Hiking in Helen, GA is not the main reason most people come to this charming Georgian town. Picture perfect, it has been developed to create a piece of Bavaria in the heart of the Appalachians.
Beautiful architecture, quirky shops and original Bavarian restaurants bring thousands to Helen this year.
But Helen is located on the slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a short drive away from some of the most magnificent waterfalls and trails through breathtaking nature. Just the waterfalls near Helen, GA are the reason to hit the trails when in Helen.
Whether you live in the region or you are planning to visit Helen, make space in your itinerary for some hiking in Helen, Georgia. You will be glad you did.
Andrews Cove Trail
Only about five miles from Helen is the trail that leads to Andrews Cove, part of the Andrews Cove Recreation Area. Only about two miles long, the trail starts as an old logging road.
The trail is easy and perfect for the entire family. It passes by a cool mountain stream through a lush and peaceful forest. It has easy access just off Highway 75.
There is a campground with restrooms, tent pads, grills, picnic tables, and lantern posts. Fishing on Andrews Creek is also great. Note that there is a fee for the use of the campground. For more information, check the campground website.
Appalachian Trail, Hogpen Gap to Unicoi Gap
The Appalachian Trail, which stretches over more than 2,100 miles between Maine and Georgia, is on a bucket list of most serious hikers but a few can do the entire trail in one go. If you are hiking in Helen, GA, you can enjoy a portion of the Appalachian Trail between the Hogpen Gap and Unicoi Gap.
The trail starts about ten miles from Helen, driving on GA75. The portion between Hogpen Gap and Unicoi Gap will take you through fourteen miles of magnificent North Georgia forest.
You will be able to visit the Low Gap, explore the Chattahoochee River headwaters and relax at the Blue Mountain AT shelters. You can access the trail from the trailheads on both ends.
It makes for a nice day hike if you have a shuttle waiting to take you back. If not, you can make it into a pleasant two or three-day hike. You can stay in one of the two shelters by the trail.
Do not miss checking the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River, where it rushes between dense groves of mountain laurel, and explore mile after mile of mossy hardwood forest along the way.
This portion of the trail is well-maintained, with negligible elevation and pleasant views and even glimpses of Yonah Mountain with its steep, sheer cliffs.
For more information on this hike, visit the official website.
Helen to Hardman Heritage Trail
This short, one mile long and easy trail will take you from Helen to the Hardman Farm State Historic Site. The trail, which is wheelchair accessible and suitable for the whole family, follows the Chattahoochee River, through fields of native plants and forests thriving with animals.
There are interpretive panels all along the way. Learn about the native plants and animals and the history of this area that has been populated for more than 1000 years. Get fit and learn something new while hiking in Helen GA.
The trail is open from dawn to dusk. For more information, check the official website.
Mt. Yonah Trail
This 4.4-mile-long trail is considered fairly difficult and is also used by the Army Rangers to train. It includes some friction climbing, juggy face rocks and even a few cracks on your way to the summit. The elevation gain is 1520 feet.
To reach the trailhead, take GA75 from Helen to Tom Bell Road. At about 2 miles south of HWY 384 continue to Chambers Road. The left turn will take you to the trailhead at the base of Yonah Mountain. There is a large parking lot.
While definitively not for the beginners, this hike is one of the most popular among the more experienced hikers in North Georgia. Steep climb rewards hikers with spectacular views from Yonah Mountain to the northwest along its bare rock face.
For more information on this exciting hike, check their official website.
Running through Smithgall Woods State Park, the hike to Chunanee Falls is about 3.8 miles from downtown Helen and is about 6.6 miles long. It is considered moderately difficult, although elevation gain is only 298 feet.
This trail was used in the 19th century by miners digging for gold. Smithgall Woods State Park is great fun to explore, with the trail ending at one of the most beautiful waterfalls near Helen, GA.
The trail starts at the Visitor Center, on the nicely paved Tsalaki Trail. From there it goes east along Dukes Creek through the dense forest.
