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.
(Distance indicated is length of hike to the falls)
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.
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) Follow the trail for a trip to the Falls. 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.
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.
Views and Vistas Worth Visiting
Indian Seats Trail (Cumming, 3.5 miles) You can cut the 3.5-mile hike considerably with the Yucca trail connection, though you will miss the treehouse and fairy garden by doing so. The highest point, the observation deck next to the rock “seat” formations, is a tad over 1700 ft. Some say this group of mountains is the southern-most summit it the Blue Ridge range.
Pine Mountain Trail West Loop (Cartersville, 2-miles) You can see 180 degrees from this tallest point in Cartersville. The East and West loops total 4.7 miles, but the West Loop alone will get you to the top in about 2 miles.
Tallulah Gorge North Rim Trail (Tallulah Falls, 1.5-mile hike) It only takes a few hundred yards from the parking lot to see the view, but you’ll want to walk the rim for multiple vantage points of the gorge. From the rim you can see the gorge in its majesty, 1,000 ft deep and two miles long. See gorge-ous falls, the Wallenda towers, and more. With experienced kiddos, you can hike to the half-way point in the gorge, the suspension bridge.
Black Rock Mountain State Park (Mountain City, various hikes) At 3,600 ft the views here are astounding. You can park at the Visitor Center for breathtaking scenery (spectacular in fall.) There are a number of great trails to select from here, but Tennessee Rock Trail offers the best vista views (outside of the overlooks along the main roadway of the park.)
Brasstown Bald Trail (Blairsville, 1.2 miles) This is Georgia’s highest peak and the hike takes you up an entire 500 feet from trailhead to summit. The path is strenuous but there are seats along the way, and the path is paved. You are rewarded at the top with 360-degree views of the North Georgia Mountains.
Tray Mountain at Indian Grave Gap (Helen, 5.2 miles) See far reaching views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Chattahoochee National Forest. This is one of the most popular hikes on the AT according to Atlanta Trails, particularly because of the view.
Big Cedar Mountain (Dahlonega, 3 miles roundtrip) Long-range views off the Appalachian Trail. The area here is filled with Pine, not Cedar. Not sure about the name. Massive rock croppings make for a great picnic area.
Kennesaw Mountain (Kennesaw, 3-miles) Take the paved road from the visitor center to the top of Kennesaw Mountain for impressive views. On a clear day, you can see the city and Stone Mountain from the top.
Stone Mountain (Stone Mountain, 2.2-miles roundtrip) You can see for 60 miles from the peak of Stone Mountain. If you don’t want to walk both ways, you can ride the Summit Skyride up or down.
Dowdell’s Knob (Pine Mountain, 0 miles) You can drive right to the overlook of Dowdell’s Knob. See where FRD picnicked with his family. There is even a life-size statue of him here. But come all that way with no hiking? No way! There are 42 miles of trails in the park, forming the Pine Mountain Trail System. We enjoy the Chestnut Oak Trail, 2.1 miles accessed from the Gardens Overlook Parking Lot.
Blood Mountain Trail (Blairsville, 5 miles) Arguably the most impressive views of the Blue Ridge Mountains are along this trail. It’s a popular trail, too, so first-timers on the AT will feel safe. The first and last mile are moderately difficult, but kids love the wilderness. The view is well worth the effort.
Cloudland Canyon West Rim (Rising Fawn, 5-miles) This is probably the most difficult trail in our collection, but you will be rewarded. Some have even called this the most scenic hike in the nation. Pack water, snacks, and a lunch. And certainly don’t forget a camera.
Bear Hair Gap (Blairsville, 3.5-mile loop) Within Vogel State Park, this loop is easy to moderate. The woods are thick, with plenty of creeks and waterfalls in spring and winter. Keep an eye out for the vantage point at the top of the trail where you can see all of Vogel State Park, including the beautiful Lake Trahlyta.
Lula Lake (Lookout Mountain, 1-mile) Lula Lake Trails are only open on the first and last Saturdays of the month. You can take the 1-mile trail for views of the Upper and Lower Falls. They fall from the top of Lookout Mountain, and this point provides gorgeous vistas and interesting geological outcrops.
