Big Frog Mountain is located on the north edge of the Big Frog Wilderness Area and is part of the Cohutta Mountain District. This district contains the westernmost land over 4,000 feet in elevation in the eastern United States. To put it another way, no matter how far north you go within the United States, the terrain west of the Cohuttas does not rise to the 4,000 foot level again until it reaches the Great Plains, very far across the Mississippi.
The heart of the Cohutta Mountains lie in the Cohutta-Big Frog Wilderness and straddles two states, two national forests, four counties, and two natural features, the Blue Ridge and the Tennessee Valley Divide. Tennessee's Cherokee National Forest manages all of the protected land north of the state line while Georgia's Chattahoochee National Forest administers all of the wildernesss below the border.
Combined, the area of the Cohutta-Big Frog Wilderness at 45,059 acres is either the largest or second largest national forest wildernesss in the eastern United States. The only competitor in this ranking is New Hampshire's Pegigewasset Wilderness which is listed as the rounded off figure of 45,000 acres. This forest is roughly twice as long north to south as it is wide east to west. Its greatest width is approximately 8 1/2 miles while its maximum length from north to south is approximately 15 1/2 miles.
Within this forest land, there are approximately 26 trails covering roughly 127 miles. Enjoy!
The summit of Big Frog Mountain is somewhat unusual for this area in that several trails meet and connect very close to the highest point on the mountain. These trails are Wolf Ridge, Hemp Top, and Licklog Ridge.
Depending on what trail(s) you take to the summit, the directions to the trailhead will vary. Please see the routes section for more details.
There are no fees or permits associated with any of the Big Frog Wilderness Trailheads.
Big Frog can be climbed at all times of the year. However, hikers should be aware that snow is regularly on the mountain from December to March, and they are well advised to contact the ranger station (contact information below) before setting off.
Please be aware that bear are often seen in this area, and occasionaly are spotted roaming the Beech Bottom section of the Jacks River Trail. To avert bear problems, please 1) camp in less frequented areas, 2) hang your food (all of it, as well as toothpaste, etc.) from a high limb after supper, and 3) actively discourage bears from associating you (that is to say, humans) with food. If a bear comes in sniffing to your camp: yell, bang pots and pans together, throw rocks - do whatever you must short of harming the bear to make it leave. A bear that feeds off of human food eventually becomes habituated to humans, and will quickly become hunted and shot.
Due to over-use, all of the campsites within 1 mile (both upstream and downstream) of Jacks River Falls will be closed starting from June 1, 2006 to an undetermined point in the future.
Note: Routes are being added to the main page for the moment. If there is a strong desire, these can be seperated out into sub-pages.
Wolf Ridge Trail
Total Length to the top: 4.5 miles
Wolf Ridge is the shortest and most difficult of the trails to the top of Big Frog Mountain. It gains ~2,500 feet (the most of any trail in both the Cohutta and Big Frog Wilderness areas) in a relatively short distance. For that reason, this trail is usually rated as moderate to strenuous.
It is a ridgetop and upper-slope route. After the first mile, it follows the famous Blue Ridge, which doubles as the Tennesse Valley Divide. After Wolf Ridge turns east from its Chestnut Mountain Junction, the trail becomes distinctly different from all others in the wilderness. Here, near the end of the trail, the ridge often narrows to a topknot of rock with the trail snaking around the side of the rock as it heads up to the crest.
Note: Wolf Ridge has no water on its own. You can find water at Elderberry Spring, slightly more than 0.1 mile down the uppermost end of the Licklog Ridge Trail.
There are three main access routes to this trail-head:
1) From the three-way Forest Service Road 16 and Forest Service Road 17 intersection, continue straight ahead on FS 16 for approximately 5.5 miles to its junction with Forest Service Road 221, located on the Georgia-Tenessee border. This is right across the big iron bridge that goes over the Jacks River. Once across the river, stay straight on FS 221 for approximately 7.3 miles to the right turn onto FS 221E which leads uphill to the trailhead parking area and bulletin board. If you miss the trail sigh on FS 221, or if the sign is missing, you will come to FS 374 to the left side of the road a little more than 0.1 miles beyond the entrance to FS 221E.
2) From the three-way FS 55 - FS 221 intersection, turn left onto FS 221 and proceed approximately 4.3 miles to the right turn onto FS 221E, usually marked with a Wolf Ridge Trail sign.
3) From the three-way FS 45-FS 221 intersection, turn right on FS 221 and follow that road for approximately 7.3 miles to the left turn onto FS 221E which is marked with a Wolf Ridge Trail sign. The entrance to FS 374, which is on the right side of FS 221, is a little more than 0.1 miles before the left turn onto FS 221E.
