10 great hikes for experiencing the southern charm of the Peach State

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Home to the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, Georgia’s diverse terrain and outstanding scenery makes for some memorable hikes. Looking for waterfalls? Check. Want to explore a canyon? Got it. How about a bit of history with your trek? Look no further. In Georgia, you’ll have your pick of rugged summits, peaceful waterfalls, wildflower-filled woodlands in spring, color-soaked forests in the autumn and terrain that varies from easy to expert. Check out these 10 hikes as ranked by the Hiking Project community to get started. And set up your own Hiking Project account to join the conversation, review trails and share your own adventures.

Anna Ruby Falls Trail No. 15

  • Location: Anna Ruby Falls Scenic Area, 14.8 miles north of Cleveland, GA
  • Length: 1.0-mile out-and-back
  • Difficulty Rating: Easy
  • Best For: An outing for the entire family
  • Dogs: Leashed 

This trail packs a lot into a short distance. The paved path gradually climbs through dense forest until it arrives at the main attraction—Anna Ruby Falls—after a half mile. The waterfall is a thundering double cascade at the confluence of Smith and York creeks where you can enjoy the falls from two wooden viewing platforms. Visit in autumn for the added bonus of a picture-perfect red, orange and yellow backdrop.

West Rim Loop Trail 

  • Location: Cloudland Canyon State Park, 7.9 miles southeast of Trenton, GA
  • Length: 4.9-mile lollipop loop
  • Difficulty Rating: Intermediate
  • Best For: Exploring a fantastic canyon landscape
  • Dogs: Leashed 

Heralded as one of the top day hikes in the state, this loop in Cloudland Canyon State Park dives into the heart of a thousand-foot-deep gorge on the western edge of Lookout Mountain. Though exploring the stunning sandstone canyon should pique your interest, along the way you’ll also be treated to scenic waterfalls, vistas, caves and creeks, meaning you’ll find plenty of opportunities to soak in the splendor of this unique landscape. 

A child rests on a rock looking at a waterfall.

Enjoying the view at Cloudland Canyon State Park (Photo Credit: Hiking Project contributor Tom Royal IV)

Raven Cliffs Falls

  • Location: Raven Cliffs Wilderness, 10.6 miles north of Cleveland, GA
  • Length: 5.5-mile out-and-back
  • Difficulty Rating: Intermediate
  • Best For: Creeks, cascades and a 40-foot waterfall
  • Dogs: Leashed 

Dodd Creek provides a rippling soundtrack as you follow it through the lush rhododendron and hardwood forest, hiking over mossy rocks and muddy patches into the Raven Cliffs Wilderness Area. Keep an eye out through the trees for the many small (but lovely) waterfalls along the way, but don’t worry about missing the trail’s namesake water feature: you’ll hear Raven Cliff Falls long before you see it. The 40-foot cascade tumbles between two towering granite cliff walls onto the base of the moss-covered rocks.

 Canyon Loop Trail 

  • Location: Providence Canyon State Park, 8 miles west of Lumpkin, GA
  • Length: 2.4-mile loop
  • Difficulty Rating: Intermediate
  • Best For: A southwest-like canyon experience
  • Dogs: Leashed

Welcome to the “Little Grand Canyon” of Georgia. Only nature didn’t carve this 150-foot-deep canyon—humans did. The impressive gorges and gullies of Providence Canyon State Park are the result of poor farming practices in the 1800s, resulting in massive erosion of the forested plain. Today, the colorful red, pink and orange canyon walls are interspersed with vibrant green trees and meandering trails. This loop takes you down to the floor of the canyon where you’ll feel like a desert explorer. 

A hiker climbs a path through a canyon.

Exploring Providence Canyon (Photo Credit: Hiking Project contributor Ryan McCabe)

Emery Creek Falls

  • Location: Windy Gap, 9.7 miles northeast of Chatsworth, GA
  • Length: 5.9-mile out-and-back
  • Difficulty Rating: Intermediate
  • Best For: A peaceful  outing to a secluded waterfall
  • Dogs: Unknown

Waterfalls are always a popular destination, but you can leave (much of) the crowd behind by heading to Emery Creek Falls in Chattahoochee National Forest. Though the start of the trail may be busy, especially in the summer months when people come to hang out along the creek near the beginning of the trail, the farther in you hike, the more solitude you’ll find. There are nearly 20 water crossings to navigate along the intermittently marked route, so by the time you reach Emery Creek Falls, you will be well practiced at rock hopping across the creek. The main waterfall has three distinct cascades, each with a shallow, clear pool at its base. Savor a picnic lunch, swish your feet in the water and enjoy the rewards of your route-finding adventure. 

