Hike the Benton MacKaye Trail a short half mile, roundtrip, exploring the cascading Fall Branch Falls waterfall and a shady, mossy forest near Blue Ridge.
LOCATION:Chattahoochee National Forest near Blue Ridge, Georgia
PACK:our Osprey day pack and our hiking gear list
OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 777 Trails Illustrated Map (find it at Trailful Outdoor Co.)
This short, beginner-friendly adventure on the Benton MacKaye Trail explores a scenic, lush forest and visits one of Georgia’s most beautiful waterfalls. While the hike to Fall Branch Falls is nearly all uphill, and mildly challenging, it’s well worth the effort: the waterfall’s double cascades are simply beautiful, framed in gnarly-branched rhododendron and mossy, blocky rocks. It’s one of the top easy hikes near Blue Ridge, thanks to its relatively short distance and wonderfully scenic beauty. Mossy forest, a clear mountain trout stream, and abundant sweet-smelling Georgia forest air are all highlights on this great hike, not to mention the beautiful waterfall.
The Benton MacKaye Trail (BMT) is a 300+ mile long-distance trail that hikes from the Appalachian Trail’s southern start at Springer Mountain to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The BMT is popular with backpackers, offering great trailside camping and great views. This half-mile hike follows a short, mild stretch of the BMT, and makes a great intro to the trail that’s especially kid-friendly.
Fall Branch Falls: the hike
The hike departs a trailhead off the gravel-paved Stanley Creek Road (view maps and driving directions). The trailhead is well-marked with a sign that’s nestled between two lichen-covered boulders. To begin the hike, look for the sign, and the BMT’s signature white diamond-shaped trail blazes.
The hike follows the BMT uphill, climbing alongside Fall Branch Creek. Beyond the trailhead, Fall Branch flows into Stanley Creek, a tributary of the Toccoa River (the same river famous for the Toccoa River swinging bridge, another short, popular and scenic hike on the BMT near Blue Ridge). The hike follows the creek upstream, catching sight of several small waterfalls as it tumbles over its rocky creek bed. Leathery-leafed rhododendron line the creek’s banks, their blue-green leaves contrasting with the rich, reddish-brown forest soil.
The hike continues its climb, following the BMT’s white diamond blazes uphill. Several large-trunked trees flank the trail’s sides, climbing tall into the forest canopy and shading the forest floor. Soft green moss thrives in this shady, cool, damp environment.
The waterfall’s roar becomes increasingly louder as the trail crests near Fall Branch Falls. A short side trail leads downhill to the falls, where a wooden observation deck offers great views of this multi-tiered waterfall. Moss, fern and rhododendron cling to the steep-sided cliff, basking in the waterfall’s cool mist.
The area below the falls makes a great place for a mid-hike picnic or water break, with the ultra-scenic backdrop of the tumbling waterfall and the wonderfully tranquil sound of falling water. After soaking in the beauty, this hike retraces its outbound steps on the Benton MacKaye Trail, descending to the trailhead and finishing the adventure at just over .5 mile.
In the area with daylight and energy to spare? Don’t miss the hike over the Toccoa River swinging bridge, a nearby half-mile adventure on the BMT. Or take a short hike on an ultra-scenic stretch of the Appalachian Trail, hiking from the lush, rhododendron-filled creek valley at Three Forks to the tumbling cascades of Long Creek Falls. Check out more of our favorite hikes near Blue Ridge for more outdoor adventures, and our favorite things to do in Blue Ridge, featuring our favorite places to eat, stay, and play in this top North Georgia mountain destination. And don’t miss our favorite hikes to waterfalls near Blue Ridge, all within forty miles of town.
Note: slippery rocks and fast moving water can be extremely dangerous! Please don’t climb, stand on, swim near, or jump from any waterfall.
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 Benton MacKaye Trail Association. 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!
Free parking is available at the USFS trailhead. Trailhead access is via gravel roads.
34.784000, -84.302167 // N34 47.040 W84 18.130