Gold Branch Loop
ElevationAscent: 325' 99 m
Descent: -325' -99 m
High: 1,009' 307 m
Low: 859' 262 m
GradeAvg Grade: 4% (2°)
Max Grade: 13% (7°)
Current trail conditions
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“A little rollercoaster of a trail system through the woods nestled beside a quiet section of the Chattahoochee River.”— Heather Pruner
The south end of the trail is pretty technical (scrambling over some rock formations right over the riverbank, etc.) but very worth it for the views out over the water and the plethora of wildflowers along the trail, especially in the spring. This part can be skipped (see description) and you can still have a lovely, rewarding hike.
You'll be treated to views of Bull Sluice Lake, just north of Morgan Falls Dam, where aquatic plant life (like cattails and marsh grasses) abound in the calm waters, making a home for wildlife like ducks, geese, heron, and turtles.
There is a porta-potty at the parking lot, but no building facilities or running water.
Stay left here near the water until you reach GB 7 and hang a right, peeling away from the water. This is the first of a couple of cardio-inducing climbs on this route, but it only lasts a few minutes, depending on your pace. After it levels out for a few more minutes, you'll reach GB 5. Take a left here to get to GB 4 at the top of the hill, then another left to take you down a relatively steep descent to GB 8, meeting back up with the river.
Take a right at GB 8, climbing a somewhat steep (but much shorter) ridge to GB 9 and take a left. Here, the trail plunges down again and continues to gently turn and rollercoaster along a ridge above the riverbed for a few minutes, then flattens out again for a while before arriving at GB 12.
GB 12 is where you get to decide what kind of hike you want. If you have any concerns about your balance or agility, (especially if you are alone), you may want to consider taking a right here, as long as you don't mind one more climb. It will be a bit longer than that first one between GB 7 and 5, but a little less steep. This will take you through the woods to GB 11, where you can pick up the remainder of this route.
If you don't mind a bit more technical terrain, continue left, staying near the river, at GB 12. As the trail bends with a small cove, it crosses over a ditch/inlet stream via two logs. They are very stable as of this write-up and you can put one foot on each, as they are parallel against each other. Do take care, however, and go slowly. (I don't think I would try this with my dogs...) Immediately after this, keep an eye on the ground for some natural holes in the riverbank along the edges of the trail.
When you get to the bottom of the map, you'll be looking at Bull Sluice Lake, just on the north side of the Morgan Falls Reservoir. Enjoy this view, but watch your step! The trail gets very pretty here, but also a bit technical. There are some large rock formations and the trail crosses over some of them right at the edge of the bank, where a slip and fall could send you plunging into the water about 10 feet below, and/or an injury. Put your hands down and go slow as needed, but also be careful not to trample the delicate plethora of wildflowers and plants abounding here on either side of the trail.
Just as you finish this technical section, you have another steep hill to climb up away from the river. Once you finish this one, however, it is quite flat for a while until close to the end. At GB 11, keep left and left again at GB 10, 3, and 2 to take you back to GB 1/the parking lot. You'll have one last downhill between GB 3 and 2, and one more little climb back up to GB 1...and you're done!