Hike 1.4 miles on the easy-to-strenuous Three Forks Trail in Rabun County, Georgia, to see cascade on Holcomb Creek and the convergence of the three creeks that form the West Fork of the Chattooga River.
By TIM HOMAN
Three Forks·Trail, as it was originally designed, starts at the summit of Rabun Bald and ends beside the West Fork Chattooga River near Three Forks. The trail is named for three creeks-Holcomb, Overflow, and Big – which run together at right angles to create the West Fork. With this design, however, vehicular access can be gained only in the middle sections of the trail, and several miles of the trail are routed onto FS 7 (Hale Ridge Road) and an old road that runs from FS 7 to FS 86 (Overflow Road).
In an effort to provide vehicular access and eliminate confusing, unblazed roads from the middle of the trail, this narrative describes Three Forks Trail from Overflow Road to the end of the designated trail at Holcomb Creek, splitting the Three Forks Trail into two separate ones. Three Forks Trail from Hale Ridge Road to Rabun Bald is described as Rabun Bald Trail. This change takes advantage of trail signs (provided they are maintained), eliminates walking on roads, and helps avoid confusion.
This much shorter version of the Three Forks Trail, starting at John Teague Gap (2,360 feet), leads hikers through forest often dominated by eastern white pine and several species of oak. After traversing 0.7 miles of predominantly level or gently descending terrain, the trail crosses the blue-blazed boundary of the Chattooga National Wild and Scenic River. The immediate Three Forks area and a narrow corridor along both banks of the entire West Fork Chattooga River are protected as part of the Chattooga National Wild and Scenic River.
The trail remains level or slightly downhill until it dips to its three-way intersection with an old jeep road at mile 1.0. Follow the road to the left as it drops sharply for nearly 0.2 mile to a flat, rocky area overlooking a swirlhole-carved cascade on Holcomb Creek. This is the end of the blazed trail; Three Forks is to the right, downstream, approximately 0.2 mile from the cascade.
There is an easy, direct way down to the forks-easy compared to bushwhacking, at least. To get there, walk upstream beneath the overhanging bluff until, after 25 to 30 yards, the banks narrow to a jump’s width. Cross Holcomb Creek there. Straight ahead from the crossing, a path leads away from the creek. Don’t take that one. That one soon forks to the right and left, becomes dimmer and slimmer, deteriorates to a deer run, peters out to a possum track, then snake-wiggles up a tree, and ends in a knothole. And you are left to bushwhack the slide-on-your-butt, steep lower slopes of High Top.
A few yards to the right of the creek crossing, look for another path entering the woods through a duck-your-head hole in the rhododendron. This trail will lead you downstream, above the long, tilted chutes on Holcomb Creek to Three Forks (1,840 feet). The path becomes progressively steeper toward its bottom end beside Overflow Creek.
Mile 1.2: Cascade on Holcomb Creek.
Mile 1.4: The convergence of the three creeks that form the West Fork of the Chattooga River.
In Clayton, where US 76 turns west, turn east onto Rickman Street (locally known as Warwoman Road). If you are traveling north on US 441, the turn will be to your right near the Hardee’s, which is the second building to the right on Rickman Street. Continue a short distance on Rickman Street, then turn right onto Warvoman Road at its sign.
After traveling 14.0 miles from the turn off US 441, turn left onto FS 86 (Overflow Road) immediately after crossing West Fork Chattooga River. Continue 3.9 to 4.0 miles on FS 86 to the cleared pull-off area on the right side of the road at John Teague Gap. Begin looking for the pulloff after cresting a hill. A large rock with “Three Forks Trail” engraved on it marks the trailhead.
This hiking guide to the Three Forks 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.