Dockery Lake Trail: hiking Dockery Lake to the Appalachian Trail
Hike the Dockery Lake Trail from the scenic shores of a glassy mountain lake near of Dahlonega, GA to the Appalachian Trail near Big Cedar Mountain.
Serene lake views. Beautiful forest. Appalachian Trail access. The Dockery Lake Trail spans a scenic stretch of North Georgia wilderness, climbing from a small, serene mountain lake, passing a tumbling waterfall, and climbing through a stream-filled, rocky forest to the Appalachian Trail. Studded with backpacking campsites along the trail’s length, and with lakeside Dockery Lake Campground sites at the trailhead, the trail makes for an excellent overnight adventure.
And though long-range mountain views on the Dockery Lake Trail are limited, a 1.9-mile southbound hike on the Appalachian Trail from the Dockery Lake Trail’s intersection with the AT catches stunning, long range views from the Big Cedar Mountain summit. The Dockery Lake Trail and AT to Big Cedar Mountain combo is a beautiful, scenery-packed hike.
Dockery Lake Trail: the hike
The Dockery Lake Trail departs a trailhead near the lake’s shore (view maps and driving directions), trailing the western contours of Dockery Lake. The trail passes a picnic area before hiking the lake shore, catching views of the lake’s glassy water through clearings on trail right.
The hike treks northbound at .25 mile, departing the lake loop trail and visiting a spillway waterfall just north of the lake.
The hike descends over the next half mile, winding through wide switchbacks in a forest spotted with dense groves of gnarled mountain laurel. The trail spans five creek crossings between .95 miles and 1.45 miles, continually descending as it wraps to the west, north, and finally, the east. The creek crossing at 1.45 miles is the lowest elevation on the trail – and it’s nearly all uphill from here as the Dockery Lake Trail climbs steadily to the Appalachian Trail.
The trail climbs elevation, spanning two more creek crossings and passing two backcountry campsites before reaching a wide creek crossing at 2 miles. The creek tumbles over fields of fallen boulders crusted with lichen and green moss, forming a tiered set of small waterfalls.
The Dockery Lake Trail continues its climb, trailing through switchbacks and spanning two more creek crossings at 2.55 and 2.65 miles. The hike catches limited views of the rolling, neighboring summits through trees on the right before passing a grassy campsite just off-trail at 3 miles. The trail makes its final ascent to the AT, making its last outbound stream crossing at 3.35 miles before reaching the Appalachian Trail at 3.55 miles.
From here, the Dockery Lake Trail hike turns to retrace the hike in reverse to return to Dockery Lake, looping the east shore of the lake and passing through the Dockery Lake Campground to complete the hike at 7.1 miles.
Appalachian Trail to Big Cedar Mountain extension
Add to the already beautiful scenery on this hike with a 1.9-mile one-way trek on the Appalachian Trail to Big Cedar Mountain summit. At the Dockery Lake Trail / AT junction, hang a left to hike southbound on the Appalachian Trail, rolling elevation to the Big Cedar Mountain Summit.
Hiking this extension to Big Cedar Mountain totals 10.9 miles. Worth the extra mileage? We think so – the views from Big Cedar Mountain are some of our favorite on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia. See more photos and view more info on our Appalachian Trail: Woody Gap to Big Cedar Mountain and Jarrard Gap trail review.
Note: slippery rocks and fast moving water can be extremely dangerous! Please don’t climb, stand on, swim near, or jump from any waterfall.
Dockery Lake Campground
The Dockery Lake Trail offers several options for overnighting in this beautiful wilderness area. Camp lakeside at the Dockery Lake Campground (first come, first camp; fees). Or pack it in and backpack the trail to any of the Dockery Lake Trail’s campsites (first come, first camp; free). View the trail map below for the campsite locations on Dockery Lake Trail and Appalachian Trail.
Wherever you camp, please pack out what you pack in and leave no trace.
Dockery Lake Trail: Directions & Details
Dockery Lake offers free parking for day use. See the USFS Dockery Lake page for camping info. Trailhead access is via a gravel Forest Service road.
34.673217, -83.976967 // N34 40.393 W83 58.618