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.
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: Upper Canada Creek Loop to Fourth Falls and Third Falls on Canada Creek, Suches, Georgia
Canada Creek is one of my favorite mountain streams in North Georgia, due to a perfect combination of beauty, remoteness, and ease of access at each of the creek's four scenic waterfalls. A network of unofficial trails used by fishers and hunters weave around Canada Creek and provide fairly easy access to each of its waterfalls. The hikes to each particular waterfall aren't too long, but seeing all of the waterfalls together will take a good part of the day. A topographic map and compass are recommended for hikers who venture into the Canada Creek area, because many disorienting trail junctions are found throughout the trail system, and some of the paths are faint. This hike occurred on Saturday, July 1st, 2017. My original plan was to hike out and back to Fourth Falls on Canada Creek from the Upper Canada Creek Trailhead. After seeing the roaring state of the Fourth Falls though, I decided to use a connector to access Third Falls on Canada Creek and then loop back using a couple of roads.
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.
Chattahoochee National Forest: Big Falls (First Falls), Second Falls, and Third Falls on Canada Creek, Suches, Georgia
Folks who reside in the north Georgia Mountains are familiar with Woody Lake, a picturesque pond next to Route 60 in the community of Suches. What many of the locals are not familiar with, however, is that the stream that drains Woody Lake drops over four notable waterfalls and through a scenic gorge on its way to the Toccoa River. Three of the waterfalls can be accessed from a trailhead at the end of East Canada Creek Road, at a place where shrinking fields and old silos illustrate that a farm once prospered here. While no official trail leads to any of the waterfalls, getting to them presents only a minor navigational challenge along a series of forest roads and narrow paths worn by fellow hikers. This hike occurred on Saturday, January 21st, 2017. My plan was first to hike from the end of East Canada Creek Road downstream along Canada Creek to Second Falls and Big Falls. Then, I would retrace my steps and follow the creek upstream to Third Falls. I would save the hike to Fourth Falls for another day, as that waterfall is most easily reached from a different trailhead.
Blood Mountain Wilderness: Slaughter Creek Loop and Blood Mountain via Freeman Loop, Suches, Georgia
Blood Mountain is one of the best-known mountains in Georgia for a variety of reasons, including the ease of access to the great views from the several rock slabs near the summit of the peak. The easiest approach to the top is from Highway 129, but several other trails, in addition to the Appalachian Trail itself, are found in the vicinity of Blood Mountain. Two such trails - the Jarrard Gap Trail and Slaughter Creek Trail - leave the Lake Winfield Scott Recreation Area and access the AT west of Blood Mountain. Another trail, the Freeman Trail, winds around hollows on the south side of Blood Mountain, providing a tricky passage through numerous boulder fields. You'll walk all of these trails as you hike to Blood Mountain using the "back way". This hike occurred on Saturday, October 15th, 2016. My plan was to hike the Jarrard Gap Trail from Lake Winfield Scott to the Appalachian Trail, from where I would follow the AT to the Freeman Trail, taking the spur trail to Woods Hole Shelter. Then, I would take the Freeman Trail around the south side of Blood Mountain, before meeting the Appalachian Trail again and following it to the top of Blood Mountain. I would finish the hike by descending on the Appalachian Trail to the Slaughter Creek Trail and taking the Slaughter Creek Trail back to Lake Winfield Scott.
The Appalachian Trail's southern terminus is located on Springer Mountain, Georgia. As the AT leaves the mountain, it traverses a watery valley, known as Three Forks, and then proceeds to follow long, dry ridgelines for the better of the next 30 miles. This hike is a prime example of the Georgia Appalachian Trail. Expect some views and some people - and a relatively easy hike. This hike occurred on Saturday, September 20th, 2014. My plan was to follow the Appalachian Trail, from Gooch Gap, north over Ramrock Mountain, through Woody Gap, and to Preaching Rock Overlook on the slopes of Big Cedar Mountain.
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