I never thought that the region north of Atlanta would be a place of serenity. The environment in this area is a complete contrast to the busy city with traffic lined up for miles; instead the landscaping is tranquil among lush green rolling hills, surrounded by gorgeous waterfalls. When I decided to visit north Georgia, my intention was to see two waterfalls, but to my surprise I quickly found out this place has an abundance of hiking trails that take you to magnificent falls that are all a short drive to each other.
I decided to make my home base in Helen Georgia, since the town is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains and centrally located near many waterfalls. In addition Helen is a charming German mountain town where the architecture design is Bavarian.
There is even a large windmill that adds to the town’s character.
Helen is also full of quaint shops, and restaurants nestled among cobblestone alleys.
I quickly had to make a decision of what waterfalls I would see. These waterfalls made it on my itinerary and I think you will find are worth exploring too. Each waterfall is unique as well as the accessibility that leads you to the fall, some paths are easy walks while other trails are rigorous with steep inclines or stairs.
Amicalola Falls is 45 miles west of Helen and is located in the southern Appalachian Mountains in Amicalola State Park. I promise you it is worth the drive. Amicalola Falls is also the tallest waterfall in Georgia with a 720 foot drop into a serene forest. The 2 mile trail to the fall is a easy trek on a paved path that takes you to the beginning of the falls.
Once you reach the waterfall you begin your descent on a series of boardwalks and wooden stairs.
The boardwalk also leads to several observation decks. Each observation platform provides a different angle of the Amicalola Falls and each view is absolutely breathtaking to ensure plenty of photo opportunities.
I would also highly suggest walking all the way down the stairs to the reflecting pond at the bottom of the falls. At the base you will be able to view the entire waterfall in its full splendor.
Amicalola Falls State Park is the beginning of the Appalachian Trail, you may encounter a hiker like I did who was making their way back to home in Maine. That is a true hiker.
Tallulah Falls- is 29 miles east of Helen and is located in Tallulah State Park. This park has gorgeous views of the Tallulah Gorge and a series of waterfalls. Tallulah Gorge Canyon is 2 miles long and 1,000 feet deep.
Depending on your willingness or skill at hiking will determine how much of the gorge you will see. There are a series of 10 overlooks that require different ability levels of stamina to travel these trails. I visited the park early in the morning when they first opened. The trails had only a few people on it at this time, enabling me to have the perfect views of the waterfalls. Since the park was not crowded it took me 2.5 hours to complete all 10 overlooks. Overlook 2 and 3 has a paved path and will quickly get you to see your first glimpse of the waterfall and gorge. It is also one of the easier paths to walk on.
My favorite trail was continuing past Overlook 2 and making my way toward the suspension bridge.
To reach the bridge was challenging because I had to go up 310 stairs. For me it was worth the climb because the view was absolutely amazing standing 80 feet above the Hurricane Falls and looking below at the gorge. If you are afraid of heights this might not be a trail you want to go on.
Next on my agenda was the Hurricane Falls Loop. This takes approximately 1-2 hours to hike depending on your endurance level and how frequently you stop to look at the scenery. It’s a 2 mile journey around the Tallulah Gorge. After crossing the suspension bridge I went down 221 stairs that goes to the base of the falls.
The bottom of Hurricane Falls is a gorgeous observation point, but the bad news is to leave the bottom required climbing back up 347 stairs. I consider myself to be in very good shape and I was tired after climbing up and down the stairs, so take your time pace yourself and enjoy the view if you aren’t prepared for some strenuous exercise.
Inspiration Point is a trail that leads to the highest point in the park; this is not a paved trial and takes about a 30-40 minute hike to reach the top. The view from the top was breathtaking being able to look above the entire gorge.
Toccoa Falls-is 17 miles south of Tallulah Falls or 32 miles south east from Helen. This waterfall is a hidden treasure since it is in an unusual location; it is situated on the campus of Toccoa Falls College. To obtain entry you will pay a small fee of $2.00 at the school store. This fall is handicap accessible and the shortest paved path that you will walk to see a waterfall. Since the waterfall is only 100 yards from the gift shop you can hear the water rushing as soon as you step foot on the path. There are several benches to sit and enjoy the tranquility of the water pounding on the rocks.
