5 great Labor Day hikes (plus waterfalls) in North Georgia

Summer is over, days are cooler, though not by much, which means Labor Day weekend is a great time to hit the trail.

These five hikes will get you out of the city and up onto the smooth-top mountains of North Georgia, and you’ll see a waterfall or two.

Cloudland Canyon

According to Atlanta Trails, a jaunt into Cloudland Canyon is among the top 10 waterfall hikes in the state. (You can see the rest of the list at the Atlanta Trails website.)

From the canyon edge you can descend 600 steps to Cherokee Falls and Hemlock Falls. A 6-mile hike from the east rim will bring you to the canyon floor, among massive boulders and ancient hemlocks.

Cloudland Canyon State Park is at 122 Cloudland Canyon Park Road, in Rising Fawn. Take take I-59 to Trenton and head east on Ga. 136.

Amicalola Falls

You can drive to the top of Amicalola Falls, near Dawsonville, but from there you can also walk down 425 steps to an overlook. The falls plunge 729 feet in seven cascades. It's the highest waterfall in the state. The park's entrance is on Ga. 52, west of Dahlonega and east of Ellijay. 800-573-9656; www.amicalolafallslodge.com/.

Credit: Louie Favorite

Credit: Louie Favorite

Toccoa Falls

Toccoa Falls, at 186 feet is 26 feet higher than Niagara Falls and supposedly the highest "single drop" waterfall east of the Mississippi. It lies completely inside the campus of Toccoa College, just north of Toccoa. Follow Ga. 17 Alternate. www.tfc.edu/

Brasstown Bald

A half-mile paved footpath from the parking area takes you to the top of Brasstown Bald, which, at 4,784 feet, is the highest mountain in Georgia. Or you can take the 6-mile-round-trip on Jack's Knob Trail, which crosses Ga. 180 near the Ga. 180 spur and parallels the road to the top. An alternative is the Arkaquah Trail, an 11-mile out-and-back trip that departs the parking area and heads west to Track Rock Gap, crossing over two summits and passing ancient petroglyphs carved into the rock. The Brasstown Bald Visitor Information Center is at 706-896-2556 and is open daily. From Blairsville, Georgia take U.S. 19 and 129 south for 8 miles. Turn left on Ga. 180, and turn left again on the Ga. 180 Spur. The parking lot is three miles up the spur. www.aboutnorthgeorgia.com/ang/Brasstown_Bald

Rabun Bald Summit

A Forest Service tower at the top of Rabun Bald offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, and is at the top of a 3-mile hike up the Bartram Trail from the parking area at Beegum Gap.

While Brasstown Bald attracts crowds and cars, Rabun Bald, 4,695 feet tall, and the second highest peak in Georgia, will be less populated most weekends of the year and you will not breathe bus exhaust at the peak.

Rabun Bald is only a few miles south of the North Carolina border and 9 miles east of Dillard.

From Dillard, take Ga. 246 east to Old Mud Creek Road/Bald Mountain Road to Kelsey Mountain Road to a Forest Service trail. For information, go to AtlantaTrails.com.

And plenty of outdoors out there to keep you occupied.