Atlanta TrailsbyTrailful Outdoor Co
Top Georgia trails & how-to

Great Georgia summer hikes to beat the 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.

Hike these seven hikes through cool North Georgia stream and river valleys, splashing the way to some cool summertime trail time. #hiking #running #camping #backpacking #summer #atlanta #georgia #travel #outdoors #adventure

Great Georgia summertime hikes: our favorite trails

We’ve listed our favorite summer hikes in increasing difficulty, with the easiest hikes 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.

  • Panther Creek Trail in North Georgia

    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.

  • Jacks River Falls on the Beech Bottom Trail

    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.)

  • Emery Creek Falls: hiking to double North Georgia waterfalls on the Emery Creek Trail

    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.

  • Conasauga River Trail: hiking the Cohutta Wilderness from Betty Gap

    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.

  • Conasauga River Trail in Georgia's Cohutta Wilderness

    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 backpacks and trail essentials

    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. We print and stitch our Atlanta Trails shirts and hats locally in Atlanta and Asheville, and they’re our favorite for trail adventures all over the South. 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). And no matter what you pack in, pack it all back out. Please leave no trace and help preserve Georgia’s beauty.

Leave No Trace: Atlanta Trails, Asheville Trails and Trailful are official Leave No Trace partners

Please Remember

Always leave no trace, pack out everything you pack in, and if you see trash, pick it up and pack it out.

Stay on the marked trail, tell someone where you're going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, and don't rely on a mobile phone to find your way. Please always practice good trail etiquette. And before you go, always check the trailhead kiosk, official maps, and the park or ranger office for notices of changed routes, trail closures, safety information, and restrictions.

Eric Champlin is a creative director and photographer who loves to explore southeast. He's the co-owner of Trailful Outdoor Co, a locally-owned hiking outfitter shop in Hiawassee in the Georgia mountains near the Appalachian Trail. He’s also the co-founder of Atlanta Trails and Asheville Trails, digital magazines that highlight the South’s best outdoor adventures. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.