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North Georgia Waterfall Week

posted Apr 4, 2014, 9:39 AM by Justin P   [ updated May 16, 2014, 6:25 PM ]

For the last week of March, Sandy and I headed to the mountains of North Georgia for a “spring break” trip to hunt waterfalls in a new state.  We had gotten Waterfall Hikes of North Georgia by Jim Parham as a guide and our goal was a total of 50 waterfalls!  Saturday morning, we left early to get a start on our waterfall hunting.  We were camping the night at Jones Gap State Park in South Carolina and stopped in Saluda, NC on the way to get a start on our waterfalls.  From I-26/US-74 west of Charlotte, we took exit 59 and turned right on Holbert Cove Road.  From the exit, it was about 3.2 miles to a pull-off on the side of the road, just before the road crosses Cove Creek.  When we arrived, there was only one other car at the pull-off.  We would hit two waterfalls from here, both in the Green River Game Land.  Our first waterfall was Bradley Falls.  From the parking area, we followed the blue-blazed trail through an open field and then into the woods.  Shortly, we had our first stream crossing, with a small “waterfall” flowing down the side of the cliff face into Cove Creek.  Not really a waterfall, but rather pretty nonetheless.  Something to distract us from the cold water.  The water level at the creek was high enough that there was no way to cross dry.  So we took our boots and socks off and waded across the creek.  This would be the first of many times getting our feet wet on this trip.  Once across the creek, we put our shoes and socks back on and continued along the trail.  At first, the trail was pretty easy to follow with blue blazes on the trees to mark the way.  As we got closer to the falls, however, the blazes disappeared and the trail became a bit harder to follow.  I followed one side trail down to the top of the falls, but there was no good view here, so I headed back up.  There were several splits in the trail, so it was a bit tricky to follow.  After a couple of wrong turns, we followed the correct trail past several downed trees to a rock outcrop on the cliff overlooking the waterfall.  From here, we had a decent view across the gorge to the waterfall, but trees were partially obscuring the view.  The waterfall has two plunges on the left and right sides.  From the cliff overlook, the smaller left stream is visible, but the larger right is partially blocked by trees.  It is possible to get down to the base for better views, but that requires rappelling down a steep cliff.  We saw a couple of people in full climbing gear making the trip down, but considering that we’re not experienced climbers and didn’t have gear, we had to be content with views from the cliff overlook.  There was another spot along the cliff back just a bit where we could see the right side better, but it was still partially blocked by trees.



After a few pictures, we started heading back.  Some more people were heading to the area as we were leaving, including several at the creek crossing.  They were desperately trying to find a way across without getting wet, but were having no luck.  We waded across and headed back to the car.  The start of our  hike to the next waterfall was conveniently right across the road.  The trail  to Little Bradley Falls starts on the opposite site of the road, just across the bridge over Cove Creek.  This trail is blazed red and runs about a mile to the falls.  About half-way through, there was another stream crossing.  There was an extended family here, with the men about half-way across the creek, rearranging the rocks to try and provide an easy crossing for the women and children in the group.  The crossing they made, however, looked a little treacherous.  We saw a couple coming back who crossed at some downed trees; this looked like a much easier route, so we went the way they had come.  Shortly after the stream crossing, we passed the ruins of some old structure with a couple of mostly-collapsed chimneys and then soon made it to the waterfall.  Little Bradley Falls is a very scenic 35-foot tiered waterfall.  We had beat the family here, so had the falls to ourselves for a few minutes to get some pictures and videos.  Soon, more and more people were arriving, so we started making our way back. 



By the time we got back to our car, there were at least a dozen cars parked along both sides of the road - clearly this was a popular destination in the area and we were glad that we arrived early.  From here, we headed toward Saluda and took US-176 east for about 3 miles to Pearsons Falls Road.  Pearson’s Falls was our next waterfall for the day.  Although located on private property owned by the Tryon Garden Club, the falls are open to the public for a fee of $5 per person.  We paid at the gate and then made the short stroll up the trail to the waterfall.  It was a beautiful walk along Colt Creek to this spectacular waterfall.  We got a few pictures and videos and then made our way back, stopping to view the first signs of spring wildflowers along trail on the way back.  By the time we were done, it was getting into the afternoon and we were getting hungry.  There was a Subway near I-26 and we stopped here to get lunch.  We both got foot-long subs, eating half and saving the other half for dinner at camp.  In hindsight, we should have gotten lunch first and had a picnic at Pearson’s Falls.



