Hike to 6 Amazing Waterfalls Near Helen, GA

Below are six hikes to my favorite waterfalls near Helen, GA, a North Georgia mountain town known for its Bavarian-style architecture and the Oktoberfest held every October. All 6 hikes are less than an hour’s drive from downtown Helen and make the perfect day trip if you want to explore beyond the town’s limits. Plus, these waterfalls near Helen are some of the prettiest in the whole state – I can spend hours photographing them!

Also, for a comprehensive guide on more waterfalls in the North Georgia mountains, don’t forget to visit my article, The Best Waterfalls in North GA. If you want tips on photographing them, check out my 10 Tips for Photographing Waterfalls.

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There are 6 waterfalls less than an hour's drive from the Bavarian-style North Georgia mountain town called Helen. Read more for tips on how to see these gorgeous waterfalls!

When is the Best Time to Visit These Waterfalls Near Helen, GA?

Any season is great to visit these waterfalls near Helen; however, fall and springtime are my favorite times to go. The fall foliage is spectacular in North Georgia, usually occurring near mid to late October. Spring is also wonderful when everything is blooming, and the temperatures are mild and pleasant.

However, if you plan to visit in the fall, be prepared for some crowds, especially during peak fall foliage. Summer is also popular when school is out, but Georgia summers can be sweltering and humid. If you plan to hike in the summer, bring plenty of water.

Wintertime is quieter but can be rainy and cold. While Georgia doesn’t see too much snow, you will want to be prepared if snowflakes start to fall.

Look at that view at Minnehaha Falls!

Tips and What You Should Know Before You Go

  • Wear comfortable hiking boots. If you go after it rains, prepare for some mud. You can walk or wade in the water at Helton Creek Falls and Minnehaha Falls, so don’t wear anything you wouldn’t want wet.
  • As always, be careful around waterfalls due to slippery spots. I almost fell at Helton Creek Falls since it has slippery rocks around the base of the lower falls. I might have been okay, but my camera…maybe not so much.
  • Bring snacks and plenty of water, as most locations do not have food and drinks available for purchase.
  • Consider downloading a hiking app like All Trails before you start hiking.
  • You might see little to no water flow during dry spells or droughts. For example, no water might flow at DeSoto Falls if it hasn’t rained in a long time.
  • I am not an avid hiker, but I found these hikes easy, but this is all relative to my hiking experience. Depending on your hiking experience and the trail conditions, you might find them easier or harder. We hike with trekking poles, which makes it easier for us. However, in some parts of these trails, you might be unable to use them.
  • Dogs are allowed on these trails as long as they are on a leash.

Just Where Are These Six Waterfalls Near Helen, GA?

Trahlyta Falls

Location and Hours:

Trahlyta Falls is a hidden gem in North GA that I didn’t know existed until I stumbled across the trailhead sign while visiting Vogel State Park. Water cascades down the hillside from the nearby Lake Trahlyta, creating the falls. If you visit during the height of the fall season, you are in for something special – the surrounding woods at the waterfall and lake light up with vibrant colors of yellow, orange, and deep red.

This beautiful waterfall is found in Vogel State Park. The park itself is open from 7am to 10pm and is located at 405 Vogel State Park Road, Blairsville, GA 30512. Below is the location of the park’s Visitor Center:

Parking, Fees, and Amenities:

There are many parking spaces, but I would arrive early during the peak visiting seasons, especially during the weekends or fall foliage. It costs $5 for a GA State Park Daily Pass, and you can either pay in person or buy the pass online at the GA State Park website. The daily park pass can be used at multiple Georgia State Parks on the date of purchase. Or, you can buy the annual park pass for $50.

At Vogel State Park, you’ll find a visitor center, including public restrooms and snacks or drinks available for purchase. If you have time, you might want to enjoy your lunch here at one of the picnic benches near the lake. And if you visit in the summertime, you can cool off from the relentless GA humidity by taking a dip in the lake.

The Hike: Approximately 1-mile round trip. Easy to Moderate Hike (hiking difficulty can vary).

