Ocoee Ranger District Trails
Due to clear-cutting and controlled burning along the trail, as well as a lack of regular maintenance, the Sylco Trail has taken a beating over the last decade. However, it is still one of our horse trails, and can be ridden. Just be prepared for a few rough places. Park at the gate that is located about one half mile before the Sylco Campground. It is a ten mile loop with a one half mile cherry stem to access the loop, which makes a total ride of eleven miles. It can best be thought of as an upper portion and a lower portion. Leaving the parking spot, riding downstream alongside Sylco Creek, when you reach the loop go right. This will take you to the upper section of the trail first and you will get the steep climb over for your mount at the beginning of the ride. This upper section eventually uses about a mile of Falls Branch Road, and then exits right (east) of the road. The trail winds back up to Falls Branch Road, right at the end of the road, and drops quickly back down the other side towards Sylco Inlet of Parksville Lake. From here on out the trail follows the old railroad bed. You may notice rock chimneys along the trail as where several families once lived. In one spot you are right on the lake, across from Camp Ocoee, and you can play in the lake with your horse here. This lower section of the trail crosses Sylco Creek seven times before you get back to the truck. Keep in mind that you are in the bear reserve on this trail.
STARR MOUNTAIN HORSE TRAILS - LOST CORRAL HORSE CAMP
Lost Corral Horse Camp is located in Polk County off Forest Service Road 27 near the Hiwassee Ocoee Scenic River State Parks Office. This camp is in the Ocoee-Hiwasse Ranger District ofthe Cherokee National Forest.
Lost Corral features 20 developed campsites, each with its own picnic table, fire ring, lantern post and horse hitching area. Each site will accommodate up to five people and two vehicles. Potable water and vault toilet facilities are located in the campground. The fee for camping is $15 per site per night. There is no charge for day parking.
Lost Corral Horse Camp is near the Starr Mountain Horse Tail Complex, Gee Creek Wilderness, Spring Creek Shooting Range and Hiwassee River.
The Starr Mountain Horse Trail Complex consists of over 30 miles of trails ranging from short loop trails to long overnight rides. The trail complex can be accessed directly from the Lost Corral Horse Camp and Trailhead via the Coffee Branch Trail No. 105 which is a 7.9 mile ride to Iron Gap. This trail presents a moderate challenge due to the grade and rocky condition of the old roadbed. Combined with the Chestnut Mountain Trail No. 104, which is 3.8 miles, riders can make a loop back to Lost Corral through Gee Creek Wilderness.
For additional information about Lost Corral Horse Camp, contact the Ocoee-Hiwassee Ranger District at (423) 338-3300. To get to Lost Corral Horse Camp go North on 411 seven miles north from the traffic light in Ocoee to a Scenic River State Park sign marking the turn. After turning right onto Spring Creek Road, Lost Corral is just past the State Parks Office and across the road from Gee Creek State Park.
Chestnut (104) Oct 2015 Tazz Reid
This month's trail is the Chestnut Mountain Trail. It is accessed from the Lost Corral parking area by traveling 1.5 miles up the Coffee Branch Trail. At the 1.5 mile mark turn left up a steep incline.
About ¼ mile later you will enter the Gee Creek Wilderness area. This is our oldest wilderness area in the Cherokee National Forest. It received its designation in 1979.
Just beyond the wilderness sign start looking for a huge Yellow Poplar on the left side of the trail bed. A little past that trail feature, and you will start seeing some spectacular views of the Hwy 411 corridor. A mile down below you is the deep Gee Creek Gorge as the creek winds it way through the wilderness. Beyond that the trail switches back to the right, and you continue the relentless climb. Your horse might be complaining by now, but tell him to just hold on because soon the trail levels out for the last couple of miles. The highest elevation point of the trail is where it begins to level out, and it is a little over 2000 feet. This is the tip top point of Chestnut Mountain.
The total length of the trail is 3.9 miles, and ends at Iron Gap, where it joins back up with the upper end of Coffee Branch Trail again. Here you can loop back using the Coffee Branch Trail to the Lost Corral or you can return the way you came to get back to your trailer. The way you came is still the shortest way back. If you make the full loop, you have ridden 13 miles by the time you get back to the trailer. On the lower side of the Lost Corral parking lot is a city water hydrant for filling a bucket for your tired and thirsty mount.
