There are many amazing waterfalls to hike to in Northern Georgia, but none of them will take your breath away quite like Jacks River Falls. Located in the heart of the Cohutta Wilderness and in the Chattahoochee National Forest, Jacks River Falls encompasses the significance of a wilderness waterfall, as it’s the most powerful waterfall in the North Georgia backcountry.
The one way-trip distance of Jacks River Trail is 18 miles total, and ends up being more like 38 river crossings. For backpackers and hikers who aren’t afraid to get wet, this trail will prove to be your favorite. When the weather gets hot and humid, this is the perfect escape to log long trail miles and a few summer camp outs. You’ll have ample opportunities to take a dip in the river to cool off, and those who have a love for waterfalls will find Jack’s River Falls a beautiful site. Jack’s River Trail is not recommended as a beginner hike because the trail markings are sometimes hard to spot. Don’t rely on a GPS as the signal sometimes gets lost in the woods. Bring a paper map to be safe.
The Upper Section of the trail begins at its southeastern (high elevation) terminus at Dally Gap and continues 8.5 miles and 20 river crossings to the Beech Bottom Trail terminus with Jacks River Trail.
Jacks River Falls
The open rocky area and the impressive 80-foot drop are some of the best waterfall views anyone could wish for. In fact, winter is one of the best times to hear the roar of Jacks River Falls. The best thing about the Falls is that it’s only a 2 ½ hour drive north from Atlanta. In fact, the Cohutta Mountains themselves are some of the oldest mountains on the planet. The Wilderness Area is a total of 35,268 acres and is the largest wilderness area in Northern Georgia. There are over 95 miles of trails in the Cohutta Wilderness. Jacks River Falls offers spectacular views, and will create longtime memories as you stand looking at the drop off. Even in the winter, Jacks River Falls features old growth hemlocks and an overlook into Jacks River that you won’t soon forget, so it’s a great destination year-round.
Seven different trails connect with the Jacks River Trail. Starting from Dally Gap going northwest they are the Benton MacKaye, Penitentiary Branch, Rough Ridge, Hickory Ridge, Beech Bottom, Rice Camp, and Horseshoe Bend Trail,
After admiring the falls the trail continues down into the valley still paralleling the river on its left. It begins ascending a ridgeline for the first and only time on this section of the trail.
The trail begins crossing the river at a more prolific pace from here crossing its namesake river another 11 times in the next 2.7 miles. The trail is sometimes difficult to locate across the river crossings. The aqua blue blazes marking the crossings across the river are erratic. There are several crossings that require fording to an island in the middle of the river before locating the trail on the opposite side. The trail always enters the river correctly, however, some crossings are not straight across but are diagonal.
After navigating 12 river crossings in 2.7 miles the junction for Horseshoe Bend trail appears on the left at mile 4.5 (13.0-mile mark end to end).
For the next 1.7 miles, the trail crosses the river 9 more times for a total of 22 fords since Jacks River Falls. Many of the river crossings on the trail can be challenging. Some of the crossings are over solid rock which makes foot traction difficult. A hiking pole is mandatory if the goal is to enjoy the trail.
At approximately mile 6.2 (14.7 mile mark end to end) the trail crosses left to right for the 22nd time and the final time. After crossing the river for the final time the trail begins to widen out eventually to a roadbed with the river on its left for the next 2.1 miles.
The river continues to impress for the next two miles becoming really wide and slow toward the end. The steel-concrete bridge comes into view at the end indicating the beginning of the end of the trail. The trail arrives at its Alaculsy Valley Trailhead at mile 8.3 completing the north section of the trail. If hiked end to end the mileage is 16.8 miles.
Who is Going to Love It
For backpackers and hikers who aren’t afraid to get wet, this trail will prove to be your favorite. When the weather gets hot and humid, this is the perfect escape to log long trail miles and a few summer campouts. You’ll have ample opportunities to take a dip in the river to cool off, and those who have a love for waterfalls will find Jack’s River Falls a beautiful site. Jack’s River Trail is not recommended as a beginner hike because the trail markings are sometimes hard to spot. Don’t rely on a GPS as the signal sometimes gets lost in the woods. Bring a paper map to be safe. However, as stated earlier, Beech Bottom Trail is much more novice-friendly.
Directions to Daly Gap (the Higher section of the trail)
Blue Ridge, GA Access: Access to Jacks River southeastern (high elevation) terminus at Dally Gap is most commonly via Blue Ridge, GA Once arriving in Blue Ridge, GA go to the US 76-GA 5 intersection near the McDonald’s. Go North on GA 5 approximately 3.7 miles. Take a left onto Old Highway 2.
Continue straight for approximately 10.2 miles to Watson Gap. The last 1.2 miles is gravel. The intersection at Watson Gap is a 4-way intersection of FS22, FS 64, Old Highway 2, and County Road 187.
At this intersection take a sharp right onto FS 22 and continue 4.3 miles to Dally Gap where the trailheads for Hemp Top and Jacks River are located.