Exploring Smithgall Woods State Park

Posted by Tom Telford on Fri, Apr 18, 2014

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Need an escape from your every day life?

Northern Georgia, and namely, the Helen area, is the perfect spot for nature lovers to get away from the stress of every day life in the "big city" and get back to the basics. In addition to a number of other popular Helen Georgia attractions, state parks like Smithgall woods are extremely popular with vacationers who are staying in the area. Regardless of what your interests are, you'll find a wide range of opportunities for fun and exploration while paying a visit to this 5,664 acre park facility. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the possibilities and help you to plan your day at Smithgall Woods State Park.

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Visiting Smithgall Woods State Park

While enjoying a day trip to one of the most beloved Helen Georgia attractions, you'll want to consider taking advantage of the many things that Smithgall Woods has to offer, such as:

Hiking & Biking Trails

Looking to get some fresh air and exercise? The many opportunities for exploration in the great outdoors is one of the largest Helen Georgia attractions in and of itself. Smithgall Woods offers no shortage of chances for discovering nature through hiking and biking, featuring some 23 miles of roads and trails with varying degrees of difficulty.

Visitor's Center Loop Trail, for instance, offers a leisurely stroll with views of Duke's Creek and rare Florida Torreya trees. The trail offer offers picnic tables and adult swings for relaxing. Ash Creek Trail, on the other hand, is much more rugged and provides hikers with incredible scenery, including the creek and the surrounding forest. One of the favorite trails, though is Martin's Mine Trail where you'll encounter an abandoned gold mine shaft that has become a very unique habitat and hot spot for local bats. 

Fishing Opportunities

One of Helen's biggest draws is its supply of trout in the gorgeous Chattahoochee River. Although trout can make for a tasty entree, many vacationers to the area are simply looking for sport. If this rings true for you, Smithgall Woods State Park is the perfect spot to cast your line. While visiting the scenic park, you can enjoy some quiet time alone or bonding time with your family and friends as you sit along the banks of the river for a morning or afternoon of catch-and-release fishing. Be sure to make advance reservations with the park.

Hunting Season

If you take pride in living off the land and hunting your own game, you'll want to consider visiting Smithgall Woods during the various hunting seasons throughout the year. You'll have the opportunity to track and hunt a variety of game ranging from small fur bearers and turkey, to larger deer and even bears. Test your skills with a bow and arrow during archery season, using primitive weapons, or practicing your aim with your rifle or other firearms. If you're lucky, you might be able to bring something back to your cabin to cook up in your kitchen or on your outside grill.

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Educational Opportunities

Smithgall Woods State Park offers a wide range of educational opportunities throughout the year for locals and vacationers to enjoy. It's easy to check the park's calendar or contact the visitor's center to learn which activities will be occurring while you're in the Helen area. Depending on the month or season, you might enjoy wildflower hunts, bird watching, children's events, information and events related to the gold rush and earlier settlers, and more.

Hardman Farm

Hardman Farm is a satellite site of Smithgall Woods. Like many other Helen Georgia attractions, the 162 acre farm is a well-preserved historical site, offering a sense of rich culture and intrigue. The farmhouse was constructed in 1870, and was donated to the state of Georgia in 1999. The area contains a well-known Nacoochee Indian Mound. Smithgall Woods offers tours of the 19th century working farm on Sundays from 1PM-4PM.


Throughout recent years, geocaching has grown in popularity, and the Georgia State Parks system - including Smithgall Woods - welcome and encourage the activity as a means of making the in-park experience even more enjoyable. In geocaching, a small capsule (or cache) containing a token is placed at a specific set of GPS coordinates. The coordinates are posted on a geocaching website, and hunters can set out to search for the treasure within a certain locale (i.e.: Smithgall Woods). Once found, the discoverer may take the token and replace it with one of their own for the next hunter to find. All you need is a working GPS system or a smartphone. There are even geocaching apps available for added convenience.

Have you visited some of the popular Helen Georga attractions within Smithgall Woods State Park? Feel free to share any tips or advice to future vacationers in the comments section. 

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