Thirty-five hundred feet high into the Blue Ridge Mountains at Chattahoochee Gap, where Jack’s Knob Trail dead ends into the Appalachian Trail, is a simple sign, pointing downhill, with a blue “W” for water. Thus begins the Chattahoochee River. You are in for a treat as you join Chattahoochee Riverkeeper’s Headwaters Outreach Manager Mallory Pendleton on this 5-mile round-trip hike to see the spring that gives birth to the mighty Chattahoochee River. We recommend this activity for adventurous participants ages 8 and over.
The trail begins with a steep uphill ascent, leveling out after about 0.5 miles. At 0.7 miles, the trail resumes an easy to moderate ascent with winter views of Brasstown Bald to the NW. The trail passes near the wooded summit of Brookshire Top at 1.05 miles. After this, the trail picks up the Hiawassee Ridge; there are continuous winter views both west and east for nearly the next mile.
The trail descends to a gap at 1.35 miles and then ascends to Eagle Knob at 1.7 miles. At 1.9 miles, the trail leaves the ridge and wings around the west side of Jacks Knob. Here, there are several small openings in the trees that provide limited summer views and good winter views to the west. A brief descent brings the Jacks Knob Trail to its south terminus at Chattahoochee Gap and a junction with the Appalachian Trail at 2.4 miles.
The Appalachian Trail passes directly through Chattahoochee Gap, which is named after the spring that is the source of the Chattahoochee River. This spring is located just southeast of the gap. Before continuing the hike, take the short spur trail to the Chattahoochee Spring. The signed blue-blazed side trail begins just ahead of the end of the Jacks Knob Trail. Follow the narrow path steeply downhill to shortly reach the Chattahoochee Spring at 2.5 miles. This tiny spring – which is a frequently-used water source for hikers on the Appalachian Trail – is the very beginning of the same Chattahoochee River that flows through Atlanta.
Meeting Place Directions:
Parking area off GA 180 off Jacks Gap (near the base of Brasstown Bald). Coordinates of the trailhead are: 34.84793, -83.79871.
Distance and Difficulty:
5 miles, moderate with sometimes steep, rocky terrain. Moderate to strenuous – there are several steep climbs; this hike may not be suitable for those with difficulty navigating multiple long, steep grades.
Hike back to the parking area through same route.
What to Bring and Wear:
Plenty of water (1-2 L), lunch, snacks, any medication you may need. You may also want to consider bringing trekking poles/a walking stick, sunscreen, and/or a camera. What to wear: Good fitting hiking/tennis shoes, lightweight quick drying layers – temperatures and wind chill can vary throughout hike – so prepare for anything! It will likely be cold and windy. Hat, rain jacket, good socks.
Cancellation: If Outing is cancelled due to weather or unforeseen circumstances, we will notify you via email by 6:00 pm on the evening before.
Pet Policy: Pets allowed. Please follow these pet guidelines and let us know if you plan to bring your pet!
Participation Limit: 10