From the guide
From its trailhead on Whiteside Cove Road, the Chattooga River Trail stretches down the Chattooga River, designated a National Wild and Scenic River, from the Cashiers area all the way down its banks well into Georgia and South Carolina, where it becomes a border between the two states. Whether you’re looking for a nice few hour hike or a hard-core through hike, the Chattooga River Trail has something to offer.
While the Chattooga River Trail can be picked up at many points, the easiest way to access the trail from Cashiers is at the main trailhead on Whiteside Cove Road. From the Cashiers crossroads, drive south on Hwy. 107 1.8 miles to Whiteside Cove Road. Turn right and drive about 4 miles on the winding road. Look for a brown national forest sign that reads “Chattooga River Trail” and a small parking area on the left.
Early on, following the trail through some woodland, pay attention to the forks that merge with the trail. On your way back up, these forks can be somewhat confusing.
The trail steepens and enters into thickets of rhododendron. In late spring, the evergreen rhododendron blooms like a giant azalea. At times, the trail can be slippery and muddy. This area is actually considered by some to be a rain forest. Watch for roots and rocks.
As you follow the river, the trail will finally level out. Just ahead is the Chattooga Narrows, a dramatic section of the river that cuts under a cliff. Pay attention to your footing as the damp rock is covered with moss.
The river opens ahead into a wide pool at the intersection of Norton Mill Creek. An iron bridge (pictured) leads the way over the last throes of the creek before it drops into the Chattooga.
This is approximately three miles down the trail, a good turn-around point for a moderate hike. If you had a buddy with a car, another three miles or so ahead a large iron bridge (Bull Pen Rd.) crosses the trail at a small waterfall. This is a good place to park a car if you would like to make a point-to-point hike. See the Bull Pen listing (Waterfalls) for directions.
As mentioned, the trail continues for approximately 50 miles into Georgia and South Carolina, following the Bartram Trail and Foothills Trail later on, with campsites dotted along the way. For more information about the through-hike, see Brookings (Activities) or the Highland Hiker in Cashiers.