Hike to High Shoals Falls and Blue Hole Falls, two stunning waterfalls set in a lush, green forest near Helen, Georgia.
LOCATION:just south of Hiawassee, GA
Two of Georgia’s most beautiful waterfalls on one single trail. And just over two miles hike, round trip! The hike to Blue Hole Falls and High Shoals Falls is one extraordinary adventure.
This hike follows the High Shoals Falls Trail through a lush, mossy creek valley to one of Georgia’s most beautiful waterfalls. And on the way, the hike passes some prime backpacking campsites, some of our favorites in North Georgia. And it visits the smaller yet equally beautiful Blue Hole Falls, a single-drop waterfall that cascades into a deep, turquoise pool.
With abundant forest beauty and two gorgeous waterfalls, this trail long been one of our 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: the hike
The adventure begins at a trailhead off the graveled Forest Road 283 just south of Hiawassee, Georgia (view maps and driving directions). From the trailhead, the trail begins a steady descent through a forest of towering old-growth trees and gnarly-branched mountain laurel. The trail hangs a hard right at just under a quarter-mile, meandering through wide switchbacks and following occasional green trail blazes.
The sound of rushing water grows louder as the hike nears High Shoals Creek. The trail reaches the creek’s banks at a half-mile, swinging northbound. The route passes a large campsite before crossing through the creek.
After crossing the creek, the hike passes several more trailside campsites. The trail winds through dense thickets of leathery-leafed rhododendron as it descends to Blue Hole Falls. The pungent scent of galax, a small leafy green plant, fills the air with its onion-like scent.
The trail crosses a small wooden bridge before reaching a side path at just under one mile. The hike turns left, following the side trail and dropping elevation to Blue Hole Falls. Mosses and ferns 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 more than twenty feet over the face of a sheer rock outcrop.
Departing Blue Hole Falls, the hike retraces to the main trail and turns left to continue to High Shoals Falls. At just over one mile, the route turns left to descend to the waterfall through switchbacks and down rustic 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. The waterfall drops more than fifty feet in a series of cascades, casting mist into the mountain breeze.
Departing the waterfall, the trail retraces its steps to the main trail and follows its outbound steps in reverse. It’s a steady, nearly unrelenting climb to the trailhead, 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, tents, sleeping bags, and apparel from Marmot, ENO, Osprey, KUHL, Ruffwear, NEMO, and many more. We also carry a variety of locally made goods and gifts, guide and nature books, local trail info and maps, and a ton of backpacking and hiking gear. 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!
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