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Best Waterfall Hikes Near Atlanta 


Waterfall lovers know they have no shortage of hikes to choose from in north Georgia, especially with fan favorites like Amicalola Falls, Tallulah Gorge Falls and Anna Ruby Falls. But for metro-Atlanta hikers who prefer to keep treks closer to home, there are some highly underrated waterfalls that are less than the two-plus-hour drive that a north Georgia waterfall jaunt would typically take. Some of the most popular waterfalls are man-made, harking back to the metro area’s mill operations in the 1800s. Even for the purists who prefer natural waterfalls, there are enough options for several weekend adventures. Don’t forget to pack your swim gear and water shoes, because you won’t want to miss these waterfall hikes near Atlanta. 

Also, check out local hiking events with REI for more opportunities to get outside and connect with other hikers. 

Cochran Mill Park, located about 20 minutes southwest of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, will give metro-Atlanta waterfall lovers the biggest bang for their buck. “Buck” is literal here because a parking pass is required for cars in the park’s lot for those who are not Chattahoochee Hills residents, but with three waterfalls on three different trails, this city park is a must-see. 

Orange Trail 

  • Location: Chattahoochee Hills 
  • Length: 2.3-mile loop   
  • Difficulty Rating: Moderate 
  • Best For: Multiuse recreation 
  • Dogs: Leashed 

The Orange Trail wastes no time in giving hikers what they’re looking for. The waterfall is a short walk down a gravel road across the street from the Cochran Mill Park parking lot. Once hikers spot the wooden bridge about a quarter of a mile in, the waterfall is just around the corner. The beautiful stairstep waterfall is also the site of the Owen Cochran Mill ruins. It’s a naturally beautiful spot for amateur and professional photographers alike. Those who want an easy hike can turn around on the gravel path after visiting the waterfall. Hikers after a moderate trek can keep going down the Orange Trail for a 2.3-mile loop. The multiuse trails inside Cochran Mill Park are perfect for outdoor enthusiasts who like a variety of activities, including horseback riding and mountain biking in addition to hiking, so prepare to share the trail.

Green Trail 

  • Location: Chattahoochee Hills 
  • Length: 1.3-mile loop 
  • Difficulty Rating: Moderate 
  • Best For: Admiring the mill ruins 
  • Dogs: Leashed 

When one waterfall doesn’t feel like enough, Cochran Mill Park visitors can combine the Orange Trail with the overlapping Green Trail to check off waterfall number two. Hikers must start on the Orange Trail in order to get to the Green Trail. From the parking lot, cross the street to the east side of the park to head down the Orange Trail’s gravel lot. Pass the wooden bridge and waterfall and turn left to stay on the Orange Trail. Catch the Green Trail at the intersection with Bear Creek—the Orange Trail stays on the southern bank of the creek, but the Green Trail crosses to the northern side. Along the creek, hikers will find granite outcroppings that guide the way to the Berry Cochran Mill ruins and cascading waterfall. The ruins here, less than a mile from (Berry’s brother) Owen Cochran Mill ruins, are what’s left of a grist mill built in 1870. Stay with the Green Trail’s lollipop loop through a mixed hardwood forest to reach the Bear Creek Nature Center. 

Yellow Trail 

  • Location: Chattahoochee Hills 
  • Length: 8-mile loop 
  • Difficulty Rating: Moderate 
  • Best For: Watersliding 
  • Dogs: Leashed 

As if Cochran Mill Park hadn’t already given hikers enough waterfalls to chase, there’s a third and final waterfall inside the park’s borders. Hikers who prefer to trek farther into the forest before getting to the trail’s pinnacle will enjoy the Henry Mill Falls found along the Yellow Trail in Cochran Mill Park. Since it’s farther inside the park, the waterfall is more secluded than the Cochran brothers’ mill ruins and falls. The Yellow Trail begins in the Cochran Mill Park parking lot (without crossing the street) then traces Upper Wooten Road before going into a forested area, eventually tracing the route of Bear Creek. Make sure to bring water shoes or waterproof boots for the creek crossings along the way. Henry Mill Falls is a 15-foot-tall waterfall that gently slides down into a shallow pool.  
 

  • Location: Roswell 
  • Length: 3.4-mile loop 
  • Difficulty Rating: Moderate 
  • Best For: National Park enthusiasts 
  • Dogs: Leashed 

There are two different hiking trails here, one operating on each side of Vickery Creek Waterfall. The trail on the south bank is located inside the National Park Service National Recreation Area. This dirt trail through the forest follows Big Creek (previously known as Vickery Creek) along its southern bank before it connects with the Chattahoochee River. The Vickery Creek waterfall, a man-made, 28-foot-tall waterfall constructed by Roswell Mill workers in 1853, can be found at Vickery Creek trail marker 19. There are steps leading to the base of the waterfall, which is a popular place for pictures, picnics and wading in the water. Pedestrians can walk to the covered bridge, which connects the National Park Service Recreation Area to the Old Mill Park, operated by the City of Roswell. On the NPS side of the bridge, there are also steps that go down to the base of Big Creek away from the waterfall. A day or annual pass is necessary to park in the NPS parking lot. 
 

