Hike 0.9 miles on the easy-to-moderate Coleman River Trail in Rabun County, Georgia, to see cascades, outstanding forest, and huge boulders.
By Tim Homan
This enjoyable, highly scenic trail originates just before the bridge by the “Artificial Lures Only” sign and closely follows Coleman River upstream into the 330-acre Coleman River Scenic Area. Shortly after entering the forest, the path comes to a commemorative plaque embedded in a huge boulder. Near the plaque, rockcap ferns grow from the moss on the rock.
By nature, mountain streams are beautiful-the Coleman, bordered by room-sized boulders and wide enough to let the sun in, is especially so. Near the end of the trail the river’s fast, shimmering water rushes from cascade to cascade.
Impressive eastern white pine and eastern hemlock flank the Coleman. At 0.2 mile, one of the largest white pines along the trails of North Georgia stands just to the left of the path. Its circumference at 4 feet 6 inches up from the ground is 10 feet 4 inches; the height of its arching tip may be as much as 160 feet, perhaps even higher. Not far beyond the towering pine there is a magnificent old lunker eastern hemlock – 13 feet 5 inches in circumference downslope to the left of the trail.
Eastern white pines are the tallest trees in eastern North America. Judged by the original standard that no longer exists – but is slowly returning in protected areas – the Coleman River pine would hardly be worth mentioning. In America’s virgin forests eastern white pines commonly exceeded 160 feet in height; some spired to over 200 feet. On the present site of Dartmouth College, a specimen 240 feet in height was measured.
Two-tenths of a mile farther up river from the pine, look up and to the right of the path. Tucked away in moist pockets between and below trailside boulders are northern maidenhair fern, Indian cucumber-root, Vasey’s trillium, and showy orchis.The trillium and orchis usually begin blooming during late April and early May.
Above the log steps, the path narrows, then ends in a jumble of rhododendron and deadfalls.
Mile 0.2: Large, impressive white pine and other old-growth trees. Mile 0.8: Cascades.
From Clayton, travel slightly more than 8.0 miles west on US 76. Turn right onto paved Persimmon Valley Road at the volunteer fire department and the sign for Tallulah River Recreation Area. Continue for about 4.2 miles on Persimmon Valley Road, then turn left onto FS 70. There is a large sign for Coleman River WMA and another sign for Tallulah River Recreation Area at the entrance of FS 70. Travel FS 70 for 1.6 miles. A few hundred yards past the camping area, a bridge crosses over the Coleman River. The trailhead, marked with its sign and an “Artificial Lures Only” sign, is to the right of the road immediately before the bridge.
Coming from the west, traveling east on US 76, look for the turn onto Persimmon Valley Road approximately 3.0 miles beyond the US 76-GA 197 junction.
Be sure to park only in one of the designated areas. Rangers do ticket cars left outside of these parking spaces. One area is located just past the Tallulah River Campground as you approach the bridge over the Coleman River. You can also park on the trail side of the bridge. If these areas are full, there is more roadside parking around the next bend of the road.
This hiking guide to the Coleman River Trail is adapted from The Hiking Trails of North Georgia by Tim Homan and is published in cooperation with the publisher Peachtree Publishers. With his meticulous attention to detail and accuracy, Homan has long been recognized as the authority on North Georgia hiking trail by serious hikers. His other books include Hiking Trails of Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock and Citico Creek Wilderness, Hiking the Shining Rock and Middle Prong Wilderness and others. For a complete inventory of his books see his Amazon Author Page.
For an inventory of Peachtree Publishers books including its Nature books for children, go to the Peachtree Publishers website.