Explore the most popular backpacking trails near Epworth with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

Significant storm damage has portions of these trails closed. On 8/11/18- 40+ volunteers cleared 8 miles of trails, this being a wilderness area means we can only use hand tools (crosscut saws and sling blades etc). Still some sections are closed due to damage from flooding. Reading below there is a misconception that forest service personal maintain these trails, the FS has only a few trail techs that cover large swaths of forest so they rely heavily on volunteer organizations to keep the trails marked and clear. Anyone interested in volunteering should contact their local ranger station or a local trail maintenance group, in this case Kevin Vasilinda from the FS teamed up with members of the Benton Mackaye Trail Association, Southern Appalachian backcountry Horsemen and the Conasauga trail volunteers to clear a lot of downed trees.

hiking
15 days ago

Great strenuous workout with sections of steep terrain. If you’re heading to Jack River Falls by way of this trail make sure to start your hike early.

Lots of downed trees makes the trail a bear to complete. Jack's River Falls was almost impossible to get to but fun nonetheless

Super cool trail, but we went the day after a storm and, due to down trees, could not complete. Great wildlife spotting! Saw a bear in the water, a wild turkey and a beaver! Butterfly central at the Hickory Ridge campsites.

My first backpacking trip ever was on this trail around 1994, and my last time on this trail was 1997- I was hooked on backpacking because of this trail and the Cohuttas in general. 20 years later I took my 14 and 12 yo sons on this trail trying to recreate the wonder. No joy. Trail had changed and was unrecognizable. Overgrown and and unkept. Further, I discovered you could no longer camp between beech bottom and jacks river falls. This trip, other than the family bonding, was unpleasant. We left early to head to Red River Gorge.

We didn’t do the full hike because there were so many downed trees and a lack of trail marking that it was very difficult to follow the trail in some places. Because of this I would rated as a challenging hike rather than a moderate hike. We did not see any bears. Wildflowers were starting to bloom. I found that the second big River Crossing was super difficult- even with my hiking poles.(I’m pretty short and the river was high and was flowing very fast.). I’ll do this again in the fall when the water is lower and I will take a friend who has hiked it numerous times. I wish the forest service would remark the trail!

Amazing!!!! My first backpacking trip! We were a group of 10 which included experienced hikers that have done this trail many times and newbies like me. We started in the afternoon on Saturday, camped, hiked to the falls Sunday, camped, then hiked out Sunday morning.
We started at the Jack's River Western Trailhead as marked on this map and made our way to Beech Bottom and the falls, but took the Beech Bottom Falls trail back out to a second car we had parked there so that it wasn't a true out and back trail as marked on here. A car was put there in case we had to bail out because of the storm forecasts. We just had a lot of rain (and quite a bit during the trip at night) so the river level was pretty high. Most crossings were very manageable but nearer to the falls, and if you were to continue east past Beech Bottom along the trail (which was our original plan) the river was past waist deep (I'm 5'5'') and moving quickly. We changed our plans and camped a bit past the falls then double backed the next day to take the Beech Bottom trail out once we experienced how deep the river crossings were becoming. I definitely recommend bringing hiking poles to stabilize yourself while crossing. We heard from other groups that came the opposite direction that some crossings were so deep they had to swim across with their packs.
The falls themselves were amazing and we did the cliff jump after watching a group demonstrate that they were safe!!
The trail wasn't as maintained as other State Parks and National Parks that I've been to -- lots of downed trees to climb over and some overgrown plants but I think that really added to the wilderness feel and it didn't slow us down. We saw one copperhead sunning itself at a campsite but that was the only wildlife encounter. Lots of beautiful scenery, mushrooms, and the river itself made for a wonderful trip.

The trail is rated moderate but I guess that is when the water is low. But be warned, this hike has numerous river crossings. The water was waist high in most of the places and a bit deeper in some others. We made it to the fifth camping spot and had to turn around because we could not cross at this point. The water was simply too deep and fast for us to manage with backpacks.That was about 1/3 of the way in or 2.5 miles. I imagine this is a much different trail when the water is low and easily crossed. At this time of year there were plenty of snakes, but this is a gorgeous area and the river is a beautiful hiking companion. The trailhead is accessible after a long drive on a bumpy dirt road with lots of potholes. The area needs some attention in general. Campsites, signs etc. are in bad shape. To this point, we met a couple before the first river crossing looking for Jacks Falls(?) They got their information off the Internet somewhere, obviously not very well communicated. Plan for it and this is a great hike.

camping
2 months ago

This is by far one of my favorite spots.
Been going for about 10 years now. Unfortunately though it is overly crowded and the trial has changed over the years.
over night stay highly recommended!
Always check the water at the swimming hole before jumping in from the cliff!!!
#leavenotrace

great overnight hike

Fantastic trail. The river crossings were cold but great. There’s still a lot of downed trees from the fire, but moved as many as we could. The turn off from jacks river was hard to spot because of a downed tree and the sharp ascent, but we thoroughly enjoyed this trail. I think the whole loop is closer to 18 miles, but not certain. There’s also very little water on the ridge trails, so take advantage on the river and get what you’ll need.

