Hiker In Awe of Majestic Mountain View

Chattahoochee National Forest
Chattooga River Ranger District

Huge Chattahoochee National Forest stretches across the mountains of northern Georgia with it's 750,000 acres. The Chattooga River Ranger District is typical of this outdoor mecca. With lots of water you'll find lakes and streams for water activities. Miles of trails satisfy hikers, mountain bikers, equestrian riders, and those looking for ATV trails.

Located in northeast Georgia, Chattooga River Ranger District was previously known as Tallulah Ranger District and Chattooga Ranger District. The combined district makes up about a third of the entire national forest.

To the west are the other two Chattahoochee National Forest districts, the Blue Ridge Ranger District, and the Conasauga Ranger District. These southern Appalachian Mountains don't just draw visitors from nearby Atlanta. Nature lovers from around the world enjoy the scenic beauty of these mountains.

This picturesque area on the east side of Chattahoochee National Forest boasts access to it's namesake on the border of South Carolina, the Wild and Scenic Chattooga River. This is a great river for fishing, canoeing, and of course, famous Chattooga River rafting. All around the district, there's access to scenic views, waterfalls, and many outdoor activities.

Chattahoochee National Forest Lake Rabun Camping
A favorite activity in the forest is camping. From Lake Russell Recreation Area and Nancytown Group Campground in the south, to Sandy Bottoms and Tate Branch Campgrounds in the north, there are lots of facilities offering varied features at good prices. There is even camping by the horse trails at Willis Knob Horse Campground, and camping by OHV trails at Oakey Mountain.

There are over 300 campsites available throughout Chattahoochee National Forest Chattooga River Ranger District. The largest campground is at secluded Lake Rabun Beach Recreation Area, right around the middle of the district. This upgraded campground has picnic tables, lantern poles, fire grills, nice tent pads, flush toilets and hot showers. Some sites have electric hookups.

Chattahoochee National Forest Lake Rabun Fishing Pier
Most campgrounds are in close proximity to fishing. Whether you're near a creek or river and fishing for trout, or near a mountain lake fishing for bass or catfish, your surroundings will captivate you, taking you away from your day-to-day life. The 835 acre Lake Rabun, which in 1915 became the first mountain lake dammed on the Tallulah River, has a quiet fishing pier available for your use.

Many of the campgrounds include sites for picnicking. At the 100 acre Lake Russell and the larger Lake Rabun, there are also beach areas to do some swimming before your picnic.

Chattahoochee National Forest Lake Rabun Boat Ramp
Chattahoochee National Forest Chattooga River District also supports boating and canoeing. Lake Rabun and Lake Russell have boat ramps and canoe launches. Only electric motors are allowed at Lake Russell. West Fork Campground also has a canoe put-in for the Chattooga River.

For those that love to take their horse on overnight outings, there's the Willis Knob Horse Campground, located in the Chattooga River area. The campsites, which include electric and water, are perfect for you and your horse. You can ride the 15 mile (24 km) Willis Knob Trail down to the Wild and Scenic Chattooga River.

Chattahoochee National Forest Chattooga River
If you cross over into South Carolina you can add another 12.5 miles (20.1 km) to your journey using the Whetstone Horse Trail. These are some of the most scenic equestrian trails the south has to offer. The beautiful Upper Chattahoochee River Campground is another good option for horseback riding trails.

Some excellent Georgia ATV trails can be found in Chattahoochee National Forest. The Locust Stake OHV Trail System is just west of Toccoa. This 9.4 mile (15.1 km) trail is suitable for motorcycles, 3, and 4 wheel ATV vehicles, but nothing over 48 inches (1.2 meters) wide. These trails can be very difficult. Only licensed vehicles with licensed drivers are allowed.

Just west of Lake Rabun, off Lake Burton Dam Road is the Oakey Mountain Campground and OHV Trail. This is a difficult 5.9 mile (9.5 km) OHV trail. Also in this area is the Moates Knob OHV Trail, which is 3.3 miles (5.3 km) long. You can camp out and ride to your hearts content on these trails.

Chattahoochee National Forest Chattooga River Ranger District Hiking

Hiking in Chattooga River Ranger District will not disappoint. This district has it's fair share of the 430 miles (692 km) of trails in the Chattahoochee National Forest. Whether you're a day hiker or a long distance backpacker looking for a multi-day journey, this US national forest has what you're looking for. In rugged northern Georgia, scenic views and soothing waterfalls are plentiful.