At 2.8 miles, take the Cathy Ellis Trail towards Chunanee Falls Trail. There is an interpretative sign describing the significance of this tract of land.
It takes a further half-mile of the mostly downhill hike to reach the waterfall. The trail is surrounded by rhododendrons, which provide spectacular colourful bloom in early spring. For the 400 yards, it runs along lively Dukes Creek.
Take some time to enjoy this peaceful place. You are very likely to enjoy it in solitude. The distance to the beautiful fall makes it rarely visited.
Dukes Creek Falls
Only about 5.4 miles from Helen, the hike to Dukes Creek Falls is an easy, two miles long pleasant outing for the whole family. Elevation gain is only 300 feet. You can even bring the family dog. A paved portion of the trail to the viewing platform is wheelchair-accessible.
The trail starts at the Dukes Creek Trailhead. Before starting the hike, take some time to enjoy the vista of Yonah Mountain and the Dukes Creek Falls from the observation platform. After the platform, the wide, well-maintained dirt path continues downhill in several sharp switchbacks.
Along the trail, you will first see several smaller cascades and will get the occasional glimpse of Dukes Creek Falls between the trees. Once you reach the second viewing platform, you will be able to see the full glory of the magnificent Dukes Creek Falls plummeting 150 feet.
Anna Ruby Falls
About 5.7 miles from Helen is another easy, short, 0.8 miles long trail, a perfect hike for the whole family to the beautiful Anna Ruby Falls. An elevation gain of 219 makes it an easy hike.
The trail runs through the beautiful Unicoi State Park and parts of the Chattahoochee National Forest. The trail ends at the Anna Ruby Falls and is one of the most popular hikes for families in North Georgia.
The trailhead is located at the Anna Ruby Falls Visitor Center. The path is paved, very picturesque and has interpretive plaques along the way, explaining the area’s geology, history, and wildlife.
Along the entire way, you will be able to see and hear the creek and the thunder of the falls. Two viewing platforms are located at the end of the trail, where you can rest, enjoy a picnic and observe Curtis Creek plummet 153 feet and York Creek 50 feet, before they meet, create Smith Creek and run into the tranquil Unicoi Lake.
Raven Cliff Falls
Raven Cliffs Falls is among the most spectacular waterfalls you can visit hiking in Helen GA. It is located about 6.4 miles from Helen and is considered moderately difficult, with an elevation gain of 400 feet.
Starting at the gravel trailhead, The Raven Cliff Falls Trail runs through massive hardwood trees, lush green moss, and masses of colourful wildflowers for about 4.9 miles. It follows Dodd Creek as it flows upstream.
The trail crosses several wooden bridges over the creek and keeps going through the dense forest. You will be able to see a few small streams and cascades from the trail and you will hear the thunder of the waterfall long before you see it.
The trail ends where the creek plummets 40 feet over the large rock outcropping into the quiet pool far below.
On the way back, follow Dodd Creek downstream until you reach the trailhead.
High Shoals Falls
Little further from downtown Helen, about 12.4 miles, is another moderately difficult hike to High Shoals Falls. The trail is 2.4 miles long and has an elevation gain of 577 feet, making it suitable for more advanced hikers.
You might want to bring older kids but not the little ones or you would have to carry them. The trail runs through the Chattahoochee National Forest, through magnificent old-growth forests full of mountain laurel.
If you want to stay overnight, there are a few simple campsites along the way. After going across High Shoals Creek, you will come to the Blue Hole Falls.
It is the first of the two waterfalls on this trip, a single cascade that falls 30 feet into a deep, crystal clear blue turquoise pool that gave it its name. The pool is one of the most popular summer watering holes for the folks from Helen.
As you keep going along the trail, it will make a few switchbacks. There are also stone stairs you will have to climb before you start hearing the thunder of High Shoals Falls.
