Hike and splash 6 miles through Georgia’s Cohutta wilderness – winding and wading through the Jacks River valley to a series of beautiful waterfalls.
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The Jacks River Falls Trail stretches over 9 miles through the beautifully rugged and remote Cohutta wilderness in North Georgia, following its namesake river through a lushly green, waterfall-filled river valley. This 6 mile out-and-back hike trails the highlights of the Jacks River valley, hiking to rushing waterfalls, splashing through river crossings, and descending through the rocky Jacks River Gorge.
The Jacks River Trail departs the Dally Gap trailhead (view maps and driving directions), descending through a mixed deciduous and coniferous forest southwest toward Jacks River. Several old growth hemlocks stand trailside, their large trunks towering into the sky over the younger deciduous trees. The forest floor is rich, filled with fern, wildflowers and vibrantly colored mushrooms in warmer months. The trail hikes past two intersections with the Benton Mackeye Trail, the white-diamond-blazed BMT joining and then veering off from Jacks River Trail.
The hike crosses a small creek at .9 mile – the first (and easiest) of many crossings on this trail. The trail descends toward the junction of Bear Branch and Jacks River, the forest rich with fern, moss and rhododendron. The sound of water amplifies through the forest as the trail descends, the rivers rushing over bouldered riverbeds in small waterfall cascades. The trail crosses a small creek – a Bear Branch tributary – at 1.2 miles before reaching the Bear Branch and Jacks River junction at 1.7 miles.
At 1.8 miles, the Jacks River Falls Trail leads straight into the river, the first of many fords across the river. (It’s easy to lose the trail at the river fords, the trail blazes sometimes faded or hidden behind vegetation. Because careful navigation is required – as is a sure foot on slippery creek bed rocks, we don’t rate this trail beginner-friendly.) The trail crosses Jacks River again at 1.9 miles, meandering to follow the river along its western bank before crossing again at 2.6 miles. The river here is moderately deep, requiring some careful consideration to cross. A beautiful waterfall flows just downstream from the crossing, viewed via a careful scramble down the river’s large-bouldered banks.
After navigating the river crossing, the Jacks River Trail climbs elevation, ascending through a fracture in a large rock outcrop. The trail descends, Jacks River swinging wide on a meander below the trail on trail left. The hike follows the trail through a sharp switchback, descending to meet Jacks River at 3 miles. The river valley is filled with scattered boulders and wide, smooth rock outcrops here, Jacks River rushing over the rocky landscape in tumbling whitewater.
This 6 mile out-and-back hike turns around here, retracing to the trailhead on the Jacks River Trail. The trail reaches the parking area and trailhead at Dally Gap at 6 miles, completing the hike.
34.933417, -84.518650 (N34 56.005 W84 31.119)
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