Challenging. Took rough ridge to jacks to rice camp to cowpen. Can camp before upper falls river crossing and after lower falls crossing. Yellow sign marks no camp zone. A lot of burn damage/downed trees. There is some water on cowpen, at the stream shown before cowpen connects with hickory ridge, but it’s a steep scramble down to collect.

backpacking
3 months ago

Do not do the route listed by all trails!!!!!!! Do the loop from hickory ridge around to rough ridge. If you try to take horseshoe bend the trail just ends half mile before jacks river. I ended up bushwhacking down a 50 degree slope to get down to the river to my campsite. The forest fire really messed this area up. No cell service anywhere. Trekking poles are a must if you are backpacking. The forest rangers will not do anything for you. They are useless. No good water on all of the east cowpen side. Plus half of east cowpen trail is a dirt road. I was disappointed. Jacks river was beautiful. I repeat do not do the loop listed by all trails!!!!!!!!! Take hickory ridge to rough ridge loop. It is shorter but way less problems. Plus shorter distances to get to cleaner water. Only cell service is from the three forks trailhead to about 3 miles down the ridge.

Just got home from completing this one. Due to weather, we decided to do the river crossings first. Which meant we had to face an uphill penitentiary branch trail the next day. That was fairly strenuous.

Beautiful hike, and not overly difficult....moderate rating is accurate. The falls are amazing especially when frozen over. The forest road getting there is rough and potentially muddy. Drive a vehicle that’s not low to the ground. Four wheel drive is helpful.

Much easier than I thought it was gonna be! The rain held off and we had a great time...it was perfect!!

Great day hike. We didn’t plan for the length of the trail up to the falls, so our limited time put us having to leave before we were ready. Beautiful sounds of the flowing river greeted us each step. Lots of camping areas along the path.

Trail was great! We wore keens and didn’t have any issues, but couldn’t imagine this with Chacos(blisters) or hiking boots(removing and putting back on too often) in comparison. We made a 2 day trip out of it. Beginning and end are a bit faster moving b/c there aren’t a lot of crossings in the first 2 miles and the last mile or so. Had a few issues fining the trail but nothing worth panicking about. The trail is perfect for summer when you can stay cool as you hike.

Recommendations: 2 hiking sticks, keen water shoes, water filter to get fresh water

I parked at the Daily Gorge lot which I would recommend knowing that after taking Old HWY 2, once on the gravel road and you arrive at the for, take a hard right to get to the lot. Once at the lot, took Hemp to Penetentiary. A fairly good hike, though mostly down hill and I would say moderate. Make sure in the beginning to look out for some beautiful views. Once you arrive at Jack's River, shortly thereafter there is a large primitive campsite. I really enjoyed the hike, though instead of a loop chose to go back up Penetentiary (more difficult), Hemp and return to my car the following day. Only saw wild turkeys, but lots of beautiful wild flowers. Note that prior to Jack's River there were no streams or water sources.

Although not physically strenuous, this hike is challenging due to all the river crossings. If backpacking, be aware that you will be fording through depths that can reach your chest over slippery surfaces. Trekking poles are a necessity, or grab a hiking stick alongside the trail on your way up. Attempting to swap from shoes to water shoes is pointless as you will spend all your time swapping shoes. Take footwear that can get wet and take some abuse. If planning an over-nighter, there are plenty of campsites along the river to filter water. You could always camp closer to the beginning of the trail, then hike to the falls as a day hike, then back down to your camp for the night. As you get near the Falls, camping is prohibited. If you want an easier hike to Jack's River Falls, take the Beech Bottom Trail.

Took my boys (14 & 12) with me and finished in the hike in 2 days, We went over Father's Day weekend and had a blast. Truth be told, I think we may have been the only people on the trail that weekend. We saw absolutely nobody else the entire time. This trail is rated as MODERATE but it was a little on the challenging side - at least for us it was. The trail itself wasn't particularly arduous but it wasn't well marked either. For the most part though, the trail is readily apparent. Ac couple of good points to know...
1. The trail itself isn't terribly steep or difficult, but there were a LOT of downed trees across it.
2. You only need ONE water bottle per person. We hiked the loop EAST to WEST and there is no water until the river crossing/first campsite at the apex of the big loop at the North Eastern side of the trail. After that, you are almost always in contact with the Jacks River. Bring filtration and a bottle. That will do just fine.
3. Bears... They are out there and had one in our campsite the first night. It didn't do anything and left without incident. Neat see though. Definitely keep your food in a bear canister and away from the camp.
4. There is NO cell service if you are on Verizon. Not a big deal to me, but since I had my kids with me, it was a "daddy-level" concern. It might be smart to have an ACR or SPOT just in case.
5. It had been raining hard for the previous week and rained frequently on our trip. The river was UP and the crossings were averaging adult waist deep. The water is pleasantly cold and wonderfully clear. But the current was nothing to take lightly - especially with kids.
6. Trekking poles are awesome! They made river crossings a lot more pleasant (and safer for the kids) and they were also great for making sure snakes weren't under logs that we had to climb over to navigate the trail.
7. Temperatures dropped to the 60s at night with a breeze and rain. We slept in hammocks (Warbonnet Blackbirds) and lined the bottom with a closed cell foam pad. Sleeping clothes were shorts/shirt a camping pillow and woobie (military poncho liner). It was just fine - perhaps a little cool, but I'd pack the same way again.
8. Ticks. Lonestar ticks are everywhere. Treat your clothes with permethrin before you go. It will help. And wear a hat. Otherwise the bugs were fine. Perhaps it was a function of all the rain, but mosquitos and other flying pests weren't a major issue.