As the creek drops 50-foot down the cliff, the beauty of the falling water will take your breath away. Enjoy it for a while before returning for another 2.4 miles of the hike towards the trailhead.
About 14 miles from downtown Helen, Horsethrough Falls is an easy 0.4 miles hike with no elevation gain. To reach the trailhead, you have to drive about five miles along a rugged Forest Service Road full of ruts.
This discourages many visitors, so it is more than likely that you will be able to enjoy the beautiful Horsetrough Falls all on your own. You will find the trailhead in the Upper Chattahoochee River Campground, which is currently closed and it is not sure when will be reopened.
Just leave your car outside the campground gate and pass the campsite to the trailhead. A hike to the waterfall is an easy, half-mile pleasant walk through a beautiful lush forest.
At the end of the trail, Horsetrough Falls will take your breath away.
Helton Creek Falls
Hiking to Helton Creek Falls is a pleasant way to spend a day for the whole family. About 16.6 miles from Helen, it is an easy hike of less than a mile and very little elevation gain. Dogs are allowed too.
Start the hike by going down a mesmerizing staircase surrounded by rhododendron, massive hardwood trees, and stately conifers.
More stairs and a short secondary trail will take you to the base of the lower falls of Helton Creek. Water spills over a smooth rock face into a deep, clear pool. Let the kids have fun splashing around.
From the pool, the trail goes up to a spacious viewing platform. The view of Upper Helton Creek Falls is spectacular. Relax, have a picnic or cool off in the pool. It is a nice way to spend a summer Sunday.
Water’s Creek Falls
Also known as Dick’s Creek Falls, Water’s Creek Falls is a lovely, easy hike for the whole family, about 19.8 miles from downtown Helen. No elevation gain to speak of. The trail is very short, only 0.1 miles.
This fall should not be confused with Dick’s Creek Falls located near Black Rock Mountain State Park in Clayton GA. The trailhead is just off Dick’s Creek Rd in Cleveland.
This is where Water’s Creek merges with Dick’s Creek. The two falls are located only about 50 yards from the parking lot. As it drops, the falls form a lovely pool that is a popular area swimming hole.
It can get pretty crowded on holidays and weekends when the weather is nice.
Located at Moccasin Creek State Park, about 20 miles from Helen, Hemlock Falls is one of North Georgia’s most beautiful waterfalls near Helen, GA. The two-mile hike to the falls is fairly easy with only 242 feet elevation gain.
The trailhead is located near tranquil Lake Burton. The trail climbs slowly before it reaches an old wooden bridge across Moccasin Creek. One mile later, there is a clearing with a great view of Hemlock Falls as it spills over a rocky vertical cliff into a deep blue pool below.
The area around the pool has a lovely beach surrounded by large boulders. It is a pleasant spot for a picnic and a refreshing dip. A few hundred feet as you go downstream there is another, smaller cascade. Follow scenic Moccasin Creek to return to the trailhead.
A 20.8-mile trip from downtown Helen, GA will take you to the trailhead to DeSoto Falls. It is an easy 2.2-mile hike with a mild elevation of 160 feet.
DeSoto Falls consists of two falls and there is a story connected to this mystical place. It is believed that in the 1500s a Spanish famous explorer Hernando de Soto visited the area. A piece of his armour was discovered there later.
Starting at a parking area, the paved trail follows the rhododendron-covered banks of lively Frogtown Creek. You can already get the first glimpse of the lower DeSoto Falls.
A quarter of a mile later, you’ll arrive at a wooden observation platform that offers a spectacular view of the entire falls. Keep going until you cross another wooden bridge.
You will arrive at the spot from which you can see the gorgeous 80-foot upper DeSoto Falls. A large viewing platform allows you to enjoy the view of the falls and the surrounding dense forest.
Return the same way you came.
Located in the Vogel State Park, in the heart of the magnificent Chattahoochee National Forest, Trahlyta Falls can be reached by an easy 1.1-mile hike with very little elevation.
