Cumberland Trail: Edwards Point Loop via Mushroom Rock, Blue Trail, Orange Trail, and Bee Branch Trail, Signal Mountain, Tennessee
The Cumberland Trail, a work in progress that will be a 300-mile trail when completed, has its southern terminus at Signal Point in the Chattanooga metro area. One of the Cumberland Trail's most spectacular sections is its very first one as it traces the rim of the Tennessee River Gorge, visiting outstanding views at Signal Point and Edwards Point as well as a unique geological formation known as Mushroom Rock at the edge of the Suck Creek Gorge. Beside the Cumberland Trail, several lesser-used trails give hikers the option to turn a hike to Edwards Point into a full-day loop with additional sights. Most notable is a spectacular half-mile section of the Orange Trail as it follows a remote and rugged bluff line in the Middle Creek Gorge. This hike occurred on Saturday, November 25th, 2017. My plan was to hike a loop from Signal Point that would follow the Cumberland Trail past Edwards Point all the way to Mushroom Rock, from where I would follow the Mushroom Rock Trail, Blue Trail, Orange Trail, and Bee Branch Trail back to Signal Mountain. After coming out at Ohio Avenue, I would conclude the hike with a short roadwalk through the town of Signal Mountain to Signal Point.
Chattahoochee National Forest: Duncan Ridge Trail from Mulky Gap to Rhodes Mountain View, Blairsville, Georgia
There's something about the Duncan Ridge Trail that sets it apart from most other trails in Georgia: its sheer difficulty. This unique trail constantly follows Duncan Ridge with its sharp knobs and deep gaps that present constant obstacles along the trail. The rollercoaster fashion of the Duncan Ridge Trail will give you a tough workout, and that's exactly why most people hike it - for there are no spectacular waterfalls anywhere on the trail. The trail is best hiked in the winter when bare trees allow continuous views in both directions from the ridge. Even though there is only one year-round view - on Rhodes Mountain - of any significance along the west part of the trail, seasoned hikers will still find it an enjoyable peaceful hike. This hike occurred on Thursday, November 23rd, 2017. My plan was to hike out and back along the Duncan Ridge Trail from Mulky Gap to the Benton Mackaye Trail Junction just past the view from Rhodes Mountain.
Most Georgia hikers are well-acquainted with Panther Creek due to an incredibly popular waterfall called Panther Creek Falls on this waterway, located several miles down the Panther Creek Trail off Old US 441. But did you know that Panther Creek is home to another significant waterfall that most folks have no clue about? The 50-foot Haven Falls is positioned much higher up Panther Creek, close to its headwaters where the flow is the best during winter or in wet periods. Nevertheless, this little-visited waterfall is a true beauty as it free falls over a long overhanging cliff and then cascades down a ledge and out of sight. Remarkably, the hike to Haven Falls is less than a mile long and is very easy along a well-defined route (an old forest road with a side path at the end) from Bear Gap Road. This hike occurred on Saturday, November 18th, 2017. My plan was to hike out and back to Haven Falls from Bear Gap Road.
Raven Rock Cliff is a spectacular rock formation that towers over 100 feet above the Wild & Scenic Chattooga River. The well-maintained Raven Rock Trail makes a moderate descent into the Chattooga River Gorge from the end of FS 511B, terminating right across from Raven Rock Cliff - one of the most beautiful spots along Section Four of the Chattooga River. An easy rock scramble upstream will bring you to Raven Chute, a Class IV rapid stretching across the river. In the warm season when the water is high enough, it is fun to watch kayakers negotiate the rapid. This hike occurred on Saturday, November 18th, 2017. My plan was to hike out and back along Raven Rock Trail to the Raven Rock Cliff.
