Cowpen: Drive to Trailhead & Trail Guide

Drive Guide - Cowpen from Atlanta

  • Duration (‘western’ approach):
    • 2.5 hours from Atlanta
    • 50 minutes from the square in downtown Ellijay
  • Google Maps URL from I-285 at 33.91819, -84.33747:
    • Western approach: http://goo.gl/maps/9mSdQ
    • Eastern approach: http://goo.gl/maps/9S43g - Probably 15 minutes longer to drive from Atlanta.
  • Seasonal/Limited Access:
    • Approach from the east: Found a seasonal gate closed on USFS-64 at 34.86457, -84.51989
    • Approach from the west: Found a seasonal gate closed on USFS-64 at 34.84140, -84.59441
    • Gates close Jan 3; reopen “mid-March”
    • Note that the approach from the west is a little quicker, but the road from the east was better maintained in 2013.
    • March 15, 2014, both the east and west routes were in good shape.
  • Directions (western approach):
    • I-285 W
    • I-75 N
    • I-575 N
    • GA-5 N. Go 55.6 miles.
    • L on 1st Ave.
      • (1st traffic light after Ingles/McDonalds.)
      • Go 500 ft. Cross the bridge.
    • L on River St - a.k.a. GA-52. Go 1 mile.
    • Ellijay downtown roundabout. Stay on 52. Go 5.0
    • R on Gates Chapel Rd. (Cohutta Self-storage sign.) Go 5.2.
    • Bear R on Wilderness Trail. (Google calls it Wilderness Rd. Becomes FS90) Go 1.5.
      • When you come to Pinhoti trail intersection #1, keep R to stay on FS90.
      • When you come to Pinhoti trail intersection #2, keep L to stay on FS90.
      • These were well-marked when I drove it, but sometimes signs come down…
    • Hairpin R onto FS 68 (a.k.a. Conasauga Rd), go 3.3.
    • R on Conasauga Lake Rd (FS 64) at T with sign to E. Cowpen Trail #30, and go 4.2.
      • Note: This T shows up in my directions to multiple summits, and I frequently refer to it as the “Conasauga T”.
      • For reference, it takes 30 minutes to drive from the Ellijay square to the Conasauga T.
      • For reference, it takes about 20 minutes minutes to drive from the Conasauga T to the Cowpen Mountain trailhead.
    • Park in gravel lot on sharp turn
  • Food
    • Last McDonalds: Ellijay (East Ellijay).
    • Penultimate McDonalds: Jasper.
    • Dinner
      • Poole’s Barbecue “Pig Hill” at 164 Craig Street, Ellijay. Closes at 7/8/8/6, Thurs/ Fri/Sat/Sun.
      • Note: There’s a Barbecue place in Blue Ridge that has several billboards with directions telling you to turn at Wendy’s. The pulled pork there is dry and taste-free.

Drive Guide - Cowpen from Dyer Cemetery

  • Drive south (toward 64A side road to Flat Top) on USFS-64 for 5.1 miles. Parking is on right, just as road makes sharp left turn. Parking is somewhat over the crest of a rise, so you can’t see it until you’re right next to it.

Trail Guide

  • Duration:
    • Flat route: 1:30 (1.7 miles; 635 ft climb). 0:40 descent
    • Short route: 0:50 (1.3 miles; 635 ft climb). 0:40 descent (0:25 if you run)
  • Navigation
    • Trail is FT-30. East Cowpen Trail, heading north. All on the ridge.
    • At 0.4 miles, FT-12 (Rough Ridge) branches to right, and is NOT our trail.
    • From this point, the ridge crest will be to your left.
    • Short Route
      • At 34.89306, -84.57474, there is a draw to your left. Follow it up to the ridge.
      • Once you reach the ridge you are in the activation zone.
      • If desired, turn left and follow the ridge to the high point. Summit is indistinct.
        • If you go left, foliage is less dense on the near (east) edge of the ridge.
    • Flat Route
      • At about 1.3 miles, sharp turn to left, heading south, is final approach to summit.
      • You have hiked PAST the summit, to a gap. Now you bushwhack up the ridge crest to the summit. It isn’t a tough bushwhack in early March, except there are some briars to avoid. It might be worse in the growing season.
      • Summit at 1.7 miles. Summit is indistinct.
  • Trailhead altitude: 3506’ @ trailhead
  • Summit altitude: 4151’
  • GPS tracks/waypoints:
    • Trailhead: 34.88086, -84.56537
    • Rough Ridge Trail (#12) branches: 34.88519, -84.57066
    • Short Bushwhack Start: 34.89306, -84.57474
    • Flat Bushwhack Start: 34.89441, -84.57639
    • Summit: 34.8898, -84.5741
    • GPS Track, Long Route
    • GPS Track, Shortcut

Summit Guide

  • Hang antenna from tree: Yes
  • Space to guy mast: Yes.
  • Cell coverage: ATT=Marginal. Verizon unable to send an SMS.
  • Unique features: Nothing special.

Plan-B Candidates

  • Bald Mountain W4G/HC-003
    • Where Cowpen is a right-turn at the Conasauga T, this is to the left, before you get to Grassy Mountain.
  • Scout out Sharptop Mountain (6 points) at 34.504501, -84.376602.
    • Maybe trail or bushwhack near 34.50069, -84.37945 or 34.50031, -84.37667.
    • Mountain is the sharp peak 1/3 mile north of road.