Long Trails of the Southeast
This slice of the Foothills Trail is composed of several diverse landscapes. Leave Burrells Ford and ascend Medlin Mountain on the edge of the Ellicott Rock Wilderness. The Medlin Mountain section of the Foothills Trail is part of an excellent loop within the Ellicott Wilderness, so it can be somewhat busy. Crest Medlin Mountain and descend into the rugged East Fork Chattooga River Valley, with its waterfalls choked in dense woods and rhododendron, to meet the highway. Here, trail traffic slackens considerably as the trail crosses quiet Chattooga Ridge and enters North Carolina near Round Mountain, which offers good high-country camping.
Work around the side of Grassy Knob and gain views before toiling on a rough path to reach Whitewater Gorge. Your entrance begins with the roar of Whitewater Falls, then gets even more raucous deep in the gorge, with its rugged array of big boulders, cascades, and tall trees. The trail winds along the steep sides of the gorge before opening up in “The Hemlocks,” a shady wooded flat where a homesite once stood. Here, a side trail leads right, to the Bad Creek Access, as well as an old growth forest along Coon Branch.