I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville wife and mother with a passion for family travel, (mostly) healthy cooking, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries with you, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark.
March 22, 2019
Looking for an easy North Georgia trail that features several scenic waterfalls? The Raven Cliff Falls Trail is perfect for you and your family! Here’s all you need to know before you go!
It’s sort of mind boggling to me that you can drive just an hour and a half from the big city bustle of Atlanta and find yourself deep in the lush forests of the Appalachian mountains. I grew up in North Georgia and have spent much of my life inner tubing the rivers, exploring the quaint mountain towns, and hiking trails filled with waterfalls and scenic views — and I still feel like I’ve only scraped the surface of this fascinating and largely undiscovered part of the country.
There are some INCREDIBLE hikes here, and frankly, I’ve yet to hike a North Georgia trail I didn’t love. That said, one of the best, especially for novice hikers and families, has to be the Raven Cliff Falls trail.
This gorgeous trail follows the trout-filled Dodd Creek for three miles upstream. The creek is crystal clear and surrounded by mountain laurel and majestic hardwoods. Although you’ll be going uphill the entire three miles, it’s a very gentle incline in most places, so it never feels too taxing.
Keep an eye out for this heart-shaped knothole at the very beginning of the trail. I believe it’s proof that Mother Nature loves this trail as much as I do!
In no time at all, you’ll start spotting waterfalls. I feel like my camera couldn’t do them justice — Many of the falls are sizable and stunning, and there are several short spurs that will take you to the base of some of these falls for better pictures.
There are also lots of places along the trail suitable for a picnic lunch. We didn’t bring food, but I wish we had — Having a meal beside this tumbling stream would have been a fun experience.
If you’ve been wanting to try overnight camping, Raven Cliff Falls is a perfect place to do it. One campsite right at the trailhead gives you easy access to public restrooms and your car. Farther along the trail, you’ll come across two more primitive camping sites along the water. They seem tailor-made for family camping — You’ll feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere, but you’re still not too far away from civilization if roughing it turns out to be a little too rough.
Do note that black bears are very active in this area — We saw one not far from here just a few months ago — so if you bring food, you’ll want to take the necessary precautions to keep bears from seeking it out.
Congratulations! You’ve made it to the top of the trail — OR HAVE YOU? Although the trail seemed to end at this lovely little waterfall, it was not the 90-foot waterfall between two stone cliffs that I had seen in the pictures. So here is the most important information I can give you about this trail:
When you get to the end, KEEP GOING.
You will notice a narrow path among the steep jumble of rocks at the end of the trail. It looks a little scary and daunting, but I promise you, as long as you’re careful picking your way up through the rocks, it’s completely safe. You’ll climb a very short distance up and this will be your reward:
It’s truly an awesome sight, and you can safely get very close to these falls without worrying about falling. Even if you lose your footing, you won’t really go anywhere.
See? If we can do it, so can you!
Scramble back down those rocks now and take the trail back to your car. It’s all downhill from here on out and really easy!
You’ll find the Raven Cliff Falls trail at 3000 Richard Russell Highway in Helen, Georgia. There’s a sizable parking lot, but you might opt for a weekday hike here if you can — We went on a sunny Monday afternoon and still encountered about 40 other hikers while we were on the trail. I don’t like a crowded trail, but the flip side of this is that I’d feel completely safe hiking this trail alone or with my kids, since there are enough other hikers to keep it from feeling too isolated.
If you can muster up the energy, Duke’s Creek Falls is just a five minute drive away from Raven Cliff Falls. A one-mile, paved hike will bring you to this majestic waterfall — Again, the camera really doesn’t do it justice.
Smithgall Woods State Park is also nearby — It has even more easy loop trails, as well as a great gift shop with lots of local trail guides and free coffee. My husband and I each left with a book when we stopped in after our hike!
Looking for lunch? The vacation town of Helen is about 15 minutes away, but the food there tends to be pricey. We love Smith’s Soda Shop in nearby Cleveland. This family-owned business has been in operation since 1947 and it’s a local favorite– It’s definitely heavy on small-town atmosphere. We had two double cheeseburgers, three sides, and drinks and the bill was under $12, so the price was right.
Have fun, and let me know if you try out the Raven Cliff Falls trail!