I knew I'd eventually get in to northern Georgia to visit some of that state's beautiful waterfalls. The first time I seriously thought about it was after meeting local waterfall gurus Bernie, Diane, John, and Pam at the Halloweenfest in Brevard. Bernie gave me a map of the 3 Forks area in NE Georgia with 2 falls marked on it, but I didn't get a chance to really check it out until the next day. I figured the next week end would probably be the last week end to catch some fall color in the mountains and had thought about upstate SC, but the more I looked at that map, the more I wanted to check this area out. Overflow, Big, and Holcomb Creeks come together at one point and form the headwaters of the west fork of the Chattooga River. Bernie had drawn a loop that included the Lower Falls on Big Creek, the 3 forks point, and a falls on Overflow Creek.
I emailed Bernie, thanked him for the maps and told him my plan. He emailed back with detailed directions which proved to be quite valuable. Thanks again, Bernie! There are directions to a trail on georgiahikes.com that will bring you in from a different point. The way I came in was how Bernie suggested since I was coming from Lake Toxaway. I headed west on Hwy 64 to Highlands, then headed south on Hwy 28 into Georgia. Parking for this end of the trail is 1.3 miles past the state line on the right. It's a good sized pull-off area just as the road takes a sharp left. The forest road that heads down and immediately crosses a creek is the trail. I think it was marked FR605, but don't quote me on that.
I took the path that Bernie recommended - for the most part - so I have to give him credit here. Some of this is my observations along the way. Cross the creek the best way you can and continue up the logging road. I didn't see any way to do it without getting my feet wet, so I cheated and hopped back in the Jeep and drove across. There weren't any signs saying not to. Just a little ways up on the right was a place to pull off out of the way, so I did that and continued on foot. Big Creek to the left, but about 200' lower in elevation and mostly hidden by the trees. After about 15-20 minutes of hiking, the sounds of a possible falls Bernie had mentioned and a trail down had me going 'hmmm'. The trail is fairly steep and I got to a point where the drop off was questionable, so I opted to save it for another trip. Soon after that, the main trail narrows and passes by a couple of big boulders. At about a mile in, the trail splits. I took the narrower trail to the left, heading south and back along Big Creek. Fifteen to twenty minutes later, I was at the top of the falls. The creek has cut a small narrow gorge through the rock creating a 3 tiered falls. The first 2 sections are small and visible from the trail. but not photo worthy. The last section, however, is a 10' drop that empties into a beautiful natural swimming hole. I suspect I wouldn't have been alone on a warm summer day, but I saw no one the entire day. To get down, I continued on the trail and found a steeper side trail down to the base. The day was beautiful for hiking - full sun and unusually warm for early November - but lousy for picture taking. The left side of the falls was in full sun and the right in shade. Here are a couple of shots...
After eating lunch and soaking up the scenery, I headed back up to the trail and headed left. The trail from here isn't always obvious, but continued to follow Big Creek down towards 3 Forks. Within 15-20 minutes after leaving the previous falls, the logging road was obvious again and I came to a small fire ring and 2 logs. The trail forks here with the left fork heading towards 3 Forks. I took it and 5 minutes later I was standing on a big rock where the creeks meet. Big Creek was to my left and it entered the point as a small cascade. Part was in full sun, the rest in shade so I didn't bother with a photo. Overflow Creek came in to my right with no fanfare whatsoever. Holcomb Creek spills over a very small falls just a short distance down stream, but I would have had to get my feet wet to check it out. I decided to be a wuss and save it for another time.
From here I headed back up to the fire ring and trail split and headed left. The trail heads uphill and follows Overflow Creek upstream. I was goofin' around taking pictures of leaves and other things along the way, so I don't have an accurate distance, but in about 1/4 to 1/2 mile, the trail forks again. Bernie said to take the right fork that switchbacks up the hill because the left fork that continues straight just dead ends. He said he and John had bushwhacked through to the falls, but it would be better to stay on the trail. Well, I just couldn't do that, so I headed left. About 10 minutes later I was wishing I had stayed on that main trail. The rhodo and brush were thick and the side hill stepping was difficult because it was so steep. I decided to head down to the creek at my 1st opportunity and ended up at a place where the creek narrowed through a small rock channel shown in the next photo. If you are using this to find the falls, take that switchback to the right and uphill. At the next split you'll see what Bernie calls a frog pond. Take the left fork downhill for about a mile, then the left fork at a right hand switchback which heads towards the top of the falls.
The above scene was a nice surprise. I continued on the rock up creek and caught some fall color reflecting off the creek with a cascade in the background. I had no idea where the falls were, but figured I would recognize them when I came upon them.
The next shot is the cascades. As I approached them, I could see around the bend and what had to be Overflow Falls. The falls are 15'-20' high with another nice swimming hole at the base. The trees above the falls were still very colorful, but they were in full sun and the falls were mostly in the shade. I got there around 2PM and hung around for about an hour enjoying the beauty and hoping some clouds would move in. That didn't happen, so I had a choice. I could wait for the sun to go down enough for the whole scene to be in the shade or head on out and hit another falls before it got dark. I chose the latter since I wasn't really sure how long it would take me to get out.
It's a good thing Bernie had also included directions to get back out since I hadn't gone the way he recommended. I headed up from the top of the falls back to the main trail. It was now 3:35. I headed right and uphill reaching the frog pond at 3:50. I missed it on the way in and sure enough when I got to it, a frog hopped in. I took the left fork here and 3 minutes later came to another fork. Bearing right, I picked up the pace a bit and got back to the 1st trail split down to the falls on Big Creek at 4:10, then back to my vehicle at 4:35. I had a great time! Didn't see anyone else the whole time, but saw some beautiful scenery and will head back for more exploring one day. Bernie, thanks a million for sharing a bit of your wisdom.