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Outdoors

Hiking Raven Cliffs Falls

Raven Cliffs Wilderness is one of the most heavily trafficked Wilderness areas in Georgia. And Raven Cliffs Falls Trail is one of the most heavily trafficked trails within the Wilderness.

But it’s popular for a reason. Actually, several reasons.

It’s a challenging but very achievable 5ish mile hike (roundtrip). There are views, forests, a wide running stream with waterfalls – and a destination 40ft waterfall with outcrops and views.

Also – it’s a straight-shot up GA 400 from Atlanta. During the weekends and summer, the trailhead is awkwardly overflowing and generally overused.

And yet – it’s still an amazing place. I went there in September 2015 with my brother, brother-in-law and Dad on a short overnight trip.

Nate on top of waterfall

We hiked into the Falls. I climbed way too high and got way too close to the edge in hindsight. It’s a beautiful, wild waterfall for better and worse.

Plus, there were lots of smaller waterfalls all along the creek to enjoy.

Raven Cliff Falls

I did, however, fall off a creek bridge an injured my leg. I was alright, but it did remind me to pack a more substantial first aid kid next time.

Either way, we hiked back to a lovely established campsite along the creek, albeit with a shocking number of people very near us. We did go back to go swimming.

Raven Cliff Falls

We (or, my brother-in-law) did a bit of backcountry cooking. We all slept fairly well before hiking out on Saturday morning.

When we got back to the trailhead, we were a bit blown away by the crowds. We were, of course, part of that crowd. The crowd that is loving Raven Cliffs Falls to death because of its location, convenience, and compact beauty.

Dodd Creek

The trip was great. I’m happy that we went. I learned a ton, had a great time with family, and saw another part of Georgia. But it did remind me that our wild places simply can only take so much use before they are no longer really wild at all.

Note from 2019. Four years after I drafted this post (but didn’t publish it, because ??), I went back to Raven Cliffs Falls Trailhead with my kids.

It had been re-graveled, the bathrooms upgraded, fencing was put up around the perimeter to stop illegal, damaging parking, and new rules posted about animals, camping, etc.

It was good to see, and by the numbers, Raven Cliffs Falls is more popular now than in 2015.

And yet, the trailhead was completely empty except for me and my two kids. No one was in sight. No cars were off in the distance. The picnic tables were empty, and there was a lovely silence so complete that my youngest son heard branches cracking from squirrels far off in the distance.

It was a Tuesday in February. The weather was drizzling rain and 38F.

That is when an idea that other people have said plenty of time before really sank in. Sure, priority number one is to fight for more public spaces, more budget, and better management. Tell your government reps that you want more money dedicated to public lands. Join watchdog organizations.

But if you can at all, do not go at peak times to peak places.

Go to peak places at non-peak times. Go to non-peak places at peak times. There’s more to see in several lifetimes all around you.

And there is plenty that gets left off ridiculous “Best of” lists and Instagram geo-tags.

Here’s a great explainer video that I connected with this hike –

Be sure to check out Raven Cliffs Falls on a random weekday. A nice nearby weekend alternative is Dukes Creek Falls.

By Nate

I'm Nate Shivar - I live in Atlanta and love exploring the city, outdoors, books & Internet. Read about me, my Now page, or my work.

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