We hiked from the trail head all the way to the first part of the trail that dips into the chattooga river and back. There are 2 small camp sites within the 1st 15 minutes of hiking from the trail head. Each are located right after you cross a small wooden bridge, the 1st one is after the first bridge, and the second site is about 400 steps after the 1st bridge, you'll cross a pair of wooden bridges and its on your left. The next camp sites are several miles further in. Great views and quite pretty. Surprisingly I didnt see much animal life, I only saw one bird during a night hike and some small fish once I reached the river, it may have been due to it being November. I estimate from the trailhead to the first point you reach the river is about 6-7 miles. Great hike if you're looking to be alone in the woods, I barely saw many folks. Also a good hike to bring a dog. .
This was a great short hike to a beautiful campground by the river.
There are actually two different 3 forks trails. One is shown on All Trails and most maps but another trailhead is on Hwy 28 about 1.3 miles south of the NC state line. This trail is about 7 miles out and back and features a swimming hole.
FYI, the forest service road is closed just beyond Three Forks Campground (since March 2014) due to major road erosion.
Date(s): Mar 24, 2014
Contact(s): Chattooga River Ranger District 706-754-6221
Overflow Road, FS Road 86, is closed until further notice, from Westfork Campground to the intersection of Tottery Pole Road, FS Road 86 C, due to hazardous road conditions. There is an alternative route via Hale Ridge Road, FS Road 7.
This impacts your access to the trail. As of June 2015, it is still closed.
Derek L. on Chattooga River Trail
Link to helpful maps available from Chattooga Native Plant Society
For a river trail, there was very little river views. (Call me idealistic, but only about 1/3 of the trail provided river views.)
Part of Meetup backpacking trip that started at Russell Bridge at Ga/SC border. 6 people. 3 dogs.
Trail well-marked. Did not see any wildlife on day one - attributed to the dogs scaring off anything. Trail is not flat. (I was nursing a cold, and didn't bring trekking poles bc I was told it was flat... not killer by any means, but on a hot day, it was noticeable.)
Numerous stream crossings, but various size 'bridges' keep you dry. Lots of campsites ranging from unimpressive, to very nice spots. We camped near Sandy Ford. Some campsites are near very shallow-slow-moving sections of Oconee. We ended up at a section where the water was really moving. (Not ideal for wading) Water was chilly but felt good. Lots of wood nearby for campfires (rings already established)
The group continued on day 2 another 8 miles. Since I was feeling crappy and we weren't exactly sure of topography of remainder of trail and wanting to hike without dogs, I opted to go back the way we came. We didn't pass a soul on the trail on way out - except some fishermen in the river and a family camping at a spot you can drive in. On the way back, I encountered 2 boy scout groups.
Saw lots of critters - deer, raccoon, woodpeckers, salamanders, dove, black snake... Enjoyed it A LOT more. Still, no need to do again. Left campsite at 9:15 am, 2 breaks to take off some layers & deal with a hot spot. Made it back to trailhead by 12;45
The report from the rest of the group was that the remainder of the trail was wicked - constant inclines and descents, non-bridged creek crossings, Even the seasoned hikers said it was rough. They also left at 9:15, took a lunch break - they got back to trailhead after 4.
LOTS of ticks and gnats and poison ivy. Some of the trail parallels horse trails - so you'll smell 'horsey' sections. Remember, most horses are freaked out by backpacks.