This hiking trail travels through a rich hemlock and rhododendron-filled valley in North Georgia, following Long Creek along the Appalachian Trail to several impressive & beautiful waterfalls.
The Appalachian Trail intersects Noontoola Creek in Georgia just 4.3 miles from its beginning on Springer Mountain – and it’s from here that this 2 mile out-and-back hike in North Georgia starts an Appalachian Trail journey to a beautiful, rushing waterfall through a forest canopy of hemlock, tulip poplar and rhododendron.
This segment of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia is just one of many we’ve covered in our in-depth review series. View our complete collection of Georgia Appalachian Trail hikes here.
The Three Forks area is named for the convergence of three rushing trout streams, forming the Noontoola Creek in the Blue Ridge Wildlife Area of the Chattahoochee National Forest. The Three Forks valley is beautiful – filled with steep cliffs, boulder-filled trout streams, and blankets of vibrant green moss – and is one of the most picturesque areas we’ve found for hiking, backpacking and camping in North Georgia.
The hike to Long Creek Falls departs from Forest Road 58 on the Appalachian Trail on the North; from the trailhead, Long Creek will be flowing parallel to the AT on the left side of the trail. (If you cross a wooden bridge, you’re hiking the Appalachian Trail in the wrong direction – turn around and cross FR 58 to hike to Long Creek Falls.) The trail to Long Creek Falls is actually following not one but two famous long-distance hiking trails: the Appalachian Trail has converged here with the Benton MacKaye Trail (named for the founder of the Appalachain Trail, Benton MacKaye).
The Appalachian Tail climbs a moderate grade as it departs the trailhead, beginning to rise above Long Creek through the forest. Several side trails depart from trail left as you hike – carefully follow these to catch views of several smaller, rushing waterfalls in the boulder and rhododendron-filled Long Creek valley.
At just over a mile, the hiking trail splits in three directions, marked by several trail signs.
At the trail intersection, a side trail leads North to Long Creek Falls (marked with a blue blaze), the Benton McKaye Trail splits off to the Northwest (marked with a white diamond blaze), and the Appalachian Trail (marked with its signature white rectangular blaze) continues its immense hiking journey North through the Appalachian Mountains to Maine.
From the intersection, hike the blue-blazed side trail to Long Creek Falls, a beautiful double waterfall that drops over 50 feet between the lower and upper falls. Hemlock trees soar high into the sky above the waterfall. The banks of Long Creek along the falls are lined with dark green rhododendron, beautifully framing the double cascade of the creek as it drops from the sharp, sheer cliff of rock into the calm, blue pool of water below.
Large boulders, strewn below the waterfall, make an excellent relaxation spot. Stop to soak in the rushing sound, incredible energy and beautiful sights of the waterfall.
After you’ve had your fill, hike to retrace your steps along the side trail and then the Appalachian Trail towards the trailhead, hiking South to follow the flow of Long Creek to Forest Road 58. Departing opposite on FR 58 from the Long Creek trailhead is a fantastic hike, and one of our favorites: the 8.6 mile out-and-back hike to Springer Mountain along the Appalachian Trail. If you’ve finished the hike to Long Creek Falls and have plenty of daylight (and energy) left, the hike to Springer is picturesque and worth the mileage. Check out our hiking trail review of Three Forks to Springer Mountain – and if you can’t make the hike this time, we highly recommend returning to Three Forks to make the journey to Springer Mountain in the future.
The Three Forks valley at Noontoola Creek has some excellent campsites situated along the rushing trout streams that form Three Forks. In fact, you passed several on the drive to the trailhead along Forest Road 58. Consider camping at Three Forks for the night – and check out our review of the camp sites along Noontoola Creek – this beautiful area is well worth a stay overnight.
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 34.671271,-84.191725.
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