:||FS Rd 16|
|Hiking Iron Mtn.:||Easy to Moderate|
|Hiking Loop:||Easy to Moderate|
|Cottonwood Patch Trailhead:||974 feet|
|Trail(High Elevation):||1,506 feet|
|Conasauga River: TN||863 feet|
|Trail Junctions:||Conasauga Trail No.61|
|Features:||Conasauga River TN, Iron Mountain Overlook|