Hike the Pine Mountain Trail to Cascade Falls and a series of tumbling waterfalls, and explore a mossy, leafy, lush forest on the eastern edge of Georgia’s FDR State Park.
LOCATION:FD Roosevelt State Park near Columbus, Georgia
Stretching 23 miles over a high ridgeline in FD Roosevelt State Park near Columbus, Georgia, the Pine Mountain Trail offers some of the best hiking and backpacking adventures near Atlanta. And while the PMT scales to some seriously beautiful, lofty heights (like the Dowdell’s Knob Loop), it visits some superbly beautiful, lush forest, too. If you’re visiting FD Roosevelt State Park and up for chasing some beautiful waterfalls, this route to Cascade Falls is one fantastic hike.
This hike on the Pine Mountain Trail’s easternmost stretch starts at the trail’s official end, hiking into a rocky, stream-filled forest to visit a series of beautiful waterfalls on a tumbling creek. The hike dives through dense tunnels of mountain laurel, crosses trickling streams and scales lichen-covered boulders to visit Csonka Falls, Big Rock Falls and Slippery Rock Falls, and an array of smaller falls. At its midpoint, the hike visits Cascade Falls, a tumbling waterfall set in a moss-covered rocky cove, where a creek plummets into a serene, glassy pool below. It’s a great mid-hike resting spot (and a great picnic venue) before the return hike, which flips to follow the Pine Mountain Trail back to the trailhead, visiting each waterfall again.
Cascade Falls: the hike
The hike begins at the Pine Mountain Trail’s easternmost end, near the WJSP tower and roadside park picnic area (view maps and driving directions). The trail treks northwest, following the blue blazes of the Pine Mountain Trail, passing the trailhead kiosk and diving into a forest of pine and spindly deciduous trees.
The Pine Mountain Trail descends gently and steadily, skirting a grove of mountain laurel along a trickling creek and passing a small pond at .4 mile. The hike exits the forest canopy, entering a young, brushy, rocky forest and crossing a small wooden bridge at .8 mile. Downed trees litter the forest, remnants of a tornado that ravaged large sections of FD Roosevelt State Park in 2011. The trail dives back into the forest, tunneling through a canopy of dense mountain laurel. The hike crosses a shallow stream by stepping stones at 1 mile before trekking a series of wood plank bridges.
The hike climbs over lichen-crusted boulders, rising briefly from the creek’s banks. The Pine Mountain Trail rejoins the creek at 1.25 miles, trekking through thickets of mountain laurel to reach Csonka Falls, the first of the series of named waterfalls on Wolfden Branch.
Departing Csonka Falls, the hike continues its northbound journey along the creek’s banks, crossing the creek to reach the Big Rock Falls waterfall at 1.4 miles. At Big Rock Falls, the creek tumbles through a thin channel cut in the overhanging rock outcrop, plunging into a rocky basin below.
The trail dips to cross the creek once again, climbing slippery rock outcrops to reach Slippery Rock Falls at 1.5 miles. Shaded by the dense forest and covered in slick mosses, the waterfall’s name is quickly evident as the trail carefully crosses the rock outcrop to the left of the falls.
Departing Slippery Rock Falls, the Pine Mountain Trail meanders through a wide switchback, climbing elevation and rising from the creek. The trail scrambles over boulders and hangs a right at 1.6 miles, following the signed directions at a trail intersection. Descending, the trail makes a rapid series of creek crossings before entering shady cove, where Cascade Falls spills from a rocky, moss-covered cliff.
Departing the waterfall, this hike on the Pine Mountain Trail turns to retrace its outbound steps to return to the trailhead. It’s a nearly continuous, but gentle, climb to the trailhead, and a great chance to catch each waterfall’s beauty for a second time on the return trek. The hike reaches the Pine Mountain Trail’s end at 3.75 miles, completing the hike.
Note: slippery rocks and fast moving water can be extremely dangerous! Please don’t climb, stand on, swim near, or jump from any waterfall.
Pine Mountain Trail Association
Major thanks and kudos to the Pine Mountain Trail Association for building and maintaining the Dowdell’s Knob Loop, the Pine Mountain Trail and FD Roosevelt’s network of 43 miles of prime hiking trails. Thanks to the dedication of this non-profit organization and its 500 members, the Pine Mountain Trail network is one of the most beautifully maintained trail networks we’ve had the joy of hiking.
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.
Love the trail?
This trail is maintained thanks to the hard work of countless volunteers and donations from supporters of the Friends of Georgia State Parks. Please support them by making a donation or joining a volunteer day. Let's work together to keep these fantastic trails maintained and open for use!
$5, or included with a Friends of Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites membership.
32.852281, -84.701233 // N32 51.139 W84 42.074