The 7.8 mile 302-301-401 West Loop trail begins at the Cool Springs Overlook parking lot. The trail starts at Cool Springs Overlook which gives you a gorgeous view to the east of the State Park into the valley below. This trail is shaped like a convoluted lollipop. With a stem or spur(2.7 miles) and a loop(2.4 miles) attached on the end.
The trail descends over 1,000 sq.ft. with the first 3.6 miles descending into the mid-contour of the mountain swinging from the east of the mountain to the west side of the mountain. The reason it is named the West Loop. The loop is located on the west side of the mountain. 500 sq.ft. of the descent is in the first 0.8 miles of the trail.
Starting at 2,630 sq.ft. the trail leaves the Overlook and in 0.1 mile takes a right onto 302 trail beginning a winding descent on a very rocky trail. This section has some nice views in the Winter. At mile 0.6 a small creek runs under the trail. The descent is continual until arriving at Waystation #4 at the 0.8 mile mark and 2,115 sq.ft. The rocky section is over.
The trail takes a left onto 301 trail and continues north for the next 0.9 miles following a wide path through the Pine Forest while slightly losing elevation. This section along with the 401 section are my favorite parts of the trail. Very idyllic. At mile 1 a cool rock formation will be on the left. At mile 1.7 the trail arrives at Waystation #3 and 1,826 sq.ft.
Take a left onto 301/401 trail. 301/401 share the same treadway for the next mile. The image above top right is the trail sign you will see. The trail begins its northern section following the midline of Fort Mountain to the west for the next 0.8 miles. Around mile 2 valley views to the north become possible. At mile 2.36 on the left is the biggest solid rock I've ever seen. An old mine according to the maps.
The trail passes the terminus for 407 trail at mile 2.5 on the left. 407 trail is a 4 mile trail the follows the contour of Fort Mountain going north to south and following below the rock formations that are visible from the valley in Chatsworth, GA. Immediately after passing the 407 trail the 201 campground will be on your right. At the 2.52-mile point and 1,826 sq.ft.
The 201 campground is a wonderful place to take a break. There are picnic tables located there and views of the Cohutta Wilderness to the North. In the 1970s, this use to be a helicopter pad for tourists. I remember seeing the helicopters as a kid. The helicopters looked like those death trap ones you see occassionally crashing at a tourist spot. I've never seen anyone at the picnic grounds. And I've taken many lunch breaks here. Hard to get too so it rules out the lazy people.
After leaving the campgrounds the trail begins descending slightly passing the 401 trail terminus on the right at mile 2.7. Now the loop section of the trail begins. This terminus point for 401 is the exit point for the loop on the way back.
The trail continues on the 301 Trail of the loop section(2.4 miles) for the next 0.7 miles descending slightly north to south on the west side of the mountain. It follows a wide roadbed with views of the valley to the west of Chatsworth, GA. The trail arrives at Waystation #2 at the 3.4 mile mark at 1,611 sq.ft.
Important! Take the service road on the right at Waystation #2. Do not continue on the 301 Trail. For the next 0.2 miles follow the service road until you see the 401 Trail terminus on your right at mile 3.6. Going back into the forest. This is near the low elevation point of the trail. Approximately 1,540 sq.ft.
Now begins the 401 Trail section of the loop. A very pretty and peaceful walk through the woods. This is a duel use trail so if you see horseback riders give them the right away. The trail winds its way south to north slightly below and to the west of the 301 trail. 401 Trail is the most westernly trail in the State Park.
The trail winds back and gives you a nice view of Fort Mountain peak at the 4.2 mile mark. Cool Springs Overlook is slightly below Fort Mountain peak on the east side. There is your ascent going forward. The 1100 sq.ft. have to be climbed eventually to get back to the parking lot.
At the 4.5 mile mark, the trail passes a small creek and begins gradually ascending at the 4.6-mile mark. The trail arrives at the second 404 Trail terminus right before mile 5. The next 0.2 miles is a very STEEP climb. It ascends over 200 sq.ft. in this short distance. A real gut buster. Terrific workout. And wonderful views to the east into the valley. At the end of this ascent the trail exits at the 401 terminus that was passed earlier. Arriving at the 5.1-mile mark which is the end of the loop section.
This 200 sq.ft. climb along with the 500 sq.ft. descent in the beginning 0.8 miles represents 700 sq.ft. of the elevation change of the trail. The other 400 sq.ft. ascent in elevation is easy due to it being so gradual.
Take a left onto the 301 Trail and follow the spur on the out & back part of the trail to get to your vehicle at the Cool Springs parking lot. The last 0.8 miles is an ascent of 500 sq.ft. but by then your endorphins have kicked in which makes it more enjoyable.
|302-301-401 West Loop Trail|
|Measurement Tool:||eTrex Garmin 10|
|Access:||Cool Spring Overlook Trailhead|
|Hiking:||Moderate to Strenuous|
|Cool Springs Overhead Trailhead:||2,630 feet|
|Low Elevation:||1,528 feet|
|Features:||Valley views, Tranquil forests, Solitude|
|Note for GPS accuracy:||You may get different|
|mileage results depending|
|on GPS processing software|