The 38 mile Grassy Mountain gravel route takes in all the North Georgia Cohutta Mountains have to offer. Expect a massive climb, a blistering descent, breathtaking vistas, and a fast finish.
Getting anywhere in the Cohutta Mountains requires significant effort but the steep climbs and sometimes chunky gravel are the price one pays for riding in such an incredible location only two hours from Atlanta.
One example is the climb to the fire tower at the top of Grassy Mountain which begins 8 miles into the route. It begins with Mill Creek Rd which is a local favorite. Don’t get too exited when you get to “The landing” because you’re only half done. Continuing on West Cow Pen Rd, the entire climb is intense and relentless, gaining 3200 feet in 14 miles. The last mile before the summit is lined with wildflowers in summer. Swarms of butterflies let you know you are almost there.
Descents are limited by your willingness to go fast. Potato Patch Rd looses nearly 1500 feet in 3.2 miles. Average grade is -8.4%. Classic mountain switchbacks are interrupted by an overlook with a jaw dropping view to the south. A less obvious stop is a cove one quarter mile further on the left – cool and moist in summer and lined with rhododendron, this is a great place to filter water and chat with the MTB riders as they drop off the Bear Creek singletrack onto the Pinhotti Trail.
Expect an eight mile warmup on pavement with great views of the mountain peaks followed by increasing intensity throughout the route. The final five miles are rolling and can be ridden fast if you still have the legs. Roads are hardpacked but aggregates can be chunky. This is eastern alpine wilderness so expect changeable weather. Don’t underestimate the difficulty of riding in the Cohutta Mountains.
- Terrain and elevation have a significant impact on temperature and weather in this area. Keep in mind that west facing slopes may not receive direct sunlight in the morning and can be chilly in winter. It can be significantly colder at higher elevations.
- West Cow Pen Rd and Potato Patch Rd are officially closed during winter and impassible to motor vehicles. The road will be gated at mile 16.5 through the end of Potato Patch Rd at mile 33. Automobile rescue will not be possible on this section during closures. Check the US Forest Service website for dates.
- Facilities at Lake Conasauga are typically closed during winter and water is not available. Again, check the US Forest Service website for dates.
- You will loose cell reception for much of this route.
- Parking at Emery Creek Trailhead on Old CCC Camp Rd is free but the small lot can fill up on busy weekends. There is ample parking off the road nearby.
- Water is available from many streams and creeks but filter before you climb Grassy Mountain.
- Water may be available at Lake Conasauga except during winter when the facility is closed.
- The nearest town is Chatsworth, approximately six miles to the west of the start.
Another excellent route, the 8 mile road warm up was great and the next 13 mile climb up tested my fitness and was super glad to reach the fire tower for a nice lunch spot.
That one part approaching the Mill Creek Overlook always gets me. Kudos on the climb and glad you enjoyed the route!
A great route, and I got an early start so I could enjoy that last part of the sunrise from the fire tower on Grassy Mountain. The roads were in nice condition but my 43 mm tubeless tires came in handy–particularly for the spur of the route that deviates from the loop to summit Grassy.
I rode the Grassy Mountain route on 12/15/19 with a group of five. Conditions were fantastic! Hard packed and much of the large aggregate the forest service put down a while back has been either packed in or swept away.
I will be riding this tomorrow Tim. I’m looking forward to it.