Coffee Branch (105)Aug 2008 Tazz Reid
Coffee Branch is the old 4WD road from Lost Corral to Iron Gap. It is about 8 miles through this trail and it can be used with the Chestnut Mountain Wilderness Trail (through Gee Creek Wilderness) to make a 13 mile loop ride. Coffee Branch is slow going on the bottom end because there are a lot of baseball sized rocks. After about 3 miles out of Lost Corral the surface gets much better and is a good place for cantering along. A couple of miles below Iron Gap is an awesome view as the trail traverses the top of a sheer cliff. There are rail fences here, and they make a good place for tying your horse while you eat lunch on top the cliff and take in the view of the Reliance portion of the Hiwassee River. I’m pretty certain that you can see mountains in 3 states from here as you cast an eye on mountains piled upon mountains!
Cooper Gap (119) Summer 2016, July 2007 Tazz Reid
TRAIL OF THE MONTH: Cooper Gap Trail is located on the western slope of Starr Mountain. It is 7.6 miles in length. There are spectacular views of Etowah and the Conasauga Valley below. The views are even more spectacular after the tornado touched down on this trail a few years ago, because the timber along the trail was completely laid down in a few places. Cooper Gap connects with the middle of Starr Mountain Trail via the Burkett Ivins' Extension Trail. (Burkett Ivins' Extension is blazed with Tennessee orange paint, and Cooper Gap is blazed with lavender paint). Cooper Gap also connects to the main road on top near the fire tower. Take a right at this point to access Starr Mountain Trail in about a quarter mile to the south. Or take a left up to the fire tower for a fantastic view (especially so after the leaves are gone). Cooper Gap can be thought of as a circle with two stems on top. It can be accessed from the Mountain Road on the bottom, but you just have to find a place to pull off the road as best you can. Near the Tennessee Forestry building is a good spot. Then the trail can be accessed behind the Tennessee Forestry building. Happy Trails, Tazz Reid
Starr Mountain Horse (120) Feb 2008 Tazz Reid
Where can you see the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant, JM Huber, Waupaka and Bowaters while sitting on the same spot on the back of your horse? Starr Mtn Trail is the answer! Star Mtn Trail runs the razorback ridgeline of Starr Mountain. You have a heaven’s eye view of Etowah below you and you can gaze across the Sweetwater Valley to the Cumberland Plateau. This trail itself is only 3 miles, but Bullet Creek or Cooper Gap can be used to make a loop.
Bullet Creek Horse (121) Tazz Reid
Is one of our Starr Mountain Trails. It is only a half mile in length, but is an important part of the system in order to create loops with the Bullet Creek Trail proper. The easiest way to find it is from Bullet Creek Trail. When traveling north on Bullet Creek Trail (you've entered the trail head at the low concrete bridge on FS Rd. #220) about 2.5 miles into the trail you will cross the third bridge on Bullet Creek Trail. This is the bridge that SABCH built a few years ago and received a $1,000.00 award for it as a National Trails Day project. At the end of the bridge you will be faced with a decision to turn left or right off the bridge. Left will continue on Bullet Creek Trail. To the right will be the Bullet Creek Extension Trail. One half mile up this trail and you will intersect with FS Rd. #220. If you head back south on 220 you will have about two times the amount of miles to get back to that southern trailhead of Bullet Creek that you entered on. If you turn north (left) here on 220 in about 1 mile, you will see the intersection of 220 and the road that goes to the fire tower. Head left towards the fire tower for a couple of miles and you will see the north terminus of Bullet Creek Trail. You can head back down Bullet Creek Trail 1/2 mile and you will be back and $1,000.00 bridge again, or you can continue on toward the fire tower and the Cooper Gap and Starr Mountain trail heads.
