The Wildcat Area is a Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) property in Dawson County. The Wildcat area is approximately 4,500 acres. This area has been and will continue to be primarily used for hunting and fishing. In 2005, the WRD has begun opening the area to passive recreation to including hiking and nature studies. There are numerous trails throughout the area. The WRD determines which of these trails will be opened to hiking, and as their partner, the Mountain Stewards perform the work to open and maintain the trails for recreational use.
NOTE: All trails in the Wildcat Section are on DNR property. However, some of these trails are connected to trails that lead to private property. All trails are marked with signage to make it easy to stay on the DNR trail. Anyone using the DNR property is cautioned to stay off of private property which is trespassing and punishable under DNR or local law.
Some of the trails are wilderness trails. Do not attempt to hike them unless you are very experienced at hiking in a wilderness. Wilderness trails are not suitable for children or casual hikers.
NOTE: If you want this page as hard copy to take with you on your hike, click here for a printable Adobe Acrobat [pdf] file [includes an annotated topographic trail map].
THE EASTERN WILDCAT TRAILS
The Eastern Section of the Wildcat Area begins at the lowest elevation of the Dawson Forest at about 1,500 feet. The eastern area of the Wildcat Section of the Dawson Forest consists of foothills and coves with rivers and creeks cutting through to drain the Wildcat watershed. This area has been somewhat inaccessible due to a lack of bridges crossing over the streams. That has now been corrected with two footbridges crossing over the Amicalola River providing access to the forested area. The lower areas are mostly sandy soil with a mix of rich organic soils. There are also large sections of clay soils in the foothills of the area
The cove areas at the lower elevations are very different ecologically from the higher elevations. These areas are generally wetlands or creek flats with an abundance of rhododendron, mountain laurel, hemlock trees, and many other flora species. Along the rivers and creeks, the trails cross many bog areas from contact springs.
The Wildcat Creek connecting to the Huckleberry, Fall and Rocky Ford Creeks drain the entire Wildcat Section of the Dawson Forest. This creek joins the Amicalola River in the Wildcat Campground at the site of one of the bridges crossing the Amicalola River.
Waterfalls at the blue arrows
ACCESS TO THE AREA
The entrance to the Eastern Trails is located off of Steve Tate Road in Dawson County on Wildcat Campground Road. The Wildcat Campground Road is located just north of Pleasant Union Baptist Church. Follow the gravel road for approximately 0.8 miles to the Amicalola River and the campground. There is a kiosk sign located in the campground with information about the trails.
There are three trails on the eastern side of the Wildcat area. These trails are rated as easy to low moderate. These trails connect with the trails on the western side of the Wildcat Section of the Dawson Forest.
WILDCAT CREEK TRAIL (GREEN) 1.5 miles
The Wildcat Creek Trail is 1.5 miles long, one way. This trail begins at the most western campsite in the campground and heads north for about 0.1 mile where it crosses over the Wildcat Bridge and then begins its westerly direction. The trail follows the Wildcat Creek for the majority of the trail.
The trail, for the most part, is located on the flat part of the embankment of the Wildcat Creek. Where the foothill ridges come down to meet the creek, the trail cuts across the ridges with a slight uphill climb before returning to the creek. The majority of this trail is on flat terrain making it one of the easier hiking trails.
After each foothill ridge section, the trail drops down into a cove area of hemlocks, rhododendrons, mountain laurel, and many other flora species. Throughout the trail, the Wildcat Creek flows east cascading over small rock ledges and a rocky bottom causing a soothing sound that makes the hike a peaceful experience.
At the 1.2 mile marker, the trail passes by a sharp rock escarpment that continuously weeps ground water creating a flora garden of mosses, wildflowers, ferns, and other flora species.
At the 1.4 mile marker, the trail junctions with an old roadbed and where the new Wildcat Creek footbridge is located. At this location, the hiker can cross over the footbridge to join the Turner Trail and hike 1.6 miles back to the campground completing a 3.0-mile nature hike in the Wildcat Creek watershed.
The Wildcat Creek Trail continues on from the footbridge site going uphill on a switchback trail until it joins an old logging road. The trail now follows along the hillside above Wildcat Creek for about ½ mile where the trail junctions with the Fall Creek Trail just above a rocky ford crossing site on the Wildcat Creek.
After joining the Fall Creek Trail, the hiker can cross over the Wildcat Creek ford using the ropes and head west toward Monument Road that is about 3.0 miles up a steep incline.
TURNER TRAIL (ORANGE) 1.7 MILES
The Turner Trail begins at the point where the Turner Bridge crosses over the Amicalola River. This is located just to the east of Wildcat Campground Road where it crosses over the river. This trail is 1.7 miles one way and it ends at the Wildcat Creek. Although the Wildcat Creek Trail is just across the creek, there is currently no bridge to cross over the creek. The creek is about 1-2 feet deep here with a sandy bottom should you wish to cross over the Wildcat Creek Trail to head back to the campground.
After crossing over the Turner Bridge, the trail bears off to the right to connect with the old roadbed. Follow the road a distance of 0.1 mile where the trail turns right and heads uphill. The trail that goes due south is currently closed.
After making the turn, the trail ascends approximately 170 feet of elevation where another trail joins the Turner Trail from the left at the 0.5 mile marker. This trail is heads toward Big Canoe and is currently closed except to Big Canoe residents. Past the trail junction, the trail begins a descent into the Wildcat creek area. In another 0.2 miles another trail junctions with the Turner Trail again from the left. This trail is also closed.
From the trail junction the trail continues to descend another 100 feet of elevation and follows the valley of the Wildcat Creek. At 1.2 miles along the trail, the Turner Trail begins to parallel the Wildcat Creek Trail which is several hundred feet to the right of the Turner Trail along the Wildcat Creek.
At the 1.3 mile marker, the Rocky Ford Trail junctions with the Turner Trail. The Rocky Ford Trail heads west toward Monument Road and is a strenuous trail. Continuing north on the Turner Trail for another 0.3 miles, the trail junctions with the Wildcat Creek and the Wildcat Creek Trail after crossing over the footbridge. The hiker can now follow the Wildcat Creek Trail back to the campground.
WINDY RIDGE TRAIL (AQUA) 1.7 MILES
The Windy Ridge Trail starts at the 1.0-mile point on the Turner Trail from the Wildcat Campground. The trail turns off to the left and heads south/southwest up through a 3rd-order creek ravine. After 0.2 mile, the trail begins a steep incline in a southwest direction winding through a ravine. The trail reaches the top of a high knoll (elevation 2.450 ft) in about 0.4 miles from the start of the steep incline, a total distance from 0.6 miles from the Turner Trail.
At the top of the knoll, you reach an old roadbed that runs in a north/south direction. The south direction goes onto private land and the hiker is cautioned to not head in that direction.
The trail now turns right and follows the old roadbed to the north. The trail goes downhill for about 0.75 miles where it joins the Rocky Ford Trail near the Rocky Ford Waterfall.
The Rocky Ford Creek Waterfall is located off of the Rocky Ford Trail about 25 ft to the east from the junction of the Windy Ridge and Rocky Ford Trails.
The hiker can continue on the Rocky Ford Trail to the right for 0.35 miles where you will join the Turner Trail. Turning right, the hiker can head back to the Wildcat Campground, a distance of 1.3 miles. Total round trip for hiking the Turner Trail to the Windy Ridge Trail to the Rocky Ford Trail and back to the campground is 4.0 miles.