Etowah Hiking Trails

The Etowah Hiking Trails trail system was conceived at the time of the American Bicentennial, when local authorities expressed an interest in restoring the Trace trail, the road that was integral to linking local communities to one another.  Under the leadership of Dan Owen, Boy Scout Troop 241 undertook the task of restoring the road as a woodland trail.  The trail proved so popular the Boy Scouts later added other trails, eventually  leading to the trail system that exists today.

The Etowah Hiking Trails trail system is comprised of six marked trails, varying in length from one to four miles.  Several unmarked trails also exist which, although unmarked, are easy to follow.

Note:  Individual trail maps courtesy of OpenStreetMaps (OpenStreetMap).

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White Trail

The White Trail roughly follows the path of the old Trace road.  Two trailheads exist:

  • The primary trailhead sits just beyond the back, right-hand corner of the Boling Park parking lot (Figure W1).  The trailhead is about 20 m beyond the iron gate.

  • A secondary trailhead is located at the rear of the Boling Park multi-use path (Figure W2). The multi-use path is  a one mile gravel loop, A secondary, approximately quarter-mile loop begins at the half-mile mark of the gravel loop.  The secondary trailhead for the White trail sits at the rear of the second Boling Park loop.

The White Trail, from beginning to end, is four miles long.  The trail, at some point, connects with every other trail in the Trace.  Highlights and connection points include (With distances measured from the primary trailhead):

  • 0.60 - the Frank Stone memorial foot bridge

  • 0.61 - intersection with the Yellow trail

  • 1.00 - intersection with the Orange trail

  • 1.50 - intersectino with the Purple trail

  • 1.50 - 1.70 - path of old Trace road can be seen

  • 1.75 - trails takes a hard left

  • 1.85 - joins the Green trail

  • 2.00 - New Hightower Church

  • 2.10 - splits right from the Green trail (which continues straight)

  • 2.50 - intersection with the Blue trail

  • 2.70 - passes an old homestead (small meadow to the left)

  • 3.70 - trail begins a short walk through clear-cut forest at Huckleberry Hill

  • 3.80 - trail returns to the woods

  • 4.00 - end of trail, footbridge at Jug Creek

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Figure W1. Main White Trail Trailhead

Figure W2. Secondary White Trail Trailhead

 

Green Trail

The Green trail is an approximately two mile loop that begins and ends at the New Hightower Church.  The trail has entry points from the Blue and White trails, however, so can be easily accessed by users who begin their travels at Boling Park.

The loop begins - on both sides - in an area recently dubbed "no-man's land" because of the complete removal of all vegetation by the clear cut operations.  Because the Green initially shares the trail with the White, the trailhead is marked with a post that features blazes for both trails.  If the trail is followed counter-clockwise from the church the following features will be passed at the mileages below:

  • 0.10 - White trail splits with the Green (White trail goes right)

  • 0.24 - intersection with the Blue trail

  • 0.24 - begin fern valley, one of the prettiest spots in the Trace

  • 0.47 - leave fern valley

  • 0.72 - unmarked trail exits to right (under construction)

  • 0.72 - enter clear cut

  • 0.92 - leave clear cut, return to forest

  • 1.01 - cross intermittent creek

  • 1.31 - cross muddy creek

  • 1.65 - cross foot bridge over intermittent creek

  • 1.67 - intersection with unmarked trail (under construction)

  • 1.72 - intersected and joined by the White trail

  • 1.84 - return to clear cut

  • 1.96 - trail end - New Hightower Church

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Figure G2. Green-White Split

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Figure G3. Green-White Rejoin

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Yellow Trail

The Yellow trail is an approximately mile-long connector trail that begins at the White trail, and concludes at its intersection with the Purple trail.  The Yellow trail begins a short distance after crossing the Frank Stone bridge.  The trail passes through two hollows before eventually taking an uphill turn away from the creek.  Remnants of at least one old moonshiner's still can be found on the trail.  As you hike the trail, imagine the prosperous industry that once populated the banks of the creek, the mysterious wood and alcohol smells that permeated the hollows, and the trepidation of any law enforcement officer who was charged with finding and destroying any operable stills in the area.

  • 0.25 - remnants of an old still

  • 0.30 - trail skirts clear cut forest

  • 0.55 - end of clear cut

  • 0.70 - cross small footbridge

  • 0.95 - ends at Purple trail

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Figure Y1. Yellow Trail Trailhead

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Orange Trail

The Orange trail is a point-to-point trail that can be accessed from its trailhead at its intersection with the White trail, or from a trailhead at New Hightower Church.  At one time the second longest trail in the Trace, long sections of the Orange trail were destroyed by the clear cut logging operations.  Efforts to restore the trail are ongoing. 

