Jacks River Falls
Finally! My number one bucket list item for Georgia hiking is checked off. I have been wanting to visit Jacks River Falls for the past several years, but something always seemed to get in the way. There have been fires and other natural disasters, my busy schedule, the distance from our house, etc. I vowed, though, in 2018, I would visit Jacks River Falls. So what makes this place so noteworthy anyways? I really can’t explain it, but once I got there, it definitely exceeded my wildest dreams. I’ve only said this about one other place (Joshua Tree National Park), so if a place makes me feel this way, it’s just special.
Jacks River is located in the northwestern part of of Georgia, in the Cohutta Wilderness. The Cohutta is just different. I’ve hiked all over this state, including in other parts of NWGA and nothing is like the Cohutta. It’s so remote and serene, despite being located near some of the most ugly, industrial cities in the state (sorry, Chatsworth). The trees tower over, the rocks are large and striking, and the trails are relatively primitive and sometimes unmarked.
We decided to hike the Beech Bottom trail to Jacks River Falls, due to it having the fewest water crossings. Ultimately, it was close to freezing when we started out, so water crossing was not really an option. Getting to the trailhead requires an hour+ drive on gravel, which gives you an idea of how remote this area is. All told, it’s a 2.5 hours drive from our house and we decided to do a daytrip, due to the lack of camping options in the immediate area of Jacks River Falls. I made this decision after speaking with a ranger by phone about camping options. It was a long day, but we made it in one piece.
The trail itself wasn’t as strenuous as I was expecting, despite being 10 miles roundtrip. James had never done a hike this long in one day, but even he agreed it was deceptively easy. We left the dogs at home, due to being in such a remote area. I’m becoming more and more overprotective of my dogs as they get older. That being said, the trail would be great for dogs and I would bring them in the future. Since I was so fixated on getting to the falls, I don’t even remember much about the features of the trail. We did have to cross a few relatively shallow creeks, but the water was higher than expected due to heavy rainfall the week before. I was really glad to have my waterproof boots on!
The best part of the trail, though, is the stretch that is actually along Jacks River. I have never seen such a beautiful river. The water was crystal clear and very still in some parts, which caused beautiful reflections of the trees in the water. The rocks and pebbles on the shore were perfectly smooth and round, whereas the cliffs on the river were jagged and impressively huge. There was some early signs of fall foliage, but we also saw some late blooming flowers as well. And then we actually reached the falls!
Jacks River Falls is a double waterfall. The first fall is a smaller cascade, which pools beautifully in an area perfect for swimming. The river then continues falling over a much taller drop onto jagged rocks below. We weren’t able to descend to the lower falls, due to the rocks being too wet and slippery. The water flow was very high, since we’ve gotten so much rain this fall. The water was gusting up off the rocks and I had a hard time even taking pictures. I was also in so much awe I wasn’t even focused on taking pictures.
The trail continues along the river but we didn’t venture much further. The trails in this area are extensive and sometimes un-blazed, but I’d love to come back and explore more in warmer weather. The Cohutta Wilderness area is so large, it has un-ending amounts of places to explore and relatively few people exploring it (which is always a bonus, in my book). Next spring, this will be my top destination and I’m pretty sure I could spend all of 2019 trying to see it all.