Nantahala National Forest: Upper Middle Creek Falls and Middle Creek Falls, Highlands, North Carolina
Highway 106 crosses Middle Creek just over a mile north of the Georgia State Line on its way to Highlands, but few people would guess that one of the area's most amazing waterfalls lies a half-mile downstream. First, Middle Creek goes over the 40-foot Upper Middle Creek Falls for a warm-up before plunging into a steep gorge as it drops off the escarpment. That's where Middle Creek Falls lies - a jaw-dropping high-volume waterfall that crashes 75 feet down a steeply slanted rock face with more falling water above and below. During wet periods, you're going to get drenched by the waterfall's spray without even getting close! Whereas the upper falls is very easy to reach, a confusing and faint path must be successfully navigated to reach Middle Creek Falls. This hike occurred on Saturday, November 18th, 2017. My plan was to hike out and back to Upper Middle Creek Falls and Middle Creek Falls.
The Valley and Ridge area of Northwest Georgia is not known for waterfalls, unlike almost every other mountainous section of the state. Most of the available hikes in this area simply follow low ridges like Horn Mountain, Johns Mountain, and Taylor Ridge that separate similar valleys. The Keown Falls Scenic Area is unique to the region, as it is home to the area's two only publicly-accessible waterfalls: South Keown Falls and Keown Falls. Both waterfalls are accessed easily by the Keown Falls Trail, but it's worth extending the hike along the Johns Mountain Trail, which has great winter views from Johns Mountain. There are some other opportunities to extend the hike, such as following the Pinhoti Trail along Johns Mountain Road and past Pilchers Pond - although hikers may not find that part of the trail particularly exciting. This hike occurred on Saturday, November 11th, 2017. My plan was to hike a loop with the Keown Falls Trail, Johns Mountain Trail, FS 208, and the Pinhoti Trail past Pilchers Pond, starting at the end of FS 702. Unfortunately, the quality of this longer loop hike was degraded by a rather ugly logged area on the north side of Johns Mountain Road.
Blood Mountain Wilderness: Steeltrap Knob Vista Trail, Appalachian Trail to Preachers Rock, and Dockery Lake Trail to Twin Falls and Martha's Falls, Suches, Georgia
Preachers Rock is a well-known destination along the Appalachian Trail on Big Cedar Mountain that features a great view of the Blood Mountain Wilderness. A couple of other trails in the area can be utilized to create a loop hike from either Chestatee Overlook (on Highway 60) or Dockery Lake, visiting one other vista as well as up to three waterfalls. The unofficial Steeltrap Knob Trail provides a useful connection between Chestatee Overlook and Woody Gap, at the same visiting a spectacular view of the Georgia Piedmont from little-known cliffs on the side of Steeltrap Knob. Meanwhile, the Dockery Lake Trail travels through the Pigeon Roost Creek Valley between Dockery Lake and the Appalachian Trail. While no waterfalls are right on the trail, visiting Martha's Falls, Twin Falls, and Dockery Lake Falls will require only short off-trail diversions. This hike occurred on Sunday, October 29th, 2017. My plan was to hike a loop from Chestatee Overlook, starting with the Steeltrap Knob Trail and stopping by the Steeltrap Knob Vista along the way. I would then take the Appalachian Trail over Big Cedar Mountain and to the Dockery Lake Trail, stopping by several views from Big Cedar Mountain along the way, including Preachers Rock. Next, I would take the Dockery Lake Trail to Dockery Lake, visiting Twin Falls, Martha's Falls, and Dockery Lake Falls along the way. I would conclude the hike with a walk up Dockery Lake Road back to Highway 60 and Chestatee Overlook.
Brasstown Wilderness: Arkaquah Trail to Buzzard Roost Ridge View, Rattlesnake Bluff, Chimneytop Mountain View, and Brasstown Bald, Young Harris, Georgia
The Arkaquah Trail has always been one of Georgia's most famous trails thanks to its difficulty and its approach to the tallest peak in the state. Of the three different trails that summit Brasstown Bald, the Arkaquah Trail is undoubtedly the most scenic. In fact, whereas the crowded summit of Brasstown Bald with its large observation tower may not be alluring to wilderness hikers, three other vistas can be found near the Arkaquah Trail. The view from Chimneytop Mountain in particular is arguably one of the state's most jaw-dropping views with its 180-degree panorama! Even more remarkable is that this view remains largely unknown to the hiking community despite its proximity to the Arkaquah Trail. With the two other beautiful overlooks plus the Brasstown Bald summit accessible via the trail, the Arkaquah Trail is one of the most scenic hikes in North Georgia. This hike occurred on Saturday, October 21st, 2017. My plan was to hike out and back along the Arkaquah Trail to the summit of Brasstown Bald, making side trips to the three views along the way.
