Chestnut Lead Trail – Cohutta Wilderness Area

This trail historically has been known as one of the prettiest to hit during the wildflower season.  It’s a short, easy hike (less than one mile in) in the Cohutta Wilderness Area, which borders Gilmer and Fannin Counties in north Georgia.  Right now, access from Fannin County (Blue Ridge) is blocked due to FS 64 being washed out.  I had to access the Cohuttas from Ellijay, and HWY 52.

The trail wanders down into the forest basin at a slow rate, so it’s not too bad on your knees either direction you are going.  There is no water along this hiking trail.

This past winter, the Cohuttas suffered a 30,000 acre wildfire, which was started by a lightning strike along the Rough Ridge trail there.  This trail is tucked in the center of this wilderness area, and with road issues up there it made accessing this fire very difficult for firefighters.   With an area drought in effect,  area winds took this fire and it quickly became a much larger “ground fire” than they expected.  This was handled as a controlled burn, and once extinguished, had eliminated the dead brush from the forest floor, and had not killed the living trees.

Area hikers and wildflower seekers like myself were dying to get up there to see what the flowers might be like this season after this fire.   I ventured up there right before the lady-slippers were blooming in nearby woods, so I felt like I gave it enough time.  The drive up was slow-going, as they scattered really chunky large gravel on the forest road going in, and it made it hard to go over 5 mph in a regular car.

The Chestnut Lead Trail was easy to find,  with a parking area for hikers.  The forest floor looked so bare, with no dead leaves like normal, and the start of lots of green new life popping through the dirt.  I was excited.   And though I may have been there too early, I could tell the growth was healthy and diverse, and soon, the forest would be back to normal, only a little less cluttered, with wood ash feeding what remained standing and apparently thriving.  It was beautiful.  I am sharing some photos I took this day on the Chestnut Lead Trail.  As an artist, I was so drawn to the stark blacks from charred areas contrasting with the white dead trees.  It was hauntingly beautiful.




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