The trailhead is located 21.2 miles from downtown Helen, at the park’s Visitors’ Center. At 110 feet, Trahlyta Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls near Helen.
The trail passes over a wooden rustic boardwalk before it continues on an old earthen dam, which offers wonderful views of Blood Mountain and Trahlyta Lake.
After going down the wooden stairs you’ll find a spacious observation platform near the rushing waters of Trahlyta Falls. The falls are particularly beautiful surrounded by the colourful fall foliage. Trahlyta Falls is one of the most popular falls near Helen, GA.
At 23.8 miles from downtown Helen, it is a little longer drive, but it is well worth it. Reaching Minnehaha Falls is an easy short 0.4-mile hike with a mild elevation of 62 feet. It is a great hike to do with the kids.
From the Bear Gap Trailhead, the trail follows the rhododendron-covered banks of the tranquil Lake Rabun. Climb old wooden stairs, and follow the trail through the lush shady forest for 0.2 miles.
You will reach a small clearing that opens up to the magical multi-tiered 50-feet tall Minnehaha Falls. For a different perspective, walk to the base of the beautiful falls.
There is a spacious area with some large rocks and breathtaking views of the water as it drops 50 feet.
Blood Mountain Falls
The hike to Blood Mountain Falls is moderately difficult but has no elevation gain. The trailhead is located 24.3 miles from Helen, on the edge of the Blood Mountain Wilderness Area.
There is no marked trail to Blood Mountain Falls so it can be difficult to find but worth making the effort. The hike begins at the Turners Corner, at the intersection of US 19/129.
Keep going west for half-mile on US 19. Turn right when you reach Dick’s Creek Road. Keep going on until you come to the Blood Mountain Stream. You will be able to see the spectacular tiered 80-foot cascade to your right.
Along the stream, you will find several deep pools, great for swimming on hot summer days. Walk around, there are a few lovely picturesque areas to rest in before hiking back.
About 24.9 miles from Downtown Helen is the magnificent 120-foot Nottely Falls situated in the Chattahoochee National Forest.
This beautiful waterfall is not easy to reach and the hike is difficult and rarely attempted. It is suitable only for experienced off-trail hikers. People have been injured and died trying to reach the falls from above.
If you have the experience and are fit enough you will enjoy the challenge. Leave your car at the parking lot of the Byron Herbert Reece Trail. Walk along the US Highway 19/129 and turn right to Shanty Branch. Follow the fast creek upstream until you reach the falls.
Interestingly, this waterfall is partly man-made. It is the result of blasting for the Lake Nottely Spillway and dam. The waterfall starts at the concrete spillway before dropping down a steep natural rock wall.
You can see the fall without having to hike from TVA Road. The road goes from the Nottely Dam Road to the base of Lake Nottely Dam.
Smithgall Woods State Park
Only 3.8 miles from Helen driving GA-17 N/GA to 75 N/Unicoi Turnpike and GA-75Alt North, Smithgall Woods State Park offers five miles of trails and 18 miles of roads through beautiful hardwood forests full of wildlife, along burbling streams surrounded by ferns and wildflowers.
The trails will take you to magnificent waterfalls, old gold mines, and along the scenic creek bed of Dukes Creek. Some of the most popular trails are the Cathy Ellis Waterfall Trail, Martin’s Mine Trail, the Smithgall Wetland Loop and the Ash Creek Trail.
All trails are easy and family-friendly. The park is a favourite of local anglers. Dukes Creek, which runs through this beautiful mountain park, is full of trout. It is well known for catch and release fishing.
Hiking in Helen, GA is spectacular and most hikes end in a magnificent waterfall. Most hikes are less than ten miles from Helen, are short and easy and offer great Sunday outings for the families.
Dogs are welcome on most hikes. A few hikes are more difficult and take a longer drive, but for passionate hikers, the challenge is a big part of the attraction.