Hike 2.5 miles on the easy-to-moderate Raven Cliffs Trail in White County, Georgia, to see a stream, waterfalls, scenic views, rock outcrops, and cliffs.
By Tim Homan
Beginning near where Dodd Creek mingles its water with and loses its name to Dukes Creek, this popular trail follows Dodd Creek and its valley upstream into the mountains. Alternating between creek level and hillside, the gently sloping trail threads its way along the cascading stream, rarely leaving the sound of the rushing water.
In 1986, The Georgia Wilderness Bill incorporated Raven Cliffs Scenic Area within the 9,115-acre Raven Cliffs Wilderness. Although protected from mechanical intrusion, this trail’s beauty, its location near Helen, and its short, easily walked length make it attractive to many people, both backpackers and day hikers. Please stay on the trail and help keep this part of the wilderness from being loved to death. At present, campsites are too numerous and too worn along this overly popular trail. A self-imposed camping moratorium or, better yet, a permit system imposed by the Forest Service may help the area heal.
Raven Cliffs lives up to its former designation almost everywhere you look. Within the first 1.3 miles the trail passes beside numerous cascades and two waterfalls. Beside the path watch for the Fraser magnolia, a deciduous magnolia whose large leaves – 10 to 12 inches long and 6 to 7 inches wide – emanate from the stem in a whorled arrangement, and look for the sweet birch, whose twigs have the distinctive fragrance of wintergreen. From mid-May through early June, Vasey’s trillium blooms underneath its characteristic three leaves. The rich carmine flowers of this trillium are often 4 inches in diameter. In late June, the dense thickets of rosebay rhododendron turn the stream borders into narrow bands of white.
From the parking lot, a short path begins with a steel marker. Steps lead immediately to a camping area with trash cans and a Forest Service information board. As you descend into the camping area, Dukes Creek is on the left. The path continues into the forest, crosses a small rivulet, and turns right to a sign-in post. At 0.1 mile the trail ascends slightly, then levels near the first of several cascades on Dodd Creek at 0.3 mile. By mile 0.6 it descends into a boggy area, marked by numerous campsites. The first waterfall appears at mile 1.1 and pours from a height of 10 feet onto a conveniently placed boulder. Soon the forest becomes dominated by hardwoods. At mile 1.3 a 35-foot waterfall drops into a shallow plunge pool. Rock outcrops, the same color as the cliffs, dot the steep slope above the path.
Continuing to parallel the cascading creek and passing through two fern fields, the path arrives at the base of Raven Cliffs at mile 2.5. Even in summer, the massive rock face is visible from a distance through the veil of trees. The cliff walls, some of them amazingly smooth, tower nearly 125 feet above creek level at their highest point.
Mile 1.1: 10-foot-high waterfall.
Mile 1.3: Wide, 3S-foot-high waterfall.
Mile 2.5: Raven Cliffs and upper and lower Raven Cliffs Falls. The lower falls, called Raven Cliffs Grotto, is a 40-foot waterspout surrounded by cavelike walls.
Take GA 75 North from the Chattahoochee River Bridge in Helen, travel approximately 1.4 miles, and turn left onto GA Alt. 75 South, crossing the bridge over the Chattahoochee River in Robertstown. Continue on GA Alt. 75 South for 2.3 miles, then turn right onto Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway (GA 348 North).
After traveling 1. 7 miles on Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway, you will come to the sign for Dukes Creek Recreation Area. Proceed 1.3 miles past this sign until the highway crosses Dukes Creek. Immediately beyond Dukes Creek look for a parking area marked with a trail sign to the left. From the parking area, walk downstream on the closed road along the creek. Approximately 145 yards down the road, a rivulet flows into the creek; cross the tiny stream, turn right, and follow the blueblazed trail to Dodd Creek.
This hiking guide to the Raven Cliffs Trail is adapted from The Hiking Trails of North Georgia by Tim Homan and is published in cooperation with the publisher, Peachtree Publishers. With his meticulous attention to detail and accuracy, Homan has long been recognized as the authority on North Georgia hiking trail by serious hikers. His other books include Hiking Trails of Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock and Citico Creek Wilderness, Hiking the Shining Rock and Middle Prong Wilderness and others. For a complete inventory of his books see his Amazon Author Page. For an inventory of Peachtree Publishers books including its Nature books for children, go to the Peachtree Publishers website.