Headwaters of the Chattahoochee Hike 11.9.2019

Date: Saturday, November 9, 2019

Time: 10 – 3 p.m.

Leader(s): Chattahoochee River Keeper Outreach Coordinator Hannah Warner and ForestWatch Outreach Coordinator Andrew Linker

Location: Headwaters of the Chattahoochee

Outing Description:
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 Coordinator Hannah Warner on this 5-mile round-trip hike to see the spring that gives birth to the mighty Chattahoochee River. Difficulty level – moderate to strenuous – there are several steep climbs; this hike may not be suitable for those with difficulty navigating multiple long, steep grades. We recommend this activity for adventurous participants ages 8 and over.


Meeting Place Directions: Parking area off GA 180 off Jacks Gap. Coordinates of the trailhead are: 34.84793, -83.79871.

From Blairsville, Georgia, take US 19 & 129 south for 8 miles. Turn left (east) onto Georgia 180. Go 9 miles to Georgia Spur 180 (on left). Park in small parking area on left.

From Helen, Georgia, take GA-17N/GA-75N for 12 miles. Turn left onto State Rte 180, follow for 5.3 miles. Sharp right onto GA-180 Spur N. Park in small parking area on right side of the road.

See meeting place on Google Maps

Distance and Difficulty:
5 miles, moderate with sometimes steep, rocky terrain.

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.

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: Hikers will be notified, by email, 24 hours before event, if the outing is cancelled due to forecast of severe weather, etc.

Pet Policy: Pets allowed. One pet per hiker please.

Family Safe Policy: Georgia ForestWatch Outings are a smoke, alcohol, and drug-free setting.

Participant Limit: 16

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Spaces are limited. Reservations are required. Our outings are free of charge and open to everyone on a first-come, first-served basis, up to the limit. 
Georgia ForestWatch members are given advance notice for our hikes. To learn how you can become a member, click here.