Chattahoochee National Forest: Big Creek Circuit from Highway 28 to Four Waterfalls of Big Creek, Three Forks, and Singley's Falls, Clayton, Georgia
Deep in Rabun County is a spot known as Three Forks, where three major mountain waterways - Big Creek, Overflow Creek, and Holcomb Creek - come together to form the West Fork of the Chattooga River. Three Forks is a unique and pristine location that can only be reached by foot, but while Three Forks alone would be a hiking destination as worthwhile as any, the three creeks that tie into Three Forks are loaded with waterfalls that come in all shapes and sizes. Perhaps the most incredible one of them all is Thunder Dome Falls on Big Creek, a monster waterfall that falls 70 feet in multiple tiers through a slot canyon and into a deep pool. It can safely be assumed that Thunder Dome Falls is among Georgia's most jaw-dropping natural sights. Thunder Dome Falls is not matched in size by the other waterfalls on this hike, but even though they're smaller, all of them are just as picturesque. This hike occurred Saturday, March 11th, 2017. My plan was to hike the Big Creek Circuit clockwise from Highway 28, hiking the Big Creek Trail first and then the Three Forks Trail. Along the way, I would make side trips to each of the four waterfalls on Big Creek, to Three Forks and the Holcomb Creek slot canyon, and to Singley's Falls on Overflow Creek.
A major tributary of Big Creek, Talley Mill Creek originates just across the state line near Highlands and flows into Georgia through mostly private land. However, in the final course of its run, south of Highway 28, the creek enters National Forest land and forms a beautiful waterfall that cascades 45 feet down a steep rock ledge. The falls is surprisingly little-visited and not well-known in the hiking community, despite its proximity to the road and ease of access. In fact, an old logging road leads almost all of the way to the waterfall, and a faint path created by occasional previous hikers serves as the final leg of the hike. This hike occurred on Saturday, March 11th, 2017. My plan was to hike out and back to Talley Mill Creek Falls from Highway 28, following the route of least resistance (which turned out to be very easy to find).
Chattahoochee National Forest: Hemlock Falls Trail to Hemlock Falls and Upper Moccasin Creek Falls, Clayton, Georgia
The Hemlock Falls Trail is one of Georgia's most popular streamside trails, and for good reason: the trail follows beautiful Moccasin Creek, which is a constant run of whitewater nearly all of its length, culminating in Hemlock Falls, a pretty 15-foot waterfall with a pool. Above Hemlock Falls, however, lies a much less-visited world. Above Hemlock Falls, a remote and unmaintained footpath crosses the creek and continues through a picturesque gorge with many cascades and slides, before terminating at Upper Moccasin Creek Falls, a 40-foot waterfall that is widely considered to be one of Georgia's most beautiful waterfalls. This hike occurred on Saturday, March 4th, 2017. My plan was to hike the Hemlock Falls Trail and the unmaintained footpath that follows from the Moccasin Creek Trailhead to Upper Moccasin Creek Falls and back, passing Hemlock Falls on the way.
Often, it is disappointing that some most photogenic waterfalls are located on private land. In some isolated cases, the owners are generous enough to allow the public to visit, but unfortunately, the majority of the time, such waterfalls are strictly off-limits. Timpson Creek Falls is one of those private waterfalls, but visitors are in luck: the property boundary stretches directly across the waterfall, and it is easy to view and photograph the falls from public land immediately downstream, avoiding any trespassing. This single-drop 40-foot waterfall is quite a beauty. This hike occurred on Saturday, March 4th, 2017. My plan was to hike a well-established old forest road, sometimes referred to as the Timpson Creek Trail, out and back to Timpson Creek Falls from Forest Road 162 (Timpson Creek Road).
Plumorchard Creek is one of a handful of mountain streams that drain the east side of the Tennessee Valley Divide and flow into the Tallulah River. Most of these streams quickly leave the mountaintops and are already in the valleys by the time they grow large. However, Plumorchard Creek is an exception. This stream tumbles 65 feet over a single-drop waterfall that flows down a steep cliff only a mile west of the Tallulah River. This hike occurred on Saturday, March 4th, 2017. My plan was to make an exploratory bushwhack from Plum Orchard Road to a location on Plumorchard Creek that I was highly confident in being home to an undocumented tall waterfall. As it turned out, the waterfall was there, and the hike was only a partial bushwhack (the first part followed gated forest roads).
Nantahala National Forest: Upper Chattooga River Slot Canyon via Chattooga River Trail from Bullpen Bridge, Highlands, North Carolina
The definition of the term slot canyon is "a narrow canyon formed by the wear of water rushing through rock". These unique canyons are fairly common in the Desert Southwest sector (such as in Utah or Arizona) of the United States. What if I told you that there is a slot canyon, or several, in southwest North Carolina? Are you baffled yet? It is actually the truth, as there are a few isolated and very rare slot canyons on some of the mountain rivers and creeks in southwest North Carolina and adjacent portions of extreme northeast Georgia. At the Upper Chattooga River Slot Canyon, the mighty river gets squeezed into an unusually deep and very picturesque alleyway that is no more than a few feet wide. Two small but photogenic waterfalls act as bonuses to this already excellent hike. There might still be more slot canyons out there in the Blue Ridge Mountains, waiting for their turns to be discovered and introduced to the public. This hike occurred on Saturday, February 25th, 2017. My plan was to hike the Chattooga River Trail out and back from Bullpen Bridge to a goat path that would take me to the Chattooga River, from where I'd walk upstream to Whoa Nellie! Sieve and the Upper Chattooga River Slot Canyon. After the hike, I would make the scramble to Potholes Falls at Bullpen Bridge.