Hemp Top Trail
Total Length to the top: 6.1 miles
The Hemp Top Trail (also known as Foot Trail 62) is primarily a ridgecrest trail that offers numerous winter views and the very occasional summer views. The ridge it follows is the Blue Ridge which also serves as the Tennessee Vallet Divide. The Benton-Mackaye Trail shares Hemp Top's path from 0.9 miles of the Hemp Top trail until its ending junction with the Licklog Ridge Trail. It is frequently walked as the first or final leg of a Hemp Top - Penitentiary Branch - Jacks River Falls Loop with no backtrack, 13.0 miles begining and ending at Dally Gap.
Starting at Dally Gap (elev. 2505 feet), Hemp Top heads north. At 0.9 miles, Section 10 of the Benton Mackaye Trail (marked with a white diamond blaze and a sign to the left) joins with the trail at Spanish Gap (elev. 2920 feet). At mile 2.3 it meets up with the penitentiary Branch Trail just south of Rockwall Gap (elev. 3100 feet). The trail continues until you gradually ascend to the crown of Hemp Top Mountain (elevation 3580 feet) at mile 4.1. A fire tower once stood on top of the mountain though the spot has long since been reclaimed by trees.
Continuing northward, the path descends to Double Springs Gap (elev. 3220 feet) at mile 5.4. The gap has two springs, one to the left and one to the right. Though the two springs are seperated by only a hunder feet, they feed into vastly different watersheds. The westward spring feeds into Jacks River, which feeds the Canasauga River, which eventually feeds into the Tensaw River which feeds into the Gulf of Mexico. The eastward spring takes a different route to the gulf: Silvermine Creek to the Okee River, into the Hiwassee, the Ohio, and finally into the Mississippi River.
Note: These two springs are your last chance for water on the Hemp Top Trail.
Double Springs Gap is the southern end of Section 11 of the Benton-Mackaye Trail. It is also the beginning of a brutal climb that gains 810 feet of elevation in Hemp Top's last 0.8 miles to the top of Big Frog Mountain. Once you hit the intersection of the Licklog Ridge Trail, proceed to the top of Big Frog Mountain by turning left (west) onto the Licklock Ridge Trail and follow that path 0.5 miles to its end.
There are two main routes to Hemp Top trailhead at Dally Gap:
1) From the paved three-way intersection at FS 221, FS 65, and county road 251, continue across the bridge over Tumbling Creek and proceed straight ahead (south) on FS 65. This road turns to gravel after 0.5 miles, enters Georgia, and then becomes FS 22. Two signed and gated trails begin to the right side of the road at Dally Gap. Jacks River heads downhill past the bulletin board. Hemp Top starts up and to the right.
2) From the four-way intersection at Watson Gap, turn right and uphill onto FS 22. Go about 3.5 miles to trailhead at Dally Gap.
Licklog Ridge Trail
Total Length to the top: 5.8 miles
This trail gains the most elevation to the top (~2480 feet). Despite the elevation gain, it is not a very difficult trail as most of the ascents are gradual. The trail is relatively straight-forward and there are a few interesting features. At mile 2.4 you will pass Licklog Top, a prominant peak on the ridge. Instead of climbing over this peak, the trail skirts the northwestern edge of it well below the high point and continues a gentle ascent to a shallow saddle. Continue past this point until mile 4.8 where you cross Chestnut Ridge. Just past this point, you will head to the southwest and will have a view of Big Frog Mountain ahead of you. Note, you will only have this view during the wintertime. From May onwards leaves will obstruct the view.
0.1 miles from the top, you will pass Elderberry Srping, a small rocked basin to the left. This is your last source of water until you descend the Hemp Top trail to Double Springs Gap.
This trail offers numerous winter views of the valley around the mountain.
There are two main routes to the trailhead:
1) From the three-way intersection of FS 45 and FS 221, turn left onto FS 221 and proceed approximately 3.3 miles to the trailhead on the right hand side of the road. Look for the beginning of a path, and the bulletin board is 40 yards into the woods. There is a small parking area on the opposite side of the road.
2) From the paved three-way intersection of FS 221, FS 65, and County road 251, continue across the bridge over Tumbling Creek, then turn right onto FS 221. Proceed 5.5 miles (the pavement ends after 0.1 miles) to the trailhead which will be on the left-hand side of the road.
External Links and Contact InformationBenton-Mackaye Trail Association (BMTA)
The tireless volunteers of this association do much, if not all, of the trail maintenence on the Benton-Mackaye Trail.
PO Box 53271
Atlanta, GA 30355-1271
United States Forest Service
U.S. Forest Service, Armuchee-Cohutta Ranger District
3941 Hwy 76
Chatsworth, GA 30705
Phone: (706) 695-6736
To report someone who has gone missing while in the park, you can contact:
Fannin County Sheriff's Office
172 Church St
Blue Ridge, Georgia 30513
Phone: (706) 632-2044
All of Tim Homan's books are excellent. In particular for this region, I recommend Hiking Trails of the Cohutta & Big Frog Wildernesses