After lunch, we continued on into South Carolina to Jones Gap State Park.  It was a busy day and the parking lots were full.  Luckily, we had a reserved campsite, so we were able to head to the camper parking lot.  After checking in, we set up our tent at Site 1 along the Hospital Rock Trail.  Once we were set up, we went for an evening hike up to Rainbow Falls.  I had been to this waterfall before, but Sandy had not, and since it was one of my favorites in South Carolina, I wanted her to see it.  The first half-mile or so along Jones Gap Trail is pretty easy as it meanders along the Middle Saluda River.  When Rainbow Falls trails splits off, however, it gets a bit more strenuous.  At first, its not too bad as the trail gradually heads up following Cox Camp Creek upstream, but then departs from the creek and gets quite steep.  After a lot of stairs and switchbacks, the trail levels off before reaching Rainbow Falls, a spectacular 100-foot plunge over a cliff face.  The last time I was here, the water levels were higher and I couldn’t get near the falls due to the wind and spray.  This time, it was a little calmer and I was able to climb up on the rocks a bit to get some more pictures. 


We spent a few minutes here enjoying the waterfall, before heading back down.  We stopped by the car to grab dinner and then headed back to the campsite, built a fire, and ate dinner.  It was a very early start to our day, so it wasn’t long after sunset that we fell fast asleep. Sunday morning, we woke up at daybreak and quickly broke camp.  There was a threat of rain; I don’t mind hiking in the rain, but breaking camp in the rain is no fun.  We got the car all packed up and then headed back out on the Jones Gap Trail.  This time, we headed about a mile down the trail to see Jones Gap Falls.  This is a nice 50-foot waterfall, although the water flow is not particularly good.  We visited during a wet March; I would imagine that in the drier times, there’s not much of a waterfall to see.


When we were done here, we hiked back to the parking area and and left.  Our next waterfall was also in Jones Gap State Park, but we had to drive a short ways to get to the trailhead.  We left the park and turned left on Duckworth Road and then right on Falls Creek Road and parked at the kiosk at the trailhead.  By this time, it started drizzling a bit, but not heavy rain.  We donned our rain gear and started out, hiking up the steep trail following an old road.  After climbing up for a while, the trail leveled off a bit and we crossed Little Falls Creek.  But soon, the trail got steep again as we approached the waterfall.  When we got to the falls, we were both really impressed with this spectacular waterfall.  It’s much less well-known and popular than Rainbow Falls, but just as beautiful.  Unfortunately, the rain had picked up a bit and that interfered a bit with taking pictures and video, but I did the best I could.  First I climbed down to the lower section; there were rocks across the pool at the base that allowed connecting to the Hospital Rock Trail on the other side, but it was too slippery in the rain to attempt a crossing.  Then I headed up to see the upper section.  Either section by itself would have been an impressive waterfall, but together they made a truly spectacular sight. 



We might have spent a bit more time here, but given the rain, we decided to head back down.  Back at the car, we drove back to the main road and then turned right on US-276/SC-11, the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway, and headed west towards Georgia.  But before leaving the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, we stopped quickly for one more waterfall - Wildcat Branch Falls.  This one is right on the side of the road and made for an easy stop.  We got a couple pictures of the waterfall and hiked back a short ways on the trail to see an old chimney.  Then we continued along the scenic highway towards Georgia.


It was getting around lunch time, so we stopped for fast food in Walhalla.  When we finished lunch, we got on US-76 and followed that into Georgia as we crossed the Chattooga River.  In Clayton, we followed US-441 south to Lake Rabun and got on Lake Rabun Road to our first waterfall in Georgia - Angel Falls in the Lake Rabun Beach Recreation Area in Chattahoochee National Forest.  This camping and recreation area was closed, so we parked at the Angel Falls Trailhead, just up the road from campground 2.  The trail lead through a wooded area to the back of the campground and then headed up following Joe Creek.  Right at the campground, we could see the First Waterfall on Joe Creek from a footbridge.  This one is a small, 15-foot stairstep waterfall, and was our first Georgia waterfall of the trip.


