Hike 1 mile on the easy – with occasional rocky, slippery footing – Hemlock Falls Trail in Rabun County, Georgia, to see cascades on Moccasin Creek, waterfall, and bluffs.
By Tim Homan
This short, scenic trail leaves no doubt about its exact starting point: it’s carved in stone. Behind the trail rock the treadway parallels Moccasin Creek on an often rocky old road. The streamside forest is dominated by eastern hemlock, eastern white pine, sweet birch, basswood, and rosebay rhododendron.
At 0.4 mile a narrow rivulet tributary pours 8 feet onto a rock slab across the creek. The footpath continues beside a long, cascading run – powerful, swift, and foaming white when the water is high.
With 0.3 mile remaining, the path crosses the creek on a sturdy wooden bridge. Beyond the bridge, the trail continues to parallel the still-cascading stream to the waterfall. If you walk this trail after leaf-fall and recent rain, along the way you can spot another small-volume, 45-to 50-foot waterfall sliding down the bluff across the creek. Wide and 15 feet high, Hemlock Falls drops into a large, round, mountain-green catch pool. Hemlock Falls is the end of the official, maintained trail.
Note: A patchwork trail once connected path with management area road all the way to Addis Gap on the Appalachian Trail. This unblazed path, which fords Moccasin Creek three times, is now blocked with numerous deadfalls from a blizzard and a hurricane. Moccasin Creek Falls, 30 to 35 feet high and 40 feet wide, is 0.6 mile upstream and one normally easy ford beyond Hemlock Falls.
Throughout: Cascading Moccasin Creek and bluffs. Mile 1.0: Hemlock Falls, 15 feet high and surprisingly powerful during winter and early spring.
To reach Moccasin Creek State Park from Clayton, travel west on US 76 to the intersection with GA 197. Turn left (south) on GA 197 and travel 3.5 miles to the park entrance.
From the Clarkesville junction of Historic 441-GA 197, travel 21.0 miles on GA 197 North to the park entrance. The corralled trailhead parking area for the Non-Game Wildlife Trail is located on the west side (left if you are heading north) of GA 197 directly across the highway from the entrance of Moccasin Creek State Park. Travel the gravel road that begins next to the corralled parking area 0.5 mile to the Hemlock Falls trailhead and parking area.
This hiking guide to the Hemlock Falls 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.