Chattahoochee National Forest Appalachian Trail at Dicks Creek Gap
The crown jewel for the forest would be the southern end of the Appalachian Trail. 76 miles (122 km) of this national scenic trail are in the Chattahoochee National Forest, often forming a border between the Chattooga River Ranger District and the Blue Ridge Ranger District. Of course, avid backpackers flock to the AT, but even the most casual hiker wants to see and experience this famous trail.

The other well known trail in the district is the Bartram Trail, which is recognized as a National Recreation Trail. Named for naturalist and botanist William Bartram, 37 miles (60 km) of this nearly 100 mile (161 km) trail are in the northeast corner of the forest.

Chattahoochee National Forest Rabun Bald View
The Bartram Trail trailhead is on Highway 28 near the Chattooga River at Russell Bridge. It meanders westward to the Warwoman Dell Recreation Area. It then turns north to traverse Rabun Bald, the second highest peak in Georgia at 4696 feet (1431 meters). The trail crosses into North Carolina near Highlands. Backcountry camping is popular along this lengthy footpath.

The Chattooga River Trail runs for 11 miles (17.7 km), mostly in the Wild and Scenic Chattooga River corridor. It starts by the river at the Highway 76 bridge and heads north, ending at Sandy Ford Road. Those looking for a multi- day backpacking excursion like this trail, since the north end is connected to the Bartram Trail via a spur path at Sandy Ford Road.

Chattahoochee National Forest Anna Ruby Falls
There are several waterfall day hikes in this district of the Chattahoochee National Forest. Anna Ruby Falls has to be the most popular. Just northeast of Helen, GA, this recreation area draws the tourists from this alpine German town. There's a $2 per person entry fee (as of 2014). Visitors like to picnic, and then hike the 0.4 mile (0.6 km) paved path to beautiful, well photographed Anna Ruby Falls.

An impressive feature of this area is the 0.1 mile (0.2 km) Lion's Eye Foot Trail for the Blind. You can also take a longer hike over to Unicoi State Park using the 4.6 mile (7.4 km) Smith Creek Trail.

Also near Helen, Georgia is Dukes Creek Falls Recreation Area. It's located on the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway about 2 miles (3.2 km) northwest of the intersection with highway 356. Dukes Creek Foot Trail is a 1 mile (1.6 km) one way trail to the waterfalls. There are boardwalks and 3 viewing platforms. Also available is a 0.1 mile (0.2 km) accessible trail to a viewing platform. There's a $3 per vehicle fee (as of 2014).

Chattahoochee National Forest Raven Cliff Falls
Go another mile on Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway past Dukes Creek Falls and you'll arrive at Raven Cliff Falls trailhead parking. This secluded falls is a 3.3 mile (5.3 km) one way hike into the Raven Cliff Scenic Wilderness Area. This unusual waterfalls is sheltered behind some cliffs.

Angel Falls is located near Lake Rabun. The trailhead is on the main road near Rabun Beach Campground loop 2. The fairly easy 1.7 mile (2.7 km) one way hike leads to the observation deck overlooking the falls.

If you're looking for more serious day hiking, Lake Russell Recreation Area has a number of hiking trails with no waterfalls. They include Rhododendron Trail at 1.5 miles (2.4 km), Sourwood Trail at 2.7 miles (4.3 km), Lake Russell Foot Trail at 4.6 miles (7.4 km), and Lady Slipper Trail at 6.2 miles (10 km).

Chattahoochee National Forest Chattooga River Ranger Station
There are many more trails and recreation opportunities in the Chattahoochee National Forest Chattooga River Ranger District. The 2014 Recreation Activity Overview is a very useful guide to find the recreation areas and trails that suit your needs. The district map will help you locate the recreation areas and find your way around the forest.

The Chattooga River Ranger District office for Chattahoochee National Forest is is just north of Tallulah Gorge State Park. The address is 9975 Highway 441 South, Lakemont, GA, 30552. It's a beautiful ranger station, especially the conference room with the wormy American chestnut paneling. They have plenty of information and the staff is friendly and knowledgeable.

Make a point to travel to the north Georgia mountains. This area will surprise you. It's not the fields of cotton and peanuts that most people envision in the deep south. The fabulous scenery of the southern Appalachians will captivate you. You'll want to slow down and take in all that nature has to offer in this spectacular landscape.

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National Geographic Trails Illustrated map 778 covers all of Chattooga River Ranger District, and extends all the way to Brasstown Bald. That's the eastern third of the Blue Ridge Ranger District. Buy yours from Amazon, now!

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