From here, we followed the Angel Falls Trail upstream.  Near the start of the trail, we saw a figure of a person made of stones surrounding a tree stump.  In about a half-mile, we reached Panther Falls, a larger tiered waterfall along Joe Creek.


From this point, the trail became much steeper, heading up past Panther Falls via switchbacks to another waterfall, Middle Falls on Joe Creek, above Panther Falls.


Finally, after a little over a mile, we got to the top of the trail, where a wooden platform provided opportunities to view Angel Falls.  Despite it still being winter and there being little foliage, Angel Falls was difficult to view.  A thick canopy of rhododendron almost completely blocked our view and a downed tree further blocked the falls.  We could tell it would be a nice waterfall if only we could actually see it.


We tried from different vantage points, but really couldn’t get much of a view, so we headed back to the car.  Our next waterfall was only a short ways away.  We continued on Lake Rabun Road to the Lake Seed Dam and crossed to get on Bear Gap Road.  After about 1.5 miles, we pulled over to park at the trailhead for Minnehaha Falls.  The trail to the falls is short, less than a half-mile, but steep.  But the rewards were well worth it.  This waterfall was very scenic and there was no foliage blocking our views.


We spent about 10 minutes here, enjoying the falls and taking pictures, having the falls to ourselves.  As we were getting ready to go, another couple arrived, with the man giving the young lady a piggyback ride.  The trail was muddy and I guess she didn’t want to get her shoes dirty.  So, we left and let them have the falls to themselves.  Back at the car, we made our way to Helen and checked in to our hotel - Riverbend Motel & Cabins.  After getting checked in, we strolled around the cute Alpine village and had dinner at Cowboys & Angels.  After dinner, we were tired and went to bed early.


Monday morning, after we woke up, we asked the hotel staff for recommendations for breakfast and they suggested Hofer’s.  This was just a short walk from the hotel so we gave it a shot and really enjoyed their breakfast.  So much so that we ended up eating breakfast here every morning of our trip.  After breakfast, we got ready and headed towards Dawsonville for Amicalola Falls State Park, home to Georgia’s largest waterfall.  We started by driving all the way up to the top and making the short stroll to the bridge at the top of the waterfall.  The views looking out from this point were great, but we couldn’t see much of the falls.  So we started making our way down the West Ridge Staircase.  Down many, many steps - more than 400.  And going down meant we would have to go back up afterwards.  But going down was the easy part and we enjoyed the stroll down alongside the mighty waterfall.  At the base of the stairs, the trail runs across a footbridge over the middle of the falls and then down even more stairs to the lower observation platform for a view of the entire 700-foot waterfall.



We stopped for a while to get some pictures and then slowly made our way back up.  Near the top of the stairs, we talked to an older gentleman who was clearly an experienced hiker in the region.  He told us to check out the archway for the Appalachian Trail just behind the visitor center.  So after we finished the climb and made it back to the car, we made a quick stop at the visitor center to get a picture of the AT archway.



Then we left the park and headed into Chattahoochee National Forest.  We took GA-52E to Nimblewill Church Road and turned left at the church to the gravel Nimblewill Gap Road.  After about 4 miles, we pulled into a primitive campsite and hiked upstream along Nimblewill and Bearden Creek.  There was no official trail, but we could follow old roads up most of the way.  We had several stream crossings along the way, but only one near the beginning at Nimblewill Creek where we had to wade.  About half way up the trail, there was a nice waterslide along Bearden Creek and another small waterfall on a feeder stream, although this was very hard to see through the dense foliage.



As we approached the waterfall, the trail became much more steep and narrow.  Although we could see the falls through the trees as we climbed up, there were no views where the trail ended.  So I climbed down a precarious wet rock and waded across a small pool to a big rock where I had spectacular views of the waterfall.  Although not well-known, this was a really fantastic waterfall. 



After a few pictures I had to make the extremely challenging climb back up to the trail.  After that, however, it was really an easy and relaxing hike back downstream to the car.  And one more stream crossing at Nimblewill Creek near the end.  From here, we went back on Nimblewill Gap Road to Nimblewill Church Road, but soon turned off the paved road onto FS-28-1 for a long drive on windy forest roads.  At the fork, we went left on FS-77 (Winding Stair Gap Road) and then turned on FS-77A.  We were planning to drive down to Jones Creek for Falls Branch Falls, but the road was partially washed out and we didn’t want to risk getting stuck.  However, the drive was not totally in vain as we could stop and see a couple of smaller waterfalls on Upper East Fork of Jones Creek.  There was no trail, but they were close to a pulloff on the road.  We bushwhacked down to the third waterfall and then made our way back upstream to view the second and first.





