Emery Creek is a mountain stream located on the southern fringe of the Cohutta Mountains. The creek is full of waterfalls and cascades, with five waterfalls visible from near the trail and many more smaller cascades. To see all of the waterfalls on Emery Creek, you'll have to get a bit wet, with two dozen fords roundtrip, but it's worth it. Additionally, you can extend your hike to Little Bald Mountain, where in the winter, the views are extensive, and in the summer, the trail goes through whole fields of ferns. This hike occurred on Saturday, September 12th, 2015. My plan was to hike the Emery Creek Trail out and back from the southern terminus near Holly Creek to the northern terminus near Little Bald Mountain.
R/T Length of Trail: 13.6 Miles
Duration of Hike: 8:00
Type of Hike: Out and Back
Difficulty Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Generally easy-to-follow trail; most fords are easy
Points of Interest: First Falls (Main Falls) - 6 stars; Second Falls - 4 stars; Third Falls - N/A (I didn't find a way to reach it); Fourth Falls - 5 stars; Fifth Falls - 3 stars; Little Bald Mountain Vista - 1 star
Trail Blaze Color(s): Emery Creek Trail - Green (although generally there are few blazes)
Best Season(s) to Hike: Spring
Beginning Point: Holly Creek Trailhead
Directions: From Ellijay, GA: Follow GA State Route 52 West for 9.3 miles. Then, turn right onto Conasauga Road. 1.2 miles from the turn, the road turns to gravel - continue straight. In another 2.1 miles, reach Old CCC Camp Road. Bear left. In 2.8 miles, the parking area for the Emery Creek Trail will be on the right at a switchback in the road. If you reach a bridge over Holly Creek, you have gone too far. All of the unpaved roads that lead to this trail are in good condition for most passenger vehicles.
The Emery Creek Trail has been on my "to-go" list for over a year, and all the time, it seemed like I had to do it. After hiking it, I could only have regretted that I haven't done it sooner - it's a beautiful trail that showcases one of north Georgia's most beautiful, cascade-filled creeks, in addition to some picturesque forest near Little Bald Mountain. Even though the only vista on this trail laves something to be desired, the other attractions make up for it.
The Emery Creek Trail actually starts out above Holly Creek, and follows it for the first half-mile. Emery Creek is a tributary of Holly Creek. At 0.1 mile, the trail crosses a wet-weather stream and continues to stay parallel to Holly Creek, gradually descending to it. You will pass several steep side trails that lead to pools and cascades in the creek. At 0.4 miles, reach Holly Creek. The trail scrambles over a small boulder field at the creek and then up a rock outcrop. Here is the confluence of Emery Creek and Holly Creek. Continue on a narrow trail along Holly Creek to the first of 12 fords on this hike just above the confluence. This ford, the only ford of Holly Creek, is the deepest and most difficult ford on the hike. The ford is knee deep and has some slippery rocks, but if you will be careful, it will not be very hard. On the other side of Holly Creek, pass through a camping area and make the second ford, this time across Emery Creek (all other fords on this hike are across Emery Creek). All fords of Emery Creek are around ankle deep and quite easy. Following this second ford, the trail closely parallels Emery Creek along its west side. At the next ford, there is a sign on a small island in the middle of the creek. The sign indicates that you're headed toward Emery Creek Falls. You will soon pass the remains of a junk car near the trail. There is nothing much of detail as the trail crisscrosses the creek until the falls. Following the sixth ford, the trail will turn right on an old road at 1.5 miles, and then, at 1.6 miles (after a tributary crossing), the trail will leave the roadbed and turn left to continue following Emery Creek. Following the ninth ford, ascend up a steep bank and reach the spur trail to Emery Creek Falls at 2.5 miles.
Turn left onto the spur trail to Emery Creek Falls. At 2.6 miles, reach Emery Creek Falls. Emery Creek Falls is a beautiful multi-cascade waterfall with a large pool at its base. In my opinion, Emery Creek Falls is the most photogenic of the five waterfalls on Emery Creek. In summer, the pool at the falls is a popular swimming hole. Most hikers will turn around here and retrace their steps to the trailhead. However, many waterfalls lie farther ahead, and in fact, one of them is just 0.1 miles upstream. From the main falls, look for a narrow uphill path that seems to ascend along Emery Creek Falls on the right side of the creek. Follow this path for some good side views of Emery Creek Falls. At the top of Emery Creek Falls, the path ends at a campsite at 2.7 miles. The second falls is right in front of you, complete with its own pool. This is a small waterfall, more like a cascade, that is a precursor to the big falls just downstream. From the second falls, return to the main trail (the junction with the spur trail), reaching it at 2.9 miles. Continue north on the Emery Creek Trail. The trail begins a steady ascent along a small tributary of Emery Creek. You will soon switchback away from the tributary, and then ascend onto a dry slope high above Emery Creek. There are winter views to the south and west here. At 3.8 miles, the trail approaches Emery Creek again. There is a spur trail to the left that leads to the third falls, fourth falls, and the fifth falls. The fifth falls is a small cascade waterfall similar to the second falls. The fourth falls, just below the fifth falls, is a single-drop waterfall. It is difficult to reach the base of the fourth falls, and it involves some scrambling. The side view is easier to see. The third falls is located below the fourth falls, but I didn't find a way to reach it. I could only hear it. If anyone hikes this trail and reaches the third falls, please let me know how you got to it.
Following the third, fourth, and fifth falls, continue on the Emery Creek Trail upstream along Emery Creek. You will soon reach the tenth ford of the creek - notice that the fords keep getting shallower and easier. The eleventh ford sand the final twelfth ford come shortly afterward. After the twelfth ford, the trail reaches Forest Service Road 78E at 4.2 miles. Turn left onto the gravel road, and shortly afterwards, turn right and continue on an old roadbed that the Emery Creek Trail follows. After this, the trail begins to pick up an uphill trend as the Emery Creek valley steepens and the creek becomes smaller. The trail will cross a number of various streams that join Emery Creek. A moderate uphill commences along the old roadbed. Eventually, the trail will totally leave the creek and ascend up drier slopes on its way to Little Bald Mountain. The ascent up Little Bald Mountain is fairly difficult. There are steep sections mixed in with generally moderate uphill. At 6.3 miles, the trail passes through a large field of ferns and then traces a ridge that leads up to Little Bald Mountain. At 6.5 miles, reach a small westward vista. This vista is very grown-up and in summer, it provides only a small view. The view may be better in winter. After the vista, the ascent gradually ends as the trail bypasses the summit of Little Bald Mountain. You will pass a ladder on the left side of the trail that leads to a small deer-hunting booth. At 6.9 miles, reach the northern terminus of the Emery Creek Trail in a large grassy field/camping area near Forest Service Road 68. At the grassy field, turn right onto a dirt road. Follow the dirt road downhill through the camping area and reach Forest Service Road 68 at 7 miles, in a gap between Little Bald Mountain and Bald Mountain. The Tearbritches Trail starts across the road and continues over Bald Mountain and to Bray Field near the Conasauga River. This is your turnaround point. Retrace your steps back along the Emery Creek Trail. You will return to the starting point at 13.6 miles.
Hike just to Emery Creek Falls and Second Falls and back - 5.4 Miles
Hike just to Third Falls, Fourth Falls, and Fifth Falls - 7.6 Miles
Holly Creek Falls near FS 18, located on Holly Creek approximately 1 mile east of the Emery Creek Trailhead.
Mark Oleg Ozboyd
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