Pigeon-Crockford Mountain Wildlife Management Area: Hogjowl Trail, Allen Creek Gorge Rim, and West Brow Loop to Allen Creek Falls and Rocktown, LaFayette, Georgia
Everyone knows about Rock City. But what about Rocktown? No, Rocktown is not a miniature version of Rock City; Rocktown is an area of natural bizarre rock formations on top of Pigeon Mountain, popular with rock climbers and hikers. A network of lesser-traveled trails lies in the vicinity, providing access to Allen Creek Falls - a small but picturesque waterfall on Allen Creek - as well as winter views from Pigeon Mountain's west brow. Another such trail, Hogjowl Trail, provides a rarely-used route from McLemore Cove to the top of Pigeon Mountain. This hike occurred on Saturday, February 18th, 2017. My plan was to hike the Hogjowl Trail from west to east as the first leg of a balloon loop. Then, I would take the Bluff Trail south to Rape Gap, from where I would follow a series of forest roads to potential viewpoints of the Allen Creek Gorge (later discovering that it was not worthwhile). After this, I would return to the Atwood Trail and follow it to Allen Creek Falls, after which I would take the Hood Trail and then a short connector trail to Rocktown. I would follow the Rocktown Trail from Rocktown out to the Rocktown Trailhead. Following a brief roadwalk to Sawmill Lake, I would pick up the Hogjowl Trail and hike it west back to McLemore Cove.
The Chattahoochee National Forest is home to many waterfalls. Some require long hikes on faint trails or trail-less woods to reach; others can be accessed by short, easy paths. The two waterfalls on Helton Creek fall into the latter category, as very little effort is needed to see these two impressive waterfalls. The groomed path to the waterfalls is well-established, with staircases and an observation deck. Keep in mind that during the hot season, the ease of access - along with the perfect swimming hole at the falls - leads to great crowds. This hike occurred on Saturday, February 11th, 2017. My plan was to hike the Helton Creek Falls Trail out and back to the upper waterfall on Helton Creek, with a short side trip to the lower waterfall on Helton Creek along the way.
Appalachian Trail: Byron Herbert Reece Trailhead to Neels Gap and to Hogpen Gap via Levelland Mountain and Cowrock Mountain, Suches, Georgia
One of Georgia's most scenic hikes is along the Appalachian Trail from Neels Gap to Hogpen Gap. Along this section of the AT, the famed long-distance footpath passes over several summits that offer outstanding long-range vistas. Along the way, you will first walk along the only piece of the AT that passes under a building, at the Walasi-Yi Interpretive Center. Afterwards, you will hike across Levelland Mountain, Wolf Laurel Top, Cowrock Mountain, and Wildcat Mountain, each of which has its own breathtaking view (or several). This hike occurred on Saturday, February 11th, 2017. My plan was to hike the Byron Herbert Reece Trail from US 129 to the Appalachian Trail. There, I would pick up the Appalachian Trail and follow it through Neels Gap and to Hogpen Gap. Along the way, I would make side trips to views on Levelland Mountain and Cowrock Mountain. I arranged to have two cars for this point-to-point hike: one car was placed at the Byron Herbert Reece Trailhead and another car was placed at the Hogpen Gap Trailhead.
The Blue Ridge area is not known for hiking trails as well as other parts of north Georgia, due to the heavy development of the area (Blue Ridge has become a popular getaway for folks who own a second home in the area but live most of the time outside of the mountains). The Aska Trail System near Blue Ridge has the longest interconnected set of trails in the region, and in fact, these trails are open to bikers in addition to hikers. The Aska Trails meander across the slopes of Rocky Mountain, Davenport Mountain, and Green Mountain, providing good views when the leaves are off the trees. One of the trails also provides access to the shoreline of 3300-acre Lake Blue Ridge. This hike occurred on Saturday, February 4th, 2017. My plan was to hike the east side of the Long Branch Loop Trail and then the Long Branch Connector Trail to the Green Mountain Trail. From there, I would first hike the Green Mountain Trail east out and back to the Lake Blue Ridge Trailhead, and then, I would hike the Green Mountain Trail west to Deep Gap, looping it with the Lower Green Mountain Trail. I would conclude the hike by retracing my steps along the Long Branch Connector and following the west side of the Long Branch Loop.
Lookout Mountain Battlefield: Jackson Gap Trail, Bluff Trail from Ochs Gateway to Sunset Rock and Point Park, and Gum Spring/Cravens House Loop, Lookout Mountain, Georgia
Lookout Mountain Battlefield, which is part of the Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, covers an impressive portion of Lookout Mountain, where the "Battle Above the Clouds" occurred during the Civil War. The battlefield's extensive trail system provides easy access to some of the mountain's signature features, such as Sunset Rock and Point Park, both of which have panoramic vistas. The park's most scenic trail, Bluff Trail, follows the bluff line along the west side of Lookout Mountain for several miles, connecting to other trails with more views and other points of interest such as mountain springs. This hike occurred on Saturday, January 28th, 2017. My plan was to hike the Bluff Trail from Ochs Gateway to Point Park. Along the way, I would take a side trip along the Jackson Gap Trail and also to Sunset Rock. From Point Park, I would follow the Mountain Beautiful Trail and Hardy Trail to Cravens House, from where I would take the Rifle Pits Trail to the Upper Truck Trail. Then, I would hike along the Upper Truck Trail past the ruins of Camp Demaray to the Gum Spring Trail. Lastly, I would follow the Gum Spring Trail up to the Bluff Trail, concluding the hike by retracing my steps on a portion of my earlier route along the Bluff Trail.
Year 1: 540.0 Miles
Year 2: 552.3 Miles
Year 3: 518.4 Miles
Year 4: 434.5 Miles