After a long day of rafting on the Ocoee River, what better way to wind down than hiking to one of the areas famous waterfalls, taking a dip in a mountaintop lake and grilling some protein of your choosing at a nearby grill? All this can be accomplished on Chillhowee Mountain. Chillhowee Mountain is one of the larger mountains in the Ocoee River Basin and is easily accessible by vehicle by driving up Forest Road 77. This road is approximately 10 miles West of Ocoee Adventure Center off Highway 64. On the way up make sure you stop at the 3 lookouts, the largest of them has amazing views of the other mountains in the region and looks directly down into Parksville Lake. It is a great area for landscape photography.
At the top of the Campground you will find tent sites, grills, picnic tables, RV hookups, restrooms with showers, numerous hiking/biking trails all wrapping around a mountaintop lake called McCamy Lake. The lake has a sand beach and is great for lounging, swimming, and getting some sun. The recreation center is open to use for the public during the day and camping can be reserved online.
From the lake area you can take a hike Benton Falls trailhead. This trail is a 1.6 mile trail to Benton Falls, which is one of the areas most easily accessible waterfalls. If you want to continue on you can transition to Clemmer trail then to Scenic Spur to catch a glimpse of rainbow falls, along with multiple smaller creeks and waterfalls on the way. Be warned, this turns into about a 14 mile round trip hike if you start at McCamy Lake. If you choose to take a day to make this hike, please plan accordingly. This is personally one of my favorite side activities to spend a day when we are unable to go rafting.
Every time I hike this trail I end up having a new experience with various forms of wildlife. The most interesting was a black bear encounter. If this happens to you, please follow bear safety protocols.
If you do decide to make Chilhowee a stopping point during your excursion to the Ocoee River, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Please feel free to reach out to any of our staff at Ocoee Adventure Center for any additional info or recommendations.