Sunday Hikes: Cloudland Canyon State Park Waterfalls Trail

Cloudland Canyon State Park in northeast Georgia is a great place for a day trip or weekend camping trip from Atlanta or Chattanooga. The aptly named Waterfalls Trail takes you to the parks two largest waterfalls, Cherokee and Hemlock falls. The trail is only 2.1 miles round-trip but is also entirely a steep stairway descending into the canyon so going back up will wipe you out. About half a mile in you will reach the 60 foot Cherokee Falls. Cherokee drops into a large pool before turning back into the small Sitton’s Gulch Creek. 

A little over half a mile later you will reach Hemlock Falls. Hemlock is 30 feet taller than its upstream partner and splashes down onto the rocks below. Though Hemlock is more impressive it’s view is somewhat obstructed by a large tree and a giant boulder that can’t help but make you  question where such a large rock fell from.



 A lot of people try to get a better view by leaving the platform and getting closer to the Falls but you have to walk past multiple signs warning you to not leave the trail so you should probably not do this. The trail continues past Hemlock Falls and turns into the Sitton Gulch Trail but most people turn back up towards the canyon’s rim. The hike won’t take you more than an hour and gives you two beautiful waterfalls to enjoy as well as a bit of a workout on the way back up! Whether you live nearby or are traveling by I’d say that Cloudland Canyon is worth the visit for sure! 

Thanks! – Josh

Sunday Hikes: Cheaha Mountain

At 2,405 feet above sea level, Cheaha Mountain in Alabama is one of the less impressive state high peaks. Nonetheless I found myself driving 2 hours west on I20 about a month ago to hike up the mountain. We got to Cheaha State Park around 8am and drove to the top of the mountain where they were doing some construction. The views were good and if the day wasn’t so overcast we could have certainly seen Birmingham in the distance. 


We didn’t go to the mountain to drive to the top though so we went down to the nearby Cheaha trailhead and hoped it was the one we wanted to hike (the trail maps provided at the state park were pretty much unreadable). We hit the trail which quickly connected to the Pinhoti Trail and followed it along the top of the tallest mountains in Alabama. 



We followed the Pinhoti for 4 miles and passed a bunch of cool overlooks as well as backcountry campgrounds. The most interesting part of this trail came at the end of the four miles when we came across a small old plane that had crashed in the woods at some point in history. We checked it out and took some pictures before continuing to an overlook to eat lunch. 


Once we departed the overlook we took the 3 mile connector trail from the Pinhoti to the Cave Creek trail. The Cave Creek Trail took us another 4 miles back up to the Cheaha trailhead where my car was parked. 


Somewhere along the way though we ended up on an unmarked side trail and went about a mile before turning back and having to hike up some very steep stretches of trail. We finished the trail a little after noon and ate some granola bars in the bed of my little pickup truck. Overall it was a great hike (although a little longer than expected) and I was disappointed at not seeing any cave creeks (whatever that is) on the Cave Creek Trail. It was a nice little day trip and gives me another state high peak to mark off the list. 

-Josh 

Sunday Hikes: Emery Creek Falls (Part 3)

And now back to the third installment of the search for the lost Emery Creek Falls in North Georgia…