Nantahala National Forest: Lauren Falls, Patricia Falls, Lower Balsam Falls, and Balsam Falls via Mallonee Trail from Balsam Lake Recreation Area, Rosman, North Carolina
Southwest North Carolina's Wolf Creek sure is a potent stream with the six major waterfalls it is home to. The tallest and best-known waterfall on the creek is Wolf Creek Falls aka Paradise Falls below Wolf Creek Lake. But higher up on Wolf Creek is a set of four breathtaking pristine waterfalls clustered close together near Balsam Lake. The series of falls culminates with Lauren Falls, a spectacular near free-fall with a deep pool surrounded by beautiful water-sculpted rock outcrops. The hike to these waterfalls, especially Patricia Falls and Lauren Falls, is quite difficult as it involves a lot of off-trail scrambling, but less experienced hikers have the choice to hike just to the first waterfall, Balsam Falls, which is considerably easier to reach with only minimal scrambling. Along the way, visitors will be treated to many gorgeous views of Balsam Lake along the Mallonee Trail. This hike occurred on Saturday, October 14th, 2017. My plan was to hike to the Mallonee Trail along Balsam Lake from Balsam Lake Recreation Area to Balsam Lake Dam, from where I would follow faint paths to Balsam Falls, Lower Balsam Falls, Patricia Falls, and Lauren Falls. I would return the same way.
The Little Canada area of Southwest North Carolina is home to a vast array of majestic waterfalls, and Sols Creek is one of the area's signature creeks. Few North Carolina waterfalls are as jaw-dropping as Sols Creek Falls near the creek's lower end, but unfortunately, that falls is on private property. In contrast, Upper Sols Creek Falls is on National Forest land and is nearly as impressive as its taller brother. Tumbling 65 feet down a huge cliff, Upper Sols Creek Falls is a spectacular waterfall and falls into a fairly easy-to-reach category. The unofficial trail to the falls has a few creek crossings but is mostly in good shape and can be walked by hikers of nearly all levels. In fact, the most difficult part of the hike may be finding the obscure trailhead and pullout parking. This hike occurred on Saturday, October 14th, 2017. My plan was to hike out and back to Upper Sols Creek Falls from NC Route 281.
Chattahoochee National Forest: Little Cedar Mountain Vista and Waterfalls of Canada Creek via Highway 60 Trailhead, Suches, Georgia
While the views atop Big Cedar Mountain along the Appalachian Trail are well-known, its lower brother Little Cedar Mountain on the other side of the quaint community of Suches is far more obscure. Despite this, a good trail leads to Little Cedar Mountain, where a set of cliffs provides a great view into the Canada Creek valley. The picturesque view is only the beginning though - a connecting trail leads deep into the Canada Creek valley, where a set of four breathtaking waterfalls await. Ranging from only 15 to over 50 feet high, all four waterfalls are fairly easy to reach thanks to an intricate network of unofficial trails along forest roads and fainter paths up and down the Canada Creek watershed. This hike occurred on Saturday, October 7th, 2017. My plan was to hike from Highway 60 to the vista atop Little Cedar Mountain. From there, I would scout out one route down into the Canada Creek valley and another on my way back (as I learned, only one route had a trail). Once in the valley, I would follow trails to Big Falls, Second Falls, and Third Falls, and if time permitted, Fourth Falls too.
