Did you know there are more than 120 waterfalls in North Georgia? With ample rainfall year-round, plenty of free-flowing Blue Ridge Mountain streams, and steep and rugged terrain, this region is a fantastic place to chase waterfalls. And with warm weather here to stay for the next few months, it’s the perfect time to incorporate these ever-enticing natural features into your hiking plans.
Jack Anthony, a native of Dahlonega, Georgia, is considered an expert on waterfalls. His book Waterfalls of North Georgia showcases these natural beauties.
“The North Georgia mountains on into North and South Carolina have the highest rainfall of any part of the United States, with the exception of the coastal regions of Oregon and Washington,” Anthony says about what makes Georgia waterfalls unique. “The large amount of water flowing from the heights of our rugged mountain terrain result in cascading waterfalls on almost all of the streams flowing out of the Blue Ridge Mountains.”
Here, Anthony shares some of his favorite shots from 5 of North Georgia’s best waterfalls—all within a manageable 100-mile journey of one another.
Parking: $5 per vehicle
Located in Amicalola Falls State Park, Amicalola Falls are the tallest falls in the Southeast at 729 feet. The beauty is undeniable; a look at the silky white water cascading over the rocks has the allusion of a bride’s veil. There are two options to view the falls: hike the 1-mile trail that includes climbing a series of wooden stairs alongside the falls, or meander along the 0.3 mile access trail to an observation deck. If taking the Falls Trail, start from the bottom and go up. You’ll catch views of the falls from the observation deck at the start of the hike, and then you can continue 7.5 miles on the Springer Mountain approach trail to the Southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.
2. Desoto Falls
Parking: $3 per vehicle
Desoto Falls’ upper and lower sections are worth seeing, and a 2-mile hike will cover both. The 1.5-mile trail to the Upper Falls follows Frogtown Creek, taking you past lichen-kissed trees and ferns that carpet the forest floor. The deeper into the woods you go, the more you are attuned to the bubbling creek, and soon the sound of rushing waters. The Upper Falls look similar to those giant slides you see at carnivals—only here, water rushes over a series of descending boulders in a much more natural environment. The 0.5-mile trail to the Lower Falls packs in elevation as you climb a short series of switchbacks, ending with a view of the 45-foot falls. Along the way, it’s easy to detour and take a dip in Frogtown Creek to cool off.
Not only does the hike to Raven Cliff Falls culminate with a spectacular viewing of the waterfall streaming between two 40-foot cliffs, but along the hike you’ll pass by five modest waterfalls and a multiple series of rapids. The third waterfall can be a tease, as heavy white water flows over the moss-covered boulders, but at 20 feet in height, it's nothing compared to Raven Cliff Falls. Keep trekking on the path. It’s fairly flat with a few modest inclines along the way. Your biggest problem is watching your footing; tree roots reach across the trail like bulging arteries.
The trail ends at Raven Cliff Falls, where you have the option of scrambling up a rooted and rocky steep incline, or relaxing amongst the boulders by the lower falls. The lower falls tumble into a shallow pool, perfect for dipping your toes in, but it’s worth the added climb for the views of Raven Cliff Falls. It seems as if the two towering cliffs split just to offer a view of the big falls, where waters power down the rocks like a fire hose. Save some energy to explore the unofficial trail to the top of the cliffs—it involves climbing up the right side of the cliffs (using the trees roots as your hand and foot holds). At the top, you’re rewarded with another view of the multi-story falls, and a great lunch spot.
Parking: $4 per vehicle
Dukes Creek Falls is only 1-mile down the road from Raven Cliff Falls. Just 0.1 miles down the path, which starts out paved, you’ll catch a glimpse of the falls in the distance. The best view of the falls is at the end of the trail in the gorge, accessible on an easy 1-mile hike. The trail is wide and free of rocks and roots, so it’s your best option if you’re looking for a waterfall hike for children or the elderly. As you slowly descend into the gorge, keep an eye to the right for views of smaller falls on Dukes Creek, but know that these are mere sidekicks to the real falls. A wooden boardwalk marks the finish line, where directly to your left, you’re faced with the 150-foot Dukes Creek Falls. They spill over a series of jagged, geometric shaped rocks into a pool of calmer waters. Walk to the end of the boardwalk to see another modest waterfall.
Parking: $3 per person. You do not have to pay the Unicoi State Park $5 fee unless you plan to stay in the park.
On weekends, the 0.4 mile paved trail to Anna Ruby Falls is bound to fill with families streaming in a slow trickle toward the twin falls. The trail approaches the left side of the falls and crosses a creek before arriving at the observation deck. The twin 150-foot falls are surrounded by lush, green forests that seem to pillow the rocky landscape. You can’t swim in the creeks at Anna Ruby Falls, but back at the parking lot, a shallow mountain stream runs by the picnic area and it's fair game.
If you want to truly “chase waterfalls,” you’ll need a map. We recommend a weekend getaway through the winding, scenic highways of North Georgia. Start your trip at Amicalola Falls State Park. You can opt to camp, stay in the cabin or the lodge. This is a great jumping off point to start your first full day of waterfalls by driving northeast to Dicks Creek Falls. End at Raven Cliff Falls, but don’t hike the trail until morning. Instead, set up primitive camping alongside Dodd Creek. There are clearings for campgrounds anywhere from 0.2 to 2.5 miles on the trail. After you hike Raven Cliff falls, hike Dukes Creek falls, and end at Anna Ruby falls. On the way home, stop in Helen, GA for authentic German food and beer.