As Vincent van Gogh once said, “As long as autumn lasts, I shall not have hands, canvas, and colors enough to paint the beautiful things I see.” Find yourself lost in the beautiful foliage – with a toasty cup of coffee in hand – in Helen, Georgia, this fall for a front seat to the golden hour of the calendar year.
Nestled within the Chattahoochee National Forest, Unicoi State Park is in the heart of the North Georgia Mountains. Feast your senses as you explore Unicoi Lake surrounded by mountains while hiking, biking, or canoeing. Four hiking trails are available, including a route to Brasstown Bald, Georgia’s highest peak. With 360-degree views from the lookout tower at the top, you will want to make sure you have your camera with you to capture this birds-eye view of the harvest season. If you would rather bike, hop on the 8-mile bike-only loop to pedal through a variety of scenic backdrops. You can even zipline over the ever-changing treetops – Unicoi State Park has 19 different lines to choose from!
While visiting Unicoi State Park, a stop at Anna Ruby Falls is a must. Walk on a 0.8-mile paved trail to visit the breathtaking twin waterfalls that are touted “one of North Georgia’s Premier Vacation Destinations.” Become mesmerized in the best way as you watch water cascade down a cliff more than 150 feet over breathtaking boulders. While the Anna Ruby Falls Trail is kid, stroller, and dog friendly, the Lion’s Eye Trail is also available for visitors with visual disabilities or those requiring wheelchair access. Go ahead – rebel against TLC’s advice of “don’t go chasing waterfalls” – you will surely be glad you did!
For more hiking fit for the fall season, head to Yonah Mountain. This 4.4-mile hike along the Appalachian Trail between Cleveland and Helen leads to exquisite views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In around two to three hours to travel to the summit and back, you will be exhilarated and awestruck from experiencing the raw beauty of the season first-hand. You can also hammock and camp at Yonah Mountain to see the bright of day transition to a picturesque sunset. You may even see Army Rangers in training from time to time on the trail!
If you would rather take a joy ride with striking spots along the way, set out on the Richard B. Russell Scenic Parkway. Take in the colors of fall as you follow steep hills and turns on the 23-mile route along the eastern side of the Chattahoochee National Forest. Dukes Creek Falls and Raven Cliff Falls are shorter hikes (2-5 miles long) if you’d like to get out and stretch your legs a bit. For a driving respite and a great picnic spot, stop at Hogpen Gap, a cross-point of the Appalachian Trail. If you cannot get enough of north Georgia waterfalls, Helton Creek Falls hosts a short and kid-friendly hike north of Hogpen Gap. Savor your surroundings as your travel along the Richard B. Russell Scenic Parkway – after all, life is more about the journey than the destination, right?
For some fall fuel to take with you, The Mason Jar Shoppe and Hofer’s Bakery and Café have the perfect seasonal pick-me-up. For a steamy cup of locally roasted coffee, head to The Mason Jar Shoppe. While you sip, you can stroll their eclectic retail shop next door for handmade décor and gifts. Hofer’s Bakery and Café offers an authentic German experience in Helen and even received the Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor in 2019! Try their imported coffee from Germany in either a cappuccino, latte, espresso, or a straight-up cup of joe. Hofer’s Bakery and Café also has a hearty menu of sandwiches and grill specialties (think German cuisine like spätzle) that would make a tasty picnic for your adventures.
Gas up your car and lace up your hiking boots – the enchantment of autumn is calling. Don’t sleep on planning your visit to Helen – the “fall back” time change will be here before you know it!