Then we drove back to FS-28-1 and followed that to Hightower Church Road (FS-28).  We followed this past a couple of military vehicles and Camp Wahsega and stopped at the US Army Ranger Camp Frank D. Merrill.  Although this training ground for the elite Army Rangers is restricted at times, they are nice enough to allow public access to the waterfalls when training is not ongoing.  From the pull-off, we hiked down the small hiking trail and soon could hear Lower Falls and found a spot where we could bushwhack down to the base.  Surprisingly, there was another couple here, but they were just getting ready to go, so we spent a few minutes taking pictures and enjoying the falls.



When we were done, we climbed back up to the trail and followed it a little further to yet another stream crossing.  The water level was high and there was no rock-hopping so we had to wade again.  From here, we followed a trail upstream along the river until we got close to the training grounds and crossed on a log.  As it turns out, we didn’t really need to cross the stream and could have just backtracked from Lower Falls.  Just past the training area was Black Falls.  There is a conveniently placed bridge across the river just in front of the falls that allows for good photos.



When we were done, we hiked back up the road to the parking area.  It was getting late by this time, so we started heading back to Helen.  Along the way, we stopped for Mexican at El Campesino in Cleveland, and then headed back to the hotel.


Tuesday, we were heading back towards the Dawsonville area, but with only one stop here, though it would be a long one.  Our destination was the Wildcat Tract of Dawson Forest.  From Steve Tate Highway, we entered the forest at the Wildcat Campground.  Originally, we had planned to hike a 12-mile loop, but had a late start, so we decided we would do a shorter 10-mile up and back hike to maximize the number of waterfalls we could get.  From the campground, we got on the Wildcat Creek Trail and followed the creek upstream for about a mile.  The stream is pretty calm in this section and the trail flat and easy, except for a couple of rock outcrops to climb over and around.  There was some fencing to help navigate over the wet rocks.  Despite the wilderness feel and the fact that we were likely the only people in this tract of forest, the trails were pretty well maintained and blazed and easy to follow.  After about 1.5 miles, we passed the footbridge over Wildcat Creek and then headed up and then down to the terminus of the Wildcat Creek Trail.  Wildcat Creek Trail becomes Fall Creek Trail and almost immediately had to cross Wildcat Creek.  There were ropes to aid in fording the creek, but Sandy didn’t want to get her feet wet and found a giant downed tree across the creek and managed to climb across.  I followed her; it was rather treacherous and I vowed to return via wading.  Right after the crossing, we took a short spur trail that led to the Fourth Waterfall on Fall Creek.  For good views of the falls, I had to wade across just below the falls.  Sandy made it across on a log, but after the last one, I just stuck with wading.  We got a couple of pictures and then headed back, turning right onto Fall Creek Trail.



Almost immediately, the trail starting going uphill steeply and we started to see flurries of snow, though nothing significant and no accumulation.  We passed the intersection with Tobacco Pouch Trail and then headed down a bit to a cove and then up again.  We could hear the Third Waterfall on Fall Creek, but had to bushwhack from the cove, so we decided to get this one on the way back.  Shortly, we came to another creek crossing, but were able to rock-hop this one and after a bit more uphill, we came to the spur trail to Second Waterfall on Fall Creek, the biggest and most spectacular waterfall in the forest.  We spent a bit of time here, taking pictures, relaxing, and eating lunch.  The waterfall itself is close to 100 feet and there was a cute little cascade next to it.  I used the GoPro to get a wide angle shot with both waterfalls.



When we were finished, we started making our way back.  After passing the Third Waterfall on Fall Creek, we got off the trail in the cove and bushwhacked our way back to the falls.  There were some logs in the way and I had to wade across the creek to get a good picture.  At one point, I was standing in the frigid water and a flurry of snow came down.  I couldn’t help but think that perhaps I was a bit crazy for standing ankle deep in cold water in the snow.  Sandy climbed out on to one of the logs, as she was was not fond of getting her feet wet, but I was done climbing logs for the day.



