Exploring Smithgall Woods Conservation Area

Are you a conservation activist or do you just love nature? If you answered yes to either of those, then you will greatly enjoy a visit to the Smithgall Woods Conservation area. This area is one of the many Helen GA attractions that has an intriguing history. Not only does it represent land preservation, but it is a beautiful place to behold.

Smithgall Woods Conservation Area

The history of Smithgall Woods speaks of ruin and of a new beginning. When first located by gold miners back in 1829, the area was full of wildlife and lush forest. Along Dukes Creek, small towns were crafted to house the miners. For the next few years the miners feverishly panned for gold. Then, in the 1850s the gold miners introduced the use of hydraulic mining. With this new technique, the landscape was soon transformed from bountiful to desert-like. Due to it’s destructive nature, hydraulic mining was banned in the 1880s.

Afterward, the area slowly began to recover. In the 1940s, a local radio station owner by the name of Charles Smithgall, became interested in the land throughout White County. With the sale profits of his media properties, he purchased 5,500 acres of land and spent over $20 million of his own money to help restore it. He then donated the land to the state of Georgia in 1994, where they have since concentrated their efforts to preserve and protect the land. This land is known today as the Smithgall Woods Conservation Area.

Escape cabin

Hiking at Smithgall Woods

As one of the top Helen GA attractions, Smithgall Woods offers over 22 miles of trails in which you can hike or bike, depending on your preference.

Visitor Center Loop Trail

This easy .3 mile trail will give you a nice view of the Dukes Creek area. It is also an excellent place to picnic and enjoy the outdoors with your family.

Cathy Ellis Trail

You will learn the history of Cathy Ellis along this short half mile trail and witness the same beauty that she fell in love with. The trail travels downhill to a beautiful waterfall and along the way you will find remnants of gold mining history.

Wetland Loop Trail

On this easy .55 mile nature trail, you will walk alongside a fascinating wetland area and a beaver pond. It is a great place for watching birds, waterfowl and frogs. All of which, makes this a fun trail for children and adults alike.

Martin’s Mine Trail

This .9 mile loop will take you across Dukes Creek on a wooden bridge and lead you to a historic vertical shaft used by the miners from long ago. Since then, bats have made this their home, so keep your eyes open and you may see a few.

Laurel Ridge Trail

For a moderate hike, this trail will take you 1.6 miles to Laurel Ridge where you can witness the stunning beauty of Mt. Yonah.

Ash Creek Trail

On this 3 mile round-trip hike, you will travel through the beautiful woods of Smithgall and throughout the Dukes Creek area. Be prepared for a rugged trip and some wading through the creek at the north end of the trail.

Fishing Paradise

Anglers also find great enjoyment at Smithgall Woods. Running through the land is Dukes Creek, which is known for it’s abundance of trout. However, there is a limit to the amount of anglers allowed each day and they are only permitted to fish on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Therefore, be sure to make a reservation before heading out.

When to Visit

If you are planning to visit any of the Helen GA attractions, now is an excellent time to do so. You can hike, bike and fish without the worries of being rained out or having to deal with the heat. The calm weather keeps the temperatures comfortable during daytime hours, giving you plenty of time to enjoy all that the Smithgall Woods area has to offer.

Getting There

Only 5 miles away from Helen, the Smithgall Woods area can be quickly reached from Cedar Creek. To get there, go southwest on Zeppelin Strasse, until you reach Brucken Strasse where you will make a left. At Edelweiss make another left and that will take you to GA-75 N. Turn right and follow this road until you reach GA-75Alt N, where you will make a left. Continue on GA-75Alt N for 2.5 miles where you will turn left onto Tsalaki Trail Rd. This road will lead you directly to Smithgall Woods.

If you love nature, then you will greatly enjoy visiting the Smithgall Woods Conservation Area. On your next trip to northern Georgia, be sure to add this to your list of Helen GA attractions. Have you ever explored a conservation area?