The day I went to the falls I was the only visitor, so I had the waterfall all to myself, I loved gazing at this magnificent waterfall. At 186 feet high it is one of the tallest free falling waterfalls in the south east. It is also suppose to be taller than Niagara Falls. Typically you see waterfalls of this height on tropical islands, but if the landscaping of Toccoa Falls consisted of palm trees instead of pine trees you would have felt like you were on an island. Toccoa Falls was one of my favorite waterfalls that I came across.
Raven Cliff Falls- is located in the Chattahoochee National Forest and is 7 miles north of Helen. To reach Raven Cliffs Falls is about a 5 mile round trip and requires intense hiking on unpaved trails. There are parts of the trails that are easy to navigate and other areas that are challenging; climbing over rocks, tree roots, streams and uneven terrain. Along the trail I saw many people using hiking poles or large sticks to help them navigate the terrain.
At times I thought I had gone off the trail since it is unmarked, until I ran into another hiker. It’s definitely worth the trek to the waterfall because it beautiful walking through the forest listening to small cascading falls that run along Dodd Creek.
When I reached Raven Cliff Falls I was surprised at how tall it was. It’s a 40 foot waterfall that gushes through massive rocks, giving the waterfall the appearance that is in a cave. The waterfall received its name Raven Cliff Falls because this is a breeding place for ravens. The trail has remained undeveloped and is pure nature. Before you begin your journey make sure to bring plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated and an energy bar to snack on.
Dukes Creek Falls- is 3 miles north of Helen and located off Russell Scenic Highway. Part of the trail is handicap accessible and the trail is marked with signs. I found it to be an easy hike on the paved trails and boardwalks that lead to an observation deck.
Catching the perfect glimpse of the waterfall can be challenging at times, due to the fact that so many trees have grown tall obstructing the viewing path of the waterfall. I still found the trek along the trail to be refreshing, listening to birds singing and the water rushing along the creek.
Canes Creek Falls- if you are visiting Dahlonega than this waterfall is easy to get to. The only downfall is the Cane Creek Falls is on the property of Camp Glisson Retreat Center, therefore when retreats are being held entry to the waterfall is closed to the public. So you will want to check their schedule to see if admittance to the falls is available. Although it’s a small waterfall, it’s a very short walk from the visitor center; the area is serene with plenty of pretty photo opportunities.
Anna Ruby Falls- is 5 miles north of Helen and is located in the Chattahoochee National Forest. From the visitor center a paved path takes you on a .4 mile journey to Anna Ruby Falls. The majority of the walk is effortless but there were a few spots that were steep with an incline. The good news if you get tired there are plenty a benches along the way where you can sit and relax and listen to the soothing water flow along the creek. Anna Ruby Falls is actually two waterfalls that collide into each other making it a spectacular sight.
Brasstown Bald- this isn’t a waterfall but its located 19 miles north of Helen. I highly recommend taking the drive to this observation point. Brasstown Bald is on a mountain peak at 4,784 feet high with magnificent views of the surrounding mountains.
During the day they have a shuttle that will take you to the top, or there is a trail you can hike. I of course chose the trail, which is a paved path, the trail is a high endurance incline to reach the top. The good news is going down the trail is easy, so keep that in mind. It was a clear day and visibility was great; from the observation tower I had 360 degree views of four states, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. It was also a real treat being able to see panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Appalachian Mountains.
Exploring the waterfalls in Georgia was an amazing adventure. I was so surprised to find out that the area is filled with a variety of hiking trails that lead to so many stunning waterfalls. Since I was only able to visit a few of the falls on my trip I can’t wait to go back to Helen and plot out my next waterfall adventure. I had a great time enjoying all the nature in the area while hiking to the see the waterfalls and I know you will too! Safe travels!