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.
Hemlock Falls at Moccasin Creek State Park is one of our favorite short day hikes as it is only 2 miles round trip and hugs the creek virtually the entire way. It is right next to the popular RV campground and state park, Moccasin Creek on the west side of Lake Burton. It has a Clarkesville address but is equally as close to both Clayton from the east and Hiawasee from the north. To access Hemlock Falls, go to Moccasin Creek and follow the signs for Hemlock Falls beginning at 34.843976, -83.588365. Follow the gravel road back until it dead ends into a big clearing for parking. The trail will be out in front, almost as a continuation of the gravel road as it used to be an old railroad bed.
The hike is easy to moderate. We have hiked it with a 3 year old and a 7 year old with no problem. But after a rain, there are definitely some bigger patches of wet mud that you have to go through. It gets a pretty high rating for Ease of Hike due to it’s short distance and relative lack of an incline. There is a small rise in elevation but nothing that you ever feel to deeply. Just make sure you wear shoes you don’t mind getting muddy on wetter days.
The crowds are relatively light year round. However, with Moccasin Creek State Park being so close, foot traffic does rise on the weekend as people ramble over from the campgrounds to the trail. The Lake Burton Trout Hatchery is at the base of the trail as well and while the creek doesn’t get stocked to far up with trout, the base is fully stocked however only kids and seniors are allowed to fish there. Up the creek there are plenty of native rainbow and brook trout but we have never caught anything above 6 inches.
The options for exploring are pretty basic as you can’t venture off the trail too far but as the trail runs along the creek the entire way, there are plenty of places to string up a hammock, wade in the water, or have a picnic so it gets high marks here too. At the end of the trail there is a huge clearing at the base of the falls that looks like it gets plenty of traffic for camping. The water isn’t quite deep enough to swim but is plenty deep for wading, especially if you have kids.
There is another fall, Moccasin Creek Falls, another half mile beyond Hemlock Falls. Follow the trail as it runs off to the right from the clearing. It is pretty much covered with fallen trees and other debris but easy enough to climb over and past for the more adventurous. This path used to run all the way to the Appalachian Trail but is now overgrown and covered with debris.
For a more detailed review and trail rating, visit Atlanta Trails.