Hike the Dockery Lake Trail from the scenic shores of a glassy mountain lake, exploring a creek-filled forest and hiking to the Appalachian Trail near Big Cedar Mountain.

georgia hiking trails: 6 or more miles 7.1 miles
(round trip)
? Your mileage may vary! Accuracy of your GPS device, weather conditions, and stops along your route will affect your own recorded distance.
georgia hiking trails: moderate to difficultmore
difficult
?Our difficulty estimate, based on distance, terrain, elevation change, & ease of wayfinding. May vary daily due to weather, trail reroutes, downed trees, etc.
georgia hiking trails: dog-friendly Dog-
friendly
?Leashed dogs are allowed on this trail. We’ve loved hiking this route with our trail-loving Labrador Retrievers! Check out more of our favorite dog-friendly trails in Georgia for a great hike with your pup.

LOCATION: Chattahoochee National Forest near Dahlonega, Georgia

GEAR: Osprey Stratos 24 Backpack, our hiking gear list and Canon 6D Camera

WEAR: Our ultra-soft Atlanta Trails shirts and mountain logo hats

OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 777 Trails Illustrated Map

Serene lake views. Beautiful forest. Access to the Appalachian Trail. The Dockery Lake Trail spans a scenic stretch of North Georgia wilderness, climbing from a small, serene mountain lake, passing a tumbling waterfall, and climbing through a stream-filled, rocky forest to the Appalachian Trail. Studded with backpacking campsites along the trail’s length, and with lakeside campsites at the trailhead, the trail makes for an excellent overnight adventure.

Dockery Lake Trail: hike from a serene mountain lake to the Appalachian Trail in North Georgia

And though long-range mountain views on this hike are limited, a 1.9-mile southbound hike on the Appalachian Trail from the end of the Dockery Lake Trail catches stunning, long range views from Preachers Rock. Combined, these two trails offer an ultra-scenic workout that explores some exceptionally beautiful North Georgia forests, and one of our state’s best views from a sun-drenched rock outcropping.

Hike the Dockery Lake Trail from the scenic shores of a glassy mountain lake, exploring a creek-filled forest and hiking to the Appalachian Trail near Big Cedar Mountain. #hiking #trailrunning #camping #backpacking #northgeorgia #atlanta #georgia #travel #outdoors #adventure

Dockery Lake Trail: the hike

The adventure begins at a trailhead near the lake’s shore (view maps and driving directions), following the western contours of Dockery Lake. The trail passes a picnic area, catching views of the lake’s glassy water to the right of the trail. The hike veers northbound at .25 mile, departing the lake loop trail and visiting a spillway waterfall just north of the lake.

The trail descends elevation over the next half mile, winding through wide switchbacks in a forest spotted with dense groves of mountain laurel. The trail makes five creek crossings over the next half mile, continually descending as it wraps to the west, north, and finally, the east. The final creek crossing reaches the lowest elevation on this hike; it’s nearly all uphill from here as the hike begins a steady climb to the Appalachian Trail.

Dockery Lake Trail

On the uphill, the hike makes two more creek crossings and passes two backcountry campsites. The trail reaches a wide creek crossing at 2 miles, where a tumbling creek plummets over fields of fallen boulders crusted with lichen and green moss, forming a tiered set of small waterfalls.

Dockery Lake Trail

The trail continues its climb, winding through switchbacks and making two more creek crossings at 2.55 and 2.65 miles. The hike catches limited views of the rolling, neighboring summits through trees on the right before passing a grassy campsite just off-trail at 3 miles. The trail makes its final ascent to the AT, making its last outbound stream crossing at 3.35 miles before reaching the Appalachian Trail at 3.55 miles.

From here, this hike turns to retrace its outbound steps in reverse to return to Dockery Lake. Reaching the lake’s east shore, the hike passes through the campground, completing the stream-filled adventure at 7.1 miles.

Extend the hike: Appalachian Trail to Preachers Rock

Add some more mileage and beauty to the adventure with a 1.9-mile one-way trek on the Appalachian Trail, scoring views from the Preachers Rock overlook on Big Cedar Mountain. At the junction of the Dockery Lake Trail and Appalachian Trail, hang a left to follow the AT’s iconic white trail blazes southbound to the summit overlook.

Note: slippery rocks and fast moving water can be extremely dangerous! Please don’t climb, stand on, swim near, or jump from any waterfall.

Dockery Lake Campground

This adventure offers several options for overnighting in this beautiful wilderness area. Camp lakeside at the Dockery Lake Campground (first come, first camp; fees). Or pack it in and backpack the trail to any of the Dockery Lake Trail’s campsites (first come, first camp; free).

Wherever you camp, please pack out what you pack in and leave no trace.


Dockery Lake Trail Map, Directions & Details

This map reflects our route when we last followed the trail. Trails and routes change frequently – so please refer to official trail maps for the latest route.

Love the trail?

This trail is maintained thanks to the hard work of countless volunteers and donations from supporters of the Chattahoochee National Forest. 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!

Updates

Did you have trouble accessing the trail, or notice some recent trail updates or storm damage? We'd love to know! Contact us here, and thanks for helping us keep this site updated!

Driving Directions



Parking

Free parking for day use. See the USFS website for camping info. Trailhead access is via a gravel Forest Service road.


GPS Coordinates

34.673217, -83.976967     //     N34 40.393 W83 58.618

Elevation Profile

Dockery Lake Trail Elevation Profile
 
 
Leave No Trace: Atlanta Trails, Asheville Trails and Trailful are official Leave No Trace partners

Please Remember

Always leave no trace, tell someone where you're going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, don't rely on a mobile phone to find your way, and follow these trail etiquette tips.

Eric Champlin
Author

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, Asheville Trails, and Trailful, digital magazines that highlight the South’s best outdoor adventures and top Southern-worthy outdoor gear. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.