The second ford of the Conasauga River at the 7.5-mile mark is not recommended in high water (after a recent rain). I rode this on a relatively low flow day (200 cfs measured at USGS Gauge 2384500 downstream in Eton, GA: waterdata.usgs.gov/usa/nwis…
), and the river was 2.5-3 ft deep. The river bed is slick and irregular, so it would be easy to get knocked down in a strong current.
This trail doesn't get that much traffic (and probably gets more equestrian than bike traffic). Expect some mucked up areas near the rivers from horses and possibly downed trees along the trails.
The Iron Mountain Trail was built with mountain biking in mind in the late 90's by SORBA as one of the earlier partnerships with USFS. It makes a great part of the Iron Mountain Loop
with the Conasauga Trail (#61)
. Most of the trail is beneath heavy forest canopy and there are two fords of the Conasauga River (the second should not be attempted in high water) that make this a refreshing trail on a hot day. It's a shame that it probably gets more equestrian use now than bikers.
The trail starts near the USFS Cottonwood Patch Campground. There is a free day use parking area just outside the campground.
The singletrack starts at the back of the campground. After a third of a mile paralleling the Conasauga, you'll ford the river for the first time. This ford isn't very deep and you might survive with dry feet. The exit on the other side is a little steep and can be hard to see, but there is a good trail on the other side. Shortly after the ford, you'll cross through a wildlife clearing.
This begins a 3.5-mile section of singletrack. The singletrack is built mostly along old road bed, but the roads haven't been in use for some time, and the singletrack can be narrow in places. The trail generally climbs for the first two miles, and a couple of the short climbs are filled with loose 2-4 inch rocks, but it is all rideable.
At the two-mile mark, you begin a fun singletrack descent before climbing up to 1,500 ft at a three-way road intersection. Left on Doogan Tower Road (FS 1)
offers a bail option back to Old Hwy 2 (FS 16)
, which loops you back to the start. Straight on Doogan Tower Road (FS 1)
takes you up to a former fire tower, although sadly the view has become overgrown. There is a large wooden post that directs the Iron Mountain Trail to the right past a gate onto Doogan Mountain Branch Road (FS 1A).
About a half mile into this road section, you'll have to bear right at a road intersection and then ignore an unnamed trail with red blazes to the left. The trail follows this road until its terminus at an overlook offering views of the Cohuttas to the east.
After the overlook, another singletrack section takes you steeply down to the Conasauga. There are a mess of interconnected trails along the river, so the MTB Project mobile app
will be helpful in locating the ford. Ford the river (see Need to Know info) and then follow an easy flat singletrack along the opposite bank which eventually becomes the Conasauga Trail (#61)