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).
R/T Length of Trail: 0.5 Miles
Duration of Hike: 0:40
Type of Hike: Out and Back
Difficulty Rating: 1 out of 10
Total Elevation Gain: 106 Feet
Cons: There is a locals' trash dump at trailhead as well as other trashy places throughout the hike
Points of Interest: Sliding Waterfall on Talley Mill Creek - 2 stars (with adequate water); Talley Mill Creek Falls - 4 stars
Trail Blaze Colors: None
Best Seasons to Hike: Winter, Spring
Beginning Point: Outside bend on Highway 28
Directions from Clayton, GA: From the intersection of Rickman Drive and US 23/441 in downtown Clayton, follow Rickman Drive East. In 0.5 miles, turn diagonally right onto Warwoman Road, and continue for 13.4 miles. At the T-intersection with GA 28, turn acutely left onto GA 28 and continue for 4.9 miles to an outside bend in the road, where the trailhead is. The spot is easy to miss, but it can be identified by the end of a guardrail and two wooden posts that mark the entrance to an old forest road. There is space for two or maybe three cars in front of the trailhead. The trailhead is located 0.7 miles north of the bridge across Big Creek.
Click here to download a track of this hike.
Ever since I found out about a large waterfall on Talley Mill Creek from a couple of friends, I have wanted to visit it, and I found the perfect opportunity to do so before a much longer hike to Three Forks on the same day. What I didn't realize is just how much water is needed to make Talley Mill Creek Falls look good. Folks, this is always a nice waterfall at normal summer flow (or during winter drought flow like on this day), but a visit during normal winter/spring flow or after a heavy rain is necessary to truly appreciate the beauty of Talley Mill Creek Falls. Still, it is always worth a stop to look at.
The hike begins at an old logging road that leaves Highway 28 at an outside bend. The logging road is marked by a pair of wooden posts (one on each side). Unfortunately, there is a large trash dump at the trailhead and on the slope just below it to the left of the road. The logging road is easily followed, but the beginning could be a bit overgrown in summer. After a gentle downhill, you can see a sliding waterfall on Talley Mill Creek down to the left at 0.1 miles. An indistinct 100-foot side trail leaves left down to the creek to the sliding waterfall. The view from the side of the creek is impeded by vegetation, so for the best view, you must scramble up a large log that stretches across the creek (you don't have to walk very far along it, though!). At today's low flow, the waterfall featured a wide sloping wet rock with several ribbons of water flowing across. During higher flow, I suspect that this could be a more photogenic waterfall. One element of interest is a sort of tiny rock shelter on the far side of the slide and creek (it kindof looks like it may have originally been a pothole?).
Return to the old logging road at about 0.15 miles and continue following it north-northwestward. At 0.2 miles, the logging road appears to end in a turnaround near the creek. There are some ruins of stone walls to the right, and a bit farther ahead, an abandoned structure that resembles the remains of a mobile home. My best guess is that this area used to be private and the Forest Service bought it, as it is clearly National Forest land now, suitable for public use. Regardless, pass to the left of the abandoned building and pick up a phantom path that heads north and upstream above the creek into steepening terrain. The woods are open, so even if you cannot make out the path, just follow the route of least resistance. At around 0.25 miles, the slope becomes steep ahead, impeding any further progress. Talley Mill Creek Falls is audible but is not yet seen well. To reach the falls, turn left onto a downhill path that shortly ends up at creek level. The short path requires a brief walk through a semi-thicket of rhododendrons, but the biggest obstacle is a huge tree that is fallen across the path on the steepest part of the slope. On your way back up, scrambling over the log is going to be quite a challenge, and it may possibly be better to crawl under the log, although that option is perhaps even more unattractive, even if it is easier.
Once you reach the creek, turn right and walk, rock hop, and wade upstream to the base of Talley Mill Creek Falls, reaching it at 0.27 miles. Talley Mill Creek Falls is about 45 feet high. The creek spills down a tall cliff with many small rock outcrops. At low water, most of the water spills down the right-hand side of the cliff and into a shallow pool near the base. During high water, the waterfall becomes much more photogenic (and potentially deserves a higher beauty rating), as water spills down the cliff in many ribbons all over the rock outcrops. Thus, at high water, the waterfall becomes much wider, as the whole wide cliff becomes involved. I have included Jack Anthony's picture of Talley Mill Creek Falls at high water for reference in the gallery at the bottom of this page, as I myself have only seen the falls at low water.
Please note: the west side of Talley Mill Creek in the vicinity of the waterfall is private land. While taking your pictures of the falls and while viewing it, it is acceptable to stand in the middle of the creek, but please do not cross over to the west (left-hand) bank of the creek, as that will be considered as trespassing.
From Talley Mill Creek Falls, simply retrace your steps back to the trailhead, concluding the hike at 0.5 miles.
0.0 - Talley Mill Creek Trailhead
0.12 - Sliding Waterfall on Talley Mill Creek
0.2 - Ruins and logging road end
0.27 - Talley Mill Creek Falls
0.5 - Talley Mill Creek Trailhead
For a longer hike after this short leg-stretcher, consider hiking to Three Forks via the Big Creek Trail from Highway 28, passing many spectacular waterfalls. In fact, I did that hike on this day after Talley Mill Creek Falls. Many other hiking options are available just across the state line to the north near Highlands, including Sunset Rock and Secret Falls.
Mark Oleg Ozboyd
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