  • Location: Roswell 
  • Length: 2.5-mile round-trip out-and-back 
  • Difficulty Rating: Easy 
  • Best For: History enthusiasts  
  • Dogs: Leashed 

Roswell Recreation and Parks owns and manages the 5.5-acre historic mill park on the north banks of Big Creek, previously known as Vickery Creek. Parking on the Roswell side of the creek not only provides easy access to the NPS-operated trail via the covered bridge, but also offers its own gravel and boardwalk path access to the waterfall. The Roswell trail is partially wheelchair accessible and an easier stroll for hikers of all ages. For those interested in learning more about the Roswell Mills before, during and after the Civil War, hiking along the north banks will give history buffs more opportunities to stop and read signs that tell of the mill’s legacy. The boardwalk leads to shore access to the creek several feet away from the waterfall. There’s a bonus on this side: The city uses the honor system to provide complimentary floatation devices. Access to the water next to Vickery Creek Waterfall is slightly more rugged on the north shore, but not as elevated as the southside access point on National Park Service property. 
 

  • Location: Dallas 
  • Length: 0.3-mile round-trip out-and-back 
  • Difficulty Rating: Easy 
  • Best For: Waterfall picnics  
  • Dogs: Leashed 

High Shoals Falls may be the best-kept secret among waterfall chasers in metro Atlanta. Maybe it’s because it’s tucked away in the small town of Dallas, or maybe it’s that the parking lot on High Shoals Road is easy to miss. Either way, it’s worth tracking down to visit this 300-foot-tall low-flow waterfall. From the parking lot, the trail starts as a gravel path that passes a cemetery on the right. The path turns into a dirt trail—some of which has been washed out, creating a large divot. The trail picks up a parallel path with an unnamed creek, then, before the hiker has had time to take the whole scene in, they’re staring at High Shoal Falls ahead. There are a couple of picnic tables near the base of the falls. Plenty of large rocks sturdily protruding from the shallow creek will keep young hikers entertained. Both sides of the public trail border private property, so heed the signs and stay on the trail to avoid trespassing. 
 

Hahn Woods Lower Trail 

  • Location: Druid Hills 
  • Length: 0.5-mile round-trip out-and-back 
  • Difficulty Rating: Moderate 
  • Best For: In-town nature hikes 
  • Dogs: Leashed 

The small circular parking lot for the Hahn Commemorative Forest does not do justice to the popular park, which is a well-known hiking area in Druid Hills, near the Emory University campus. Go down the steps and turn right to take the broken concrete sidewalk of the lower trail underneath the Houston Mill Road bridge. Right after the bridge, hikers will see the man-made waterfall from a former water-powered grist mill built in 1863. It’s difficult to get a clear view of the waterfall since the view is impeded by an abandoned metal bridge, now covered in shrubs and vines, which is beautiful in its own right. It’s hard to believe this area was a construction landfill for Emory University from the 1960s through the early 1990s, when Emory leadership decided to clean up the land and turn it into a park. Continue the lower trail as it follows the south fork of Peachtree Creek upstream but be warned: The trail gets very muddy after it rains. DeKalb County is doing sewer line repairs in the area, so parts of the trail may be closed, but the Upper Trail is a lovely alternative as it follows the creek downstream through a canopy of oak trees. 

  • Location: Jackson 
  • Length: 1.5-mile loop 
  • Difficulty Rating: Hard 
  • Best For: Camping 
  • Dogs: Leashed 

A stop at High Falls State Park is a great option for those who find themselves south of the city limits of Atlanta, especially since it’s not far from I-75. The Towaliga River rushes through this state park, creating the beautiful waterfall views best seen from the Falls View Trail. The trail moves hikers through a woodland forest on an 8-shaped path. Towaliga Falls comes into view about a third of the way into the hike. This is the largest waterfall south of Atlanta, but it isn’t used for swimming; it’s too powerful to risk getting into the water. Many hikers turn around and retrace their steps after viewing the falls, but the trail continues its double loop through the forest for those who want a more varied path. Watch out for all the rocks and protruding roots that have been known to trip up hikers on this trail. For those looking for an ADA-accessible trail, the park’s 0.5-mile Historic Trail also brings hikers to an overlook of the falls. High Falls State Park is a popular spot for campers, so consider reserving a campsite along the Towaliga River or staying in a yurt near the lake. 

Toonigh Creek Falls Trail 

  • Location: Woodstock 
  • Length: 4-mile round-trip out-and-back 
  • Difficulty Rating: Moderate 
  • Best For: Off-the-beaten-path hiking 
  • Dogs: Leashed 

The clear-cut path leading to Toonigh Creek Falls is a popular one among locals even though it’s not an official trail. It can’t be found in nearby park maps or any online trail maps, yet there remains a regular stream of hikers of all ages following the Little River upstream as it leads to Toonigh Creek Falls. The longest route starts at Olde Ropes Mill Park. Cross the park bridge over Little River and turn left onto the entrance of the Moore’s Pass bike trail (orange blazes). When the bike trail makes a sharp right, keep to the left to cross a small creek onto a broad path. Follow the path into a short, forested section until it connects with an old gravel road that follows the Little River upstream. Pick up the path under the I-575 bridge, through a rocky kudzu-lined path, then through two open concrete dividers. The trail follows a well-worn dirt path into a second forested section, first following the bank of the Little River closely, then making a sharp right turn uphill, leading to the top of Toonigh Falls. 

For those looking for a slightly shorter trek, park at the Cherokee County Aquatic Center and find the trails at the back of the parking lot. They lead down to the bank of the Little River. Turn right to make your way to Toonigh Creek Falls. 

Kayaking is popular on the Little River, so hikers are likely to encounter kayakers pushing themselves down the rocky crevices of the waterfall into the base pool below. 

Do not attempt shortcuts by parking on the street in neighborhoods near the waterfall; the streets have signs warning against trespassing and unknown cars may be towed. 


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