Trail: Dukes Creek Trail
Recreation Area Dukes
Geographic Location: west of
Length: 2.2 miles
Difficulty: 4/10 (Moderate)
Last Hiked: May 2017
Overview: An out-and-back down to the base of scenic
Area Information: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/conf/recreation/hiking/recarea/?recid=10509&actid=50
Google Map: http://www.mappedometer.com/?maproute=608298
Directions to the trailhead: From Helen, take SR 17 north 1.3 miles to SR 75A and turn left on SR 75A. Drive SR 75A southwest 2.3 miles to SR 348 and turn right on SR 348. Drive winding SR 348 west 1.7 miles to the national forest’s signed Dukes Creek Falls Recreation Area on the left. Turn left to enter the recreation area. Drive up the short entrance road, pay the small day-use fee, and park in the paved trailhead parking area. The hike starts at the vault toilet building near the rear of the parking area.
The hike: Often overlooked in favor of its more famous cousin Raven Cliff Falls some 3 miles to the west, the much higher
lies at the confluence of Dukes Creek and Davis Creek down-watershed from Dukes
Creek Falls . Dukes Creek gains historical notoriety from
some gold discovered in its waters in 1828.
This discovery led to the Raven
Cliff Falls Georgia
gold rush, a precursor to the more famous California
gold rush some 20 years later.
Interestingly, is a misnomer, because the
highest fall is actually located on Davis Creek, not on Dukes Creek. Dukes Creek
|ADA-accessible trail leaving vault toilet area|
From the vault toilets beside the parking lot at Dukes Creek Recreation Area, start on the ADA-accessible asphalt trail that heads gradually downhill and curves gradually to the right to parallel the parking lot. A few picnic tables are passed before you leave the developed part of the recreation area. At 0.1 miles, the ADA-accessible part of the trail ends at an observation platform. The platform offers a partially obstructed view to the west, and
can be heard but not seen in the ravine below you. Dukes
|View from ADA-accessible platform|
Past the platform, the asphalt trail surface turns to gravel as you begin the 350 vertical foot descent in earnest. The trail parallels SR 348, which sits above you to your right, as it descends some steep wooden steps to reach another platform with some benches. This platform offers no view.
After descending another short set of steep wooden steps, you reach an unmarked T-intersection at 0.3 miles with options going right and left. The trail going right is an old entrance trail that used to connect to the Raven Cliffs Trailhead but now deadends at the bank of Dukes Creek. Thus, you want to turn left to continue descending on what appears to be an old road.
|Descending on wide gravel trail|
The wide gravel trail heads south as it gradually descends. Dukes Creek tumbles over some scenic cascades downhill to your right. The creek starts rather close to the trail, but it descends away from the trail as you continue south. Some nice hemlock trees live in the forest here.
At 0.75 miles, you reach another unmarked trail intersection with the wide gravel trail continuing straight and a steeper dirt trail exiting at a sharp angle to the right. The trail going straight leads to the lower state park trailhead, so you need to turn right to keep heading for the waterfall. The grade intensifies and the trail surface becomes a little rougher for this last segment to the falls.
1.1 miles into the hike, you reach this hike’s lowest elevation at the base of
. Two observation decks sit here: a lower deck
near the very bottom of the cascade and an upper deck that provides a frontal
view of the main fall. When I came here
in early May 2017, the upper deck was closed because it had sustained damage
from a fallen tree, and repair was not expected for at least a year. Thus, the pictures I present below do not do
this 150 foot waterfall justice because I could not get to the best view. Dukes
|Right side of falls (in Dukes Creek)|
|Main falls (through trees in Davis Creek)|
The water volume is moderate, and this waterfall impresses mainly with its sheer height. Some benches at the observation deck allow you to sit, observe the waterfall, and enjoy the cool creekside environment on a warm day. The trail ends at the observation deck, so the only option is to retrace your steps 1.1 miles and 350 vertical feet uphill to the parking area to complete the hike.