Jack’s River Fields campground is one of north Georgia’s best kept secrets. It’s located in the Cohutta Wilderness Management Area outside the town of Blue Ridge.
It’s often confused with the Jack’s River area, which is also a great spot, but Jack’s River Fields is open to equestrian campers and has special facilities for the horses. It’s maintained by the Back Country Horsemen of North Georgia, and they do a great job keeping it clean and maintained.
The campground has two distinct areas- one for car campers and one for horse campers. The car camping area is pretty standard. You’ll have your gravel pad for your tent, a spot to park, a fire ring, picnic table and metal pole to hang your lantern or trash bag. There is also a centrally located pit toilet, but no showers. There is no pump for drinking water, so bring plenty of your own. One of the best parts of the campground is the creek that runs along the edge of the camping area. It’s not deep enough to do much swimming or fishing, but you can wade around, get your feet wet, and cool off in the summer. You can also hear it bubbling and rushing at night while you’re lying in your tent.
To get to the horse area, you’ll cross over the creek at a shallow spot, ankle deep at best, and into a parking area for horse trailers next to a big field (hence the name). The parking area is easy to turn around in, even if you have a big rig. That’s always a plus for me. I hate backing up a horse trailer!
Next to the field there is an area with two corrals, about the size of a stall, and multiple poles for high lining. This is where the horses sleep, either in the corrals or tied to a highline. You’ll be able to set up your tent in the field and sleep with your horses in view. I strongly prefer this to other horse campgrounds where you’re required to put your horse in a stall and camp somewhere else. Half the fun for me is waking up and peeking out the tent door at my pony!
There are several grassy areas where you can hand graze your horse as well. We spent a lot of time hand grazing the horses and relaxing with them while they munched on grass.
An interesting side note- last time we were there, we saw areas of the field that had been churned up. We couldn’t figure out what had torn up the grass. It didn’t look like tire tracks or machinery, and it wasn’t in any sort of logical arrangement. On the first night of camping, I woke up in my tent to the sound of something running past. It sounded like a herd of something, moving quickly but not very large. Turns out there are wild hogs around the area that tear up the grass sometimes with their rooting. That’s what I heard outside the tent. The horses surprisingly weren’t bothered by them in the slightest. Maybe that’s because they were tired from a long trailer ride and then a 5 mile trail ride.
JRF is located near three fantastic trails- the Pinhoti, South Fork and Benton Mackaye. From the campground you enter the trailhead onto the South Fork Trail. Just a couple miles in, it hits the northern terminus of the Pinhoti and the two trails become one as they head south. You’ll also cross the Benton Mackaye, where you can turn and do some good uphill hiking. The Benton Mackaye eventually hooks up with the AT, but that would be a multi-day backpacking trip.
Best of all, there are two gorgeous waterfalls within a half mile hike of the campground. We played in the pools at the base of the waterfalls and, even though the water was icy, the scenery makes it all worth it to get in and splash around.
My favorite part of JRF is its seclusion. It’s way the heck out in the middle of nowhere. There’s hardly ever anyone there, and when it gets dark, it’s DARK. You can do some serious star gazing from the field where you’ll pitch your tent. There’s no ambient light to drown out the stars and you’ll get the feeling that you’re really out there in the wilderness.
To summarize, I’ll give you the positives and negatives so you can decide if JRF fits your needs.
- Easy access to miles of beautiful trails for hiking and horseback riding
- Very short hike to two different waterfalls
- Creek running through the campsite
- Pit toilet so you don’t have to poop in the woods
- Excellent facilities for the horses- highlines and corrals
- It’s a long drive up a mountain to the campground.
- No water, so you have to bring your own.
- None of the amenities of a big campground like showers, camp store, playground, etc… If you’re used to state parks, this isn’t that.
Jack’s River Fields is probably my favorite place to camp in north Georgia, and I’ve done quite a bit of camping there. When I camp, I want to get away from other people and feel like I’m really in the wilderness. I can get that feeling at JRF, and that’s why I go back.