High Shoals Creek is home to two of Georgia's most popular waterfalls: High Shoals Falls and Blue Hole Falls. Very few people who hike to those waterfalls know that the same watershed is home to a remote waterfall no less impressive. Rogers Branch Falls is a tiered 80-foot waterfall on a tributary of High Shoals Creek, with additional small waterfalls above and below the main drop. Even though local residents are aware of the waterfall as evidenced by the well-used path to it, it is not publicized well at all and clearly off the radar for most hikers and waterfall hunters. The routes to the base of Rogers Branch Falls are not quite for everyone due to their steepness, but those who reach the viewing area at the base will be rewarded by a breathtaking sight. This hike occurred on Saturday, July 1st, 2017. My plan was to hike out and back to the base of Rogers Branch Falls from a popular camping area off Indian Grave Gap Road.
Chattahoochee National Forest: Lower & Upper Chinquapin Falls and Hickory Knob Falls, Helen, Georgia
Chinquapin Branch is one of the streams that drain the Tray Mountain area near Helen. Beginning high in the Tray Mountain Wilderness, Chinquapin Branch passes over a tall cliff, crosses Tray Mountain Road, and then forms several more waterfalls. Cascading 200 feet partially out of sight, Lower Chinquapin Falls is the biggest waterfall of them all. Seeing the lower and middle waterfalls on Chinquapin Branch necessitates significant scrambling on an unmaintained trail, but intrepid hikers who hike the entire route will be rewarded with two pristine waterfalls on Chinquapin Branch and a third one on a tributary. This hike occurred on Saturday, June 24th, 2017. My plan was to follow an abandoned trail along Chinquapin Branch to Lower and Upper Chinquapin Falls, although I would only be able to view part of the Lower Falls. Along the way, I would make a side trip to Hickory Knob Falls on an unnamed tributary of Chinquapin Branch. Rather than returning the same way, I decided to hike off-trail to Tray Mountain Road from Upper Chinquapin Falls and then return along the road.
Lost House Branch is a pleasant gurgling stream that flows inconspicuously through a culvert under Highway 75 between Helen and Unicoi Gap. Few folks who drive across Lost House Branch suspect that there is a massive 100-foot waterfall less than a half-mile upstream. This is evidenced by the difficulty of the hike to Lost House Branch Falls, which involves walking in the creek itself, wading through knee-deep summer brush, and scrambling over or under numerous fallen trees. Not enough people have hiked to Lost House Branch Falls yet for a path to become established, but for the most persistent adventurers, the reward is a majestic waterfall. Lost House Branch splits into dozens of thin trickles as it slides down a huge rock face at the waterfall, although it is important to keep in mind that Lost House Branch needs a lot of water to look its best. This hike occurred on Saturday, June 3rd, 2017. My plan was to hike to Lost House Branch Falls out and back from Highway 75, initially following the south side of the stream to avoid trespassing on private property.
Motorists who drive north along Highway 75 from Helen may notice a deep valley/gorge on the left (west) side of the roadway, but most of them will not stop to muse about what's down there. When the more intrepid hiker takes a glance at the topographic map for the area around Spoilcane Creek and Highway 75, however, he will notice that there is significant waterfall potential in the Spoilcane Creek gorge. In fact, Spoilcane Creek has two major waterfalls - one of which is approximately 190 feet high! Additionally, folks who venture into the Spoilcane Creek gorge will find a bonus waterfall on an unnamed tributary to Spoilcane Creek. Access to the surprisingly rarely-visited Spoilcane Creek waterfalls is not very difficult thanks to a distinct path that follows the historical route of the Unicoi Turnpike and provides a close approach to all three waterfalls. This hike occurred on Saturday, June 3rd, 2017. My plan was to hike out and back to the Middle Falls on Spoilcane Creek via an unmarked trail from a pullout on the west side of Highway 75 just south of Unicoi Gap. Along the way, I would make the off-trail side trip to the Upper Falls on Spoilcane Creek and a waterfall on an unnamed tributary dubbed "Phil's Sister Falls".
