Atlanta TrailsbyTrailful Outdoor Co
Hiking Trails in Georgia

Carters Lake Tumbling Waters Trail

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)
? 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: easyeasy to
?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:Carters Lake near Ellijay, Georgia

PACK:our Osprey day pack and our hiking gear list

OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 777 Trails Illustrated Map (find it at Trailful Outdoor Co.)

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

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. #hiking #trailrunning #northgeorgia #atlanta #georgia #travel #outdoors #adventure

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.

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.

Carters Lake Tumbling Waters Nature Trail 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


$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

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.