Trees and the multi-tiered Upper Emery Creek waterfall.

Upper Emery Creek Waterfall (Photo Credit: Hiking Project contributor ryan wamsley)

Springer Mountain

  • Location: Three Forks, 26.9 miles west of Ellijay, GA
  • Length: 8.8-mile out-and-back
  • Difficulty Rating: Intermediate
  • Best For: Tackling your own iconic Appalachian Trail achievement
  • Dogs: Leashed 

The Appalachian Trail is one of the best-known hiking routes in the U.S., and Georgia is home to it’s southern terminus: Springer Mountain. But this 3,782-foot landmark is worth a visit even if you aren’t planning on trekking the 2,000 miles to Maine. You’ll understand why it’s such a popular day hike as you climb through a tunnel of rhododendron and mountain laurel to the peak. Once you reach the summit, be sure to find the plaque marking the start (or end) of the AT and survey the mountains rolling away to the horizon. 

Pine Mountain Trail 

  • Location: F.D. Roosevelt State Park, 6.5 miles west of Manchester, GA
  • Length: 23.3-mile point to point
  • Difficulty Rating: Intermediate
  • Best For: A scenic backpacking trip
  • Dogs: Leashed

If you’re looking for a worthy backpacking excursion, head to the 23-plus-mile Pine Mountain Trail that winds through Georgia’s largest state park, F.D. Roosevelt State Park. You’ll enjoy scenic forests, melodic streams and have the chance to spot wildlife like deer and turkey. Plus, 16 backcountry campsites are along the route, so you’ll have your pick of places to pitch your tent. Looking for a day hike instead? Bite off a smaller chunk by combining part of the route with other paths in the area such as the White Candle Loop or the Sawtooth Trail.

Panther Falls

  • Location: Chattahoochee National Forest, 9.7-miles northeast of Clarkesville, GA
  • Length: 6.7-mile out-and-back
  • Difficulty Rating: Difficult
  • Best For: Adventurous hikers looking for a challenge
  • Dogs: Leashed

Another Georgia favorite, Panther Falls is geared toward hikers looking for a bit more adventure. The trail winds around moss-covered boulders beneath a hardwood canopy that provides shade in the summer and a colorful ceiling come autumn. The terrain gets more difficult as you go, but the roots, rocks, creek crossings and steep, exposed drop-offs are all part of the fun. Make sure you bring your bathing suit. Once you’ve scrambled and sweated your way to the pool at the base of Panther Falls, you’ll definitely want to take a dip.

Bridal Veil Falls

  • Location: Tallulah Gorge State Park, 14.8 miles northeast of Clarkesville, GA
  • Length: 1.8-mile out-and-back
  • Difficulty Rating: Difficult
  • Best For: Getting off the beaten path
  • Dogs: No dogs 

Tallulah Gorge State Park, located just south of the North Carolina state border, may be a popular destination, but this hike down into the gorge is limited to 100 permits a day. After descending into the gorge via a set of steep stairs and crossing a suspension bridge, you’ll need to do a little route-finding along the river banks, passing the smaller Hurricane and Oceana falls before arriving at your destination—Bridal Veil Falls. This low-angled, 20-foot cascade forms a natural waterslide that you can slip, slide and splash down into the swimming hole at the base of the falls.

Waterfall in Tallulah Gorge.

Oceana Falls in Tallulah Gorge (Photo Credit: Hiking Project contributor ryan wamsley)

Yonah Mountain Trail No. 632

  • Location: Yonah Mountain, 4.5 miles northeast of Cleveland, GA
  • Length: 4.6-mile out-and-back
  • Difficulty Rating: Difficult
  • Best For: Getting a workout en route to panoramic views
  • Dogs: Leashed 

The climb up 3,166-foot Yonah Mountain will get your heart pumping as you’ll gain just over 1,400 feet of elevation on the steady, leg-burning ascent. Luckily the scenery gets better as you go, so you’ll forget your burning thighs as you approach the summit, where large rock outcroppings jut skyward from the trees. From the grassy bald that caps Yonah, you can branch out onto several side trails to catch a view from atop the outcrops. Just use caution. The drop-offs are sudden and severe. 

Looking out on the hills from a viewpoint on Yonah Mountain.

View from Yonah Mountain (Photo Credit: TranceMist under CC BY 2.0)