Whitley Gap (Helen, 1 mile) This short trail, a spur off the AT, takes you to the top of Wildcat Mountain. This is one of our favorite trails because of the gnarly rhododendron growth that makes it feel like a Fairy or Gnome forest.
Hike Inn (Dahlonega, 5 miles) You can hike the Hike Inn trail without staying at the Inn. There are gorgeous views at the top, rated one of the best 36 hikes in America by Backpacker Magazine.
Other Unique Destinations
Marble Mine Trail (Marble Mine – Summerville, < 3 miles) Follow an old mining road to a small defunct mine with a waterfall.
Track Rock Gap (Petroglyphs – Blairsville, < .25 miles) A short hike to see Cherokee petroglyphs that are over 1.000 years old.
Toccoa River Swinging Bridge (Suspension Bridge – Blue Ridge, < .5 miles) Take a short walk to the 250-foot bridge – the longest swinging bridge this side of the Mississippi. Play in the river, fish for Blue Ridge’s famous trout, or hike in the mysterious mountains. Can’t wait to camp here.
Rolater Park (Cave and Natural Spring – Cave Spring, 0 miles) The .75-mile trail starts and stops at this unique cave. Bring $1 to see inside the cave and jugs to gather fresh spring water.
Lullwater Park (Suspension Bridge, Cascade, and Ruins – Atlanta, 2 miles) Mill ruins, a small cascade, and a 210-foot suspension bridge. The kids will love it! See my post about where to park.
Sope Creek (Ruins, and a Creek – Marietta, 1.5 miles ) The kids will love the ruins on this easy hike. There are also rocks and sand near the ruins, and a creek to toss them into.
Amicalola River Trail (Swimming Hole – Dawsonville, 2.9 miles) The best part of this hike is the short walk from the parking lot to the Edge of the World Rapids. Shortly after the boardwalk ends, the trail splits. Take the upper trail to complete the 2.9-mile hike. Take the lower trail to head down to the rocks on the water. We’ve spent hours and hours here…swimming in the swimming holes, riding the waves down the rocks, and picnicking on the large stones.
River Walk Nature Trail (Fish Traps – Cartersville) Within the Etowah Indian Mound Historic Site, walk along the river. Keep watch for the V-shaped fish traps used my Native Americans to corral fish for the village.
Berry College Old Mill (Old Mill – Rome, 2 miles) Park at the Old Mill and explore that area. Don’t miss the hub, which was fitted by Henry Ford! The mill only runs one day a year during a festival in fall, but it still gorgeous to visit. Take the 1-mile hike to the reservoir from there.
Springer Mountain Trailhead (Beginning of the Appalachian Trail – Blue Ridge, .9 miles) From the parking lot it is less than a mile to the summit of Spring Mountain, which begins the journey on the AT. An open-front trail shelter is about 400 yards down a blue-blazed and signed side trail.
Grassy Mountain Tower Trail (Fire Tower – Chatsworth, 3 miles) This trail takes you to a fire tower, which provides 360-degree views of the Cohutta Wilderness, Fort Mountain, and Georgia’s Ridge and Valley.
Morningside Nature Preserve (Suspension Bridge – Atlanta, 2.5 miles) 30-acres of forest in the city that has been preserved for conservation of water and native vegetation. The walk over the creek is a highlight for kids, featuring a beautiful suspension bridge.
Clyde Shepard Nature Preserve (Tire Swing – Decatur, < 2-miles) There is plenty to do here, including a beaver pond, an observation tower, and a rope swing. Looking at the park from the street, follow the trail to the left. You’ll go over a boardwalk. That trail runs between the creek and the pond. You can see the swing from the trail. If you get to the large bamboo jungle around the trail, you’ve gone too far.
After 18 years in software development, Lesli bailed on the corporate scene. When she’s not traveling, she’s hiking in the mountains or checking out Atlanta’s culinary scene, whiskey in hand.
Lesli has two kiddos -Cooper and Elliot- plus two bonus kids currently at UGA, and she’s happily married to her soul mate.