When we were finished, we bushwhacked back to the trail and continued on towards Wildcat Creek.  Sandy climbed up onto the log again and crossed dry, while I took my shoes off to wade across.  Thankfully, it would be the last time I would have to do that for the day.  We took Wildcat Creek Trail a little ways back and got on Turner Trail across the footbridge.  We followed this for about a quarter-mile and then turned right on Rocky Ford Trail.  We only had less than a half-mile to go, but this section was quite steep.  It finally leveled off near the intersection with Windy Ridge Trail near the First and Second Waterfalls on Rocky Ford Creek.  We had to bushwhack a little to get down and view these falls.




After a few pictures and video, we started making our way back.  We followed Rocky Ford Trail back to Turner Trail and then followed Wildcat Creek Trail back to the campground to finish our day.  By the time we got back to the hotel, it was getting late and we were both very tired.  We had leftovers for dinner and got to bed early.


Wednesday, we were planning to hit some waterfalls closer to Helen, so not as much driving today.  Our first stop was Raven Cliff Falls in the Raven Cliffs Wilderness of Chattahoochee National Forest.  We headed northwest from town on GA-75 and GA-75A and then turned on GA-348 to the trailhead for Raven Cliff Falls and began our hike.  The Raven Cliffs Trail runs for about 3 miles to its namesake waterfall along Dodd Creek, with three additional waterfalls on the way.  It was cold this morning and we saw some interesting ice formations along the trail and a few icicles hanging from spots near the waterfalls.  In less than a mile, we saw the First Waterfall on Dodd Creek, a smaller 20-foot cascade.



In about a mile, we got to the Second Waterfall on a nice plunge followed by a waterslide.  I scrambled down to get a picture from a distance to get the whole thing and then scrambled down again near the plunge to get a shot of just that part.



Then we got back on the trail and shortly came to the Third Waterfall on Dodd Creek, the largest before hitting Raven Cliff Falls.  There appeared to be a way down just above the falls, but as we started to make our way down, we realized this would have required scaling down a sheer rock face and looked very dangerous.  So we backtracked just a bit and found another way to get down and hike up to the waterfall along the edge of the creek.  There were quite a few icicles hanging from a downed tree at the waterfall.  We got some nice pictures and looked up at that sheer rock face, which looked even more treacherous from below.  It was definitely a good thing we didn’t try to go down that way.



We got back on the trail and finished the hike to Raven Cliffs.  As the trail approached the cliffs and waterfall, it got much steeper, but we hardly noticed given the beautiful scenery.  Raven Cliff Falls is a really beautiful and unique waterfall, with the creek plunging down through a narrow chasm in the cliff.  We spent a bit of time here, enjoying the views and trying to get pictures.  It was a bit tricky given the lighting - a bright sunny day with light cliffs and the waterfall in the shadows of the charm - but we managed to get some good pictures.



When we were finished, we made the hike back to the parking area.  Before we left the area, however, there were a couple more waterfalls to get in the area.  Driving about a half-mile down the gravel road, we pulled over at a pull-off near a primitive campsite and walked down to Davis Creek.  We were right at the top of Dukes Creek Falls (which is actually on Davis Creek) and got a view of the top of this enormous waterfall as well as Second Waterfall on Davis Creek that is just upstream of its much larger brother.



From here, we continued another half-mile on the gravel road and parked just before the road fords Davis Creek.  We hiked just a short ways to see Falls on Tributary of Davis Creek and Third Waterfall on Davis Creek, then headed back to the car.





Our next destination was just up the road at Dukes Creek Falls Recreation Area.  We drove here and paid the day-use fee and then started hiking down the trail.  Although somewhat steep, it was a well-maintained trail and very scenic.  Almost immediately, there was an overlook that is handicapped-accessible, but the views of the falls weren’t great with many trees in the way.  We continued down the switchbacks to a big wooden overlook at the base of the falls.  To the north was Waterfall on Dukes Creek, a smaller but powerful waterfall right above the confluence of Dukes Creek and Davis Creek.



Dukes Creek Falls was enormous.  Although it was somewhat blocked by trees, we still got amazing views of this waterfall from the overlook.



