Hike to High Shoals Falls and Blue Hole Falls, two stunning waterfalls set in a lush, green forest near Helen, Georgia.
LOCATION:Chattahoochee National Forest near Helen, Georgia
OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 778 Trails Illustrated Map
Two of Georgia’s most beautiful waterfalls, on one single trail, and on a 2.5-mile hike, round trip: this is one extraordinary adventure.
The High Shoals Falls Trail travels through a lush, mossy creek valley to one of the largest and most beautiful waterfalls in North Georgia. And on the way, the hike passes some prime backpacking campsites and visits the equally beautiful (but smaller) Blue Hole Falls, a single-drop waterfall with a deep, turquoise pool below.
With abundant forest beauty and two gorgeous waterfalls, this trail has long ranked as one of our top 10 favorite waterfall hikes in Georgia.
NOTE: the bridge spanning High Shoals Creek, located a half mile into this hike, suffered recent irreparable storm damage. If you go, plan on crossing the creek via stepping stones – or getting your feet wet!
High Shoals Falls Trail: the hike
The hike departs a trailhead off the graveled Forest Road 283 north of Helen, GA (view maps and driving directions), descending through a forest of towering old-growth trees and gnarly-branched mountain laurel. The trail hangs a hard right at .2 miles, dropping and meandering through wide switchbacks as it descends.
Occasional green blazes mark the trail throughout its length, but it’s also 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. The route passes a large campsite before crossing through the creek.
The hike carefully crosses the creek and passes several more trailside campsites. The trail winds through dense thickets of leathery-leafed rhododendron as it descends to 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 trail crosses a small wooden bridge before reaching a side path at .9 mile. The hike turns left, following the side trail and dropping elevation to Blue Hole Falls. Moss and fern line the path in shades of vibrant green, a contrast with the red and orange hued, iron-rich soil and boulders of the creek valley.
A cool, deep blue pool sits below Blue Hole Falls, lending to the waterfall’s name. The creek plummets over 20 feet over the face of a sheer rock outcrop.
The hike departs Blue Hole Falls, retracing to the main trail and turning left to continue to the hike’s second waterfall. The hike follows the access trail to High Shoals Falls, turning left at 1 mile and descending to the waterfall via a series of switchbacks and stone stairs.
The roaring sound of falling water amplifies through the valley. The tree canopy opens up to reveal High Shoals Falls at 1.35 miles, as the waterfall drops 50 feet in a series of cascades to a deep pool below.
Departing the waterfall, 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 adventure.
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 near Hiawassee
In the 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 southon GA 75. Or hike the Appalachian Trail to Tray Mountain, departing from Indian Grave Gap on FR 283 several miles south of the High Shoals trailhead.
AFTER THE ADVENTURE
After soaking up all that waterfall beauty, head into Hiawassee to refuel and recharge at one of our local restaurants or the new brewery in town! Then be sure to stop by our new hiking outfitter shop, Trailful Outdoor Co. and say hello to the Atlanta Trails crew. We stock our favorite adventure-worthy gear that we’ve loved for years, including our favorite gear and apparel from ENO, Osprey, KUHL, Ruffwear, and more. We also carry a variety of locally made goods and gifts, outdoorsy books, local trail info and maps, and our collection of Atlanta Trails shirts, hats, and hoodies. We’d love to see you!
Always leave no trace, pack out everything you pack in, and if you see trash, pick it up and pack it out.
Stay on the marked trail, tell someone where you're going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, and don't rely on a mobile phone to find your way. Please always practice good trail etiquette. And before you go, always check the trailhead kiosk, official maps, and the park or ranger office for notices of changed routes, trail closures, safety information, and restrictions.
Love the trail?
This trail is maintained thanks to the hard work of countless volunteers and donations from supporters of the Chattahoochee National Forest. Please support them by making a donation or joining a volunteer day. Let's work together to keep these fantastic trails maintained and open for use!
Did you have trouble accessing the trail, or notice some recent trail updates or storm damage? We'd love to know! Contact us here, and thanks for helping us keep this site updated!
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