5 Within 50 (-ish): Spectacular Waterfalls

Most state parks and historic sites have recognized the extreme comfort that comes from being in nature at this time and have remained open. A word of warning: check GAStateParks.org before you go. Governor Kemp’s Executive Order identifies outdoor activity as an essential activity, so long as visitors maintain proper social distance and follow established guidelines. Some parks may limit access to trails in order to maintain proper social distance and may close parking lots, trails and other outdoor areas if they reach capacity. Along with everything else, this policy is fluid and could change. At any rate, support networks (such as Search and Rescue) may be limited, so be careful.

Amicalola Falls

418 Amicalola Falls State Park Road | Dawsonville

Might as well start at the top, right? The tallest cascading waterfall in the southeast, Amicalola Falls reaches a towering height of 729 feet. A Cherokee word meaning “tumbling waters” (appropriate), Amicacola is located in the mossy, hardwood Chattahoochee National Forest in the southern Appalachian Mountains. The nearly 1,000-acre park features 12 miles of integrated trailways that is the beginning or end (depending on your perspective) of the Appalachian Trail. Multiple trails lead hikers of every level to view the tumbling waters. Fair warning: Amicalola is one of Georgia’s most popular state parks. Consider going in the early mornings before the crowds arrive for proper social distancing.

Long Creek Falls

Forest Service Road 58 | Morganton

Located on the Appalachian Trail in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Long Creek Falls is an easy two-mile, out-and-back hike. The path ascends 80 feet above the creek at points, creating cascades so loud that hikers are often fooled into thinking they’ve arrived. The hike actually ends at a hemlock and rhododendron-surrounded pool at the base of the 50-foot Long Creek Falls. Long Creek Falls begins by tumbling over smaller terraced, mossy rocks, widens over a single large rock, then fans out and drops into the shallow pond. The wide, full falls even flow in the dry Georgia summer.

Dukes Creek Falls

1699 Richard Russell Highway | Helen

Another quick two-mile roundtrip, Dukes Creek Falls is a tiered, dramatic, 150-foot fall. The trail is both kid- and dog-friendly (bonus: the trailhead offers excellent views of Yonah Mountain). The trail features multiple waterfalls along the mountain stream-filled forest, especially at the junction of Davis and Dukes Creek. There are several large viewing platforms at the falls, providing the perfect selfie spot to make your hike even more Insta-worthy. 

Trahlyta Falls

405 Vogel State Park Road | Blairsville

credit: GA State Parks

Another quick two-mile roundtrip, Dukes Creek Falls is a tiered, dramatic, 150-foot fall. The trail is both kid- and dog-friendly (bonus: the trailhead offers excellent views of Yonah If you’re looking for an easy hike, look no further. The one-mile trail around the shore of mountain lake Trahlyta in Vogel State Park offers incredible views of Blood Mountain, the tallest peak on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia. An additional short trail leads to a wooden observation deck and fantastic views of Trahlyta Falls. Fun fact: Trahyleta (pronounced “Trah-LEE-tah”) lake, waterfall and subsequent trail are named for a Cherokee woman who, legend has it, drank from a fountain of youth located near Preachers Rock. While the water may have kept her youthful, it didn’t cancel the inevitable—her grave is located at Stonepile Gap in Dahlonega (another field trip!).

Helton Creek Falls

US Hwy 129 S | Blairsville

Double your pleasure, double your fun at Helton Creek Falls! The Cherokee who first settled this area of North Georgia dubbed it “The Land of a Thousand Waterfalls” (Georgia is only actually home to 200 waterfalls.) The Helton Creek Falls hike reaches the upper waterfall viewing platform at just over .3 miles. The upper falls, the larger of the two waterfalls, spills into a shallow pool before cascading downstream towards the lower falls. Located off a gravel road and short hike (more of a walk, actually), the waterfalls offer easy access, making the hike a family-friendly affair.