Identifying the vulnerability level of an area to soil erosion, particularly gully erosion, is key to the development of an efficient management strategy for policymakers. While efforts into susceptibility mapping of natural disasters have grown in recent years, understanding the most relevant predictive causal factors is still a challenge. As the selection of these factors, among many potentially relevant factors, is an important part of the model selection process, we propose a hybrid intelligent approach for the optimal selection of a set of relevant factors based on logistic regression (LR) and genetic algorithms. In order to verify the effectiveness of the proposed approach, this study also identified areas that were highly susceptible to gully erosion using three different classifiers – namely, the LR, support vector machine (SVM) and k-nearest neighbours (k-NN) techniques. We tested the approach in the Yeli Bedrag watershed in north-eastern Golestan province, Iran. The results showed that the elevation, distance to fault, slope and the index of connectivity were the most important causal factors affecting the successful prediction of gully occurrence. Comparison of maximum True Skill Statistic values showed that increased model sophistication did not necessarily result in a higher level of model performance. In terms of performance, k-NN was superior to the SVM and LR methods. This method can be effectively used for gully erosion susceptibility (GES) zonation in the study area, which is very important to support spatial planning to initiate designing mitigation strategies and conservation needs over a large area, or to plan additional conservation efforts and relocate soil conservation plans. In conclusion, our findings indicate that by incorporating the proposed hybrid intelligent approach, the number of relevant factors for GES mapping was reduced, while classification accuracy was increased.