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Georgia Mountain Laurel Magazine

Adventure Out – Waterfalls and Sunsets on the Richard Russell Scenic Highway

Jun 07, 2016 05:52PM ● By Melanie Heisinger

Dodd Creek. Photo by Peter McIntosh.

Article & Photos by Peter McIntosh 

Raven Cliffs Falls

  The theme for the Georgia Mountain Laurel this month is tourism and with that in mind we're doing some touring on this adventure. Our adventure could be called “The Greatest Hits of the Richard Russell Scenic Highway.” Richard Russell was a legendary Georgia politician. A graduate of the University of Georgia, Russell served in the Georgia House of Representatives, he was Governor of Georgia from 1931 to 1933 and most notably, he was a United States Senator from 1933 to 1971.  The road that bears his name is a lovely two lane blacktop that takes us to all three destinations, Dukes Creek Falls, Raven Cliff Falls and a western facing rock outcropping up on Wildcat Mountain.

  From where Alt. 75 intersects the Richard Russell Highway, (GA 348) it’s about 1.5 miles to the Dukes Creek Falls parking area and trailhead on your left. (There are handicapped accessible restrooms here) The first part of the trail is paved and handicapped accessible all the way to a viewing platform which offers your first view of the falls. From here the trail descends several switchbacks, a little less than a 1 mile, down to the base of the falls. It’s very nice at the base of the falls, where two streams converge, but in the 35 years since I first visited here, it’s become overgrown but still well worth the short hike. So let’s trek back up to the car and head down the highway to one of my favorite trails in all of North Georgia.

  The Raven Cliffs Falls trailhead is 1 mile further north on the Richard Russell and also on the left, just a short way down a gravel road. There are rest room s here as well. This is a popular trail so if you go on a weekend don’t expect to be alone. From the parking area, the trail (2.5 miles each way) gently climbs over a hill before descending and joining Dodd Creek. After crossing the creek, the trail stays streamside most of the way with numerous smaller waterfalls to reward you as make you way up this beautiful footpath. Nearing the end, the trail becomes a bit steeper and a lot rockier. Be careful as you scramble up to some nice sitting rocks offering a splendid view of Raven Cliff Falls, a unique cascade pouring straight down deep inside a split in the rock face. There are some roots you can hold on to if you want to climb around the right side of the falls to take in the view from the top of the cliffs. This isn’t too dangerous if you’re nimble but please be careful. Please. 

  Now if you’ve scheduled it right, you’ll have time to hike back out, drive about 4.5 miles up the highway up to Hogpen Gap and the Appalachian Trail. From here we’re going to hike south on the AT. (2 x 6 inch white blaze) It’s actually west, but in AT terms it’s south. The trail leads off into the forest across the road from the parking area and ascends via switchbacks about ¼ mile to the top of the ridgeline. At the top of the ridge the AT continues off to the right and a side trail (blue blazes) leading to a shelter goes to the left. This is our trail, which we follow for about another ¼ mile until coming to an opening on the right, leading out to the rock face, offering a spectacular panoramic view. Cowrock Mountain is just across from you and to the northwest are the many layered mountains of the Nottely River Watershed and to the southwest are the Appalachian Foothills. This is a great place to watch a sunset, even better with a little wine and cheese. And if you have a nice headlamp, you won’t be afraid to stay past twilight since it's such an easy hike out.

Happy Hiking!


Feel free to swoon, here's my poem for June:

Let's set out on the road, long and winding,

Where beautiful scenery we'll be finding.

With clear falling water and air cool and sweet,

And a stunning mountain sunset makes this trip complete.



Getting there: From Burton Dam Road and GA 197 go 3 miles to GA 356.

Go 11 miles on GA 356 to intersection with GA 17-75 at Robertstown. (stop at Fred’s Famous Peanuts for some terrific garlic fried peanuts) Go north about 3/10 of a mile on17-75 and turn left over the Chattahoochee River onto Alt 75. Go a little over 2 miles to intersection with Richard Russell Scenic Highway  (GA 348) on right. Dukes creek falls in 1.5 miles. Then Raven Cliffs Falls 1 mile farther, then Hogpen Gap and the Appalachian Trail in 4.5 miles.


If you'd like to join Peter McIntosh on an Summertime Photo Excursion, give him a call at:

706.490.1247 or email him a [email protected]

On the web:

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