Wildcat Creek is one of those places that feels like a locals-only spot despite not really being that at all. I say that because it’s usually full of people who aren’t from the area, but they’ve been coming to this spot since they were kids and know more about it and the area than folks who live 5 minutes away over on Lake Burton.
Technically it’s in Clarkesville but it’s closer to Hiawassee or Clayton. But the biggest landmark that it iss near is Lake Burton, just south of Moccasin Creek State Park. While Moccasin Creek is a great spot for RVs and campers, Wildcat Creek is it’s much more modest counterpart for those who want to go the tent route.
Wildcat Creek is really just a winding Forest Service Road (Forest Rt. 26) that runs a little over 8 miles long before becoming a dead end. There are two “campgrounds” down the road. More on this in a minute. But the road itself is worth a drive, especially in the spring or fall. Weekdays are better than weekends (like anywhere in North Georgia) as Friday and Saturday gets filled up pretty quickly with campers and fishing. But you can drive down the road on a weekday and not see anyone else for the 8 miles there and the 8 miles back.
Wildcat Creek is not surprisingly named after the creek that runs alongside this forest service road virtually the entire way. But the whole road has little streams and creeks cutting under you and beside you the whole way. There are no less than a half dozen: Jessie Branch, Hellhole Branch, Betty Branch, Carol Branch, Alice Branch, Mary Anne Branch. Perry Cove Branch. South Fork Moccasin Creek. Woods Branch. The whole place is just a series of connecting streams and branches.
There are two primitive style “campgrounds” set back down the road. The Lower Campground is 2.8 miles in after turning off GA-197 onto Wildcat Creek Road while the Upper Campground is 4.4 miles in. Both are on the right and can’t be missed. There aren’t many amenities here so I hesitate to even call it a campground but they do have gravel camp pads, fire pits, grills, and bathrooms, but no showers. This is the type of place we love staying at due to it’s seclusion and simplicity. In season, there is a camp host at the Lower location if you have any questions but all spaces are on a first come first serve basis and are $10 a night. The Upper section is usually empty while the Lower stays fairly full, particularly in the summer.
On up past the Upper campground, you’ll find a few more camping spaces along the road that are even more primitive than the campsites. Use your discretion here as bears are active in the area and you are a good ways back down a dirt road should something bad happen but if you want peace and quiet and are a camping pro, the spots at the very end of the road are absolutely perfect for you.
Whether you decide to camp or stay, there are two spots along the creek that you should definitely check out.
The first is a “sliding rock” about a mile in on the left (before you get to the campground area). It’s not big but the water at the bottom is shallow and makes this a great place for kids. Don’t expect a big sliding rock but on a hot summer day it always hits the spot.
The second spot is just past the first campground where the road makes a big round bend (not quite a horse shoe but close enough). The road widens out pretty big and down on your right you’ll see what looks like a big clearing flush with trees and ferns. Park on the left hand side of the road where there looks like a little parking spot and follow the little foot worn path through the ferns down on the right hand side of the road. It’ll take you to a series of small falls and a huge rock that is undercut. To get to the “falls” and the big undercut rock (picture above and below), follow the foot worn path until you get to the creek, then hike up 1-2 levels to your left in the creek and you’ll see the spots we’re talking about. This is a one of our favorite “locals only” spots to hang up a hammock and spend the afternoon reading a book and having a picnic. It’s hidden from the road and is always cool even in the hottest parts of the summer. And no one is ever back there unlike the sliding rock mentioned above, which is always full of people in a small area.
The river is stocked seasonally with rainbows by the nearby hatchery so if you like to fish, bring a simple little setup as the river is never more than 20 or 30 foot wide and you don’t need anything heavy duty. A cane pole and a can of corn is about as useful as full gear here at this spot. Speaking of fishing, be sure to stop by the hatchery which is only a few miles away on GA-197 in front of Hemlock Falls at Moccasin Creek State Park. It’s open daily during the day and it’s free to wander into and check out the fish. If you have the kids, the rangers will always bring you a cup of fish food to feed them with. Definitely one of the cooler things to do nearby and of course you can actually hike to Hemlock Falls (review and profile here). And if you want a nice overlook at dusk, check out Popcorn Overlook back on US-76.
Wildcat Creek isn’t the most eye opening spot in North Georgia. There are no huge waterfalls or “wow” moments. But no place more perfectly captures the quiet solitude you can find in the mountains of North Georgia than here. It’s simple. It’s quaint. It’s all woods. It’s all streams. It’s just about perfect. If you don’t need something super fancy, this is about as good as it gets.