Searching for Signs of Autumn While Hiking to Duke’s Creek Falls

Autumn seems to be taking its time this year, so I decided to look for change in the North Georgia Mountains in Helen, one of the region’s most captivating towns. And just outside of Helen, we find Duke’s Creek Falls.

Duke’s Creek Falls is popular for its proximity to  Helen and relative ease of hiking.  The trail is just over a mile and winds down the wall of a small gorge before meeting with and running alongside Duke’s Creek.

Small Hints of Fall Colors

One thing I love about the Duke’s Creek area is that I don’t have to go far to begin enjoying the views.  Mountains, including Mt. Yonah, adorn the landscape from an overlook right next to the restrooms.  Although a great view, I’m still seeing more green than any other color, though a few patches hint at a looming seasonal change.

Mount Yonah as seen from the parking lot for Duke's Creek Falls.

A view of Mt. Yonah from the parking lot of Duke’s Creek Falls

Honestly, I’m not complaining about the prolonged warm weather, even if it is the likely culprit for the late arrival of autumn colors. I’m also grateful for the lack of humidity.

The trail leading down to the Duke's Creek gorge

The trail down is to the right of the parking lot and remains pretty easy for the duration of my autumn hike. It’s only a mile long, so this definitely isn’t the place for those seeking a challenge.  A boardwalk leads to rugged trail which, shortly thereafter, leads to another boardwalk.

Boardwalk with some light fall foliage hanging above

From here, I get another great view of the mountains despite the persistently thick foliage.

Autumn leaves above an amazing mountain view

Deeper Into the Gorge

As I continue across the boardwalk, it gives way to rugged terrain again.  From here, I begin hearing the water below. Even as I descend down (slowly, given the nominal incline), the foliage remains green and thick.  However, I do see patches of color hinting at the still looming autumn season.  Temperatures still hover around the upper 70s and lower 80s. As I continue to descend, I come across some interesting trail features.

A tree seeming to grow out of a rock.

As the trail converges with Dukes Creek, I’m surprised that the water is flowing so well despite the persistent drought.  This is in contrast to many other spots throughout the region and certainly to my previous post covering Little River Canyon.  However, like last time, the air is still warm and fall colors have hardly begun to settle in.  So far, it looks like I may be in luck.  Even along the way, there were several others flowing just as well as they ever have.  However, I am surprised by the lack of fish in the clear waters.  This is especially surprising given the unseasonably warm temperatures.

Fallen leaves dot the rocks inside of Duke's Creek, which refuses to be halted by a drought.

Approaching Duke’s Creek Falls

Near the bottom, the trail twists to the right and once again becomes a boardwalk.  At this point, the falls begin coming into view.  I could see the water cascading down the mountainside through thick foliage that finally seemed more appropriate for the season.  A smaller, though more prominent, waterfall is found by back up the nearby staircase and to the left.  Needless to say, this spot is worth the 1.1 mile trek.

Falls colors surrunding Duke's Creek Falls

While a short hike for sure, it wasn’t bad for an early start to the weekend.  That evening would be spent exploring the streets of Helen.









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