Added by Christian Murillo
Hike beside beautiful waterfalls as you traverse on the floor of Cloudland Canyon. Beautiful hemlock forests make you almost forget that towering cliffs surround you on both sides.
Hiking Sitton's Gulch is a great option for those who want to get a little more distance than what the 2.1 mile Waterfalls trail has to offer. This bit of extra distance will separate you from a lot of the weekend crowd and will expose you to two more waterfalls, in addition to Cherokee and Hemlock Falls. The trailhead is the same as the Waterfall trail trailhead, at the end of Cloudland Canyon Park Road.
The beginning of the trail is the same as the Waterfall trail, so don't feel like you have to choose between the two, just choose the distance you are comfortable with. You will start the hike along the rim of the canyon, but then you quickly descend down about 600 steps. This might not seem too bad, until you realize that you are going to have to go back up these seemingly endless stairs. Cherokee Falls is the first side trail from the boardwalk path, and is a 60 foot waterfall that plunges (sometimes) into a beautiful pool. Here the cliffs wrap around you almost 180 degrees which gives you an awesome feeling of being immersed in the wilderness. However, water levels can get pretty low which can reduce these sweet falls to a mere trickle of water (i.e my photos). Water levels are highest in the Winter, and on a cold day you can even see the falls become partially frozen. When Cherokee Falls is not flowing at full force, do not expect any of the other falls to flow either. From here, you continue your descent to Hemlock Falls, boasting an equally impressive 90-foot drop-off. Sitton's Gulch trail officially begins here, where the Waterfalls trail ends.
You will follow the blue blazes from this point on and continue down between the canyons walls. There are two more really peaceful waterfalls within the next half mile after the Sittons Gulch trail diverts from the Waterfalls trail. After these last series of waterfalls, Sitton Gulch creek continues to flow gently down a riverbed filled with large boulders. Again, the water levels here rely largely on the season. The trail meanders for about two more miles with mild descent, adjacent to the creek. You will hike through dense, cool, and heavily shaded hemlock forest for most of this way. You can argue that this section is not as unique or impressive as the waterfalls, but it is certainly beautiful and soothing in its own way. If you look up, occasionally you will be able to see the cliffs of the canyon walls towering above you, through the trees. After just under 3 miles you will reach the parking area on the north end of the park. You can also start your trek on this side of the park.
Here, you will turn around and return the way you came. That means a lot of climbing by Georgia hiking standards. The stairs at the end will prove a great fitness challenge for just about anyone. This would also be a great opportunity to do your best Rocky impersonation... or you could just enjoy the beautiful scenery as you struggle for breath.
Feeling even more ambitious? This trail easily links up with the yellow-blazed West Rim Loop trail and would make for a good full day of hiking above and in the canyon. You do not need a permit for either of these hikes. Parking in Cloudland Canyon State Park is $5 cash.
- Day Pack
- Plenty of Water
- Camera with tripod
- Good hiking shoes
- Walking stick/Trekking poles
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Fitness, Hiking, Photography
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