Explore Jacks River Falls, a stunning, roaring, rocky waterfall in Georgia’s Cohutta Wilderness, hiking the Beech Bottom Trail & Jacks River Trail.
OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 777 Trails Illustrated Map (find it at Trailful Outdoor Co.)
Enormous, thundering and rugged, Jacks River Falls is exceptionally beautiful, and it’s easily one of the South’s most beautiful waterfalls. It’s also one of Georgia’s top hiking destinations, nestled in the wild, remote Cohutta Wilderness, where the Jacks River tumbles nearly crystal-clear over a rocky, grassy riverbed shaded by towering hardwoods and lined with green, lush river banks. Jacks River Falls is one of Georgia’s most remote waterfalls, crashing and tumbling over an enormous, rough-hewn rock outcrop into deep pools of water below.
Jacks River Falls is located 9 miles north of the trailhead of the Jacks River Trail at Dally Gap. The full Jacks River Trail is a splashy, wet adventure that crosses Jacks River and its tributaries over 40 times as it treks waterfall-filled, rocky river valley. This hike skips most of the Jacks River Trail’s wet adventure, shortcutting to Jacks River Falls on the Beech Bottom Trail, trekking south from Tennessee. And unlike the Jacks River Trail, the Beech Bottom Trail never crosses Jacks River – though it does cross a few small side streams on the way to the enormous waterfall. Thanks to the relatively short access to the falls and the hike’s gently rolling elevation, the Beech Bottom Trail is the most popular route to Jacks River Falls.
While the waterfall is clearly this hike’s main attraction, getting there is an equally beautiful adventure. Jacks River Falls is set deep in the Cohutta Wilderness, a remote, mostly-untamed forest that straddles the Georgia-Tennessee border. At 37,000 acres, the Cohutta is the largest wilderness east of the Mississippi River, bisected by two major trout streams, Jacks River and Conasauga River. The forest is dense, green and lush, carpeting the wilderness’ rolling mountains and deep river valleys. Wildflowers explode into bloom in late spring alongside flowering wild roses and blooming mountain laurel. The wilderness is rich with wildlife, too: deer, black bear, snakes, birds of prey and the occasional boar are common sights in the Cohuttas.
Jacks River Falls via the Beech Bottom Trail: the hike
The hike departs the Beech Bottom Trailhead in Tennessee (view maps and driving directions), dropping elevation and diving deep into the Cohutta Wilderness. The trail descends, winding through a series of switchbacks, carving into chiseled, angular rock outcrops and crossing the Georgia border at .25 mile.
The trail crosses a small creek at 1 mile, skipping over the moss-covered rocks in the shady creekbed. Mountain laurel and wild roses bloom trailside in late spring, catching sunlight on the steeply-sloped borders of the trail.
The Beech Bottom Trail climbs elevation, following the trickling creek upstream and climbing through a grove of gnarly-branched, leathery-leafed rhododendron. The trail rises through several sharp switchbacks, passing a handful of broad-trunked, towering old growth pine. The hike reaches the Beech Bottom Trail’s highest elevations at 2.3 miles, the sound of Jacks River Falls roaring loudly deep in the valley below.
The trail descends, crossing through a lush, grassy forest. Meandering through a sharp switchback, Jacks River Falls amplifies loudly again as the trail swings over elevations just above the waterfall. The trail crosses the pebbled bed of Beech Creek at 3.3 miles.
The Beech Bottom Trail rolls elevation through a wet, shady creek valley, passing six large stone stacks on the right (of origin unknown, but possibly Native American graves) before reaching the Jacks River Trail at 3.9 miles.
The hike turns right, hiking the Jacks River Trail westbound. On the trail’s left, Jacks River courses over a rocky, grass-lined riverbed, cascading and tumbling toward Jacks River Falls downstream.
The Jacks River Trail crosses Beech Creek at 4.35 miles, scrambling over a sharply angled rock outcrop before reaching the upper cascades of Jacks River Falls.
The trail descends sharply, the waterfall roaring to the left. A heavily used (and extremely steep) side trail departs the Jacks River Trail just beyond the falls, descending to the waterfall’s rocky base nestled between towering rock cliffs and angular outcrops.
Departing Jacks River Falls, this hike retraces its steps on the Jacks River Trail and Beech Bottom Trail to return to the trailhead. The hike reaches the Beech Bottom Trailhead at just over 9 miles, completing the hike.
Please follow posted signs and warnings at the trailhead: group sizes and camping are limited due to this waterfall’s popularity. Slippery rocks and fast moving water can be extremely dangerous! Please don’t climb, stand on, swim near, or jump from any waterfall.
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.
More Jacks River Trail hiking adventures
Stunned by the beauty of Jacks River, and can’t wait to see more? Hike the Jacks River Trail from Dally Gap to Jacks River Falls and the trail’s end in Tennessee, a 16.3 mile one-way. (It’s a 9-miler, one way, from Dally Gap to Jacks River Falls.) Or day hike a 9-mile roundtrip on the Jacks River Trail from Dally Gap, splashing through a series of Jacks River crossings to several sets of smaller waterfalls in a fern-filled, mossy forest.
Outside of the Cohuttas, chase some exceptional nearby waterfalls in this scenic stretch of the Southeast. Hike to two stunning falls in the ultra-scenic Lula Lake Land Trust. Follow the Fiery Gizzard Trail to a series of falls in a rocky, mossy, boulder-filled gorge, and then climb to stunning views at Raven Point. Hike to the incredible single-drop cascade at Foster Falls, one of our all-time favorite waterfalls near Chattanooga. Or explore the plunging cascades on the Greeter Falls Trail in South Cumberland State Park.
(What is Wilderness, and why is it important? Read more in our guide to Wilderness areas in the South.)
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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Free parking is available at the USFS Beech Bottom trailhead. Access to the trailhead is via gravel Forest Service roads.
34.990550, -84.587550 // N34 59.433 W84 35.253