7 great Georgia summer hikes to help beat summer's heat Waterfalls in Georgia

7 great Georgia summer hikes to help beat summer’s heat

It’s officially summer, and Georgia’s dog days are here. Hike these seven hikes through cool North Georgia stream and river valleys, splashing the way to some cool summertime trail time.

Georgia’s blissfully long spring and fall, and usually-moderate winter, make for some fantastic Georgia hiking weather. But our summers? They’re usually a scorcher. Georgia’s summertime heat and humidity are legendary, and the temps are already toasty warm. When summer’s swelter sets in, we start making our weekend plans for cooler, higher elevations. North Georgia’s tallest peaks can be significantly cooler, thanks to their lofty elevations. And North Georgia’s creek and river-filled forests usually offer cool breezes and chilly water, even in the heat of summer, making them a great mid-summer hiking destination to escape the heat.

7 great Georgia summer hikes to help beat summer's heat

Great Georgia summertime hikes: our favorite trails

We’ve our favorite summer hikes in increasing difficulty, with the easiest hikes listed first and the most difficult (and wettest) hikes last. You’ll visit waterfalls, ford chilly waters and dive deep into shady valleys with cool breezes – and catch some summertime trail time while beating the heat.

  • Take a North Georgia summer hike on the Bear Creek Trail near Ellijay

    Chattahoochee National Forest

    Bear Creek Trail

    1.9 miles

    Hike this mossy, shady, fern-filled creek valley for a summertime cool between Ellijay and Blue Ridge. Nestled in the North Georgia mountains between two towering ridges, the Bear Creek Trail follows a shaded creek to an enormous, old-growth tree, making multiple creek crossings along the way. Bear Creek’s pebbled bottom can be slippery, but the creek usually runs shallow, making this a great summer hike for beginning hikers and families with kids.

  • Hike the Raven Cliff Trail near Helen to Raven Cliff Falls

    Raven Cliffs Wilderness

    Raven Cliff Falls Trail

    4.9 miles

    Raven Cliff Falls makes an appearance on quite a few lists of our favorite trails. And for a good reason: the trail is relatively easy and the waterfalls are outstanding. It’s one of our summertime favorites, too. Hike this trail through a beautiful, shaded creek valley – and while you likely won’t get wet on the trail itself, there’s a chilly, deep swimming hole near the trailhead. It’s a great ending to a great hike, especially in summer’s heat.

  • Hike the Panther Creek Trail to one of Georgia's most popular waterfalls, Panther Creek Falls

    Chattahoochee National Forest

    Panther Creek Trail

    7 miles

    The Panther Creek Falls waterfall is beautiful in any season, thundering and pouring over an enormous rock outcrop. But these popular falls are especially visit-worthy in summer: Panther Creek spills into a wide, deep, chilly pool that’s perfect for a mid-hike swim. Hike the Panther Creek Trail to the falls, or backpack it in to overnight at one of many campsites. Either way, please pack out everything you’ve packed in and leave no trace.

  • Hike the Jacks River Trail in Georgia's Cohutta Wilderness

    Cohutta Wilderness

    Jacks River Trail

    9+ miles

    Trailing 16 miles north from its Dally Gap trailhead, the Jacks River Trail meanders beside, and through, its namesake river. Hike the Jacks River Trail in summer for a cool, wet adventure in Georgia’s remote Cohutta Wilderness. With regular creek fords and crossings along the trail, you’re all but guaranteed to get wet – and the Jacks runs cool throughout the summer. (Up for a long-distance adventure? Hike the Jacks River Trail to Jacks River Falls, one of Georgia’s most stunning and remote waterfalls. It’s an 18 mile roundtrip on the JRT from Dally Gap.)

  • Hike the Emery Creek Falls Trail to stunning waterfalls: it's one of Georgia's most popular summertime hikes

    Cohutta Wilderness

    Emery Creek Trail

    6.2 miles

    Passing a popular summertime swimming hole at its trailhead, the Emery Creek Trail dives through 20 creek crossings as it follows a tumbling trout stream just outside the Cohutta Wilderness. The trail visits lower and upper Emery Creek Falls, a pair of shaded, remote waterfalls, and catches a dip in the chilly pool below the lower falls for great mid-hike chill.

  • Hike the lower Conasauga River Trail from Betty Gap, fording 18 Conasauga River Crossings each way

    Cohutta Wilderness

    Lower Conasauga River Trail

    13.2 miles

    Hike remote stretches of Georgia’s Cohutta Wilderness on the Conasauga River Trail, splashing through 36 creek crossings on this out-and-back from Betty Gap to Bray Field. The Conasauga runs nearly crystal clear as it courses through the wilderness, spilling in small waterfalls, flowing over moss-covered rock and meandering along grassy banks. The water is chilly and you’re bound to get wet.

  • Hike the  Conasauga River Trail to waterfalls and through many river crossings, a fantastic (but difficult) Georgia summertime hike

    Cohutta Wilderness

    Upper Conasauga River Trail

    12 miles

    North of Bray Field, the Conasauga River runs swift and deep, spilling over beautiful waterfalls. Hike or backpack the upper Conasauga River for a deep-wilderness adventure, fording through deep river crossings and navigating around swift-running currents. It’s a difficult hike, but a fun one – and in the heat of Georgia’s summer, this splashy, wet adventure through a chilly river just feels so good.

  • Hiking gear list: our favorite, trail-tested gear and apparel for trail adventures in the South

    Our favorite hiking gear

    Summertime hiking in Georgia: what to pack?

    Ready to beat the heat, but wondering what to pack? Our hiking gear list features our favorite, trail-tested hiking gear for exploring North Georgia’s beauty. Be sure to drink early, drink often and drink electrolyte-enhanced drinks to help stay hydrated in Georgia’s summer heat (but be careful: don’t overhydrate). Get more hydration tips from REI Expert Advice. And our outdoor apparel reviews feature our favorite trail-worthy hiking boots, running shoes, jackets, and layering essentials for the South. And no matter what you pack in, pack it all back out. Please leave no trace and help preserve Georgia’s beauty.

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Eric Champlin is a writer and photographer who loves to hike, run, backpack, kayak and cycle the southeast. He’s the editor and founder of Atlanta Trails and Asheville Trails, online magazines that cover the South’s best outdoor adventures. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.
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