Cohutta Wilderness Penitentiary Branch Trail

Blue Ridge, Georgia

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Isolated in the wilderness for days on end, the men who logged the Cohutta in the 1900s felt as if they were stuck doing time. And this is how the trail known as Penitentiary Branch received its name. But for modern-day travelers, this trail on the east side of the Cohutta Wilderness can be liberating as it provides fairly easy access to the banks of the beautiful Jacks River. Though the trail drops about 1400 feet to the bank of the river, the descent stretches over 5.9 miles, so the going isn’t too tough. When the days stretch long in the warmer months, you could soak in the rushing waters or try to reel in a trout, and still have time for the walk back the car. And if you’re seeking a night out in the forest, a wide campsite with room for several people lies beneath hemlocks along the riverbank.

Cohutta Wilderness: Penitentiary Branch Trail Professional Review and Guide

"Isolated in the wilderness for days on end, the men who logged the Cohutta in the 1900s felt as if they were stuck doing time. And this is how the trail known as Penitentiary Branch received its name. But for modern-day travelers, this trail on the east side of the Cohutta Wilderness can be liberating as it provides fairly easy access to the banks of the beautiful Jacks River.

Though the trail drops about 1400 feet to the bank of the river, the descent stretches over 5.9 miles, so the going isn’t too tough. When the days stretch long in the warmer months, you could soak in the rushing waters or try to reel in a trout, and still have time for the walk back the car. And if you’re seeking a night out in the forest, a wide campsite with room for several people lies beneath hemlocks along the riverbank."

Activity Type: Hiking, Horseback Riding
Nearby City: Blue Ridge
Distance: 11.8
Elevation Gain: 2,270 feet
Trail Type: Out-and-back
Skill Level: Easy to Moderate
Duration: 5 hours
Season: Year-round (good views in winter)
Local Contacts: Chattahoochee National Forest, Conasauga Ranger District
Local Maps: U.S. Forest Service Cohutta and Big Frog Wilderness Georgia-Tennessee

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Jun 2018