The 301 Trail or Waystation trail since the trail passes all 5 waystation points located in the park. It is a 14.6 mile trail which consist of a spur trail from its trailhead of 1 mile and the loop section of 12.6 miles.
The 301/302/303 trailhead is located in the interior of the park at 2,779 feet. The loop section of the trail may be begun from the front parking lot immediately after the front entrance at 2,661 feet.
The trail described here will be the 12.6 mile loop section begun from the front parking lot going counterclockwise which is the best route in my opinion.
Due to the very unique eastern geographic section of trail following Mill Creek down a ravine all the way to Waystation #5. The rock formations are splendid especially during cooler weather. The trail offers better views going down looking at these formations than going up tired at the end of the trail hiking clockwise.
From the front parking lot hike pass the Guard Shack and go 0.1 - 0.2 miles before taking a right into the woods marked by the double white lines crossing the road marking the 301 trail. After a short distance the spur trail for 301 beginning from its Mountain Bike trailhead will come in from the left and merge with the loop section. Continue right onto the loop section.
The trail begins descending slightly for approximately 0.8 miles crossing an idyllic wooden bridge over Mill Creek at the end of mile 1. The trail takes a left onto the Gahuti Trail and shares the same treadway for the first and last time for approximately 0.1 - 0.2 miles. The Gahuti Trail is marked by orange blazes.
The trail comes to a second idyllic wooden bridge marked by orange blazes at the end of this short distance. The Gahuti Trail continues across the bridge and to the east. The 301 Trail goes to the right and begins its northern descent down the eastern ravine following Mill Creek.
Starting elevation at this point of the trail is 2,418 feet and this section of trail will continue until Waystation #5 which is the lowest elevation point on the trail at 1,532 feet. Approximately a 2 mile section.
This part of the trail is particularly nice. This section of the trail begins by crossing Mill Creek over a wooden bridge and following the creek adjacent on its left. The trail begins rising above the creek on its left side following the contours of a bluff for a distance before converging back to the creek on a switchback.
Mill Creek has impressive rock formations in many places and the further the trail descends the more rock formations you can see across the creek on the bluffs and to the left of the trail. Especially during Fall and Winter.
From Waystation #5 the trail shares the same treadway with 410 trail ascending up a wide roadbed to the north. After approximately 0.4 miles after ascending 200 feet the trail sign for 301 will be on the left. The trail detours from the wide roadbed and ascends up a trail framed by rocks on both sides in many parts of this section. The trail meanders to the left and then swings back right arriving at the high point of the lower section of the trail(below the ridge line) at Waystation #4 located at 1,982 sq.ft.
It will take until Waystation #1 and the steep incline of 301 Trail to the radio station on Cohutta Mountain until the trail surpasses this elevation. By then you will wish you were dead.
The next section of the trail was one of my favorites. I can't explain why, maybe the endorphins were kicking in by now. From Waystation #4 to Waystation #3 it is a one mile hike slowly descending through the forest on a wide trail arriving at Waystation #3 1,680 feet and the furthest northern point of the trail. Waystation #3 marks the approximate 5.3 mile mark for this loop section of the 301 Trail described on this page.
Now the trail starts toward the west following the northern mid-range contour of Fort Mountain traveling east to west on a wide trail and level hiking. Depending on the time of year the trail offers nice views into the rural valley below it. After a mile the trail passes the 407 Trail on the left and then immediately arrives at the 201 Campground(6.3 mile mark) represented by the image below on this page. The campground offers a great view of the Cohutta Wilderness and is a wonderful place to take a lunch break. In the 1970s, this was a helicopter landing pad for tourists.
From the 201 campground, the trail begins its western loop section. The next mile is on a wide roadbed slightly descending arriving at Waystation #2 around mile 7.3. The trail is clearly marked at this Waystation. The Forest Service Rd that veers to the right leads to the 401 Trail. 301 Trail continues straight and will follow the lower contour of Fort Mountain half-way between 401 Trail below it and 407 Trail above it.
It will continue on this fairly level hike on a wide roadbed crossing Rock Creek around the 8 mile mark and intersecting with the 401 Trail at a 4-way intersection marking mile 8.8. The 401 Trail now cuts above the 301 Trail for this last lower elevation section of the trail ending at Waystation #1.
The trail continues traveling south on its western section of the loop below 401 Trail and just right above the 400 Trail. The 400 Trail is the lowest elevation trail in the Fort Mountain State Park at 1,401 feet at its lowest point. The 301 Trail lowest elevation point is on this section at 1,483 feet coming near 400 Trail at this point.
The trail comes to Waystation #1 at the 9.8 mile mark near Fort Mountain Horse Campground. And boy are you in for a treat. The trail begins a 1 mile steep ascent up Cohutta Mountain gaining over a 1,000 feet in elevation ending near the Radio Tower. There are some wonderful views of Fort Mountain and the Valley to somewhat lessen the blow. But if you weren't in shape by now, you will be afterwards.
I personally took the coward way out and got off on the Gahuti Trail at mile 10.3(easy to miss) and hiked back to the lake and then followed the roads back to my car. I have hiked this section many times, just not as part of the entire 301 Trail. In fact, I'm not sure anybody has ever finish the 301 Trail from the official trailhead and back(includes spur and loop). Not for the faint of heart.
But let's say you do the impossible and are standing at the radio tower. Well, it's all gravy from here on out. The southern section of the loop which follows on top the ridge of Cohutta Mountain is a peaceful walk through the woods. Approximately, 1.8 miles and you will be back at your vehicle.
|Hiking:||Easy to Strenuous|
|301 Trailhead:||2,759 feet|
|Parking at Front Entrance/Office:||2,654 feet|
|Radio Tower:||2,743 feet|
|1st Waystation:||1,722 feet|
|2nd Waystation:||1,621 feet|
|3rd Waystation:||1,752 feet|
|4th Waystation:||2,014 feet|
|5th Waystation:||1,532 feet|
|Features:||Views into Valley, Rock Formations|
|Old Mines, Cove Forests|
|Measurement Notes:||You may get different|
|mileage results depending|
|on measurement device|