Rough Creek Falls in the Cherokee National Forest

A few days ago, my Dad and I decided to visit a place we had not visited in a while. He took me there for the first time last spring and I fell in love. Why we waited so long to come back, I’m not sure.

We didn’t drive my Jeep (Dad insisted on driving this time), so we ended up parking at the end of the little road and walking to the camping area, crossing the creek, and on up to the falls. I remember going there as a kid and standing on the old concrete bridge (it has since been torn down) and looking over it and into Rough Creek. I’m not really sure why they took the bridge down. My guess is because it wore out over the decades and wasn’t safe any longer. Either that OR they wanted to try to preserve the area and keep people from driving up in there and destroying it.

Speaking of destroying… If you’re a hiker (or climber or trail runner or hunter or just a person in the woods) PLEASE PACK YOUR TRASH OUT. If you were able to carry it to your destination, I promise you can carry the trash out. Nothing infuriates me more in the woods than seeing beer bottles, cans, or other random trash lying around. No one cares if you’re drinking (edit: I don’t care if you’re drinking) but please TAKE YOUR EMPTY CONTAINERS WITH YOU.

End litter rant.

Anyway, we were able to make it from the truck to the falls in about 30 minutes. Last time we were there it wasn’t near as grown up (or summer), so the trek down the bank to the top of the falls was a little tricky. I did just fine holding onto Rhododendron limbs on the way down to brace myself. From the top of the falls we slowly made our way down the far side to the bottom of the falls. (Please use caution if you do this… it is easy to slip in pine needles. Watch for snakes and yellow jacket nests as well.)

Once we made our way down the falls I noticed a REALLY deep hole at the base of the falls. I would love to know how many hundreds (thousands?) of years it took to make that. My dad ended up getting in it and then I finally did too. On the edge I could barely touch the bottom. In the middle and up under the rock it was easily 8 feet deep. The whole layout of that falls is interesting. You’ll see at the bottom once you reach the pictures. The only thing I regret is not taking my hammocks and making the day out of it!

Overall, I love this little spot. I really debated on publishing this post because I don’t want it messed up. So please, do me a favor and if you go keep it nice and clean. 😊 That’s all I ask. Enjoy your visit and be sure to share pics!


**I do NOT suggest taking children here. (They will be fine at the camp ground, but I do not suggest taking them down the steep incline to the falls.)

**While 4WD isn’t a necessity to the road, it is necessary to the camping area if you don’t want to walk from the end of the road, across the creek, and to the falls. I have taken my Honda Accord to that point before (probably should not have), but my Jeep does much better because of the 4WD. I’ll attach a picture of one of the mud holes you have to drive through if you decide to drive that road instead of walk it to give you an idea of what to expect.

**Have fun & be safe! Watch your step. I saw a water snake on our visit but copperheads and timber rattlesnakes are in the area, too. If you them alone, they’ll leave you alone I promise. Remember you are in their home, they’re not in yours. Black bear and wild hogs are around this area as well I’ve never seen them in this particular area, but I have seen their sign.

(Directions at bottom of post)

Non-venomous northern water snake
Crawfish I found under a rock in the creek!
A small minnow I managed to catch. He was returned safely to the creek.
The falls at a distance. Below this are a couple more swimming holes that are bigger than the swimming hole at the base of the falls.
Side view of the falls
View of the falls from the little rocky area where I laid my stuff
The base of the falls on the same side as the bank you have to climb down
The giant hole I was talking about! (Hole isn’t really that big… just deep!)
I didn’t take any of my dogs on this trip, but I took my “nephew,” Chief 😉
Huge salamander I found in the creek!
One of the mud holes on the short road to the camping area from the main road.
Top view of the falls before we crossed the creek and climbed down it
Another side view


(For those of you who are directionally challenged like myself, you’ll appreciate these detailed directions…For those of you that are not directionally challenged like me, sorry for the excessive details. I am a very detailed person. :S)

From McDonald’s in Blue Ridge:

  • You will take GA-5 North (Blue Ridge Drive). Travel approximately 10 miles on this road until you arrive at a 4-way stop (Hometown IGA Grocery will be straight ahead of you.)
  • Take a left onto Toccoa Avenue/Ocoee Street (the name changes as you cross the state line at the 4-way stop–HWY 68)
  • Stay on HWY 68 for 3 miles and then you will use the right lane to take US-64/US-74 ramp, turn left onto HWY 64
  • You will stay on this road for approximately 7 miles. Around mile 6 you will see the Whitewater Center on your left. Continue passed it and take the second left toward Thunder Rock Campground (about 1 & 1/2 miles passed the Whitewater Center. There will be a sign for Thunder Rock Campground showing you where to turn.)
  • You will cross the bridge and pass the Ocoee # 3 Powerhouse. The road will split once you have passed the powerhouse. You will stay to the left (if you take the right you will end up at the campground.) There will be a sign with arrows pointing toward Sylco Campground and Tumbling Creek Campground, which is the direction you need to go.
  • You will stay on this road for 2.7 miles. When the road splits, you will take a left toward Tumbling Creek (7 miles)/Copperhill (14 miles).
  • After traveling approximately 1.5 miles there will be a road on your right. (There will be a small brown post with the #22 printed on it. If you see this post, you’re in the right spot.
  • If you have 4WD you can continue on out this road. Around 1/2 mile the road will end at the creek and you will see a camping spot on your left. If you do not have 4WD or would prefer to walk a little further, park at the end of this road. Just be sure you pull off to the side and don’t block the road. There is plenty of room to make sure your vehicle is out of the way.
  • Once you have arrived at the camping spot/dead end where the creek is you will have to cross the creek and continue on that road for about 1/2 mile to the falls. You will hear the falls, so it would be difficult to pass it by. You will have to climb down the bank to the falls. It is STEEP. Nothing that isn’t manageable, but I would not suggest attempting this with young children. The bank is a bit grown up as well, so watch your step. (Snakes and yellow jackets are out and about. Just use caution. Don’t step somewhere that you cannot see what you’re stepping on or in.) Have fun and be safe! I would love to see your pics if you visit! 🙂
  • **If you have time, be sure to check out the Ocoee Whitewater Center! There is a small gift shop as well as several hiking trails. The Rhododendron Trail is the shortest and easiest. It begins at the bridge below the Whitewater Center. It is 1.25 miles to the end (ends at the #3 powerhouse you drove passed on your way to the falls) for a round trip total of 2.5 miles. The Old Copper Road Trail travels up the Ocoee. It is a bit longer and ends about 3 miles up the river at the #2 powerhouse. Bear Paw Loop Trail is just across the bridge at the Whitewater Center and to your left. It travels up Chesnut Mountain and loops around and back (approx. 2.5 miles). I’ll eventually make a blog post for each of these trails and come back here and hyperlink them. If you have questions, let me know!**

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