Windy Gap Trail is either 5 miles, 6 miles or 6.5 miles. It depends on what you want to see. Windy Gap Trail from its trailhead at 1,296 to its terminus at 3,102 feet is 5 miles and ends at a forest service road near the Grassy Mountain Fire Tower and Lake Conasauga.
I have hiked it twice. And both times decided to hike the 6.5 mile version which takes you to the Grassy Mountain Fire Tower. Technically, the hike is defined as the 5.0 Windy Gap Trail which junctions nears the Grassy Mountain Fire Tower Trail. At the end of the Windy Gap Trail take a left and continue for another 1.5 miles on the forest service road to the fire tower near the summit of Grassy Mountain at 3,652 feet.
If you want to visit Lake Conasuga take a right at the end of the Windy Gap Trail and continue another mile to Lake Conasauga via the forest service road.
Lake Conasuga has the unique description of being the highest lake in Georgia. The campground has 35 family camping units located directly on the lake and in the surrounding woods with restrooms and water faucets. While each campsite has a tent pad, picnic table, fire ring and lantern post. There is no electricity available on the mountain.
It is a great basecamp for hiking in the Cohutta Wilderness. The lake is fed via a natural spring. There is a manmade beach along with a boat ramp for electric motors only. There is a $15 fee to camp per night. More information may be found at this US Forest Service link Lake Conasauga.
Windy Gap Trail from its trailhead to its terminus near Lake Conasauga climbs approximately 1,900 feet. Most of this change in elevation occurs in the first 3 miles. This trail is a multi-use trail. Motorcycles and four wheelers are allowed on this trail. Motorcycles are allowed beyond the trail junction with Milma Trail which is approximately 2 miles from the trailhead. Individuals riding four wheelers continue on Milma Trail.
As a hiker there is a big benefit to these motorize vehicles on the trail, especially in the summer. The trail remains wide and unobstructed of weeds and deadfall. If you hike during the week the likliehood of seeing a motorize vehicle is slim. Even on the weekend if you do encounter an ORV it is very briefly and there is no sustain sound pollution on the trail.
Not to far after the Milma Trail junction the trail comes to a sign that says EXPERIENCED RIDERS ONLY BEYOND THIS POINT. This begins the steepest grade of the trail. I would say at least a 30 degree trail. Fortunately, it is no more than an 1/8 of a mile.
After this steep segment the trail begins gradually leveling off and the ascents become easier the further you climb. Also, the trail once wide begins narrowing into a footpath. Near the top the trail comes to a fork. An unnamed trail continues straight. TURN RIGHT HERE TO FOLLOW TRAIL. As for water sources there are none until near the top of the summit. The trail will cross a small tributary. The upper section of this trail reminds me of the beginning of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia.
It is a beautiful climb to the terminus of the trail. At the end of the trail take a left and it is another 1.5 miles to the Fire Tower. All the hard work feels worth it once you begin the gradual climb to the tower which follows a quaint service road lined with magnificent hardwoods.
The Grassy Mountain Fire Tower has a campsite and numerous sitting rocks. And a bench underneath the tower, a great place for a break. The tower is locked at the top. Just a fabulous place to rest before heading back down on an Out & Back.
"The more civilized man becomes, the more he needs and craves a great background of forest wildness, to which he may return like a contrite prodigal from the husks of an artificial life."
- Ellen Burns Sherman
Eton, GA Access: From Eton, GA (one-red-light town) if going north on Hwy 411 take a right onto CCC road at the red light. Go 3.8 miles and take a left onto Forest Service road 218. There is a sign located at the entrance that states the Windy Gap OHV trail is close to motorize use from January 1st to March 31st. This applys to ATVs and not hikers or the drive to the trailhead.
Take FS 218 and drive 1.8 miles to a fork in the road. Turn right and continue for 0.2 miles to the trailhead.
Total distance from Eton, GA is 5.8 miles. Have Fun!
|Distance to Fire Tower:||6.5 miles|
|Distance to Lake Conasauga:||6.0 miles|
|Access:||FS 218 Rd|
|Out & Back:||10.0 m|
|Out & Back to Fire Tower:||13.0 m|
|Out & Back to Lake Conasauga:||12.0 m|
|Trailhead Elevation:||1,296 feet|
|End of Trail Elevation:||3,189 feet|
|Fire Tower Elevation:||3,652 feet|
|Lake Conasauga Elevation:||3,143 feet|
|Trail Junction:||Milma, Grassy Mountain Fire Tower|
|Maintenance(1-10):||10 - Lower Elevation|
|8 - Higher Elevation|
|Features:||Fire Tower, Lake Conasauga|