After discovering that our upstream trek was all in vain, my Dad and I quickly planned our next excursion to Emery Creek. Having actually found the trailhead last time we drove straight to it in the ol’ Jeep and parked right back in our gravel lot. We took a picture of the trail map on our phones because we aren’t safe hikers that always have topographical hiking maps. We continued down the trail to where our creek on the right met up with the real Emery Creek and after wandering to the left a little bit from where we had been misled by a cairn we found the real green blazed trail we needed (I think it was green anyway, all the blazes from all the trails tend to blend together in my head). We crossed the creek twice back to back and continued up along the creek, crossing it occasionally. This trail was much easier to follow compared to our non-trail from before. The trail was also relatively flat with only a few little ups and downs. After crossing the creek again we walked into and open area with some rock fire pits and open areas for tents then as the trail narrowed back down and strayed from the creek a little we passed one of the famed landmarks of Emery Creek Trail… the rusty shell of a pickup truck! We knew the truck was there before we came across it but we didn’t know why so we looked at it for a second and then kept hiking while discussing how and why the truck was there in the woods. The trail continued to meander through rhododendrons, large oaks, ferns, and even a little bamboo and then we crossed the creek again where it opened up into what looked like an unused forest service or ATV road. We passed a small snake that didn’t seem poisonous or threatening in any way and the road quickly met a small stream that flowed into Emery Creek and turned back into a smaller trail. At this point our trail went up a little bit and flattened out about 20-30 feet above our creek with a steep hill to our right going into the water. The trail and the water eventually leveled out again and the foliage around us became thicker. We ran into a downed tree blocking our path and hopped right over it and continued to where the trail once again crossed the creek. At this point we could hear the sound of water rushing down from a height so we hurried our pace. Soon after we came to a split in the trail with the upper falls continuing straight and our waterfall to the left. We went left past a couple more camping spots and all of the sudden our waterfall was right in front of us!

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We decided that this was definitely more impressive than what we thought was Emery Creek Falls and after taking some pictures we continued up the trail that goes to the middle of the upper and lower falls where two people had set up their tents and had camped the night before. We looked around a bit and then went back to the upper falls trail. This is where the trail got a little steeper but not too bad still. We kept going up and passed where the top of the falls were and continued on the trail to find an overlook that our map showed. The trail veered to the right and we crossed the creek once again. Right after we crossed the creek we spotted a small camping stove and a tent with a small family outside making breakfast. We said good morning and asked how they were, the dad of the family said he would give us some coffee but he had none left and asked where we were going. We told him we were looking for the overlook up the trail and he warned us like an old crazy wizard to “Be careful, no ones been up there in a long time”. After departing from our creepy friends the trail crossed over another dirt road that once again looked unused. After this the forest floor seemed to slowly creep closer and closer to our feet. The trail also began going uphill and the blazes became few and far between. At some point up our trail we came to a fork in the trail that wasn’t shown on our map. The left fork had many fallen trees and thick thorn bushes so we went right. The trail just kept going up, passing the creek a couple times until we came to what seemed like the spring that Emery Creek was born from. Still having found no overlook we pressed on. The forest changed as we gained altitude and turned from deciduous to solely conifers with their needles littering the floor. The trail came to an open area that then turned into some semi-steep switchbacks. Not too long after the switchbacks started we stopped, sat down, had a snack, and discussed turning back since it had been over and hour since we left the falls and we were about 3 miles past where we had intended to go, on top of that the only water we had left was from my LifeStraw that I had refilled once already. So right there on our unknown mountain we turned back towards the Jeep. Once we had almost returned to the dirt road and back to the upper falls we heard a very loud snap and expecting a deer we looked towards the noise and saw a very large black bear running up a steep hill, away from us. This made our extra hiking all worth it just to see such a large and scary animal but to not be threatened by it. As we came back to where our wizard friend had been we found that their camp was completely cleared out almost as if they had disappeared into the void!! (Or just packed up and went home). We went to the top of the upper falls and looked down at the cascading water drop ten to twenty feet at a time. Wanting to get a good look at it from below I decided to climb down the falls a little bit and Dad followed. Now I don’t usually like to go off trail at all but I suppose I missed our previous creek hopping adventures so we ended up climbing down the entire group of waterfalls right back to the lower falls where the two camping people were packing up camp. We passed them and told them about our bear encounter and the hit the trail back home. We crossed the creek, passed the dirt road with the snake, passed our rusty truck and what felt like no time at all we were back at the Jeep! Feeling quite hungry we snagged some taco bell on the way home and were careful driving through White County this time. We felt quite satisfied with ourselves that day. We had found our waterfall, seen a bear, accidentally hiked a mountain (we ended up hiking almost 12 miles instead of our planned 6), and had a great time!

That wraps up my stories about the search for Emery Creek Falls, thanks for reading and if you are ever in North Georgia and looking for a hike, I recommend Emery Creek Trail just make sure you go more prepared than me!

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