High Shoals Falls Trail: hiking double waterfalls near Helen
Hike to two exceptionally beautiful waterfalls, High Shoals Falls and Blue Hole Falls, through a lush forest near Tray Mountain north of Helen, Georgia.
High Shoals Falls Trail: the hike
The hike departs a trailhead off the graveled Georgia Forest Road 283 north of Helen (view driving directions), descending elevation and diving through a forest with towering old-growth trees and gnarly-branched mountain laurel. The trail hangs a hard right at .2 miles, descending and meanding through wide switchbacks as it drops elevation. The High Shoals Falls Trail is blazed with occasional green blazes, but well-worn and relatively easy to follow.
The sound of rushing water grows louder as the hike nears High Shoals Creek. The trail reaches the creek’s banks at .5 miles, swinging northbound to follow the creek. The hike passes a large campsite at .55 mile before crossing a wooden bridge spanning the creek.
The hike crosses the wooden bridge and then passes several more trailside campsites along High Shoals Creek. The hike winds through dense thickets of rhododendron – a common sight along creek valleys in Northern Georgia – as it begins a descent towards Blue Hole Falls. Pungent-scented galax, a small, green, leafy plant, carpets the forest floor and fills the air with an onion-like scent.
The hike crosses a small wooden bridge before reaching a side trail at .9 mile. The hike turns left, following the side trail and dropping elevation to Blue Hole Falls. Moss and fern line the trail in shades of vibrant green, a contrast with the red and orange hued, iron-rich soil and boulders of the creek valley.
Blue Hole Falls is named for the cool, deep blue pool below the waterfall that catches its falling water. The waterfall, seen from a wooden viewing platform, forms as High Shoals Creek plummets over 20 feet downward over the face of a sheer rock outcrop.
The hike departs Blue Hole Falls, retracing to the High Shoals Falls Trail and turning left to continue to the hike’s second waterfall. The access trail to High Shoals Falls departs trail left at 1 mile, descending to the waterfall via a series of switchbacks and stone stairs. The roaring sound of falling water amplifies through the valley as the hike approaches the waterfall.
The tree canopy opens up to reveal the impressive High Shoals waterfall at 1.35 miles, dropping 50 feet in a series of cascades to the deep pool below.
Departing High Shoals Falls, the trail retraces its steps to the main trail, following its outbound steps to the trailhead. It’s a steady, nearly unrelenting climb on the return hike, gaining over 500 feet elevation. The hike reaches the trailhead and parking area at 2.4 miles, completing the hike.
Note: slippery rocks and fast moving water can be extremely dangerous! Please don’t climb, stand on, swim near, or jump from any waterfall.
More hiking adventures in the High Shoals Falls area
In the High Shoals area with daylight – and energy – to burn? Hike the nearby Appalachian Trail to Indian Grave Gap via the Rocky Mountain summit, a challenging hike from Unicoi Gap several miles south of High Shoals Falls on GA 75. Or hike the Appalachian Trail to stunning mountaintop views from the Tray Mountain summit, departing Indian Grave Gap on FR 283 several miles south of the High Shoals Falls trailhead.
High Shoals Falls Trail: Directions & Details
Free parking is available at the USFS High Shoals Falls trailhead. Trailhead access is via a gravel Forest Service Road, and may require a vehicle creek crossing, depending on the route.
34.816467, -83.727150 // N34 48.988 W83 43.629