Atlanta TrailsbyTrailful Outdoor Co

Nestled in the rolling, green mountains of the southern Appalachians, Helen is a mountain town quite unlike any other in Georgia, adorned in Bavarian architecture and brimming with shopping and restaurants. The town makes a great destination for outdoor adventures, too, with the Chattahoochee River rippling and tumbling through the German downtown, and the legendary Appalachian Trail dipping through Unicoi Gap just north of town. And while hiking options abound in this ultra-scenic swath of North Georgia, many of our favorite hikes near the town chase an adventure to one of nature’s most beautiful formations: waterfalls.

Explore chilly mountain creeks and tumbling falls on these eight fantastic hikes near Helen. They range in distance and difficulty from ultra-easy, kid-friendly hikes to more technical challenges, but all eight visit some of the most beautiful, plunging falls within a short drive from town.

Hike these scenic trails to our favorite waterfalls near Georgia's alpine mountain town of Helen, exploring wildflower-filled creek valleys, tumbling waterfalls, and rocky, mossy forests. #hiking #atlanta #georgia #travel #outdoors #adventure

Helen, GA waterfalls: our favorite trails

Pack a picnic and hit the trail – and don’t forget to pack water and hiking essentials (check out our hiking gear list for some packing inspiration).

  • Waterfall hikes near Helen, GA: hike to the tumbling Raven Cliff Falls, set deep in a towering cliff

    Raven Cliff Falls

    4.9 miles, round trip

    It’s one of our all-time favorite hikes in North Georgia. The Raven Cliff Falls Trail meanders through a wildflower-filled forest, following the gently-flowing Dodd Creek upstream through a rocky forest and passing a series of smaller falls. The hike ends at the base of a towering cliff, where a cascading waterfall splits the sheer bluff in two.

  • Top waterfall hikes near Helen, Georgia: Anna Ruby Falls tumbles in twin cascades through a lush forest on this kid-friendly paved trail

    Anna Ruby Falls

    .9 miles, round trip

    This paved path explores a whole lot of beauty in a short distance, climbing through a lush, moss-covered, rocky forest near the base of Tray Mountain. Anna Ruby Falls tumbles in a pair of rare twin waterfalls before dropping through a series of smaller falls below. Several wooden viewing platforms offer a fantastic place to snap an entirely Instagram-worthy shot of the beautiful cascades.

  • Hike Smithgall Woods State Park near Helen, GA to tumbling waterfalls, historic gold mines and the beautiful cascades of Dukes Creek

    Smithgall Woods

    3.5 – 8.7 miles, round trip

    Explore Georgia’s gold rush history in the beautiful Smithgall Woods State Park just west of Helen, following the scenic Dukes Creek downstream to the site of a former gold mine and several beautiful waterfalls. The park offers more than 20 miles of trails that explore creek valleys, wetlands, and beautiful forests. While it’s a great hike in any season, the park is especially beatiful in autumn, when the forest explodes in colorful fall hues.

  • Top waterfalls near Helen, GA: hike to High Shoals Falls and Blue Hole Falls, two of Georgia's most beautiful waterfalls

    High Shoals Falls and Blue Hole Falls

    2.4 miles, round trip

    Visit two stunning waterfalls on this hike, dropping through a lush, green forest filled with gnarly-branched rhododendron and mountain laurel. The route ventures under the canopy of towering old-growth trees to reach Blue Hole Falls, where the creek drops into a cool, blue pool. And the hike continues to the 50-foot drop of High Shoals Falls, where the creek cascades in tendrils of white over a craggy, rocky cliff.

  • Smith Creek Trail: hike from Unicoi State Park to the double waterfall at Anna Ruby Falls

    Smith Creek Trail to Anna Ruby Falls

    8.7 miles, round trip

    It’s a longer, scenic route to the twin cascades of Anna Ruby Falls, and while it’s nearly ten times as long, this hike scores serenity along the way on this lesser-traveled trail. The Smith Creek Trail follows a historic gold mining ditch from the campground at Unicoi State Park, dropping through a wildflower-filled creek valley and climbing a rocky knob before reaching Anna Ruby. It’s a particularly beautiful route in spring, when native North Georgia wildflowers blanket the forest floor in abundant blooms.

  • Dukes Creek Falls Trail in North Georgia

    Dukes Creek Falls

    2 miles, round trip

    It’s kid-friendly, dog-friendly, and wonderfully beautiful. Catch distant views of Yonah Mountain from the Dukes Creek trailhead, and then drop through a moss-covered forest into a rocky creek valley on the banks of Davis Creek. The hike descends to a series of wooden viewing platforms for up-close views of the towering Dukes Creek Falls, formed at the junction of Dukes Creek and Davis Creek. The return hike to the trailhead is almost entirely uphill, so it’s a workout – but the beauty of hike’s waterfalls make it well worth the effort.

  • Top waterfall hikes near Helen, Georgia: hike the DeSoto Falls Trail to two tumbling waterfalls

    DeSoto Falls

    2.2 miles, round trip

    It’s one of the most popular waterfall hikes near Helen, thanks to abundant forest beauty, two plunging falls on the two-mile hike, and a bit of legendary folklore. DeSoto Falls is the spot where, according to some historians, a piece of armor was found from the Southern expedition of explorer Hernando de Soto in the 16th century. Whether there’s truth in the armor’s origins, the hike is scenic and moderately easy, and the rocky forest on the banks of Frogtown Creek is beautiful, shaded by several towering old-growth pine trees.

  • Helton Creek Falls: top kid-friendly waterfall hikes near Helen, Georgia

    Helton Creek Falls

    .6 mile, round trip

    At just barely over a half mile, this hike to Helton Creek Falls is a great option for small adventures, and it’s dog-friendly, too. The trail visits the curved cascades of the lower falls on Helton Creek, and then climbs through a forest of fallen hemlock and gnarly rhododendron to the enormous upper falls and deep pool below.

  • Hiking gear list: our favorite backpacks and trail essentials

    What to pack?

    Our favorite hiking gear

    Ready to hit the trail, but wondering what to pack? Our hiking gear list features our favorite, trail-tested hiking gear for day hikes on local trails and in the Georgia backcountry. We print and stitch our Atlanta Trails shirts and hats locally in Atlanta and Asheville, and they’re our favorite for trail adventures all over the South. And no matter what you pack in, pack it all back out. Please leave no trace and help preserve Georgia’s beauty.

More outdoor adventures near Helen

Hiking, camping, zip lining, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding: surrounded by the Chattahoochee National Forest, options for a nearby outdoor adventure abound. Check out our Helen adventure guide for some of our favorite ways to play and stay near town. And catch some seriously stunning views from nearby mountaintops on our favorite hikes near Helen, exploring the nearby summits of Tray Mountain, Yonah Mountain, and Brasstown Bald.

Hike safely and leave no trace

Slippery rocks and fast moving water can be extremely dangerous! Please do not climb, stand above, swim near, or jump from any waterfall. See more water safety tips from the USFS. And please preserve North Georgia’s natural beauty. Remember to pack out everything you’ve packed in, and always leave no trace on the trail.

Leave No Trace: Atlanta Trails, Asheville Trails and Trailful are official Leave No Trace partners

Please Remember

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.