When my son was young, he was content to just be with me wherever our adventures took us. He didn’t care if we were heading to Arabia Mountain or the local Publix. Things changed as he got older. One day, as we were gathering all our paraphernalia for a short hike, he exclaimed, “I hate hiking!”
WHAT?!?!? My first reaction was panic. How can he not like hiking??
We decided to stay home that day, play on the trampoline, and make popsicles. It gave me time to think back on our hikes. I was sure he enjoyed them once we were there. With every fiber of my being, I knew he didn’t “hate” them. Was this an off day? Was he sick? What was happening?
A few days later I was reading articles on Children & Nature Network when a common theme emerged. Destinations. There reaches a time for a child when being together is no longer the mission. They aren’t yet old enough to appreciate being in nature for nature’s sake. They need a mission – a goal. With this new information, I changed my tune.
“Are we going on a hike?”
“Nope. We’re going to see a waterfall.”
“We’re not going on a hike, are we?”
“No hikes. I know you don’t like hikes. But I found out about a place with a great view of three mountains. We have to walk a ways to get to the top though. Is that OK?”
“That sounds awesome!”
To my six year old, hiking equals walking, which is just plain boring. But destinations are worthy! And with that, here are 52 Amazing Hikes Destinations.
52 Atlanta-Area Destination Hikes: Waterfalls, Vista-Views, and More
Waterfall Wonders (Distance indicated is length of hike to the falls)
Helton Creek Falls – (Blairsville, < .25-mile hike) There are two waterfalls here. We loved playing in the bottom falls. The rocks are slippery, but the water pools out far from the falls, making a lovely shallow area perfect for kids. After you get your fill here, walk up a few more stairs to see the gorgeous larger falls from an observation point.
Dukes Creek Falls – (Helen, < 1-mile hike) You can’t play in the water here, but you get pretty close to the falls while on the observation deck. The forest in this area beautiful, even in the dead of winter, and the falls are LOUD, which my boys loved.
Amicalola Falls – (Dawsonville, < .25-mile hike) The West Ridge Falls Access Trail is a short, paved trail to the middle of the falls, offering one of the best views of the water. If you are feeling adventurous, you can walk down the stairs to the base of the falls. Older kids can also hike the 400+ stairs up to the top. Not up for that? Get back in the car and drive to the top for another view.
Cascade Springs Nature Preserve (Atlanta, < .25-mile hike) There isn’t a towering falls here like you would see in the mountains, but a lovely cascade worthy of the list. We enjoy the natural spring house, as well as the creek. The boys could play here for hours. Be sure to head left on the loop for quick access to the falls.
Anna Ruby Falls (Helen, < .5-mile hike) There is a double falls to reward you at the end of this easy, paved hike. The wildflowers in spring are captivating, but any time of year here is wonderful. Bring a few quarters to feed the trout at the visitor center.
Lake Trahlyta (Vogel State Park in Blairsville, .5+ -mile hike) Take the easy 1-mile hike around Lake Trahlyta for gorgeous views of Blood and Slaughter Mountain. At the end of the trail is a short spur to see the spill-off from the lake.
Ada-Hi Falls (Black Rock Mountain in Mountain City, .25-mile hike) In dry weather this fall can be pretty sparse, but the cove is worth the hike even without a fall. It is covered in lichen, and nestled within the gnarly trunks of a rhododendron thicket.
Fall Branch Falls (Cherry Log, .5-mile hike) This short hike can be tricky with rocks and tree roots along the way, but that makes it more exciting for the kiddos. Follow the trail along the creek. The woods here are thick and damp, making an excellent backdrop for fern and moss. This is a double falls, so keep an eye out for the diamond-marked lower trail that leads to the lower falls and observation area. The climb to the upper falls is a little more steep, but worth it.
Denton Branch Falls (Tate City, Ga, < .25-mile hike) This is a great little “ghost town” of an area, so be sure to make time for exploring beyond the falls. A short hike leads to breathtaking falls with a swimming area.
Cane Creek Falls (Dahlonega, < .25 mile hike) This fall is on the grounds of the Camp Glisson Retreat Center, but it is open to the public when a retreat is not in session. The parking area is near the base of the falls. Swimming is not permitted.)
High Shoals Falls (Helen, 2.7 round trip hike) See two falls on this trip. The smaller cascade is Blue Hole Falls, and the bigger one is one of Georgia’s largest falls, High Shoals Falls.
Horse Trough Waterfall (Helen, < .5-mile hike) From this falls flows 500 more miles into the Gulf of Mexico. Neat! The short trail is in the forest, and you will be able to feel the temperature change as you climb. It’s at it’s best 2-3 days after a heavy rain.
Toccoa Falls (Toccoa Falls, <.25 mile hike) On the campus of Toccoa Falls College. This is the highest free-falling waterfall east of the Mississippi. ‘Toccoah’ means ‘beautiful’ in Cherokee.
Keown Falls (Armuchee, < 2-mile hike round trip) This fall is best after a rain or in the spring, but the hike and views are stunning at all times.
Minnehaha Falls (Tallulah Falls ,1.2 miles round trip) Some have called this the most beautiful in all of Georgia. The best time to hike is late May, because of the rhododendron that runs along the perimeter.
High Falls (Jackson, 2.2-mile loop) The water cascades from the dam above along a series of rocks. Beautiful view. Swimming and playing on the rocks are not permitted. They are very slippery.
Becky Branch Falls (Clayton , < .25 miles to falls) Pretty falls that you can see from an observation deck along the trail. If you are feeling adventurous, continue the trail for less than 2 miles to Martin Creek Falls. This part of the trail is a little more challenging.
Hemlock Falls (Clarkesville, 2-miles round trip ) This is a great fall that you can hear almost the entire walk, and you are rewarded with a nice swimming hole at the end. Wear shoes for wet weather, as it stays pretty soupy in this area. It can be challenging, with steep canyon walls. Consider waiting until the kiddos are physically prepared for this one.
Big Rock Nature Trail (Chatsworth, < .5-mile loop) These cascade falls are within Fort Mountain State Park. You’ll have a chance to play in a beautiful creek, and catch great mountain views.
Long Creek Falls (Blue Ridge, < 2-mile in and out) The Three Forks area is named for the three creeks that converge here into Noontoola Creek. You’ll be on both the Appalachian Trail and Benton-MacKaye Trail as you approach the waterfall. The climb is moderate, but the forest in this part of Blue Ridge is lush and serene.
Vickery Creek Falls (Roswell, 3-mile hike) If you are not up for a long hike, take note that the dam which creates the Vickery Creek Falls is only about a ½-mile hike from the trailhead. You’ll see mill ruins and a covered bridge, as well.
Raven Cliff Falls (Helen, 5-mile round trip) This is the longest waterfall hike on our list, but it can’t go unmentioned because of its popularity. You’ll follow Dodd Creek, passing several small waterfalls along the way. Plan to stay a while and enjoy the swimming hole.
Desoto Falls (Helen, 2-mile hike) Don’t miss both the lower and upper falls. The trail is relatively flat, and crosses Frogtown Creek a few times, making it great for little ones.
Continue to page 2 for more Destination Hikes…
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