Buried within the Chattahoochee National Forest, hidden off a very worn dirt road along Aska Road, resides Benton MacKaye Trail. The trail climbs upward along Rocky Mountain for a few miles and has some beautiful views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Shane, Julia, and I were content with hiking just to the falls and back as Shane has a herniated disk and his back was bothering him from cutting lumber a few days prior. I chose this hike because it is a short jaunt to the falls and back coming in under 1 mile total (score! I got to see a waterfall and he didn’t have to hike too far.)
NOTE- Before you go: LTE in them thar hills is limited.
I am a techie and an IT manager by trade. I use my phone for EVERYTHING; and glancing down to see “No Service” doesn’t make me overly thrilled when I have: no map, no documented route and no sense of direction. “I ain’t got no map nor directions and I have no earthly idear where we’s at,” flashed into my brain as we trudged along the dirt road. We saw a neat house that had hitching posts out front and the coolest cabin railing (literally made of sticks that seem to be collected from the forest).
We rounded a sharp curve on the packed Georgia clay road and came upon an abandoned shack and a barn that looked like it was about to cave in. My mind immediately took a wrong turn to a horror movie and I said, “This is where the city folk from Atlanta ‘gets it’ by the country folk that don’t like ‘no trespassin‘ on their land’!” This is a whole lotta nope and I looked for a place to turn around to go back to civilization.
The road was about as wide as our car and we had no choice but to continue passed the scary dilapidated house. We crept by slowly as “the hills have eyes” watched. Not a single bird could be heard as Julia mentioned that this shack reminded her of “Until Dawn” a horror video game.
Greeeeaaaat… queue the chainsaw sound effect now.
The windows the house were dark and the weeds had grown up over the entrance but we could see rocking chairs sitting abandoned on the front porch. A screen door slapped in the cool autumn breeze.
At this point I just knew we took a wrong turn and my phone continued to flash “Hey you idiot, there isn’t a cell tower up here” A.K.A No Service.
Thankfully, just ahead we saw the white diamond marking the trail head. Whew! we survived. Turns out, with a little research, this abandoned shack is the homestead of Garfield Stanley of the Stanley Settlement that is prominent in this area. Garfield was the warden of this mountain area, and took care of the area until his death.
We parked and headed to the trail head. You will see the sign pointing to the falls so from here it is pretty clear which way to go. The .5 mile hike to the falls is pretty easy, however the trail is muddy and goes up a fairly steep incline.
The trails are lined with rhododendron, that bloom in late June. We went in September so the flowers weren’t in bloom but that didn’t change the beauty of the trail. Moss covered the trees and mushrooms peeked up through the soil. The sound of the babbling brook resonated through the trees and there was a soft breeze. The smell of damp earth made us feel in touch with the environment in which we walked. Our legs could feel the strain of muscles being worked and our lungs were filled with the cool morning air.
Along the way we saw two cabins, one appeared to be abandoned and the other occupied. Oh! To have a cabin on a creek with a waterfall at its end.
.4 of a mile you will encounter a fork in the trail. If you take the left trail you will continue climbing Rocky Mountain for fantastic views of the Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Mountain range. There is a sign here pointing to the right to the falls. Once you take the right fork the, terrain takes a slight decline and the waterfall is just ahead. The ground has eroded and the trees root system in this area are showing so be careful not the trip. It is much cooler here under the thick canopy. Moss is thick on the trees and the air is damp. The forest floor was littered with colorful fall leaves when we visited. The sound of the waterfall is not deafening like a lot of falls but you can hear the water tumbling over the smooth rocks before you round the bend to see it cascading across the stone surface.
The double waterfall with falling leaves, mountain laurel, and rhododendron surrounding it is beautiful in the Fall, I can only imagine it in the Spring and early Summer. If you visit during this time please comment with photos!
Directions to the falls: Hopefully you aren’t like us and are looking for directions and not depending on your phones GPS. So getting there is easy but first…
IT Manager Pro Tip: While in Blue Ridge go ahead and search for Fall Branch Falls on your phone. If you are traveling to other locations, make sure you add each location to your phone in the order you want to visit them. Leave this app open, do not close it because if you have zero service it will not search, but the phone is smart, it will continue to direct you if it is already open.
Address: Fall Branch Falls, Stanley Creek Road, Cherry Log, GA
From Blue Ridge:
- Follow Aska Road south for eight miles.
- You will see a sign on right side of road that says “Fall Branch Falls –> Toccoa Riverside Restaurant is on the left side of road.
- Turn right on Stanley Creek Road right before the restaurant.
- At about 2 miles the road goes from paved to gravel. Keep going.
- You will see the hitching post cabin on a curve. Keep going.
- You will pass the scary homestead of Forest Warden Garfield Stanley’s (not so scary now that you have read who it belonged to, right?).
- The trail head is maybe 100 yards past the homestead. The road widens a little for parking and there is a white triangle on the tree.
- You can either head left or right down a trail. You will head right if your back is facing the homestead. Look for the sign pointing the way to Fall Branch Falls.
Enjoy! Let me know what you think in the comments below!