Hiking DeSoto Falls Trail:
Quoting the TLC song Waterfalls, “Don’t go chasing waterfalls, please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to.” Everyone loves waterfalls, right? Well, spring is normally a great time to chase waterfalls due to the abundance of water from spring showers rushing down the falls. So after a deluge of rain one day in the spring, my husband and I decided to check out DeSoto Falls trail with our adorable boxer, Princess Tiger Lily. She loves to get outside, so we made sure we found a trail where dogs are welcome. DeSoto Falls is almost two hours north of the center of Atlanta in the DeSoto Falls Recreation Area in North Georgia – just north of Dahlonega. There is not an address on the website, but there are directions. I used Google Maps GPS and “DeSoto Falls Recreation Area” will get you there.
We parked the car, paid our $3 parking fee, and started down the trail. Start by walking through some picnic tables along the stream. Shortly, you will come to a paved road in the campground where you need to turn left and walk along the road. After a short walk you will come to the lovely bridge below which traverses Frogtown Creek.
Once you cross the creek you will see this sign explaining the reason for the name DeSoto Falls. The legend is that a piece of armor was found near the falls which could have been from Hernando DeSoto or one of his fellow explorers. Ponder wearing that armor as you walk the trail – what would it be like to hike these woods with armor on? No thanks! You will also note on the sign that several people have slipped and fallen to their death on the falls, so don’t climb the falls – stay on the path.
The sign explains you can go left to lower falls which is only 1/4 mile or right to upper falls which is 3/4 mile. We chose to go left to the lower falls first and that is what I would recommend for two reasons. First, the lower falls is not quite as grand as the upper falls so save the grand finale of the upper falls until the end. Also, the 1/4 mile hike to lower falls has more steep uphill sections, so get the harder part done while your legs and lungs are fresh. If you only have time for one part of the trail, I would visit upper falls.
After some fairly steep switchbacks you hear the stream grow louder and come to some cascades and small waterfalls along the trail. Keep going and you will soon reach a viewing platform for lower DeSoto Falls. The falls are gorgeous, and I couldn’t believe the sun was in an ideal spot for my photo.
I have found many occasions to say, “It is such a small world!” We have only lived in the Atlanta area for a few years, so don’t know many people here. However, we ran into some friends at the falls. Here are Michael and Scott on the viewing platform enjoying the view of the lower falls.
Several other hikers came and went as we observed the falls and visited with our friends. Lily had a great time since she thinks everyone should pet her, and several people indulged her. After photographing the falls, we started back down the switchbacks to the bridge, and then continued down the other way toward Upper DeSoto Falls. The trial toward the upper falls was a gradual climb with some parts fairly flat through woods filled with large trees.
Below is an interesting boulder with Lily striking a pose for us. She heard a squirrel scrambling in the woods so perked up for the photo.
The trial goes beside Frogtown creek and you can sometimes see the campground on the other side.
Below is another photo of Lily on the trail. You can see the trail was in fair condition with only a few rocks and roots along the way. The setting was beautiful with the sunlight streaming through the gnarled rhododendron and old trees.
Toward the end of the trail we could hear the roar of the creek again, and knew the falls were close.
Across the small bridge and around the corner Upper DeSoto Falls came into sight, and they are truly memorable. The photos below show the path to the scenic overlook at the falls and then the lovely falls themselves.
After visiting with more hikers at the falls, we started back to the car. On the way back the light was really starting to glow at the end of the day and the rhodendron lined banks of Frogtown creek seemed magical.
We crossed back over the bridge to end our hike. Lily crashed in the car and slept the whole way home. Wearing her out was part of our goal on this hike, and we were successful. It is not a long hike, but those switch backs to lower falls wore us out too.
If you enjoy hiking and waterfalls, DeSoto Falls trail is a wonderful place to go. The reward of such spectacular falls with not much effort make this a popular hike for good reason.
If you know how to adjust the controls on your camera it is fun to get the “silky/smooth look” of the water running over the falls. In the first photo I used a shutter speed of 1/100 and you can see the drops of water as it is “frozen” in action. With a slower shutter speed, the water will appear more smooth. In the second photo my shutter speed was much slower at .4 seconds. Therefore, the water is not “frozen” but blurs together. To use such a slow shutter speed you need to have a tripod to hold the camera still or the photo will be out of focus. My husband was nice enough to carry my small tripod for me. I turned my camera to AV mode and set my f-stop to 22 and my ISO to 100 and then let the camera choose the shutter speed for the correct exposure which was .4. I also tried different f-stops to see the difference. The look you get will depend on the light at the falls, how much water there is and how fast the water is flowing.