Warwoman Dell to Pinnacle Knob
Our 4th of July didn't exactly turn out as planned, due to James being unexpectedly sick. We planned to go to Ellijay, do a short hike at Fall Branch Falls, and then go to a vineyard on the way home. Well, we ended up driving all the way to Blue Ridge, not hiking, not going to a vineyard, and not really doing anything other than driving. I think I am the only person in Georgia who can drive through at least 5 mountain counties and not hike. And no, we were not lost. Don't ask...
So anyways, I wanted to make up for it by doing an awesome hike on the weekend. The weather was unexpectedly cool and sunny so I decided to head up to the mountains in Northeast GA. Last month, Girls Who Hike GA did a hike from Warwoman Dell to Pinnacle Knob, but I wasn't able to go on that occasion. Ever since then, I'd been thinking about that particular hike. Despite living in Northeast GA, I have only been to Clayton a few times and I'd never been to Warwoman Dell at all. Sidenote- Clayton is a cool little mountain town and if you go there, you should definitely visit Wander North Georgia!
This hike begins at the Warwoman Dell Recreation Area and follows the Bartram Trail northeast before intersecting with a side trail up Pinnacle Knob. It's a fairly long hike, at just around 9 miles roundtrip, and actually feels like 2 hikes in one. But you know I always like to get a lot of bang for my buck. I started out right around 9 am from Warwoman Dell and it was very quiet and peaceful along the trail. I saw one other hiker on my way up the trail and I suspect he got up very early to watch the sun rise. The Bartram Trail is very green and full of different flowers, mushrooms, and other foliage. I can see why William Bartram was interested in this area and collected plants to send back to Europe.
Within just a half a mile or so, the trail hits the first of many waterfalls. Actually, let me backtrack. There is a small waterfall right off the trail near the parking area, but it's hard to see through the trees. I complain about the rain a lot, but it certainly has helped make the waterfalls beautiful. But the first "main" waterfall of the hike is Becky Branch falls, a delicate stream that sort of criss crosses over a rock face. There is a small bridge in front of the falls, which makes it really easy to take some good pictures. Continuing along the trail, you'll then come to Martin Creek Falls, which also has a great viewing platform in front of it. Perfect for stopping to eat a snack or just enjoy the scenery. There's also another small fall in between Becky Branch and Martin Creek. So basically, you get at least 3-4 falls in about a 2 mile distance from Warwoman Dell. The creeks in this area are stunningly beautiful. I have never seen such clear water before. There are also plenty of campsites along the stretch near the water. If I'd researched this area more thoroughly before we camped in June, I probably would have come here!
After leaving Martin Creek, the "second segment" of the hike begins. The trail begins to climb steadily in elevation, but feels manageable. The trail goes through some rhododendron tunnels, crosses some other very small streams, and eventually you can see some mountains through the trees. This is why it feels like 2 hikes in one. The first part is more water-filled and leisurely; the second part is more mountainous and the scenery changes with elevation. Eventually you reach a clearing, where the trail to Pinnacle Knob continues to the left. On the right side, the Bartram Trail continues toward Courthouse Gap. There is also a parking area and trailhead at Courthouse Gap but if you hike from here, you'll miss the waterfalls.
Continuing up the trail to Pinnacle Knob, the scenery is a little mundane but this stretch is short and goes by quickly. It also has the longest switchbacks I think I've ever hiked. I've been told the trail to the summit used to go basically straight up, but the trail was rerouted with switchbacks a few years ago. After traversing the switchbacks, suddenly the trails pops out onto the summit of Pinnacle Knob. And what a summit it is! I've heard more than one person say it's the best view in Georgia. Not sure where I stand with that, because there are so many great views in North Georgia. I can't pick just one.
Pinnacle is a large rocky bald framed by pine trees and pretty wildflowers. The rock face creates a slight stair step shape, so you can carefully move down the bald a little to see different views. This makes for great pictures, especially if someone is standing up higher and looking down over you and the mountains in the distance. And some other hikers actually came up right after me, so I could actually get someone to take my picture! The only downside is, since this hike is only 10 minutes from Clayton, there are a lot of houses in the valley below and there was a some noise from traffic. But the view definitely overshadows those distractions. I will definitely come back here in the fall to see the leaves change.
I kind of booked it back down the mountain because I was focusing a lot on my pacing during this hike. I wanted to maintain close to a 3 MPH pace, which I did. I also wanted to get home early enough to spend some time with James. He still wasn't feeling too great, so I didn't want to drag him out on a 9 mile hike. After returning to the Warwoman Dell parking area, I also walked around the short nature trail encircling it before leaving. Along this small trail, I found another waterfall with the most perfect pool below it.
This was a really perfect, all-around hike and I can't really think of another hike in Georgia that has both a stunning summit view and numerous waterfalls. Cloudland Canyon or Tallulah have both, obviously, but the views at those don't really require hiking up elevation (well, until you have to hike back up the stairs from the gorge floor). I also continued on my goal to do longer hikes with this one as well. Sunday Funday indeed!
Oh and I totally stole the hat I bought for James. If you want one of your own, check out the selection here and use my discount code at check out: carahebeling