Chasing Waterfalls in North Georgia: Dukes Creek Trail

Dukes Creek Trail can be found just outside Alpine Helen, Georgia and right off the Russell Scenic Highway. It’s not a strenuous hike and roughly 2 miles in and out. It’s a perfect family hike or a shorter hike for someone like me who was looking to get as many different waterfalls checked off her list in the course of a day.  I chose my visit on an early Sunday morning with unseasonably warm weather for mid-January.

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North Georgia is a waterfall chaser’s dream. There are dozens of waterfalls in the area and many are easy to access. You can read more about the waterfalls of North Georgia  in the great resource guide from Access Atlanta.

The first thing that struck me was the beautiful view of Yonah Mountain from the trailhead lot. The sun still hung low above the horizon as it was not long after sunrise, brushing pink and orange strokes across the sky and around the summit.

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The Dukes Creek Falls are only around a mile in, reached by a pretty well worn trail that was wide and easy to navigate for most of the way.

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You can hear the rushing water from the creek along the way, enticing you to keep pushing forward with the anticipated reward of catching the beauty of a waterfall.

There is something an indescribable beauty about being on a trail during the early morning hours with the light cascading through the trees.

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I stood for just a moment on the trail, listening to the sound of the water crashing over the rocks. The music of the water echoed through the forest, a crescendo rising as I moved closer to the falls and then just as quickly a diminuendo as the next switchback took me further away. But the pull of the waterfall drew me closer and I found my pace quickened as I anticipated the first glimpse of falls along my way to the final set.

And there she was framed between the moss covered tree trunks and foliage, spilling down.

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I continued on, following the path until I reached Duke’s Creek Falls, nestled in the valley.

The top viewing deck had suffered some tree damage, and was taped off in bright pink ribbon. It reminded me how little we have control of some things, especially when one considers the force of nature.

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There is a innate serenity and peacefulness when you are the only person  witnessing the magic and grandeur of any waterfall.  In those moments, a person can truly grasp the beauty of  what it means to “Be Present”.

The falls drop 150 feet over a cliff, cascading over the rocks and finally pooling into its rocky basin.

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After spending a few solitary moments meditating on nature’s beauty, I retraced my steps back to the trailhead parking lot. On my way I ran into a couple hiking down to the falls. I gave them a smile and a hello, warning them that the upper viewing deck was closed due to tree damage.

I had to admit I was secretly grateful that I arrived at the right time of day to afford me just those few moments of alone time on the trail and at the Falls.  It also reminded me that the wanderlust of chasing waterfalls and being out on the trail is something I can’t escape. I was already contemplating what would be the next waterfall…and the next.

With no where to be and no one but myself to choose where I landed next, I sat in the driver’s seat and smiled as I decided on Anna Ruby Falls.

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