In April, you can catch the flame azalea in full bloom. I know of no other trail anywhere that is lined with azalea as much as this one is. In some places it is as if you are riding between walls of fire. Also the Lady Slippers are blooming along the edges of the trail bed in April. The southern trailhead is located within 50 feet of the concrete bridge on FS road #220. It is well blazed with green blazes. The trail bed is a narrow winding path and the entire 3 mile length is without elevation change due to the fact that you are riding through the bottom of the basin between Starr Mtn and Black Mtn. It follows the bank of Bullet Creek. When reaching the northern trailhead, (assuming that you didn’t take a turn on Bullet Creek Spur with the tan blazes) you can take a left and head out the road by the fire tower and hit Starr Mtn Trail to loop back around using Burkett Ivins. This would give you about an 11 mile loop, or you make other various loops, longer or shorter at your own design.
Burkett-Ivins (122) November 2015 Tazz Reid
The Burkett Ivins’ Trail is historic. Burkett Ivins was a Sheriff in McMinn County in the early 1900’s. He owned a spot of land on Yellow Creek up on Starr Mountain, and this is the route that he traveled back and forth from Etowah.
The lower trailhead is on FS Rd #44 along Yellow Creek. About 100 feet, after leaving the gravel road, you will cross a trail bridge. 100 feet past the trail bridge, is the trailhead for the Yellow Creek Trail. The Burkett Ivins makes a 90 degree turn to the left and up the mountain slope. The trail soon turns to the right and gets steeper, and very rocky. This last half of the trail is why it is listed as a “difficult” trail. At the end of the trail you will pop out onto the Starr Mountain Trail and as your horse rests, you will be taking in the breathtaking sights of the Conasauga Valley below. Conasuaga is a Cherokee name that means “Valley of the Corn”. Total trail length for the Burkett Ivins’ Trail is 1/2 mile.
Bullet Creek Spur (124) Mar 2016, May 2008 Tazz Reid
TRAIL OF THE MONTH: Bullet Creek Spur is one of our Starr Mountain Trails. It is only a half mile in length, but is an important part of the system in order to create loops with the Bullet Creek Trail proper. The easiest way to find it is from Bullet Creek Trail. When traveling north on Bullet Creek Trail (you've entered the trail head at the low concrete bridge on FS Rd. #220) about 2.5 miles into the trail you will cross the third bridge on Bullet Creek Trail. This is the bridge that SABCH built a few years ago and received a $1,000.00 award for it as a National Trails Day project. At the end of the bridge you will be faced with a decision to turn left or right off the bridge. Left will continue on Bullet Creek Trail. To the right will be the Bullet Creek Extension Trail. One half mile up this trail and you will intersect with FS Rd. #220. If you head back south on 220 you will have about two times the amount of miles to get back to that southern trailhead of Bullet Creek that you entered on. If you turn north (left) here on 220 in about 1 mile, you will see the intersection of 220 and the road that goes to the fire tower. Head left towards the fire tower for a couple of miles and you will see the north terminus of Bullet Creek Trail. You can head back down Bullet Creek Trail 1/2 mile and you will be back and $1,000.00 bridge again, or you can continue on toward the fire tower and the Cooper Gap and Starr Mountain trail heads. Happy Trails-Tazz Reid
Hogback Horse (126) Hogback Lead Sep 2007 Tazz Reid
Hogback Lead Trail is on Starr Mtn, and the northern trailhead begins on FS Rd #44 by Yellow Creek. The first mile is maintained road until you get to the intersection of Hogback Spur. To ride Hogback Lead, take a right up the mountain. You will begin to climb on a narrow trail through the forest at this point. In fact, you will climb from about 1600 feet up to over 2000 ft. in elevation. In October, I think the prettiest place on Starr Mtn is along this trail where you come into about a 5 acre field of lush green grass and clover with a large pond in the middle of the field. The horses always seem to love to play in the pond. There is still another couple of miles of trail past the pond until you come out on FS Rd. #44 on the western side of the mountain, a couple of miles above Iron Gap and the Coffee Branch Trail that goes down to the horse camp. The total length of Hogback Spur Trail is 4 miles.
