dogs on leash
The Chattahoochee National Forest covers 749,689 acres in north Georgia, managed by six ranger districts. Over 40 percent of the land in Fannin County is national forest land (106,000 acres). 40,006 acres are located in the Cohutta Ranger District and 66,097 in the Blue Ridge Ranger District. The forest receives more than 10 million visitors each year.
My daughter, dog and I recently completed hiked in and around the Toccoa River Trail along the greater Benton MacKaye Trail one warm Saturday in January. We began the journey to the trail by driving down an old forest service road that had been washed out many times over. The drive to the swinging bridge at the river itself was challenging, even in my Jeep. Once we arrived, we embarked toward the river and made our way to the swinging bridge.
The bridge here is remarkable. There aren't many like it in the area, so to see if up close and in person after reading about it for so long was a real treat. The bridge was constructed in 1977 by the USDA Forest Service along with the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club. My daughter was hesitant to cross, but eventually she worked up the courage to walk across without any worry. My dog, on the other hand, was not a fan of the bridge and required a bit of coaxing to make it over the river.
Once we crossed the river, we made our way up the nearby mountain by way of the Benton MacKaye Trail for a quick out and back. The incline here was very steep for the first mile or so, and the three of us stopped occasionally to catch our breath and rest our legs. Once we it to the top of the first mountain, the hike became much easier as the elevation gains seemed to level off to a friendly march along the ridge line.
The views of the valley below were incredible. Thanks to the fallen leaves and bare winter trees, we were able to see quite far away through the woods. We walked along the ridge until we reached Bryson Gap, where we ate our snacks and prepared for the walk back to the car.
One the way back, we ran into a BMT thru-hiker who told us about his recent hike of the AT and asked about the conditions ahead. The walk out was a bit tricky as the constant downhill in the last portion was made more difficult by all of the slippery leaves covering the trail.
When we arrived back to the river, I pulled out a dehydrated meal and stove, much to the delight of my daughter, and we ate Chili Mac by the riverside before heading home.
The trail here was very well maintained with only a few recent obstructions on the trail. In total, we hiked about 10 miles and spent a little more than four hours in the woods. I highly recommend this trail, but I don't think I would have been as impressed if the trees were covered in leaves as the views made the experience stand out in my mind.
Overall, a decent hike. Occasional challenging parts of the trail but the majority of the trail is fairly easy. Went in January, so I didn't see a whole lot of people on the trail which was nice. There wasn't as much trash as I have heard which was also nice. The falls aren't the greatest but they are pretty cool and in a really nice spot to take a break and relax before either continuing on or heading back to the trailhead. Definitely a must-do if you live in the area!
I love the fall, but they did lie. This is not an moderate, but a hard one. to get to the fall you have to rock climb down to it. this is very hard with a backpack. There was many of campsite along the way and you follow the river to the water fall. It really is a great trip.
Great hike out to the Inn. Gradual ascend, quiet and other hikers very friendly. It was great to be welcomed at the Inn with coffee or hot cocoa and snacks. Dinner was simply amazing. Was great to be 'disconnected' for a few days. Cell phone use is highly frowned upon so you really get a relaxation feel and good conversations and the tea room-esque design was gorgeous!
Taking the AT approach trail back to complete the loop was a little more strenuous but overall not too hard. Very well maintained pathway with many stop areas along the way.
The trail was easily marked with white Diamonds. Conditions were great and the hike was that challenging at all. Definitely recommend hitting the trail early at first light or even before, so that you can get to the Swinging Bridge before anyone else does. That way you can enjoy the bridge and surrounding area. We took the access back out and passed a bunch of cars coming in.