Hike and splash 6 miles on the Jacks River Falls Trail, winding and wading through Georgia’s Cohutta Wilderness to a series of beautiful waterfalls.
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 9.3 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 Falls 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 the Jacks River Falls 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 Jacks River Falls Trail crosses a small creek – a Bear Branch tributary – at 1.4 miles, and another small tributary at 1.7 miles. The trail reaches the junction of Bear Branch and Jacks River at 1.9 miles, the river rushing on trail left.
At 2.25 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 care on the slippery, algae-clad creek rocks, we don’t consider this a beginner-friendly trail.)
The Jacks River Trail meanders to follow the river along its western bank before crossing again at 2.8 miles. The river here is moderately deep, requiring some care to cross. A beautiful waterfall flows just downstream from the crossing, viewable after a careful scramble down the river’s large-bouldered banks.
After navigating the river crossing, the Jacks River Falls 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 waterfalls on Jacks River at 3.1 miles. The river valley is filled with scattered boulders and wide, smooth rock outcrops here, Jacks River Falls rushing over the rocky landscape in tumbling whitewater.
The Jacks River Trail crosses an open rock outcrop at 3.35 miles, catching some sunlight and a short-range, rolling-mountain view before diving back into tree cover. The hike passes multi-tiered waterfalls at 3.6 miles before arcing northbound, crossing Jacks River once again at 4.1 miles. The gorge’s walls rise sharply on either side of Jacks River as the trail arcs westbound, reaching a crossing of Jacks River at 4.6 miles.
This 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 9.3 miles, completing the hike.
34.933417, -84.518650 (N34 56.005 W84 31.119)
Note: Trailhead access is via a gravel Forest Service Road.