 

The Orange trail access point from the White trail is one mile from the primary White trail trailhead.  A beautiful, small, cascading waterfall marks the beginning of the trail.  The first three-tenths of a mile the trail courses through an area devastated by a tornado in 2011.  A grove of Big Leaf Magnolias has sprung up amongst the decaying deadfalls.

 

From its beginning, the trail follows a winding, cascading creek, then works its way across a clear cut forest, before crossing Old Shoal Creek Road.  After crossing the road the trail continues through the clear cut before finally re-entering the woods, eventually following another tumbling stream through a quiet, serene draw.  Ultimately, the trail diverges, with the left option taking you to New Hightower Church, and the right leading you to the highest hill on the Trace.  (It is the right fork of the trail that's suffered the most damage.  Unfortunately, the trail ends abruptly in a massive clear cut area before it reaches the hill.   A little bushwhacking will take you to the hilltop.  Long-term plans include restoring the trail to the top of the hill and, ultimately, to Huckleberry Hill.)

  • 0.15 - duck

  • 0.20 - foot bridge

  • 0.25 - foot bridge

  • 0.30 - intersection with the Purple trail

  • 0.33 - 0.48 - five creek crossings in 0.15 mile

  • 0.53 - begin climb out of draw

  • 0.69 - cross Old Shoal Creek Road

  • 0.75 - 90 degree left turn

  • 0.84 - foot bridge

  • 0.87 - foot bridge

  • 0.93 - twin foot bridges

  • 0.97 - creek crossing

  • 1.02 - foot bridge

  • 1.05 - foot bridge

  • 1.08 - trail forks

    •  left fork to New Hightower Church

    • right fork ends in clear cut short of high hill

  • 1.11 - left fork - duck

  • 1.14 - left fork - foot bridge

  • 1.33 - left fork ends at New Hightower Church

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Figure O2. Cascade at Trailhead

Figure O1. Orange Trail Trailhead

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Purple Trail

The Purple trail is an approximately 1.50 mile connector trail that begins at the White trail, and concludes at an intersection with the Yellow trail.  The Purple trail begins 0.7 miles after crossing the Frank Stone bridge (1.5 miles from the primary White trail trailhead).

At its ends the Purple trail courses through mature hardwood forests.  Unfortunately, the inner mile of the trail was essentially destroyed by recent clear cut operations.  As a result, much of the inner mile follows recently created logging roads, with little or no shade.  Work is underway to re-route the logging road portions of the trail into nearby woods.  The half-mile long upper Purple reroute was completed in June, 2020.  The reroute  follows a small creek that meanders at the edge of the clear cut.  The upper reroute begins 0.14 miles from Purple's intersection with Yellow, and rejoins the original trail 0.53 miles later.

Beginning at the trailhead at the White trail:

  • 0.20 - remnants of old still

  • 0.25 - clear cut begins

  • 0.45 - trail takes hard right and starts downhill

  • 0.50 - intersection with Orange trail

  • 0.60 - trail reaches logging road, turns right, following logging road

  • 0.65 - upper Purple reroute provides alternate route to Yellow

  • 1.25 - original trail turns left off logging road, makes a short uphill climb

  • 1.30 - trail re-enters forest

  • 1.36 - upper Purple reroute rejoins original trail.

  • 1.50 - trail end at Yellow trail

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Figure P1. Upper Purple Reroute Trailhead

Upper Purple Reroute

0.06 - First of five creek crossings

0.10 - Skirt edge of clear cut for next quarter mile

0.24 - Creek crossing, future bridge site

0.33 - Last creek crossing

0.40 - Leave creek, enter woods

0.53 - Rejoin original trail

 

Unmarked Trails (and logging roads)

Why Unmarked Trails?

The US Army  Corps of Engineers controls the floodplain on either side of the Etowah River.  The Corps strictly regulates any enhancements made to the land they control.  The Corps forbids creation of blazed trails, construction of foot bridges, and posting of signage.  The Corps does permit the construction of unmarked trails, however.  As a result, a few unmarked trails, some of which are old logging roads, exist on the Trace.  Feel free to explore them, but always be aware of your surroundings.  People do get lost in the woods. 

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Figure U1. Wetland Road in Spring

Figure W1. Wetland area, early Spring