Camp at the beautiful Three Forks campsites in a beautiful trout steam valley near the Appalachian Trail in North Georgia.
Overnighting in a tent under star-filled skies: it’s one of our favorite ways to escape from city life and shed some stress in the wild beauty of nature. And there’s nothing better than the serenity and privacy of our favorite campsites in the Chattahoochee National Forest in North Georgia: the sites are often free, and they offer a good deal of privacy and serenity, compared to the typical state park campground.
One of our all-time favorite places to camp in North Georgia is at Three Forks, a beautiful creek valley just east of Ellijay filled with tumbling waterfalls, clear-flowing trout streams, scenic forest, and tons of leathery-leafed, gnarly-branched wild rhododendron. And two of our favorite Georgia trails, the Appalachian Trail and Benton MacKaye Trail, dive through the valley, making these campsites a perfect home-base for a weekend full of trail time.
A beautiful forest of rhododendron, hemlock, poplar, and oak shelter the campsites at Three Forks, making the cool valley a great retreat in the heat of Georgia’s summer. Nearby, Noontootla Creek rushes and tumbles as it rolls over the rocky river bed in a series of waterfalls, downstream from the beautiful cascades of the nearby Long Creek Falls.
Camping at Three Forks: the details
Camping in the valley is permitted in established campsites only. The sites are primitive: they offer no amenities outside of a primitive stone campfire ring. But what they lack in amenities, the sites make up for in beauty: the tumbling cascades of the moss-lined, roaring Noontootla Creek offer the perfect backdrop for a perfect weekend of car camping. The sites are scattered along a gravel forest road, but most are set back far enough from the road to offer decent privacy. And, save for a few sites directly off the Appalachian Trail, most are very generously spaced from the others, offering some great nighttime serenity.
The campsites are first-come, first-camp, so if you’re headed to Three Forks, plan to arrive early on weekends and holidays to grab a spot, and have a backup plan in the event that there aren’t any spots available. (No luck in finding a spot? Check out our other favorite car camping spots near the Appalachian Trail north of Helen and the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River.)
Most of the sites are situated under a mile from the convergence of the Benton MacKaye Trail and Appalachian Trail, so they’re an excellent base camp for day hikes along either trail. Don’t miss the short, relatively easy hike to Long Creek Falls on the Appalachian Trail, a two-mile roundtrip to a beautiful, multi-tiered waterfall. Or the hike the Appalachian Trail from Three Forks to Springer Mountain, following the AT southbound to its southernmost end, and a bronze plaque that commemorates the start or end of an epic, 2000+ mile adventure for AT thru-hikers.
Camping gear list
Wondering what to pack for a great night under the stars? Check out our camping gear list, which features our favorite tents, sleeping bags, furniture, cookware, and campsite essentials.
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.
Free. Campsites are first-come, first-camp. Please camp only in designated, existing campsites.
34.671271,-84.191725 // N34 40.166 W84 11.302