Beautiful, quiet, and lots of fun! I can't wait to return!

Great trail with beautiful river views and crossings. Perfect for dogs who love water.

hiking
Saturday, July 01, 2017

We had some much fun! Started early from Dally Gap but somehow missed the trail to the main waterfall. Wishing that it had been better marked. Saw other amazing falls though. It poured on us all day which only made it more of an adventure for us. The river crossings were my favorite. I will definitely return!

This is my fave all time summer hike. Starting down river and hiking up to jack river falls and back in one day. 44 river crossings total, 7 miles there and back. Awesome hike and falls! Highly recommend this wet hike.

backpacking
Saturday, June 17, 2017

My favorite for a weekend backpacking trip. I love to take our dogs! If you start at the Jack's River terminus going up river in the Alaculsy Valley you will have 22 river crossings before you reach Jack's River Falls which is about 7 miles in, I believe. Then you have another 9 miles to Dally Gap. I want to say there are somewhere around 42 river crossings total and the water will be up to waist and chest deep in places. Also, the trail is not marked that well in some spots and you will have to cross the river and wade upstream to find it at times, especially at crossings 16 and 18. It makes for an even better adventure! There were several downed trees when we went last week, so be prepared to climb over and under and get wet. There are a lot of great camp sites and fishing/swimming holes as well. I LOVE this trail.

P.S. Take poles. They make the crossings much easier. Dry bags are a must. Also, after several hikes thru here my husband and I both opt for old tennis shoes. We wore Keens the first thru hike we did and mine fell apart, his ruined his feet for the trip. Boots are no good either. Just a friendly opinion:)

Beautiful river, gorgeous knolls, my kids 6 to 21 had a fantastic time. We swam in the river and hiked the trail. Its one if the most beautiful trails that i have seen in a long time.

hiking
Monday, June 12, 2017

Folks, I have a question. I see two different maps for Jacks River Falls trail. One is mentioned here at alltrails.com, the other one is mentioned at https://www.atlantatrails.com/hiking-trails/hiking-jacks-river-falls-trail-splashing-through-the-cohutta-wilderness/
They both mention crossing river 21 times but completely different trails. Can someone please help?

camping
Tuesday, June 06, 2017

I would have rated this trail 5 stars but you couldn't use much of it. it has not been cleaned up since the fires last year. there were trees down all over the trails. we had to go over, under and around constantly. also the trails are not blazed at all so it is very easy to miss a turn or lose the trail with all the trees down.

the trails were so bad we could not complete the loop and had to come back out on the same path. if it were cleaned up it would have been a great hike and camping experience.

backpacking
Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Ok so WOW! We did not expect to have this much fun on this hike. As we prepared for this trip we assumed the river crossings would be nothing more than puddle jumping but we were wrong. We started at the Dally Gap. Our trip was in the last weekend of March and the river was ROARING. Apparently the river is a lot rougher in the spring. Every river crossing brought us to at minimum waste deep water. Many times we were chest deep and even having to swim. The rocks were very slippery and the current was very strong. We were 4 grown, strong men who love to hike and we were struggling at times. A few of the crossings were fairly dangerous, but it was a blast! We crossed the river 21 times before settling into camp just before the 22nd (and final) river crossing before the waterfall. A total of 6.5-7 miles the first day. The next day we originally planned to go back the same way but none of us wanted to venture back into the cold water 21 more times! Haha. Instead we headed to the falls and spent sometime there. We hiked the few miles up beech bottom trail to the parking area where we set off down the road, eventually hitch hiking back to our truck. We had a long journey back home and decided it be better to get a head start.

Overall we would have loved to hike the entire river but we just didn't have the time. I would highly recommend venturing this trail in the spring. It's not for the faint of heart and def not for children. Pack your stuff in drybags or it will certainly get wet!

I worked with the Southeast Conservation Corps here, it is one of many trails that I have worked on and it is by far one of the best.

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