Editor’s Note: As a reminder, we like to keep our reviews of waterfalls short and sweet. We hope you didn’t come here looking for a huge dissertation on why we think one is better than the other or some scientific breakdown complete with water analysis. They are waterfalls. We have never found one we didn’t like. Our goal here is simply to provide you with some photos and to give you our uneducated and subjective thoughts in 5 categories – Ease of Hike, Distance of Hike, Crowds, Options for Exploring, and The View – so that you can make a decision about which of North Georgia’s amazing waterfalls you think might be the best hike for you. We hope these simple rankings and photos help you sort out that out. Enjoy.
The Dukes Creek Falls hike is one of our favorite waterfalls in Georgia but not because of the actual Dukes Creek Falls . . . although they certainly aren’t bad. The reason we love them so much is that the hike is so easy. The trail is wide and it feels like you’re just out for a stroll as opposed to a grueling hike.The trail itself is only about 2 miles round trip. It’s not nearly as long as the Raven Cliff Falls trail, but it feels much longer because it’s not quite as scenic as the trail is a little further removed (higher up) than the creek. The trail is an insanely easy hike as it is well maintained, wide, and flat with very little in the way of elevation climbs, except at the very beginning where there are some stairs.
Raven Cliffs is the more popular day-hike from Helen and because the trail is so wide and spread out, you very rarely end up around a bunch of people.At the end of the trail, there are two large viewing decks where you can check out the waterfall. There are actually two waterfalls. There is one coming down from Davis Creek (a great, very secluded spot) accessible from the gravel road that leads beyond the Raven Cliff Falls Trail parking area) on the left hand side and the other coming down from the right side is Dukes Creek (which is the little creek that runs under the bridge as you enter Raven Cliff Falls).
The view is solid. The viewing deck sits at an odd angle so you don’t get a straight on shot of either waterfall. But it’s a great trail that is good for all ages and because it’s easily accessible from Helen and the surrounding areas, it’s an ideal spot for a day-hike when visiting. You can also play or do some walking around in the creek.
To do this, go down the wood walkway and stairs that start from the Dukes Creek parking lot at the beginning of the hike. When you go down the final stairs and get off the wooden walkway, you can either go left (the trail to the falls) or to the right. Go to the right which takes you directly down to the creek about a hundred yards away. Across the creek is the backside of the Raven Cliffs Trail parking lot (and one of our favorite camping spots). We usually just jump in right here and play around in the creek for a bit, either upstream or downstream.The water is cold (naturally) but the creek is never deeper than your knees outside of a few pools that you might run across depending on how far you walk. You can pretty much walk in the creek the whole way to the top of Dukes Creek if you want, although we don’t recommend it as there are fines for getting off the trail. We have never seen DNR on this trail or ticket anyone for playing in the creek or river hiking, but be smart if you’re going to walk up and down the creek more than a couple hundred yards. This is federally protected wildlife area for a reason and we want to see nature and wild habitats maintained as such and not trashed because we didn’t respect it.