Hike to multiple waterfalls and through a lush, green forest on the moderate, kid and dog-friendly Dukes Creek Falls Trail near Helen, Georgia.
LOCATION:Chattahoochee National Forest near Helen, Georgia
OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 778 Trails Illustrated Map
The Dukes Creek Trail hikes a moderate 2 miles out and back through a beautiful, mountain stream-filled forest in Georgia just north of Helen. The trail descends alongside a shallow, mossy stream, hiking to several large, cascading waterfalls that tumble at the convergence of Davis Creek and Dukes Creek. At the falls, several large wooden viewing platforms offer stunning views of the main attraction overhead: the exceptionally dramatic, multi-tiered, 150-foot-tall drop of Dukes Creek Falls.
The trail’s relatively short length and moderate elevation gain make it a popular hike for families with kids – or a great stop-off for travelers in this ultra-scenic section of North Georgia. And the first segment of the trail is paved and accessible, allowing hikers of all abilities to catch a glimpse of the falls from the trail’s upper viewing deck.
Dukes Creek Falls: the hike
The hike departs the Dukes Creek trailhead (view driving directions and maps) after catching a stunning view of nearby Yonah Mountain from a clearing in the parking area. Yonah’s uniquely shaped summit and enormous exposed rock outcrops make the mountain an iconic, easy to recognize landmark near Helen. (It’s a fantastic hike, too – though challenging!)
The trail passes the ADA-accessible viewing platform at .1 mile, departing the pavement and beginning a descent to the base of the falls. The hike drops elevation on a series of stairs and platforms before meeting a trail junction at .3 mile. A right turn at the junction hikes a short detour to Davis Creek, where cool, crystalline water flows over mossy boulders shaded by the high forest canopy above. (It’s a great detour for kids and dogs, especially on the mostly-uphill return hike from the base of Dukes Creek Falls.)
The main trail swings a hard left turn at the trail intersection, hiking southwest and continuing to descend into the lush, green creek valley. The trail courses three sharp switchbacks over the one-mile hike to the falls, offering glimpses and ever-growing sounds of the towering, tumbling waterfall.
The trail reaches the trio of Dukes Creek Falls viewing platforms at 1 mile, providing excellent views of the waterfalls cascading from the towering cliff above.
To the right, Dukes Creek tumbles in small waterfalls and slides down the exposed rock face to the base of Dukes Creek Falls. And far above, Davis Creek plummets from a tall cliff, dropping 150 feet into the clear, rocky basins of water below.
The base of the falls is a great place to relax, soak up some natural beauty, and enjoy a quick snack before beginning the uphill climb back to the trailhead. Departing the waterfalls, the hike retraces its outbound journey back to the trailhead, completing the adventure at 2 miles.
Nearby hiking at Raven Cliff Falls
In the area with daylight and energy to spare? Don’t miss the incredible waterfalls on the nearby Raven Cliff Falls Trail, a short drive north from the Dukes Creek trailhead. The five mile Raven Cliff Falls Trail hikes a beautiful, waterfall-filled valley to a massive waterfall that slices through a sheer, towering cliff at the trail’s end. While it’s more the double the distance of the Dukes Creek Falls Trail, it’s a moderate, gently-rolling hike – and the mile-after-mile of tumbling waterfalls make it well worth the while.
Note: slippery rocks and fast moving water can be extremely dangerous! Please don’t climb, stand on, swim near, or jump from any waterfall.
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Parking at Dukes Creek Recreation Area is $4 per vehicle.
34.702063, -83.789413 // N34 42.124 W83 47.365