When we had finished, we hiked back up the trail.  It was getting into the evening, but we still had time for a couple more quick waterfalls.  Back towards Helen, we turned on Poplar Stump Road to Chattahoochee River Road, a forest road that runs parallel to GA-17 on the opposite side of the river, and drove a couple miles.  The paved road turned to gravel and after a few miles, we parked where the road crossed Double Culvert Branch.  Although there wasn’t much of a trail, we hiked upstream along the creek.  We crossed the creek after a tenth of a mile or so and soon arrived at Lower Double Culvert Branch Falls.



We got a few pictures and then continued up.  The hike up to Upper Double Culvert Branch Falls was a bit more tricky.  There was almost no trail to follow and the banks of the creek were very steep.  We made it as far as we could and got some pictures of the upper waterfall.  This was a pretty cool waterfall with two distinct streams of water plunging over the cliff face.



As we hiked back down, the sun was setting over the mountain and made a nice picture with the two waterfalls partially visible below the setting sun over the cliffs above.  Back at the car, we made our way back to Helen and had dinner at Troll Tavern.  Located right along the river, it seemed like a nice place to eat.  Unfortunately, the food and service were poor, so we wouldn’t be eating there again.  After dinner, we made our way back to the hotel and went to bed.


Thursday morning, we decide to change plans a bit.  This would be the last day of nice weather, so we decided to head east and hit Tallulah Gorge.  On the way, however, we wanted to get the waterfall that is perhaps Helen’s most famous - Anna Ruby Falls.  After breakfast, we drove through Unicoi State Park to Anna Ruby Falls Recreation Area.  After paying the fee, we hiked down the short paved trail to see the two waterfalls - Curtis Creek Falls and York Creek Falls, which combine to form Anna Ruby Falls.  These waterfalls are named for Anna Ruby Nichols, the daughter of a Confederate solider.  The trail from the parking lot is about a half-mile and paved and made for a very scenic walk along Smith Creek with numerous small cascades along the way.  At the falls there were several wooden platforms to view the falls from different angles.  York Creek Falls, the smaller of the two is about 50 feet and Curtis Creek Falls is about 150 feet.



We got some pictures from various angles and then made our way back to the parking area.  We stopped at the gift shop so Sandy could get a fleece pullover as a souvenir.  Once we were done, we headed to Tallulah Gorge State Park.  It was the last nice weather day of our trip and I was hoping we could hike in the gorge.  Unfortunately, the gorge floor was closed due to “weather”.  Since there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, low winds, and it hadn’t rained in at least a couple of days, I suspect they just didn’t want to open it during a weekday in the off-season.  I checked with one of the rangers to determine which trails were open and then we started our hike.  The trails here (except for the gorge floor) are extremely well-maintained so it’s almost a stretch to call it a hike.  Most of the trails are mulch and a few were made from recycled tire rubber.  Without going into the gorge floor, there were 10 overlooks with various views of the gorge for us to see.  From the visitor center, we started on the North Rim Trail and hiked to Overlook 1.  We had nice views looking south into the gorge and could see Oceana Falls, although it was an awkward view from above.  The collapsed North Wallenda Tower was here, indicating the spot where tight-rope walker Karl Wallenda had walked across the gorge.  Quite impressive, considering it's about a 750-foot straight drop from here to the gorge floor.



From here, we took the rather steep trail up to Inspiration Point for more nice views looking south into the gorge and better views of Oceana Falls.



Without a permit, we couldn’t go any further, so we headed back and headed towards the dam, stopping at Overlooks 3, 4, and 5.  Far below, Hawthorne Pool was visible, a very pretty green pool at the base of L’eau d’Or Falls (although no good views of the falls).



After stopping briefly at these overlooks, we continued to the South Rim Trail by crossing the dam along the highway.  From the South Rim Trail, we stopped at Overlooks 6 and 7, the latter having really good views of Tempesta Falls.



Next, we passed the stairs leading to the suspension bridge and stopped at Overlooks 8, 9, and 10, which are basically right next to each other.  From these overlooks, we could see Hurricane Falls in the distance, as well as Caledonia Cascade, a very tall, but low-flow waterfall cascading down the cliff face from near Overlook 1.  In fact, I think we crossed over the top of it when we went to that overlook.  There were some really cool stone benches built into the rock face to sit and relax for a bit.  When we were done, we backtracked to the stairs leading down to the suspension bridge and started going down.  At the bridge, we took even more steps down to the overlook for Hurricane Falls at the gorge floor, going as far as we were allowed without a permit.  We were pretty close to the falls here, but unfortunately, without a permit we couldn’t get really good views of the falls.



