Hike the two-mile Hemlock Falls Trail at Lake Burton, exploring a waterfall-filled valley near Moccasin Creek State Park in North Georgia’s beautiful Rabun County.
LOCATION:Rabun County near Clayton, Georgia
OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 778 Trails Illustrated Map (find it at Trailful Outdoor Co.)
This hike’s main highlight is outstandingly beautiful. At the trail’s end, Hemlock Falls cascades over a sheer cliff, tumbling in tendrils of whitewater into a clear, cool pool below. To reach the waterfall, this adventure follows Moccasin Creek upstream from Lake Burton, catching beautiful views throughout its one-mile length. After plunging over this hike’s main attraction, the creek tumbles through a rocky, boulder-filled valley, cascading in many smaller waterfalls, framed by a lush, green forest.
If you’re a fan of hiking to Georgia’s waterfalls, then this is a must-hike adventure. And its relatively short length makes it kid-friendly, too, for trail-savvy families.
Hemlock Falls Trail at Lake Burton: the hike
The adventure begins on Lake Burton’s western shore (view maps and driving directions) near the entrance to Moccasin Creek State Park. The trailhead is reached via a gravel road and is marked by a huge, inscribed boulder at the trail’s start. On the trail’s right side, the creek loudly roars as it cascades over its rocky, boulder-filled creek bed.
The trail passes a campsite at just under a quarter mile, steadily gaining elevation to climb a ridge high above the creek. The trail reaches a cave and a small bench at a half mile. A look across the creek from the bench, especially during rainy Spring months, catches views of a small, ribbon-like waterfall plunging from a high-elevation cliff above Moccasin Creek.
The trail dips elevation to cross a wooden bridge spanning Moccasin Creek at just under three quarters of a mile, carefully hiking across the rustic bridge.
Rising from the creek, the trail climbs a set of stone stairs, resuming the elevation climb. The roar of the nearby waterfall amplifies through the forest, growing louder as the trail approaches. The hike reaches a clearing at 1 mile.
Hemlock Falls plummets from a broad, rocky cliff into a calm pool below, framed by tumbled boulders and gnarly-trunked rhododendron. The sandy beach below the waterfall is a great spot to take a water break, grab a snack or relax in the dappled sunshine streaming through the forest while enjoying the waterfall’s sights and sounds.
And back to the trailhead
Departing the waterfall, the hike doubles back on its outbound route, following Moccasin Creek downstream. The hike reaches the trailhead at 2 miles, completing the adventure.
Note: slippery rocks and fast moving water can be extremely dangerous! Please don’t climb, stand on, swim near, or jump from any waterfall.
After the Adventure
Not ready to call it a day? Take the scenic drive over the mountain to Hiawassee and say hello to the Atlanta Trails crew at our new hiking outfitter store, Trailful Outdoor Co. We’ve got a whole wall filled with hiking inspiration to make it easy to find your next adventure. And we’ve stocked the store with a ton of our favorite hiking and backpacking gear, as well as our line of Atlanta Trails apparel and goods, books, maps, and locally-made gifts and goods. Looking forward to seeing you!
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.
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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!
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!
Free parking is available at the trailhead.
34.847733, -83.596700 // N34 50.864 W83 35.802