Now that I’m living in Seattle, I don’t get a chance to visit Southeastern US waterfalls very often, which is why I haven’t posted on this blog in 4 years. But when a friend of mine was asking my recommendation for Georgia waterfalls, it inspired me to do a series of review posts, of which this is the first. My plan is to highlight waterfalls I’ve visited in each region over the years (also mentioning other waterfalls in the process). We’ll start in the Northwest corner of Georgia.
Lookout mountain runs along the extreme northwest corner of the state, reaching from southern Tennessee into Alabama. On that ridge lies one of my favorite Georgia State Parks, Cloundland Canyon. It has beautiful views, but for the sake of this topic, it has a couple of the most beautiful waterfalls in Georgia. On the Waterfall Trail you descend from the mountaintop down 1,200 stairsteps, and the above photo shows the first waterfall you encounter. For years we’ve called Waterfall #1, though a public vote changed its name to Cherokee Falls. Regardless what you call it, it’s a beautiful 60 ft waterfall, falling into a great rock amphitheater with a splash pool. it is usually best to visit in spring, since in dry summers it often dries up to almost nothing. As you can see in the photo on the right, there are lots of photo composition possibilities around the pool. That photo also shows if you get there in autumn after a rain, it also can be a magical place.
The next waterfall you encounter at the bottom of the stairs is what used to be known as Waterfall #2, now known as Hemlock Falls. It is a beautiful 90 ft waterfall, also falling into a nice rock amphitheater. Photographically possibilities are more limited because the state park built a very nice viewing platform, not wanting people to injure themselves exploring elsewhere, and that limits access. This is the end of the Waterfalls Trail, but it isn’t the end to waterfalls at Cloudland Canyon. The end of the Waterfalls Trail is the start of the Sitton’s Gulch Trail, which continues down from here along Daniel Creek for another 2 miles.
Right at the start, it passes by two smaller waterfalls (not officially named by the State Park). Scott and I named them years ago Waterfall #3A & #3B, given they are in quick succession, and not as tall as the first two. The first fall (#3A) is a 20 ft drop, and very photogenic, with composition opportunities all around it. The second fall here (#3B) is a small ledge drop of Daniel Creek right after the pool for #3A. But what it lacks in height, it makes up for with composition possibilities from different angles, two photos of which I included here (from different angles and seasons). There are also other seasonal waterfalls at Cloudland that you might find; but for now, I’ll leave you with the main falls.
The next area that I’ll mention is also on Lookout Mountain, in land owned by the Lulu Lake Land Trust. The land is open to the public usually on two Saturdays a month. It has trails and the beautiful Lulu Lake (and the small Lulu Lake Falls going into the lake). For today’s discussion though, it also has the very impressive Lula Falls, where Rock Creek pours over 100 ft straight down. This waterfall is similar in style to the main two waterfalls in Cloudland, pouring over the escarpment into a large rock amphitheater. It doesn’t have the pool at the base like the Cloudland falls, but you can walk all around it (and even in the fall), as you can see from the large photo above.
There are also other waterfalls in this far western part of the state, the most famous of which is Keown Falls, managed by the Forest Service. It is extremely low-flow, so I’d recommend it only in spring after a good rain; I haven’t captured a good photo of it. But my blog partner Scott did a blog post here where he captured Keown Falls, Little Keown Falls, and another in the area called Pocket Falls.
A little further to the east still in far north Georgia is the vast and beautiful Cohutta wilderness of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. The area has 90 miles of trails deep into wilderness, on many of which you will encounter few people the entire day (one day I saw more wild boars than people). There are also many waterfalls in the Cohutta, but most of them I haven’t been able to visit. The most famous waterfall in the Cohutta is the 80 ft powerful Jacks River Falls. The classic hike to get to Jacks River Falls is epic, requiring an 18 mile (round trip) hike with 20 river crossings. I still would like to try that sometime, but I have not yet.
But there are other waterfalls in the Cohutta I have visited. One roadside fall is the 15 feet Barnes Creek Falls, part of which is shown on the right. The Forest Service has a picnic area by the waterfall, and it’s worth stopping when in the area.
Both times I have stopped by Barnes Creek has been on my way to other waterfalls in the Cohutta, hiking to Panther Creek Falls. Panther Creek is tough to access, with two options requiring either a long hike with a ridiculously steep drop to get to the top of the fall (the direction we went) or many waist-deep stream crossings. The day we went there was dense fog, and it was so beautiful that the grueling hike was worth the effort. Panther Creek Falls itself is a huge 400 ft tall waterfall. But it’s difficult to get a view of it all since it’s deep in wilderness with no viewing platform–and the day we were there it was too foggy to see all of the fall. So I contented myself with photos of sections of it, as in the photos to the left and below. Here’s a link to a photo by Mark Morrison that shows the main drop. There are also many other falls in the Cohutta, and most hiking books have descriptions how to get there. And hiking in the Cohutta is a worthy adventure in its own right.
So there you have 3 places in northwest Georgia (and a 4th if there’s a lot of rain) that are great locations to explore waterfalls. Once spring starts soon, I expect you all who now live nearby to get out and explore some waterfalls!