National Geographic Trails Illustrated Series
The forest service maps are still very useful. But the corresponding National Geographic Trails Illustrated Maps have improved on them in a few ways. For one thing, they name a lot of the local roads, which is a very helpful feature. For another, they provide additional information on the hiking trails, for instance by giving the mileage and rating the difficulty. I used to recommend that everyone carry the forest service maps, because they used to be the only ones that had the forest service road numbers. They are still very useful, but if you could only have one, I’d probably choose the National Geographic Maps. The information isn’t exactly the same, but they have been revised a bit more recently than the forest service maps. I carry both, and I still use both when I’m in the field.
The map that corresponds to the forest service’s “Cherokee National Forest, Southern District” is #781, “Tellico & Ocoee Rivers.” This covers the Cherokee in the area immediately north of Georgia. There are two maps that correspond to the forest service’s “Chattahoochee National Forest, Georgia.” “Springer & Cohutta Mountains, #777, covers the area closest to Blue Ridge. “Brasstown Bald & Chatooga River,” #778, covers the area to the east, over to the South Carolina line. At this time (11/23/2011), these maps retail for $11.95 each. The Fannin County Chamber of Commerce, up behind the CVS, carries the Chattahoochee maps. There is also a bundle pack available, which Amazon has for $15.56. I’m not sure where the closest place to buy the Tennessee map would be. At any given time, the Bargain Barn in Jasper might have it, the forest service office in the Ocoee Gorge might have it, the Polk County News in Benton might have it, Benton Shooters Supply might have it, and Cherokee Corners Market, at the corner of 411 and 30, just south of the Hiwassee River, might also carry it. Of course, you can order it online from Amazon or National Geographic. http://www.natgeomaps.com/trailsillustrated
Forest Service Maps
For finding roads and trailheads, it helps to have the two Forest Service maps that cover this area, “Chattahoochee National Forest, Georgia” and “Cherokee National Forest, Tennessee,” because they have the Forest Service road numbers. These are the ones I always used to make sure I had in the car when I headed out, and I still carry them religiously. But if you have the National Geographic Maps, you may not need them.
For reasons known only to the feds, Georgia offices do not carry the Tennessee map, and Tennessee offices do not carry the Georgia map. The closest U.S. Forest Service office in Tennessee is off 64/74, in the vicinity of Parksville Lake (west of Ducktown and the Ocoee Whitewater Center). The Forest Service office in Blue Ridge is closed. The nearest office is now in Blairsville, a few miles west of Blairsville on the four-lane, and just east of the Walmart. There is also a Forest Service office in Murphy, NC. If you are headed into Murphy on 64/74, you turn right at the last light before you cross the river and 64 and 74 split apart. http://www.fs.fed.us/maps/
The Fannin County Chamber of Commerce has free maps of Blue Ridge and Fannin County. They are located up the hill behind the CVS, on Orvin Lance Drive, 706.632.5680. They also have many free maps of hiking trails and recreation areas.
The Copper Basin Chamber of Commerce has a good map of southern Polk County, Ducktown, Copperhill, Tennessee, and McCaysville, Georgia. They are located at 134 Main Street in Ducktown, 423.496.9000, 800.790.2157.
Paper copies of the U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey topo maps are still available. The Forest Service has them with a special tint to better show areas under forest service control. Other sources are REI and The Bargain Barn (on the four-lane in Jasper).
DeLorme has a popular “Georgia Atlas and Gazetteer,” which is about the size of the Rand McNally Road Atlas. These aren’t as detailed as the USCGS maps, but they are very handy.
There is a great 2-CD set with both series of topo maps, “Topo! North Georgia, Great Smoky Mountains, and Atlanta: North Georgia.” These maps are the most detailed and most easy to use for those familiar with the USCGS maps. Contact them at www.topo.com (the National Geographic Map Store). At this writing, the price is $24.95. These are also available at some U.S. Forest Service offices.
DeLorme also has the entire USA on CD, “Topo USA.” This product is not as detailed as the maps mentioned immediately above. Current street price is about $100. Contact them at www.delorme.com.
Tennessee and North Carolina
The Tennessee Overhill Heritage Foundation has a good free map of attractions in the Tennessee Overhill area (McMinn, Monroe, and Polk counties). Contact them at POB 143, Etowah, TN 37331, 423.263.7232, www.tennesseeoverhill.com. This is usually available at various outlets in Copperhill.
The U.S. Forest Service has a good free map of “National Forest and National Park Recreation Areas of Eastern Tennessee/Western North Carolina, Recreation Guide R8-RG 271.
National Geographic has two good maps in their Trails Illustrated series. “Tellico & Ocoee Rivers” also features the Hiwassee State Scenic River, #781. “Great Smoky Mountains, covers the national park, # 229. Contact them at www.trailsillustrated.com .
Lake Fishing maps are available for Lake Blue Ridge, Lake Nottely, and Carter’s Lake. The Nottely map has GPS coordinates and a list of fishing structures on the lake. These are generally available in sporting goods stores, or contact Atlantic Mapping, POB 7391, Marietta, GA 30065, 770.426.5768. There is also a Trout Stream map, available at the forest service offices, the Fannin Chamber of Commerce, and the fly fishing stores.