First of all, don’t confuse this trail for Raven Cliff Falls in Helen, GA, as they are not the same. A good friend of mine showed me this trail a few years back and it’s been a popular spot for me and my friends to visit every summer. This remote there-and-back hike is approximately 3.5 miles total (1.74 miles each way) and the main feature is a nice swimming hole at the end beneath a towering rock face. The hike is considered moderate to difficult based on the consistent elevation gain on the way back.
Directions to the trailhead: From Clayton GA, take GA-15 S/GA-2 W/US-23 S/US-76 E south towards Lakemont GA for 7.4 miles and turn left onto Camp Creek Road. Drive another 1.5 miles and take a left on Water Gauge Road. Drive 2.7 miles and take a left onto Raven Rock Road (this is a dirt road and is probably not signed). Drive carefully as logging trucks and buses carrying rafters also use the road. Raven Rock Road will dead end into the parking area. The trailhead begins at the upper right-hand side of the parking area. The hike to the Chattooga River is 1.74 miles and all down hill. The first half of the hike is on an old dirt road. Eventually you will see a smaller trail next to a brown carsonite sign that splits off to the left from the larger trail, take this trail. After taking the smaller trail on the left, the descent becomes steeper. During the summer months beware of poison ivy that grows all along the trail (it is probably wise to wear a light pair of pants that can be shed before swimming). Just before reaching the Chattooga River, the trail will flatten out and you’ll pass through a large campsite that could be used for a weekend or overnight trip. The swimming area is a deep pool on section 4 of the Chattooga River and is directly beneath a towering face of granite. Below and above the swimming area are rapids seen in the 1972 film “Deliverance.” Don’t worry, it was just a movie……right?! There are several rocks for lounging and a small natural sandy beach.
This hike is considered kid and dog friendly with a few caveats:
- the hike back is all uphill, so small children should probably sit this one out
- kids may not be diligent of the poison ivy along the trail edge and the oil may cling to dog’s fur (transferring to unsuspecting owners later on)
- the rapids above and below the swimming hole are beautiful, yet can be dangerous. Kids should be kept close and if your dog wanders you will want to use a leash. Many people have died on the Chattooga River throughout the years, so exercise extreme caution around swift waters. If you need further convincing, look up the story of 16-year old Rachel Trois who drowned in the Raven Chute rapid just a few hundred yards above the Raven Cliffs site; it took rescue teams nearly 2 months to recover her body from a cone-shaped hole beneath the crushing waters of the Chattooga. I tell this story not to frighten, but to convey the potentially fatal nature of the river. The Chattooga River is a beautiful place, but visitors should always keep in mind the rapids on these rivers are world-renowned by kayakers. Visitors should exercise caution around the rivers faster moving sections.
That being said, the swimming hole is extremely safe and makes for a relaxing day of swimming. Hikers can throw a towel down on the sand or perch on a rock to stare at the beautiful river, read a book, or engage in any other relaxing activity of choice. As always, Leave No Trace (hike out everything you brought with you), be safe, and enjoy the hike/swim/camp. P.S. If you’re starving after a day of swimming and hiking, head back to Clayton to check out one of my favorite restaurants: Mama G’s. Best Pizza in the mountains. Be warned, the restaurant is not open on Sundays.