Emery Creek is a 7.0-mile trail that begins near the bottom of Little Bald Mountain at Holly Creek. The trail crosses Holly Creek to join Emery Creek which is flowing in from the north. The first part of the trail is a river trail. The trail follows Emery Creek in a cove for a while before gradually ascending up the mountain. As it ascends it will cross the creek more than 20 times and pass two waterfalls before detouring from Emery Creek approximately at the 4.5-mile mark.
From here the trail becomes a mountain trail gaining elevation more rapidly before detouring again to the east then southeast and finally hooking back dramatically to the northwest and following this general direction until the trail comes to Emery Creek Overlook at mile 6.7 and .3 miles farther to Little Bald Mountain where the Cherokees use to play their tribal stick games.
The trail has 2 access points. The most popular access point is its trailhead at Holly Creek. This trailhead is at the bottom of Little Bald Mountain where the other access point is on top of Little Bald Mountain via Forest Service Road 68. Tearbritches Trailhead is nearby.
The trailhead at Holly Creek is the easiest and shortest route to the two 40 feet plus waterfalls on the trail. The other scenic feature on the trail is Emery Creek Overlook which is on top of Little Bald Mountain. The overlook is .3 miles from the trail terminus on top of Little Bald Mountain.
The only way to see both the falls and the overlook is either park a vehicle at both trailheads or hike an out and back. An out and back on this trail is rated strenuous.
There are multiple distances publicly stated for the trail. From 6.3 to 7.5 miles. The trail sign on top of Little Bald Mountain states the trail is 6.3 miles. The published data from the Forest Service on the internet is 6.4 miles. And the stated distance for the trail at its Holly Creek Trailhead is 7.5 miles.
From the trailhead at Holly Creek to the terminus on top of Little Bald Mountain is 7.0 miles. Two different measurements recorded the same thing. The trail is rated strenuous due to a 2,651 feet change in elevation most of it occurring after Emery Creek Falls. There is no other trail in the area that comes close to this change in elevation. Hiking just to the falls and back is rated easy to moderate.
The trail is marked fairly well with green fluorescent markers all the way to the second 40 foot waterfall. The markers are less frequent to the top of Little Bald Mountain after the second waterfall.
The trail will be described from its lower elevation trailhead at Holly Creek proceeding up Little Bald Mountain.
From the trailhead take the top trail and continue along the ridge with Holly Creek on the left for .3 miles. At the .3 mile mark, Emery Creek flows in from the left and joins Holly Creek. There should be a pink ribbon marking where to ford Holly Creek right to left. Proceed slightly upstream for an easier crossing. The first green fluorescent ribbon marking Emery Creek Trail should be visible on the west bank of Holly Creek.
After fording Holly Creek to a peninsula the trail immediately fords Emery Creek right to left for the first time of many. After this 1st crossing, the trail parallels Emery Creek for the next mile occasionally crossing it and recrossing as it proceeds through a hardwood forest densely populated by eastern hemlocks. After winding away from the creek briefly the trail passes an old antique truck in the middle of the forest.
After the trail passes the truck it fords Emery Creek again at approximately the 1.4-mile mark and continues up a small hill to an abandon Forest Service Road and takes a right onto it. It continues down the road crossing a tributary before the trail veers 90 degrees to the left and begins climbing in elevation.
The trail gradually ascends before leveling out again crossing Emery Creek three more times before the trail junctions with Emery Creek Falls around mile 2.4. The junction is indicated by a trail sign. The falls are approximately .1 miles off the trail with an additional spur trail to the top of the falls where there are additional smaller falls. The lower Emery Creek Falls is a 60-footer with a nice pool at the bottom. This is a popular spot during warm weather. After viewing, return to the main trail and turn left.
Continuing from the lower falls the trail begins gaining elevation again tracing along a ridge with nice winter views of Fort Mountain.
Approximately 0.6 miles from the lower falls the trail passes the more remote upper Emery Creek Falls at mile 3.0 which can be seen from the trail, unlike the lower falls. This second waterfall is just as impressive as the first falls. It has 3 different falls, with the middle one the highest at 40 feet. And for some mystifying reason is ignored by most hikers.
After the falls the trail continues following Emery Creek a little more loosely now losing sight of it occasionally. In this short section of the trail, it will detour slightly from the creek before returning to cross it. The trail crosses Emery Creek three more times before reaching another closed forest service road at mile 3.5. The trail takes a left onto the road and then after approximately 50 feet takes a 90 degree right.
From here the trail begins ascending a steeper grade following a tributary of Emery Creek on its left. Around mile 4 there is a really nice campsite 40 feet below on the left near a tributary.
A little further and the trail crosses the same tributary right before entering a rock formation where the trail swings left bending around a slope for a short distance before switchbacking 180 degrees north to continue climbing the mountain around mile 4.5. Warning! Don't miss the switchback. A false trail keeps going straight.
Now the trail is entering its upper slope section. The trail begins to rapidly gain elevation crossing another tributary at mile 5.0. The trail continues east on the slope with nice winter views of the mountain above and the surrounding mountains. After passing below a large boulder the trail turns to the southeast while still gaining elevation. Around mile 5.7 the trail hooks back to the northwest for the final leg.
The trail continues climbing into old growth hardwood forest with majestic eastern hemlocks interspersed with old white pines. The trail begins to level out near the top joining Emery Creek Overlook at mile 6.7. From here it is .3 miles to its terminus at Emery Creek Campground located on top of Little Bald Mountain which is adjacent to Bald Mountain. At the campground the Cherokee Indians used to play stickball between the tribes. The game was often played to settle disputes and only the men with the greatest athletic ability played the game. The women would dance and step on black beads which represented players of the opposing team.
"A wilderness...is hereby recognized as an area where the
earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man,
where man himself is a visitor who does not remain."
- Wilderness Act of 1964
Eton, GA Access: From Eton, GA (one-red-light town) take a right from Hwy 411 if going north onto CCC road at the red light. Go 6.0 miles until the road turns into gravel and Forest Service Road 18. Drive 1.1 miles to the trailhead which is on the left at Holly Creek.
Total distance from Eton, GA is 7.1 miles. Have Fun!
|Out and Back:||14.0 miles|
|Waterfall I:||2.4 miles|
|Waterfall II:||3.0 miles|
|Hiking up Little Bald Mtn:||Strenuous|
|Hiking down Little Bald Mtn:||Easy|
|Holly Creek Trailhead:||971 feet|
|Emery Creek Campground:||3,622 feet|
|Features:||Emery Creek Waterfalls, Emery Creek Overlook,|
|Old Growth Hardwoods, Emery Creek Campground.|