Chattahoochee National Forest: Frady Branch Trail System Perimeter Loop to Farabrew Cemetery, Big Leatherwood Falls, and Lathan-Edmonds Cemetery, Toccoa, Georgia
The Frady Branch Trail System is an often-overlooked collection of trails in the Lake Russell Wildlife Management Area near Toccoa. Even though the Frady Branch Trail System is located entirely in a low-elevation area with no mountain views, it has a surprising amount of points of interest, including three historic homesites, a small quarry, two ancient cemeteries, and perhaps most importantly: a 50-foot waterfall in the headwaters of Big Leatherwood Creek. Even though Big Leatherwood Falls is less than a quarter-mile from an official trail, it is a very little-known waterfall in a gorgeous pristine setting. Additionally, there is a second smaller waterfall along the loop - although both waterfalls are best seen during wet periods when they have the most water in them. This hike occurred on Saturday, September 30th, 2017. My plan was to hike the perimeter loop along the Frady Branch Trails clockwise.
Tallulah Gorge State Park: Gorge Floor - Sliding Rock - Rim Loop to Hurricane Falls, Oceana Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Inspiration Point, Tallulah Falls, Georgia
Tallulah Gorge is an anomaly in Georgia. The cliff-lined gorge through which the Tallulah River flows is nearly 1000 feet deep in places, and there's no other gorge of this magnitude anywhere else in the state. Tallulah Gorge State Park encompasses all of the gorge below Tallulah Falls Dam and has a number of hiking trails that provide access into the gorge. While some trails follow the rims with breathtaking views of the gorge, a different trail descends hundreds of steps to Hurricane Falls deep in the gorge. From there, one can follow a rugged and rocky footpath known as the Gorge Floor Trail along the river and past two other waterfalls, but a Gorge Floor Permit is necessary for this - and only 100 are issued per day. The extremely steep climb back out along the Sliding Rock Trail is an exciting rock scramble with more views of the cliffs. Lastly, before concluding the hike, you'll have the chance to stop by Inspiration Point - a sweeping panorama that is arguably the best view of Tallulah Gorge. This hike occurred on Saturday, September 30th, 2017. My plan was to hike the Gorge Floor Loop clockwise, later making a side trip to Inspiration Point.
The Iron Mountain Loop is one of the less-used trails in the Cohutta Mountains. Most folks who visit the Conasauga River choose to hike the Conasauga River Trail #11 in the Cohutta Wilderness proper, well above the Jacks River confluence. On the other hand, the Iron Mountain Trail combines with Cherokee National Forest's Conasauga River Trail #61 to showcase a much broader and equally pristine section of the Conasauga River below the Jacks River confluence, where two mighty mountain rivers join into one. Although much of the Iron Mountain Trail is just a peaceful wooded walk across the slopes of Iron Mountain, a small vista at the halfway point offers a welcome break with a view of the West Cowpen Ridge that forms the Cohutta Wilderness boundary. The Iron Mountain Loop has only one downside: it gets a fair amount of equestrian traffic. This hike occurred on Saturday, September 23rd, 2017. My plan was to hike the Iron Mountain Loop clockwise by first following the Iron Mountain Trail from Cottonwood Patch Campground and then hiking the Conasauga River Trail to FS 221. The loop would be concluded with a short roadwalk along FS 221 and FS 16.
Lower Jigger Creek Falls is a very photogenic waterfall in Cohutta Wildlife Management Area that is easy to access yet off the radar. The falls is only about 25 feet high but consists of a scenic free-fall and steep cascade amidst large boulders and jagged rock outcrops. Lower Jigger Creek Falls' setting is striking thanks to the sizable boulder field that begins at the waterfall and continues for some distance downstream. The short hike to the falls follows distinct paths with exclusively easy grades from East Cowpen Road. This hike occurred on Saturday, September 23rd, 2017. My plan was to hike out and back to Lower Jigger Creek Falls from East Cowpen Road.
Year 1: 540.0 Miles
Year 2: 552.3 Miles
Year 3: 518.4 Miles
Year 4: 416.1 Miles