Explore tumbling waterfalls on our favorite hike at Carters Lake, crossing a towering bridge and hiking through a beautiful, lush forest on the Tumbling Waters Nature Trail.

georgia hiking trails: 0-2 miles 1 miles
(round trip)
georgia hiking trails: easydifficulty:
easy
georgia hiking trails: dog-friendly Dog-
friendly

LOCATION:Carters Lake near Ellijay, Georgia

GEAR: Osprey Stratos 24 Backpack, our hiking gear list and Canon 6D Camera

WEAR: Our ultra-soft Atlanta Trails shirts and our favorite outdoor apparel

OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 777 Trails Illustrated Map

A lush forest filled with fern and pine. Sweet-scented forest air. A towering bridge with great views of Carters Lake, and a set of spilling waterfalls. There’s a whole lot of beauty packed into this relatively short, and easy, hike on the Tumbling Waters Nature Trail.

At one mile, round trip, and with gently rolling terrain, it’s a great hike for beginners and families with kids, and it’s dog-friendly, too. And bursting with scenic beauty, if you only have time to hike one trail at Carters Lake, you’ve found your adventure: the Tumbling Waters Trail is an absolute must-hike.

Tumbling Waters Nature Trail: hike to two waterfalls at Carters Lake

Carters Lake Tumbling Waters Trail: the hike

The adventure begins at a signed trailhead at the Ridgeway Recreation Area at Carters Lake (view maps and driving directions), descending elevation into a shady forest. Lush ferns border the trail’s sides and leafy hardwood trees tower overhead as the trail descends. Several old-growth trees flank the trail, with broad trunks dwarfing the surrounding trees as they climb high into the forest canopy.

The trail begins following a small, trickling creek at .15 mile, rolling elevation in a gentle climb to a grassy meadow. The hike passes the field, continuing its moderate ascent. The sound of falling water becomes audible along the trail as the route approaches the first of several waterfalls.

Carters Lake: cross a towering suspension bridge to hike to two waterfalls on the Tumbling Waters Nature Trail

The trail reaches a towering wooden bridge at .35 miles, crossing the 30-foot-tall bridge. To the right, Tails Creek rushes below in a series of small waterfalls, and to the left, the creek widens as it flows into Carters Lake.

After crossing the bridge, the trail treks through a grassy clearing before veering right at .4 mile, hiking northeast. The trail dives back into the shade of the forest, trailing through a deep-cut channel beneath a grove of fresh scented pine. A side trail departs right, hiking to a flat on the banks of the creek. Tails Creek makes a long, sloped spill into a pool of water framed by angular, moss-covered rocks, creating a beautiful waterfall.

Carters Lake top hikes: cross a suspension bridge to visit two tumbling waterfalls on the Tumbling Waters Nature Trail

From the middle waterfall, the hike continues its northeast-bound trek. At .5 mile, the hike reaches an observation deck, a great vantage point for viewing the upper falls on Tails Creek. The waterfalls here are small, but scenic, as they spill over a stair-stepped series of rock outcrops before pooling above the middle falls downstream.

The hike departs the observation deck and retraces its outbound steps on the Tumbling Waters Nature Trail, making another crossing over the wooden span bridge and trailing through the shady forest. The hike reaches the trailhead at 1 mile, completing the adventure.


Carters Lake Tumbling Waters Nature Trail Map, Directions & Details

This map is not a substitute for official trail maps or topographic maps.

Driving Directions



Parking

$4 (daily), or included with a Carters Lake Annual Parking Pass.


GPS Coordinates

34.650267, -84.608983     //     N34 39.016 W84 36.539

Elevation Profile

Carters Lake Tumbling Waters Nature Trail Elevation Profile
 
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Eric Champlin
Author

Eric Champlin is a writer and photographer who loves to hike, run, backpack, kayak and cycle the southeast. He’s the editor and founder of Atlanta Trails, Asheville Trails, and Trailful, digital magazines that highlight the South’s best outdoor adventures and top Southern-worthy outdoor gear. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.