March 2022 Opening for the New 4.2-Mile Chicopee Backcountry Trail
Elachee asked for community input and you answered! Now, the first step in a multi-phase, enhanced visitor experience is nearly ready..
Outside the 8-mile pedestrian hiking trail system in the Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve lies untouched acreage, land that people have not traveled for decades. Thanks to devoted volunteers and Elachee staff, hikers will soon be able to access and explore the Chicopee Woods’ backcountry.
Elachee’s Volunteer Trail Crew has been hard at work carving a passage through the ‘backcountry’ area of this pristine 1,440-acre woodland, creating a new 4.22-mile trail that ties to existing hiking trails. This 50-percent addition to the Chicopee Woods Hiking Trail system takes it from eight miles to just over 12.
The Chicopee Backcountry Trail is slated to open for public access on March 5, 2022. Adventure and challenge describe this newest hiking trail. It comes with a warning, though: this trail is not for the faint of heart or unsteady of foot! To orient hikers to the trail’s challenging terrain, Trail Crew members and Elachee staff will host guided hikes on opening day.
“The Chicopee Backcountry Trail will be an ideal training ground for backwoods hiking, for those preparing to hike the Appalachian Trail and/or other physically demanding terrains,” shares Kristin Love, Director of Natural Resources and Conservation at Elachee. “This ‘difficult terrain’ training option is one of the closest to Atlanta other than driving to Dahlonega or Helen.”
The Trail Crew extensively explored the Chicopee Woods backcountry before determining the path the trail would take through the Nature Preserve. This skilled and dedicated crew has logged scores of volunteer hours choosing where to flag, then reflag, only to change directions and reflag again. Visiting hikers will benefit from the Trail Crew’s adventures.
During this arduous project, the Trail Crew installed stairs, cleared paths by blowing leaves, brush eating, swing blading, lopping, blazing – and will lop even more briar patches before this initial job is done. In spite of their exhaustion, these intrepid and VERY fit Elachee faithful are in high spirits as the finish line draws near.
To a person, this monumental project has been a labor of love. It goes even further in that it is also bringing to fruition the next iteration in what has been a long-held vision for this land.
The Trail Crew’s efforts are guided by the original intent of how this protected land (land donated by the Johnson & Johnson Company) would be used, as envisioned by General Robert Wood Johnson II. “The express purpose of the gift [land] was to allow the people of Hall County to have park and recreational lands available to them in a quantity that would meet present and future needs.”
Come Prepared before Venturing onto this Tough Trail
Backcountry hikers may confidently travel the Chicopee Backcountry Trail, guided by marked blazes. Steep ridges are outlined with necessary switchbacks, to prevent erosion and soil runoff into the Oconee Watershed. Creek crossings, accomplished only by leapfrogging over placed rocks and logs, will undoubtedly end in a few wet pant legs.
If you are looking for a challenge and want to see and experience what so few have been able to for almost 100 years, reserve your spot for the introductory guided hike along the Chicopee Backcountry Trail on Saturday, March 5, 2022. Visit www.elachee.org for hike details or click to register.
The Chicopee Woods Hiking Trails are open daily to the public during park hours, 7 a.m. to sunset. All vehicles are subject to a daily Chicopee Woods Area Park Commission parking fee.