So we began our climb up the stairs.  The suspension bridge provided a nice break from the climbing, but once across, we had to climb even more.  Near the top, we stopped at Overlook 2, the last one, to see L’eau d’Or Falls, a nice waterfall with three distinct sections.



After a few pictures, we finished the loop back to the Visitor Center.  It was still relatively early, so on the way back to Helen, we stopped to visit Toccoa Falls.  Although it’s on the private property of Toccoa Falls College, the college allows public access for a nominal $2 fee.  We paid at the gift shop and walked back to see the waterfall.  This was a really exceptional waterfall with a 180-foot plunge off a sheer cliff.  We walked around a bit and climbed on the boulders some to shoot the falls from different angles.  From the big rock near the falls, a rainbow was visible in the spray.  We stayed here for some time and then headed back.




On our way back to Helen, we stopped at Hawg Wild in Clarkesville for barbeque.  There is another Hawg Wild in Pisgah Forest, NC that we visit often when in the area.  We had seen the place driving in and thought that they were the same restaurant.  It turns out that they’re different restaurants, despite the same name.  But regardless, the food was fantastic, service was great, and the portions were huge.  I was eating the leftovers for about three days after we got home from our trip.  A great surprise after our unpleasant dining experience at Troll Tavern the night before.  After dinner, we made it back to Helen and walked around the little town for a bit before heading to bed.


Friday was our last full day in Helen and it was a dreary day.  But we weren’t going to let that stop us from getting more waterfalls.  Our first stop was the DeSoto Falls Recreation Area in Chattahoochee National Forest.  From Helen, we got on GA-75 Alt North and followed that to GA-11/US-129 North.  The recreation area was about 11 miles down this road.  After paying the day-use fee, we started out on the trail amid a heavy fog, though it wasn't raining.  According to sign at the trailhead, the waterfall is named for Hernando DeSoto who explored the region in the 16th century.  A piece of armor believed to have belonged to the explorer was discovered near the falls in the 1880s.  From the trailhead, we first turned left and hiked about a quarter-mile to the lower falls.  Just below the lower falls was another smaller waterfall, Hidden Falls.  There was no good viewing spot, but we could mostly see it from the trail.



Lower DeSoto Falls was just past this and we could get a good view from a viewing deck at the end of the trail.



After we stopped for Hidden and Lower Falls, we continued the other way on the trail to the Upper Falls, a beautiful multi-tiered waterfall.  The highest tier was difficult to see due to the fog, but also gave the waterfall a mysterious and spooky feel.



When we were done, we headed back to the car and headed to our next waterfall.  We continued driving north on US-129 and turned right on Helton Creek Road.  In about 2 miles, we pulled off to the side of the road and made the short hike up to see Lower and Upper Helton Creek Falls.  There is a short trail that leads down from the road and then up towards the waterfalls.  About half way, a staircase leads down to rocks at the base of the Lower Falls.



After we got some pictures from here, we continued on up the trail to the wooden overlook for the Upper Falls, an especially scenic waterfall given the short hike to get to the viewing platform.



On the hike back, we could see both waterfalls from some places along the trail, but they were partially obscured by the trees.  From here, we continued on Helton Creek and Hatchet Creek Roads to GA-348 and took this to GA-180 and GA-75 heading back towards Helen.  After a couple of miles, we turned onto the gravel Chattahoochee Road (FS-44).  Almost immediately, we made a quick stop to see Upper Spoilcane Creek Falls right on the side of the road.  It was really foggy and hard to see, so we planned to stop on the way back as well if the visibility improved.  We drove a couple more miles and pulled over again.  We could hear the two waterfalls on Wilks Creek, but couldn’t see them well.  We walked down the road a bit and found a safe place to head down to the creek and then bushwhacked up a bit to see the Upper and Lower Falls on Wilks Creek.  They were both decent-sized waterfalls but the heavy rhododendron prevented us from getting a great view.




