• Big Leatherwood Falls is a 50-foot cascade located on the Frady Branch trail system in the Lake Russell Wildlife Management Area.
  • A U.S. Forest Service sign marks the entrance to the Frady Branch trailhead on Highway 184/Homer Road about seven miles southwest of Toccoa. Photo/Tom Law

Frady Branch Trail: History in the outdoors

The Mountain Traveler - Fall 2018

Looking for a way to enjoy the outdoors and stretch your legs during the late fall and winter months without traveling a long distance to do so?

Try the Frady Branch Trail into the Lake Russell Wildlife Management Area about seven miles southwest of Toccoa.

The Frady Branch Trail is only a little over four miles in length, but when you add in other trails it connects to such as the Leatherwood Creek, Lathan Cemetery and Peach Orchard trails, the entire trail system totals some 11.3 miles.

The trails meander through the Frady Branch Valley which is part of the area known by local residents as the “Land Behind Currahee.” This land was populated by numerous farm families before it was purchased by the federal government in the late 1930s.

The trail system includes three historic home sites, a small quarry two old cemeteries and a 50-foot waterfall on Big Leatherwood Creek.

The well-kept trails are popular with horse riding enthusiasts and off-road mountain bicyclists as well as hikers on foot.

The trail system is maintained by the U.S. Forest Service with help from equestrian volunteers and members of SORBA (Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association). 

The trails draw high ratings from hikers outside the Stephens County area, too.

“The Frady Branch Trail System is an often-overlooked collection of trails in the Lake Russell Wildlife Management Area near Toccoa," says Mark Oleg of the Hiking the Appalachians website. “Even though the trail system is located entirely in a low-elevation area with no mountain views, it has a surprising amount of points of interest.”

Those points of interest include Farabrew Cemetery, the Joanna Gibson house site, Marty Steele Falls, an old still and quarry, Big Leatherwood Falls, the John Lathan Sr. house site, the Lathan Edmonds, Cemetery and the William Marion Edmonds house site, Oleg says.

“A redeeming factor of Frady Branch is the abundance of historical sites that can only accessed by bike, horse or foot,” Greg Hiels writes on his website, gregridestrails.com. “There are numerous old home sites located here as well as several sizable cemeteries of over 40 graves just hidden away in the woods.”

To access the trail, from Toccoa, head out of town on West Currahee Street/Old Highway 123 for about four miles. Cross over state Route 17 at Jeanette Jameson Intersection and turn on to state Route 184. Go 2.8 miles to the trailhead parking area on the right. The area is located on the Forest Service Road 389.

There is a $5 day-use parking fee payable at the trailhead. The day-use parking area has restrooms, but no picnic tables.

Northeast Georgian

Mailing Address:
2440 Old Athens Hwy
Cornelia, GA 30531

Phone: 706-778-4215
Fax: 706-778-4114