Mill Creek is one of the most scenic small streams in the Cohutta Mountains of Northwest Georgia. In a little more than a half-mile, the creek comes over four waterfalls and many smaller cascades, and an easy unofficial trail follows the creek with access to all of the gorgeous scenery. The third and largest waterfall, in particular, is a beautiful steep slide that drops over 30 feet into a sparkling pool. The last part of the trail is a steep scramble to the base of the third falls, but it still definitely is doable to most folks and well worth the effort. This hike occurred on Saturday, September 16th, 2017. My plan was to hike the Mill Creek Trail out and back from Hickey Gap Campground past the 1st Falls and 2nd Falls to the 3rd Falls on Mill Creek. I would also make a short creek scramble to the 4th Falls from the 3rd Falls.
R/T Length of Trail: 1.4 Miles
Duration of Hike: 2:00 (about one hour of stopping and photography)
Type of Hike: Out and Back
Difficulty Rating: 3 out of 10
Total Elevation Gain: 287 Feet
Pros: Four waterfalls in a short hike
Cons: Lots of trash at the base of the 3rd Falls
Points of Interest: 1st Falls on Mill Creek - 4 stars; 2nd Falls on Mill Creek - 2 stars; 3rd Falls on Mill Creek - 7 stars; 4th Falls on Mill Creek - 3 stars
Trail Blaze Colors: None (not an official trail) but none needed
Best Seasons to Hike: Spring
Beginning Point: Hickey Gap Campground Day Use Parking
Directions from Chatsworth, GA: From the intersection of US 411 (3rd Avenue) and US 76/GA 52 West (G I Maddox Parkway) north of downtown Chatsworth, follow US 411 North for 5.8 miles, and then, turn right onto Grassy Street in the community of Crandall. In 0.4 miles, turn right onto Crandall-Ellijay Road after crossing the railroad tracks, and 0.1 mile farther, turn left onto Mill Creek Road. Mill Creek Road, which quickly turns into unpaved FS 630, remains in great shape suitable for all passenger vehicles. After 6.5 miles, Mill Creek Road passes through Hickey Gap. Here, a side road leaves right and downhill to Hickey Gap Campground. The signed "Day Use Parking" is right at the intersection in the gap. Park here - there is space for several cars.
Click the link below to download a .GPX file with a track of this hike.
The waterfalls of Mill Creek are special because there are few waterfalls in the Cohutta Mountains when related to other parts of the North Georgia Mountains. The waterfalls that do exist in the Cohuttas are generally found alone, while on this short stretch of Mill Creek, there are a whole four waterfalls, including two that are significant! To reach the Mill Creek waterfalls, begin hiking down the gravel road that east-southeast from the day use parking area at Hickey Gap off FS 630. In 0.1 miles, the road reaches the Hickey Gap Campground. Turn right and walk to Mill Creek past the restrooms. At Mill Creek, an unsigned but well-defined trail begins, heading in the downstream direction along the same side of the creek. Even though the map above seems to imply that the trail crosses the creek a few times, there are no creek crossings all the way to the base of the 3rd Falls. After a flat start, the trail approaches the top of the long cascading 1st Falls on Mill Creek at 0.15 miles. Stay on the main path as it hugs the steep slope alongside the 1st Falls. Ignore the first side path (which leads to a mediocre midpoint view of the falls). The second and third side paths on the left lead to the base of 1st Falls at 0.2 miles. 1st Falls on Mill Creek is a very picturesque set of cascades, slides, and short drops where the creek loses about 30 feet in elevation spread out over several hundred feet. 1st Falls is fairly far from the other three waterfalls, so it is also known as Upper Mill Creek Falls.
The trail continues to follow the cascading Mill Creek closely, soon coming to a nice campsite. Just past the campsite is a split at 0.45 miles. One path bears left and down to the creek. The route then follows exposed bedrock along the creek for about 200 feet. During very high water levels, the bedrock may be underwater though, so the path that bears right at the split serves as a steep bypass. During normal water levels, you can stay left as I did and follow the edge of the creek past a neat bluff. Once the paths rejoin at about 0.5 miles, the main trail bears left and passes above the small 2nd Falls at 0.6 miles. A short rock scramble leads to the base. 2nd Falls on Mill Creek is only about 10 feet high but the sheer drop is still pretty. 2nd Falls is very close to 3rd Falls, and in fact, the outflow of 2nd Falls quickly turns into the beginning of 3rd Falls. The trail briefly comes out onto sloping bedrock near the top of the 3rd Falls - be careful here. A few feet farther, as the trail begins plunging down to the base of 3rd Falls, there is a great view of the impressive slide that forms the waterfall. Meanwhile, to reach the base, the trail descends down an ultra-steep slope on the north side of the falls. The route is very obvious, but it is also more difficult than anything else on this otherwise easy hike due to how steep it is. At times, the rocks on the scramble can also be slick. I hear that there used to be several ropes that aided with the descent, but today, all but one of them were missing. The trail reaches the base of 3rd Falls at 0.65 miles.
3rd Falls on Mill Creek is by far the largest of the four waterfalls on the creek. For this reason, it is often simply called "Mill Creek Falls", because some folks simply fail to recognize the other three drops as legit waterfalls due to 3rd Falls overshadowing them. The total height of 3rd Falls on Mill Creek is probably in the vicinity of 50 feet, but you can see only about 30 to 40 feet of it from the base due to the increasingly steeper angle of the sliding drop. During the high flow of winter and spring, this waterfall is especially scenic as the creek slides down the cliff in a froth of white that culminates in a sparkling symmetric pool. The setting is also scenic thanks to the cliffs and steep slopes that hem in the falls and pool. Unfortunately, at the time of my visit, there was a lot of trash in the vicinity of the waterfall - hopefully it will be cleaned up soon, because it currently is a major drawback of the waterfall. While the trail ends at 3rd Falls, it isn't hard to reach the base of 4th Falls, which lies only about 250 feet downstream. Rock hop along the same side of the creek until you approach the top of 4th Falls. Keep in mind that the rocks are extremely slick! When you near the top of the small 4th Falls about 200 feet below 3rd Falls, cross the creek at a calm spot and then scramble down the short goat path on the opposite side to the base of 4th Falls at 0.7 miles. 4th Falls on Mill Creek is a steeply-siding scenic waterfall of about 15 feet. In some ways, it is like a miniature version of 3rd Falls, with another deep sparkling pool at the base and a cliff on the north side. If there's a lot of people at the base of 3rd Falls (which is possible as the trail is well-known to locals and especially to folks who stay in the campground), then you can often bet on solitude at 4th Falls.
From 4th Falls, simply retrace your steps past the other three waterfalls and to the parking area. You'll return to your car at Hickey Gap at 1.4 miles, concluding this short, fairly easy, and very rewarding hike.
0.0 - Hickey Gap Day Use Parking
0.1 - Hickey Gap Campground
0.2 - 1st Falls on Mill Creek
0.45 - High-Water Route Split
0.6 - 2nd Falls on Mill Creek
0.65 - 3rd Falls on Mill Creek
0.7 - 4th Falls on Mill Creek
1.4 - Hickey Gap Day Use Parking
Hike out and back to 1st Falls - 0.4 Miles
Hike out and back to 3rd Falls - 1.3 Miles
There are many trails in the nearby Cohutta Wilderness if you're interested in a longer hike following Mill Creek. Most of the trails do not provide suitable options for a day that already includes Mill Creek, but there are many backpacking options down to the Conasauga River. Another option is to hike to the Grassy Mountain Fire Tower near Lake Conasauga.
Mark Oleg Ozboyd
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