Helen, GA and its surrounding areas feature hikes for all skill levels and ability levels. Serious hikers can take on steep switchbacks ascending up hillsides while younger hikers can run and skip down paved paths.
ADA accessible paths on some trails even make it possible for older or disabled hikers to participate as well. Hiking might as well be the state sport.
We encourage you to get off the beaten path and see what you can find in and around Helen but these hikes will at least get you started.
Appalachian Trail Starting up in Maine, the historic Appalachian Trail winds through 14 states and covers more than 2,000 miles before reaching its southern terminus in northern Georgia at Spring Mountain in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. The trail includes nearly 80 miles in Georgia.
Serious and dedicated hikers can start their Appalachian Trail trek here and head north. Curious onlookers can reach the trailhead via Forest Service Road 42 near Amicalola Falls. Those in between can hike about nine miles from the Amicalola Falls visitor center to the Springer Mountain site. Anyway you get there, seeing this historic site is worth the effort.
CLOUDLAND CANYON STATE PARK
Cloudland Canyon, 122 Cloudland Canyon Park Road, Rising Fawn, GA. For a longer daytrip out of Helen, head west to Cloudland Canyon, located in the western corner of the state on Georgia 136. The Cloudland Canyon State Park boasts five distinct hiking trails ranging from two miles round trip to nearly 12 miles in and back.
Many consider this park one of the most scenic in the state because of its rugged geology. The park straddles Sitton Gulf Creek and trails can take you either around the rim for a peak into the canyon or even take you down to the canyon floor, covering more than 1,000 feet in elevation.
Be sure to take the supplies you need for the longer and more strenuous hikes here and plan for a longer daytrip from Helen.
SMITHGALL WOORDS HIKING
Smithgall Woods, 61 Tsalaki Trail, Helen, GA. This park, known primarily for it’s fantastic fishing, has a hidden gem. Smithgall Woods boasts five miles of nature trails for hikers looking to explore the woods in and around Helen.
The park sits just three miles west of Helen on Georgia 75. The park has another 23 miles of roads and trails open to cyclists as well. Choose a leisurely half-mile stroll to get a look at the scenic Dukes Creek or a hike that interprets the gold mining past of this region, complete with a look into Martin’s Mine shaft, now a habitat for bats. Another hike takes you right through Dukes Creek, a unique way to explore the woodlands surrounding this waterway.
ANNA RUBY FALLS
Anna Ruby Falls, 3455 Anna Ruby Falls Road, Helen, GA. Most people familiar with Helen know about the amazing and rare double waterfall at Anna Ruby Falls in the Chattahoochee National Forest. Anna Ruby Falls forms just before two creeks — Curtis Creek and York Creek — merge together making this one of the more memorable waterfalls in northern Georgia.
Anna Ruby Falls is also one of the more accessible falls. A short, half-mile footpath leads from the parking lot to the base of the falls. To get there from Helen, head north on Georgia 356 and turn onto Anna Ruby Falls Road.
DUKES CREEK FALLS
Dukes Creek Falls The Dukes Creek Falls thunders 200 feet down forming Dukes Creek and Dukes Creek Gorge. The trail is well maintained making it a perfect visit for children, older adults and everyone in between. Three observation decks allow for the best views of this cascading waterfall.
The 1.2-mile walk from the parking lot to Dukes Creek Falls takes you through the green ferns and deep forest of the Chattahoochee National Forest. It’s also close to nearby attractions including the Dukes Creek Mine and Smithgall Woods Recreation Area.
The Dukes Creek Falls Recreation Area is located west of Helen on Georgia 358, the Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway.
RAVEN CLIFFS FALLS
Raven Cliff Falls If you came to Helen looking for a more difficult hike than offered at the other waterfalls, make sure to visit Raven Cliff Falls. This waterfall drops 30 feet into a plunge pool, passing through a huge block of granite split into two from centuries of erosion.
The total hike is about 5 miles and covers some more difficult terrain in the Mark Trail Wilderness Area. Along the path, which follows Dodd Creek and winds through hemlock and rhododendron forest, you will also see several smaller falls making this hike well worth the effort if you're up to it.
Like Dukes Creek Falls, this hike is located west of Helen on the Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway.
Andrew’s Cove Recreation Area Andrew’s Cove Recreation Area off Georgia 17/75 and just six miles outside of Helen. The main hiking trail is approximately two miles long and follows an old logging road so the terrain is even and navigable for younger hikers.
The trail follows Andrew’s Creek, also known for its trout fishing. You’ll see large yellow poplars, maples, oaks and along the stream, rhododendrons and mountain laurel thickets.