Atlanta TrailsbyTrailful Outdoor Co
Hiking Trails in Georgia

Jacks River Trail

Hike the Jacks River Trail in North Georgia’s lush, remote Cohutta Wilderness, trekking and wading from Dally Gap to a series of beautiful waterfalls on a crystal-clear river.

georgia hiking trails: 6 or more miles 9-18 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
?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-
?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:Cohutta Wilderness near Blue Ridge, Georgia

PACK:our Osprey day pack and our hiking gear list

The Jacks River Trail stretches over 16 miles through the beautifully rugged and remote Cohutta Wilderness in North Georgia, following its namesake river through a lushly green, waterfall-filled river valley. Nine miles downstream from the Dally Gap trailhead, Jacks River tumbles from a rugged, rocky outcrop, forming the stunning waterfall at Jacks River Falls.

Jacks River Trail: hike the Cohutta Wilderness to beautiful waterfalls in a remote, rocky forest

This 9.3-mile out-and-back hike explores many of the highlights of the Jacks River valley, hiking to rushing waterfalls, splashing through many river crossings, and descending through the river’s rocky valley from Dally Gap. It’s one of our favorite day hikes in the Cohutta Wilderness – and, if you’re up for some serious mileage, can serve as an excellent starting point for an 18-mile backpacking adventure to Jacks River Falls. It’s a fantastic summertime adventure; just be sure to pack some dry bags to keep your change of clothes and electronic gear dry. With river crossing after river crossing, you’re bound to get wet.

Hike the Jacks River Trail in North Georgia's lush, remote Cohutta Wilderness, trekking and wading from Dally Gap to a series of beautiful waterfalls on a crystal-clear river. #hiking #running #camping #backpacking #atlanta #georgia #travel #outdoors #adventure

Jacks River Trail from Dally Gap: the hike

The trail departs from the Dally Gap trailhead in the Cohutta Wilderness (view maps and driving directions), descending southwest through a sun-dappled hardwood and coniferous forest. Old growth hemlock trees tower over the trail, their broad trunks towering into the sky over the surrounding, spindly hardwoods. The forest is lush and green, filled with fern, moss, wildflowers and vibrantly-colored mushrooms in warm-weather months.

The hike passes two intersections with the white-diamond-blazed Benton MacKaye Trail as it descends into the lush, mossy Jacks River Valley.

Jacks River Trail: follow this classic Cohutta Wilderness hike northbound from Dally Gap, exploring waterfalls and a lush, green forest

The Jacks River Trail crosses a small creek at .9 mile, the first (and by far easiest) of many crossings on this adventure. The sound of water amplifies through the forest as the trail continues its descent toward the confluence of two rivers, Bear Branch and Jacks River. The trail crosses a small Bear Branch tributary creek at 1.4 miles, and a second small tributary at 1.7 miles. The trail reaches the junction of Bear Branch and Jacks River at 1.9 miles, skirting the banks of the tumbling, spilling river.

At 2.25 miles, the trail dives straight through the Jacks River river, the first of many river fords on this adventure. Since the trail’s blazes are often faded or hidden behind vegetation, it’s easy to lose the trail at the river crossings. Be sure to pack a waterproof trail map, compass, and/or GPS to help with wayfinding in these remote stretches of the Cohutta Wilderness. And cross the river carefully: slippery, algae-clad rocks fill the river’s bed. (Note: it’s easiest to find the trail on the opposite side of the river before you cross.)

Jacks River Trail: hike through a lush river valley in Georgia's Cohutta Wilderness

The trail meanders, following the river on its western bank before crossing the river again at 2.8 miles. A beautiful waterfall flows just downstream from the crossing. After navigating the river crossing, the trail climbs elevation, climbing through a fracture in a large, weathered rock outcrop. Then the trail descends, following the river through a wide meander, and carves through a sharp switchback. The trail descends to a series of tumbling waterfalls on the river at 3.1 miles.

Scattered boulders and wide, smooth rock outcrops fill the river’s bed. The river rushes over the rocky, moss-covered landscape in series of tumbling whitewater and small waterfalls.

The trail crosses an open rock outcrop at 3.35 miles, catching some sunlight and a short-range, rolling mountain view before diving back under the forest’s canopy. The hike passes multi-tiered waterfalls at 3.6 miles before arcing northbound, crossing the river again at 4.1 miles. The gorge’s walls rise sharply on either side of the river valley as the trail arcs westbound, reaching a final crossing of Jacks River at 4.6 miles.

This nine-mile out-and-back hike turns around here, retracing its outbound steps on the Jacks River Trail and re-navigating through the river crossings to return to the trailhead. The hike reaches the parking area and trailhead at Dally Gap at 9.3 miles, completing the adventure.

Because this area is so remote, challenging, and the trails are sometimes sporadically blazed or not marked at all, always tell someone where you’re going and pack an official paper map and wayfinding essentials, such as a GPS and compass (and know how to use them if you’re lost). Always pack emergency essentials. And it’s always best to avoid trails along the rivers and creeks in the weeks following a heavy rain.

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

Up for more Jacks River adventure?

Don’t miss the enormous, tumbling cascades of Jacks River Falls, located 9.2 miles downstream from the Dally Gap trailhead. For the easiest access to this towering waterfall, hike to Jacks River Falls on the Beech Bottom Trail, a moderate hike that bypasses the Jacks River Trail’s many river crossings. Or continue the adventure from Dally Gap, following the JRT northbound from Dally Gap on an outstanding 18.4-mile backpacking adventure.

And if you’re in the area, don’t miss our favorite hikes to waterfalls near Blue Ridge, GA, featuring some outstanding day hikes and backpacking adventures to some of North Georgia’s most beautiful falls.

What is Wilderness, and why is it important? Read more in our guide to Wilderness areas in the South.

Leave No Trace: Atlanta Trails, Asheville Trails and Trailful are official Leave No Trace partners

Please Remember

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.

Jacks River Trail from Dally Gap Map, Directions & Details

This map shows our approximate route while exploring this trail, but does not replace an official trail map. Please refer to the official trail map for the most current and accurate 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!

Driving Directions


Free parking is available at the Dally Gap trailhead. Trailhead access is via a gravel Forest Service Road.

GPS Coordinates

34.933417, -84.518650     //     N34 56.005 W84 31.119

Elevation Profile

Jacks River Trail from Dally Gap: Elevation Profile

Eric Champlin is a creative director and photographer who loves to explore southeast. He's the co-owner of Trailful Outdoor Co, a locally-owned hiking outfitter shop in Hiawassee in the Georgia mountains near the Appalachian Trail. He’s also the co-founder of Atlanta Trails and Asheville Trails, digital magazines that highlight the South’s best outdoor adventures. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.