It is 9 a.m. and you find yourself about 2 miles into the 8-mile Gahuti Trail at Fort Mountain. The sound of the wind rustling through the leaves has your mind in a deep state of thought.
“Should I buy a boat?”
“How long could I survive on cereal and milk?”
Suddenly, you see a shadowy figure about 30 yards off the trail. You look closer and realize it’s a black bear, no taller than 4 feet, rummaging through the underbrush. Your steps have been quiet, and by staying silent, you’ve managed to see one of the prized animals at Fort Mountain. You pull out your phone, and magically the bear looks at you and scurries off, leaving you with nothing but a blurry memento to show your friends on Instagram.
If you stay quiet and observant you may see a bear. To scare it off, you should stand tall, wave your arms and make a lot of noise.
With 10 miles of hiking trails, over 25 miles of mountain bike trails, and a 17-acre lake for kayaks and canoes, Fort Mountain is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. If you are an avid hiker, the well traveled Gahuti trail will satisfy all your outdoor cravings with incredible overlooks and waterfalls. Bring plenty of water and don’t forget to stop and catch your breath, as the trail often takes hikers 5 hours to complete. For a more remote trail, hop on the 301 trail and head down to view the rhododendron forests and waterfalls. The 301 is a multi-use trail, so feel free to speed up the trip by taking a mountain bike down to the falls.
The stunning and rarely seen waterfall on the 301 trail.
There are ways to section-off the Gahuti trail so you can view the most amazing parts of the park without sacrificing the entire day. Some of the best parts of the park include the Cool Springs Overlook, the Big Rock trail, and the West Overlook. The Cool Springs Overlook has a great view of a valley in the Cohutta Wilderness, and can be accessed by a short, flat paved trail. This is a great choice for those with accessibility needs or older family members.
Be sure to find time to head to the West Overlook at Sunset, where you can view the sunset from atop the mountain. On the trail you will see the mysterious wall along with an original CCC-made fire tower.
Sunrise over the cool springs overlook.
If you’re looking for a great place to picnic, the 17-acre lake has a beach, playgrounds and picnic tables that your family can enjoy. The lake can be circled easily by walking or biking on the 1 mile flat trail, and it also connects to the cabins, campground, and the Big Rock Trail.
As far as accommodations, Fort Mountain has a wide variety of camping and cabin options. The campground has 70 campsites that come with 30-amp electrical and water hookups. Many people backpack into one of the four back-country campsites along the Gahuti Trail, which is a great adventure if you are a first-time backpacker or someone that wants the solitude of backpacking with the safety of park rangers nearby. The park also has 15 cottages, many of which were recently renovated and vary in size and price.
The newly renovated interior of one of the 16 cottages at Fort Mountain.
Fort Mountain is the premier destination for outdoor enthusiasts and families. Along with all the accommodations and adventure opportunities, the park is situated close to the quaint mountain towns of Chatsworth and Ellijay. Whether it is hiking, biking, history or bear watching you’re looking for, Fort Mountain is the hidden gem of North Georgia.