Hike the Gahuti Trail at Fort Mountain State Park in North Georgia, exploring gorgeous overlook vistas, the cascades of a remote waterfall and backcountry campsites.
OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 777 Trails Illustrated Map (find it at Trailful Outdoor Co.)
The Gahuti Trail (Cherokee for ‘mother mountain’) explores the beautiful backcountry of Fort Mountain State Park, looping just over eight miles to catch incredible long-range views from several towering overlooks. The trail also visits a beautiful, multi-tier waterfall at Goldmine Branch Creek. It’s a scenic day hike, and makes for a great overnight backpacking adventure, as well, passing four campsites on this moderately challenging loop.
A tumbling waterfall, stunning vistas, and mile after mile of rolling, beautiful North Georgia forest: this is one scenic trail that’s certainly well worth the workout.
Fort Mountain Gahuti Trail: the hike
The hike departs from the Cool Springs Overlook parking area (view maps and driving directions), trailing north on a short section of paved, ADA accessible path. The trail quickly reaches the Cool Springs Overlook, the first of many on this adventure. Long-range views stretch to the north and east over the mountain’s lower elevations, revealing the rolling mountains of Georgia’s southern Appalachians.
The trail climbs elevation, crossing a gravel road and continuing to follow the regularly-spaced orange trail blazes. The hike passes a junction with a red-blazed side trail at .2 miles; optionally depart here to hike the Stone Wall, Overlook and Tower Trail before returning to the Gahuti Trail loop, adding two miles to this route.
The trail crosses a road before plunging through a young deciduous forest, switching back regularly as it descends. The landscape changes as the trail plunges into a beautiful, tree-canopied creek valley, reaching backcountry campsite #4 at .9 mile. Passing the campsite, the trail crosses the small, trickling Rock Creek. Views suddenly open on the trail’s right side through tree trunks and foliage, revealing a dramatic, soaring mountain summit to the left, and sweeping plains of the farmland-specked forest straight ahead.
The Gahuti Trail carves through the contours of several deep-cut channel valleys, climbing steadily, before crossing through a small coniferous forest at 1.7 miles. The trail descends elevation from the pine-studded peak, passing two intersections with a white-blazed side trail. The hike crosses a small wooden bridge spanning a flowing creek at 2 miles.
The trail continues its southward-bound hike, exploring the eastern stretches of the park. The landscape becomes rocky as the trail crosses several rocky outcrops at 2.3 miles. The hike skirts a ridge and offers occasional views between the trees. Massive, rounded boulders punctuate the sides of the trail.
The trail dips elevation at 2.4 miles, crossing a wooden bridge spanning Goldmine Branch Creek. The hike turns right, following the double-blazed yellow & orange trail as it descends along the multi-tiered cascades of Goldmine Branch Falls.
Departing the waterfall, the trail begins a sharp ascent, climbing from the ferny, mossy, waterfall-filled valley. The Gahuti Trail turns right at 2.6 miles, following orange blazes over a wooden bridge spanning a creek.
The trail passes campsite #3, and then crosses the confluence of several creeks in a rolling rhododendron-filled valley at 3.3 miles. The trail intersects a gravel road, turning right to follow orange blazes and hiking the wide, old gravel roadbed as it ascends. The route ventures through a field of mossy, strewn boulders at 3.7 miles before crossing a paved road, rising on a ridge through a forest of towering trees.
The route intersects Fort Mountain’s white-blazed Goldmine Trail twice, and then reaches campsite #2 at 4.7 miles. The trail catches a stunning view of Chestnut Knob and a nearby, towering ridge from an overlook at 5.1 miles. Departing the overlook, the trail climbs to the park entrance, crossing Fort Mountain’s paved road at 5.6 miles. The trail winds along a ridge before plunging elevation toward Mill Creek, turning west to follow the creek’s banks through a cover of dense rhododendron.
The trail turns left to cross Mill Creek over a wooden bridge at 6.5 miles, and then follows a small side creek before passing backcountry campsite #1. (This is our least favorite of the four campsites on the Gahuti Trail; it’s situated nearly directly on the trail and offers little privacy.)
The hike switches back regularly over the last 1.5 miles, rolling elevation as it courses through tight singletrack in dense underbrush and mountain laurel thickets. The Gahuti Trail swings north, paralleling the paved park road as it approaches the Cool Springs parking area trailhead. The hike reaches the parking area at 8.2 miles, completing the adventure.
More Fort Mountain hiking adventures
Extend your adventure! Stay the night at one of the park’s campsites, or overnight in one of the Fort Mountain’s beautifully renovated cabins.
Then hike the Fort Mountain Lake Trail on the shores of the park’s glassy lake, paddle the lake’s calm waters by kayak or canoe, or hike the Fort Mountain Trail to a mysterious, ancient serpentine stone wall, a restored 1930s fire tower, and one of the best mountaintop views in North Georgia. And find more ways to play in this stunning mountaintop park with our Fort Mountain State Park destination guide.
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 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!
34.778950, -84.70553 // N34 46.737 W84 42.332