Hogback Spur (127) Hogback Spur July 2008 Tazz Reid
Hogback Spur trailhead is located on FS Rd. #44 just above Bullet Creek Falls. It is well marked with light blue blazes. The trail is 2 miles long and intersects in the the middle of Hogback Lead Trail. At that point you can choose to go north to the Yellow Creek/Burket Ivin’s trailheads or you may head up the mountain to the west, out by the pond, and come out on the Spring Creek side of FS #44 again. At that point you could turn down the mountain, going by Iron Gap and the Coffee Branch/Chestnut Mtn trailheads, and on down to the Basin Creek Trailhead where you could make a 13 mile loop back to where you started. Hogback Spur itself traverses the edge of the eastern end of Hogback Ridge. There are great views looking off over the Maple Springs Road area on outward toward Coker Creek. Be sure and check out the waterfall on Yellow Creek just across the road from the Trailhead.
Basin Branch Jan/Feb 2018, Jan 2017, Dec 2010, Dec 2011, Nov 2008, Oct 2009 Tazz Reid
If you are looking for some place to ride, in January and February, my recommendation is Basin Branch. It is a low elevation trail (around 1200') and is tucked in against the base of Hogback Ridge, so the wind is usually not too bad.
Parking is at the new Maple Springs Trailhead on Maple Springs Rd. Mount up and head down the quarter mile trail out of the trailhead. When you get to the first trail intersection take a left, away from the gate. Follow the trail blazes and you will find a sharp right turn, at a wildlife field, in about another half mile. Continue down the trail and you will find the first small stream crossing. After that one, in another quarter mile or so and you will cross Basin Branch. Across the branch for another three quarter miles, or so, and you will exit the wooded path into another wildlife clearing. You are now on the Polk County/Monroe County line. Take a right and you will follow the trail blazes along a US Forest Service system road eventually coming to another gate. You are now about 4 miles from your trailer. You can double back for an 8 mile round trip or take a right, up FS Rd. #44 for a couple of miles and use Hogback Ridge and Hogback Spur to make a 13 mile full loop. Warning: the cold weather is much worse on Hogback Ridge summit.
Tinker Branch gated 2005 Linda Norton Feb 2010
Disclaimer: This trail could involve riding along pavement, riding by the shooting range (not a good idea for Arabians) and should probably be done during the week, not weekends and not during the summer. Get out your Trails Illustrated map and follow along.
This trail is another option for people wanting to ride in the Lost Corral area off Hwy 411, between Benton and Etowah, TN..--- I have noticed people parking at Lost Corral and riding south, 3 or 4 miles, on the gravel road (FS 27), crossing the train tracks and going to gated road 2005 (on left) Lower Chestnut Road does connect but the map does not show the complete connection---horseback riders ride this gated road and go right at the intersection with another gated road 11272, (which has the posts but no gate), and then head south until you come to the other end of 2005 and another gate. To get around this gate go up the hill to your right and around the campsite and come out on FS 2005 B (Tinker Branch Rd.)---go right (or west) for about 1/2 mile and you will come back out on FS 27---turn right (west) and return coming back past the shooting range and where you originally went in around the gate on 2005-:-:-:-:-Another Option---instead of parking at Lost Corral trailer on down to 2005 and park across the street from the gate next to the camping spaces or drive past the shooting range and park where Tinker Branch Rd. (2005 B) turns left.---From here I ride to where 11272 intersected 2005 and I ride out that road to what appears to be the end (this road has several bird houses on it)----go around the embankment to the left and you can see where horses have used this old logging road, there are several blow downs and intersections coming in from the right but always keep left (we rode the ones to the right and they all came to dead ends) ---this part of the trail is probably a mile and you will come down a hill and ford Ellis Branch and go around a gate and come out on FS 44 (or 297 on the older maps). From here you can turn left (north) go around the next bend and Tazz's new trail, Basin Branch, 2372, will come in behind a gate on your right.note 2372 and 2372-1 do connect but again this is not shown on the map-----If you don't do that trail you can continue north on FS 44 for 1.5 miles and come to the other end of Coffee Branch trail (this is the trail most people ride out of Lost Corral, it is where the wilderness trail,104, and the jeep trail, 105, intersect at Iron Gap).---OR, go 1.5 miles further north on FS 44 and turn right on Hogback Ridge trail (126), ride it down to where it intersects Hogback Spur (127) turn right and ride Hogback spur out to FS 44 again, turn right on FS 44 and ride the road down to the 2nd gated road coming in from your right, this is the other end of Basin Branch trail, 2372---we ride Basin Branch trail about 3.5 miles back to FS 44 again---turn left and return the way we came. Guestimate on the second loop is 18 miles. I know this is all about as clear as mud so if you need clarification email me at LRN8554@aol.com or call me at 423-336-8112. Linda Norton