From here, we continued down FS-44 to the Upper Chattahoochee River Campground and parked.  Despite the poor weather, there were several groups camping here, some of whom had drove campers and RVs.  I was impressed that they could get those large vehicles down the narrow, winding gravel forest road.  Past the campsite, we first made the short hike to Horse Trough Falls, a beautiful 70-foot cascading waterfall on the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River.  The ledges over which the water cascades are angled, giving the waterfall a “crooked” look to it.



When we were done at this waterfall, we hiked upstream along the Chattahoochee River a short ways to Upper Chattahoochee Falls.  This is a 20 or so foot waterfall through a narrow sluice.  Here at the headwaters, the mighty Chattahoochee River is only a couple feet wide.  We could only see the waterfall from the trail, however.



There were very steep paths leading down to the base, but given the wet conditions, getting down would be dangerous and getting back up would be near impossible.  So we got a couple pictures from the trail and then hiked back to the car.  On the way out, the fog had lightened a bit and we stopped quickly to get a better shot of Upper Spoilcane Creek Falls.



Back on the paved roads, we headed back towards Helen, a little earlier than most nights.  We walked around town a bit, hoping to do a bit of shopping.  Unfortunately, many stores were closed or had limited hours during the off-season, but we did pick up some goodies from Hansel & Gretel Candy Shop.  For our last dinner, we ate at Cowboys & Angels again, having the very tasty Avocado Burger.  We even saw some rabbits frolicking amidst the landscaping outside.  After dinner, we headed back to the hotel and started getting our stuff packed up.  Finishing the way day up, we were at more than 50 waterfalls for the week and still had a few more on our way back home tomorrow.


Saturday morning, we had one last breakfast at Hofer’s and then finished packing our stuff up.  After checking out of the hotel, we started making our way home, but not before stopping for one more waterfall hike.  Near Clarkesville, we stopped at the Panther Creek Recreation Area of Chattahoochee National Forest.  Although the sky was cloudy, there was little rain.  From the parking area, we crossed the street and then went under the bridge on US-441, following the creek downstream.  In about a mile, there was a split in the trail, and we followed the blue-blazed trail that stays closer to the creek and headed down to see the First Waterfall on Panther Creek.



After a couple pictures, we finished up the blue-blazed trail and connected back with the main Panther Creek Trail a quarter-mile or so from the split.  This first part of the hike was rather steep and narrow and required some climbing over wet and slippery rocks.  Afterwards, however, it started to level off, following the creek more closely on a wider path.  In about another mile, we came to the Second Waterfall on Panther Creek, a series of shoals and cascades.  Although not terribly high, these falls were very powerful and we found a couple different spots to get pictures from.



It was another mile to the main falls and the trail started getting more narrow, steep, and rocky as we progressed.  At points, there was fencing on the side of the trail to prevent a fall into the creek.  Of course as the trail started getting more difficult, it started to rain, making this hike even more difficult.  At one point as we neared Panther Creek Falls, we found shelter under rock outcrop from the rain, hoping to wait it out.  But the rain didn’t seem to be lightening up, so we continued on.  The very last part of the trail was the most difficult, especially in the rain.  This part involved climbing over, under, and around slick rocks to get down to a good viewing place at the base of the falls.  Although there was some fencing to help prevent a fall, this was particularly treacherous in the rain.  Surprisingly, we actually saw some trail runners at this point and backpackers climbing back up with all their gear.  If they can do this running or carrying a backpack, surely we can do it hiking, I thought to myself.  Finally, we reached a clearing at the base of the waterfall.  Panther Creek Falls is nearly a 100 feet tall and almost as wide, with significant water flow.  It was really an impressive waterfall, but given the weather, we didn't spend as much time here as we would have liked.



After we got some pictures and videos, we started making our way back up.  With the wet rocks, this was a bit of a challenge, but we made it safely.  This is definitely not a trail for people with a fear of heights.  We also stopped at the Waterfall at the Top of Panther Creek Falls and to view the cascades above the waterfalls, then started making our way back.



Just about when we reached the easier part of the trail, the rain finally died down.  Of course when it doesn’t matter so much!  Soon we made it back to the car.  We changed out of our wet clothes at the bathroom at the recreation area and then started making the drive home along I-85.  We stopped for dinner at Fatz in Gaffney, SC, just below the Peachoid water tower, and arrived home after a waterfall-tastic week late in the evening.  Here's a GoPro video I made of the trip: