Are you itching to experience the natural beauty of mountainous northern Georgia?
Visitors from near and far flock to the alpine village of Helen in order to hike through the hills and forests, viewing waterfalls and other natural wonders, and enjoying up-close-and-personal experiences with flora and fauna that are native to the area. Located just a stone's throw away from the center of town, Unicoi State Park is a hot spot for vacationers looking to hit the Helen hiking trails. The 1,050 acre park offers outdoor enthusiasts the opportunity to trek across a variety of trails, suited to hikers of all experience levels and abilities. This guide will provide you with all of the information you need in order to choose the right trail for you and your group, and to have an unforgettable hiking experience at Unicoi State Park.
A Breakdown of Popular Helen Hiking Trails at Unicoi State Park
Frog Pond Nature Trail
Summary: Easy, 1/3-mile loop, views of Frog Pond
For hikers who don't have much time, or wish to learn more about the park's plant an animal life before embarking on a longer excursion, Frog Pond Nature Trail is perfect. Being just 1/3 mile long, the loop trail which circles around Frog Pond can be hiked in a mere 25 minutes. At various intervals, you will find interpretive signs and identification placards which help you to identify various types of trees, flowers, and animal habitats.
Summary: Easy, 2.5-mile loop, views of Unicoi Lake
Lake Trail is one of the more popular Helen hiking trails because of the fact that it offers such spectacular views of the 53-acre Unicoi Lake. The 2.5-mile loop trail is flat, compact, and easy to hike. Plan to spend approximately 2 hours on this path.
Anna Ruby Falls Trail
Summary: Easy, .08 miles one-way, views of Smith Creek, Anna Ruby Falls
Although not technically a part of the Unicoi State Park system, Anna Ruby Falls Trail is one of the most heavily traversed Helen hiking trails each year. That's because this path leads to a rare double waterfall, offers stunning scenery all throughout the year, and is quite easy to traverse. The trail itself is only .8 miles long, is paved, and is handicap accessible. The Continuous path will lead you across Smith Creek, and numerous benches are available should you find the need to rest, or to simply enjoy the wooded atmosphere. You'll eventually reach a series of viewing platforms where you can take photos of the falls, which are formed by Curtis and York Creeks, originating in Tray Mountain.
Bottoms Loop Trail
Summary: Moderate, 2-mile loop, views of Smith Creek, wildflowers, old homestead
If you're hoping to get some good exercise while still having the energy to stop and smell the roses (or, in this case, rhododendrons, mountain laurels, and hemlocks), Bottoms Loop Trail should be your top pick. You'll want to set aside about 1.5 hours in order to complete the journey around this 2 mile loop. You'll follow a dirt path through the low-laying foothills of the northern Georgia mountains, crossing Smith Creek multiple times, in addition o passing the remains of an old homestead, and simply enjoying the natural scenery around you.
Summary: Moderate-Strenuous, 3 miles one-way, views of streams/creaks, wildflowers, Helen
Would you prefer to hike into Unicoi instead of driving? Although the terrain of Unicoi/Helen Trail isn't especially difficult, the length of this 3-mile (one-way) trip has earned it a rating of "moderate to strenuous". 4 hours should be set aside in order to complete the 6-mile round-trip. The trail takes hikers from Unicoi City Hill Park in Helen to the Bottoms Loop Trailhead and back, crossing streams and passing through strands of wildflowers along the way.
Smith Creek Trail
Summary: Strenuous, 4.8 miles one-way, views of Smith Creek
Seasoned hikers will get their kicks on Smith Creek Trail. At 4.8 miles long (one-way), the entire 9.6 mile trek will take approximately 6 hours to complete. The beautiful path is known for offering visitors the opportunity to enjoy the wooded areas of northern Georgia, spot native wildlife in their natural habitat, to experience the rushing headwaters of Smith Creek, and to enter into the Anna Ruby Falls Recreation Area.
Bike Trails at Unicoi State Park
Mountain Bike Trail
Summary: Moderate-Strenuous, 7.5-mile loop, views of wildflowers, mountainous scenic overlooks
If you prefer to embark on a mountain biking excursion, Unicoi's own Mountain Bike Trail will offer you a scenic challenge. At 7.5 miles long, this loop trail takes 2.5 miles to complete, and will take you over moderate to strenuous mountain terrain to get your adrenaline pumping. There are plenty of spectacular scenic overlooks where you can stop and catch your breath - if you need to.
Which trail will you tackle first?