Big Cove Branch Road Aug 2007 Tazz Reid
Our trail of the month for August is actually a maintained road, but don’t let that fool you. North River is a beautiful slice of country, and part of this trail is over 4000 feet, so it is a good place to ride in the hot season. It is also very easy access for larger trailers. Traveling from Tellico Plains, on the Cherohala Skyway, enter into North Carolina. Just after you cross the bridge at Stratton Meadows, there is a gravel road on your left. Turn here and you can park right under the bridge. Ride your horse down the main North River Road (there is very little traffic) for about a mile and take the first gated road to your left. This is Sycamore Branch Road. Then ride behind the first gate on your right. Now you are on Big Cove Branch Road. It is about 10 miles long. It eventually will come out on the North River to Green Cove shortcut road. You can make about a 20 mile loop by returning to your trailer on North River Road. Near the bottom of the trail, alongside North River Road, is a horse camp with hitching posts and a porta-potty.
Huckleberry Bald Aug 2011 Linda Norton
(This is the Nantahala NF) Camping near the Cherohala Sykway and Huckleberry Knob) To beat the heat a couple of weeks ago we decided to go the mountains and stay up high. Ever since we started riding to Bob’s Bald I’ve been wanting to explore the area between NC FS road 81 and the Skyway and try and find a way to get up to Huckleberry and Little Huckleberry Knob. We got off the Skyway coming from Tellico at the bridge for N. River Road and instead of going back under the Skyway we went right on FS 81. I was a little worried about their “passenger cars beware” sign but the road was good. We drove down about 2 miles, passing the road to Bob’s Bald on the left and took the first right, FS 81-C. This road is about 1 mile and dead ends. We went about halfway down and just camped (out of the horse railer) beside the road right where it crosses Santeetlah Creek. There was a trail to the water there, too steep for the horses, but we could bring buckets up to them. There was a small field up at the dead end where you could also camp. This was 3500 feet elevation so it never got above 80 and we actually needed blankets at night, yeah! I’m dying to find out from some of the locals if this was the way the wagon train went that I went on as a kid, some nearly 50 years ago. We rode out from the gates at the dead end out to an area known as Doc Stewart Ridge. Nice grassy roads and cool. We also could have gone straight and stayed on the old FS 81-C which ran along Santeetlah Creek and goes up to Hooper Bald but is blocked by the Skyway but the bridge was out so we are saving that for another time. The first day we took all forks going to the right and finally dead ended somewhere right below Little Huckleberry. The next day I took my GPS and when we got below the knob it showed an old trail going up to Little Huckleberry. It said 4/10 of a mile but that was straight up so we started zigzagging towards the top, we never saw any sign of an old trail but did reach the top after a very steep climb and came out on Little Huckleberry Knob at about 5300 feet. The bald there is being allowed to grow up but you could clearly see Huckleberry and Hooper Balds to our southwest and I knew where the old trail off Little Huckleberry was that connects to Huckleberry. However I probably never would have found it except someone is trying to save that trail and had flagged it. We cleared on our way over to Huckleberry and then again on our way back making it a whole lot better. It is a shame to lose those old trails. We popped out on the west side of Huckleberry to quite a few hikers who had walked up from the Cherohala Skyway and at the grave on that bald someone had left a canister with flagging tape probably wanting people to use the trail between the balds and keep it marked. The views up there were breath taking. Next time I’m going to cross the Skyway and ride the road that cuts in right below Hooper Bald and goes into the Squally Creek area.