Emery Creek Hiking Trail

Please note this as previously published on Browns Guides, but it is no longer available so we added it here in reference to our Swimming Holes post.


TRAIL SUMMARY Location: Western Blue Ridge, Cohutta Mountains, Cohutta Wildlife Management Area; Features: Streams, waterfalls, overlook view; Distance: 7.5 miles; Difficulty Rating: Moderate to strenuous; County: Murray; Nearest City: Ellijay (SE), Chatwworth (SW); Maps: Crandall and Dyer Quads (GA); Cohutta Wilderness map; trail map available from ranger district; Blazes: None; Campsites: Mile 7.5: open, grassy meadow at the Group Camping Area; Water Sources: Abundant for the first 5.0 miles; Ranger District: Cohutta

Although Emery Creek Trail is primitive – unblazed 
and usually without signs –  it is scenic and now, 
for the most part, easily followed.

The first 0.2 mile of the trail follows an old road, 
now closed to traffic, that starts at an elevation of 
approximately 960 feet, high above Holly Creek. This 
section of Holly Creek, with its deep pools, cascades, 
and huge boulders, is beautiful and popular. Soon 
after it descends to stream level, the trail narrows to a rocky path and reaches the convergence of Holly 
and Emery Creeks. As you face upstream, Holly Creek 
is to the right, Emery to the left. The trail continues 
along the left bank of Emery Creek. You can either 
cross Holly Creek alone below the fork, or you can 
cross both just above their confluence. In high water, 
this crossing becomes a hazardous ford.

Beyond this initial crossing, this path becomes less 
traveled as it parallels Emery Creek through a forest dot- 
ted with tall eastern white and shortleaf pines and thick, 
uninitialed American beech trees. It becomes more inter- 
esting and isolated as it moves farther away from Holly 
Creek’s swimming holes. Shortly after its fifth crossing 
at mile 1.3, the trail turns right onto a gravel road and 
then left onto another old road before crossing Emery 
Creek. Follow trail signs at these junctions.

Forty yards beyond the eighth crossing (most can be made dry-shod) at mile 2.2, a wide spur trail 
to the left leads 125 yards to the first waterfall. 
Surprisingly loud and powerful for the stream’s size 
and 45 to 50 feet high, the fall drops from wide ledge 
to wide ledge to a small green pool at its base. Emery 
Creek Falls is both higher and longer than you might 
first guess. Below most of the ledges, the fall slides 
into a narrow pool which pours over the lip of the 
next ledge.

To reach the second falls, continue on the main 
trail as it bends to the left and ascends very sharply for 0.1 mile. At mile 2.7 the trail comes to a point where you can scram- 
ble down the hillside to explore a series of four cascades. The highest of 
the cascades is a 20- to 25-foot waterfall.

The trail crosses Emery Creek three more times and remains level or slightly uphill to a closed Forest Service road. This road marks the place 
where the trail used to end. In 1994 it was extended up to Little Bald 
Mountain during a service project led by Recreational Equipment, Inc. Turn left onto the road, walk about 50 feet, then turn right onto another 
old woods road. The trail follows this roadbed as it meanders along a 
main tributary of Emery Creek to about mile 4.5. Here it leaves the 
roadbed, crosses the creek, and climbs above the creek.

From this point on, the trail becomes strenuous, following a narrow, 
ascending path as it cuts its way across steep, boulder-strewn slopes in an 
isolated forest of pines and hardwoods. At mile 7.2 a beautiful overlook 
opens on the left with a south-southwest view of Fort Mountain. The trail 
ends at the primitive Group Camping Area, which is essentially a large 
grassy field on Little Bald Mountain (3,640 feet) just off FS 68. The 
Cherokee once used this field for tribal games and ceremonies.


Mile 2.2: Spur trail to Emery Creek Falls, a 50-foot, two-ledge drop. 
Mile 2.7: Hillside scramble down to a four-tiered cascade.

Mile 7.2: Overlook with a south-southwest view of Fort Mountain.


To the southern trailhead at Holly Creek: From the GA 52-US 411 inter- 
section in Chatsworth, travel US 411 North approximately 4.2 miles to 
the town of Eton. Turn right at the stoplight in Elan, following the sign 
for Lake Conasauga. This route is signed as CCC Road farther away from 
Eton. Once it becomes gravel and enters Forest Service property, it 
becomes FS 18, also known as Holly Creek Road. Continue straight on 
CCC Road for approximately 7.3 miles (after 6.0 miles the pavement 
ends). As you start a sharp curve to the right and uphill away from the creek, look for the trailhead and parking lot on the left.

To the northern trailhead at the Group Camping Area: From the Ellijay 
square, drive west 9.5 miles on GA 52. At the Lake Conasauga Recreation 
Area sign, tum right onto FS 18 and continue 3.5 miles. Turn right onto 
FS 68, continuing uphill and straight ahead. After traveling about 6.0 
miles, you will reach the three-way intersection of FS 68 and FS 64 near 
Potatopatch Mountain. Turn left toward Lake Conasauga, staying on FS 68. Continue about 3.5 miles to the Group Camping Area on the left. 
The trailhead is in the back left-hand corner of the open field.

Although the route is straightforward, there is no quick and easy way 
to set a shuttle between trailheads. You can link the directions given for 
the southern and northern trailheads. Holly Creek Road heading east 
from Eton toward the southern trailhead turns into FS 18, the same road 
mentioned in the directions to the northern trailhead. From the southern 
trailhead at Holly Creek, you can follow FS 18 2.5 miles farther away 
from Eton to its three-way intersection with FS 68, mentioned in the 
northern trailhead directions. The Chattahoochee National Forest Administrative map is indispensible for figuring out shuttles and alternate 

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