Tray Mountain Wilderness: Waterfalls of Left Fork of Soquee River and Wolfpen Branch, Helen, Georgia
The southeast quadrant of the Tray Mountain Wilderness is home to the headwaters of the Soquee River. Numerous streams join to form the West, Middle, and East Prongs of the Left Fork of the Soquee River, and it is likely that all of the streams have undocumented waterfalls. The grandest of them all is the middle waterfall on the Left Fork: a powerful and remote multi-tier 75-foot waterfall with surprisingly easy access. On the hike to this waterfall, you will also visit the smaller but beautiful lower waterfall and have the options of visiting bonus waterfalls, such as Wolfpen Branch Falls and the upper waterfall on the Left Fork of the Soquee River. This hike occurred on Saturday, April 8th, 2017. My plan was to scout out the easiest route to the biggest waterfall on the Left Fork of Soquee River, described below.
The Tray Mountain Wilderness is perhaps the least-explored wilderness area in Georgia. The focal point of the wilderness is Tray Mountain, which is one of the highest mountains in Georgia, and the section of the Appalachian Trail that passes over Tray Mountain. South and east of Tray Mountain, however, lies a remote area that has largely been unexplored: the Left Fork Soquee River watershed, which is home to numerous waterfalls. On the south side of the watershed stands Chimney Mountain, a lower peak that has several cliffs with great views but is overshadowed by the taller Tray Mountain only a few miles away. The hike to Chimney Mountain follows an unofficial trail that leads to a panoramic vista that faces Mount Yonah and the Georgia Piedmont. This hike occurred on Saturday, December 10th, 2016. My plan was to hike the unofficial path to Chimney Mountain out and back.
Chattahoochee National Forest: Andrews Cove Trail, Rocky Mountain Loop, and Appalachian Trail from Indian Grave Gap to Tray Mountain, Helen, Georgia
Rocky Mountain and Tray Mountain are two rocky peaks with impessive views on the Appalachian Trail in north Georgia near Helen. Tray Mountain is also the seventh-highest mountain in Georgia. Other than the Appalachian Trail, a couple of additional trails are used to access the area. The Rocky Mountain Trail bends around the northern side of Rocky Mountain, which serves as a bypass for the rocky summit area of Rocky Mountain as well creates a popular loop hike. The Andrews Cove Trail begins nearly two thousand feet below the summit of Rocky Mountain and ascends through a lush mountain cove past several small tumbling streams before joining the Appalachian Trail. On this hike, you will first ascend along the Andrews Cove Trail to the Appalachian Trail, before hiking the Rocky Mountain Loop past the great views from the namesake peak, and finishing with an outing along the AT to the summit of Tray Mountain, where more views await. This hike occurred on Saturday, September 10th, 2016. My plan was to hike the Andrews Cove Trail to the Appalachian Trail at Indian Grave Gap. From there, I would hike the Rocky Mountain Loop clockwise, and then, I would hike the Appalachian Trail out and back to the summit of Tray Mountain as well as locate a little-known vista on the mountain's east side. I would finish by retracing my steps along the Andrews Cove Trail.
Smithgall Woods State Park: Laurel Ridge Trail, Wetlands Loop Trail, Martin's Mine Trail, Cathy Ellis Trail, Ash Creek Trail, and Dukes Creek Falls, Helen, Georgia
Smithgall Woods State Park, one of the largest state parks in Georgia, is a low-elevation woodlands tract near the tourist town of Helen. Through the center of the park flows Dukes Creek.This hike revolves around Dukes Creek, visiting several waterfalls on tributaries as well as the main show, Dukes Creek Falls. This hike occurred on Saturday, August 8th, 2015. My plan was to hike the Laurel Ridge Trail clockwise, and then follow Tsalaki Trail (a paved road that is closed to vehicles) to several various trails: Wetlands Loop, Martin's Mine Trail, Cathy Ellis Trail, and Ash Creek Trail. After completing all of these trails, I would also head upstream along Dukes Creek and take the Dukes Creek Falls Access Trail to Dukes Creek Falls.
Raven Cliff Falls is one of the most unique waterfalls in Georgia. Dodd Creek falls 80 feet through a narrow crevice in a large cliff, followed by a 20-foot cascade before becoming peaceful. Dodd Creek also makes several more significant drops, as it grows in size, before reaching the main show where it joins Davis Creek to become Dukes Creek - the 200-foot Dukes Creek Falls - although that one isn't quite on this hike. The 5-mile trail to Raven Cliff Falls is an excellent way to introduce yourself to hiking, as it's a good first hike. For the more experienced, a slim route, along a rock jumble and up a root ladder leads to the top of the cliff which is home to Raven Cliff Falls. This hike occurred on Saturday, April 18, 2015. My plan was to hike the Raven Cliff Falls Trail out and back from the trailhead.
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Year 1: 540.0 Miles
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