Best Tent Camping Near Atlanta
Desoto Falls Campground (Cleveland, Georgia)
Where do the names Desoto and Frogtown come together? The answer is at Desoto Falls Campground, which is located along the banks of Frogtown Creek in the 650-acre Desoto Falls Scenic Area. The sylvan campground provides a good base camp from which to enjoy the scenery of the falls, as well as the nearby Appalachian Trail and Raven Cliffs Wilderness.
With a campground this nice it may be hard to tear yourself away. The 24 large campsites are split among two creekside loops arranged beneath a dense forest of deciduous and evergreen trees. It is one of the most densely forested campgrounds I've ever seen. This dense forestation makes each site seem like an island unto itself and the campground seem more diffused than it really is.
The upper loop has a small stream running between the very spacious and private sites, which are separated by thick cover. Four low-volume flush toilets and two drinking faucets are interspersed in the loop. Seven sites border Frogtown Creek but are far enough back to be out of the flood-prone areas. The intonations of the creek can be heard throughout the campground.
The lower loop has a campground host for campers' security. It also has several creekside sites. In the center of the loop is a modern rest room facility with warm showers. Two drinking fountains with connecting faucets complete this deluxe package.
The primary attractions of this scenic area are the three falls located at intervals along Frogtown Creek. Why the name Desoto? According to legend, early settlers found a strange piece of armor at the base of the falls. It was supposedly left behind by Hernando de Soto himself as he hunted for gold. Nearby Dahlonega actually did experience America's first gold rush in the 1830s.
The three falls of Frogtown Creek are natural treasures. The trail to the falls starts from the lower camping loop. Follow Frogtown Creek downstream .2 mile to view the Lower Falls drop some 35 feet onto the rocks below. Return upstream, past the campground, .7 mile to the Middle Falls with its four-stage, 90-foot drop. The trail steepens the last mile beyond the Middle Falls to the Upper Falls, which is a 200-foot slide.
Frogtown Creek and its tributaries offer quality trout fishing. Georgia Game and Fish stocks the stream weekly during the summer. Nearby Waters Creek offers special regulation trophy trout fishing.
Just 1.5 miles up U.S. 129 is Neels Gap and the Appalachian Trail. Either way you hike you are in for a treat. We went both directions during our trip to the area. The wind blew hard during the 2.5-mile westward pull to the top of Blood Mountain. But the view from the highest point of the AT in Georgia was worth it. The rock outcrop of Blood Mountain, at 4,458 feet, enabled us to see far south into Georgia, as clouds scudded overhead.
We returned to Neels Gap for lunch, then headed east. First we passed Walasiyi, the state-owned hiking and gift shop. After perusing the unusual ridgetop store, we hiked into the Raven Cliffs Wilderness. The trail wound along the crest until we came to our destination at my favorite peak in Georgia, Cowrock Mountain. With a name like that, it had to be worth hiking 5 miles to see. And it was. The rock-overlaid peak offered views westward into the Boggs Creek watershed and summit after summit beyond that. We returned fulfilled to Neels Gap, then drove to Cleveland and devoured a well-deserved pizza that induced a sound night's rest back at the campground.
Towns Creek Trail (Forest Trail #131) and Dodds Creek Trail (FT #22) are two other pathways that lead into the heart of the 8,000-acre Raven Cliffs Wilderness. If you would like to know more about America's first gold rush, drive 4 miles south on U.S. 129 to U.S. 19, and then drive 12 miles to Dahlonega. The theme of this mountain town is the gold rush. They have some of the typical tourist traps, but also some worthwhile historic buildings and displays.
To get there, head north on U.S. 129 from Cleveland for 15 miles. Desoto Falls Recreation Area will be on your left.
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