The hike to Trahlyta Falls is one of the most pleasant and easiest waterfall hikes in North Georgia. After parking at the Vogel’s Visitor Center, make your way along the flat, dirt path around the lake. There is a fantastic panoramic view of Lake Trahlyta near the Trahlyta Falls trailhead sign.

After stopping for photos, continue down the trail for a few minutes, and you’ll reach the falls. There are a few steps down to get to the wooden viewing platform near the base of the falls. The short hike back to the lake is slightly more difficult, with little elevation gain. You can then choose to return to the parking lot from which you came or continue the path around Lake Trahlyta.

Stop on the trail to take in the panoramic views of Lake Trahlyta.

Minnehaha Falls

Minnehaha Falls near Helen, Georgia
Minnehaha Falls is one of the loveliest waterfalls near Helen, GA. Image shot on Fujifilm Pro 400H on Pentax 67.

Location:

Not to confuse this waterfall with the one in Minneapolis, Minnehaha Falls is a beautiful waterfall in Rabun County, Georgia. You should be able to plug Minnehaha Falls into your GPS or locate it using the map below. If traveling from Helen to Minnehaha Falls, you can take Bear Gap Road, a windy dirt and gravel road that follows Seed Lake and Lake Rabun, with many lake houses that dot the landscape.

Parking, Fees, and Amenities:

Arrive early in the morning at Minnehaha Falls. Since it is a short hike, there are more crowds and limited parking. We were lucky to find a parking spot, but some people were waiting for one when we left. 

Minnehaha Falls is free to visit! Please be aware that there are no public restrooms or amenities located on this hike.

The Hike: Little less than 1/2 mile round trip. Easy to Moderate Hike (hiking difficulty can vary).

It is a short walk to the waterfall, with some steps uphill and less than half a mile round trip. You can walk up to the falls and take as many pictures as you want. The falls are gorgeous; we went after it recently rained, and the water was gushing down the rocky side. 

Anna Ruby Falls

Anna Ruby Falls
The magnificent Anna Ruby Falls is one of the more popular waterfalls near Helen, GA. Image shot on Ektar 100 film.

Location and Hours:  

Anna Ruby Falls is a pair of waterfalls near Helen, GA, in White County. The falls are part of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest near Unicoi State Park. You can enter Anna Ruby Falls into your GPS or find it on the map below. The address is 3455 Anna Ruby Falls Road, Helen, GA 30545.

You can visit these falls daily from 9am to 5pm, with the last entry at 4pm. For more information and updates on operating hours, visit their website here.

Parking, Fees, and Amenities:

It isn’t free to visit Anna Ruby Falls; we had to pay $5 each ($10 for two adults, age 16+) to enter. If you are 15 and under, there is no fee to visit. There is a nice gift shop with small gifts and souvenirs, a restroom, and a small vending area for snacks. 

There is a large parking lot, so we had no trouble finding a spot. But if you plan to visit during peak times or weekends, you may want to arrive early to get a parking place.

The Hike: Almost one-mile round trip. Easy to moderate hike (hiking difficulty can vary).

From the parking lot to the falls, it is approximately 1/2 mile; the trail is paved (stroller and kid-friendly) and has little elevation gain.

Anna Ruby Falls is unique since it is a pair of waterfalls: Curtis Creek Falls joins York Creek, creating Smith Creek at the base of the falls. There are two wooden viewing platforms with a few steps and a small bridge to observe and take pictures. 

You cross over some bridges along the trail and see the beautiful flowing river —an image shot on Ektar 100.
Anna Ruby Falls Visitor Center bear statue
Smokey the Bear at the Anna Ruby Falls Visitor Center and gift shop. Image shot on Ektar 100 film.

DeSoto Falls

Upper DeSoto Falls
Upper DeSoto Falls. Image shot on Ektar 100 film.

Location:

Desoto Falls is another pair of waterfalls near Helen, GA. The falls are part of the Chattahoochee National Forest and are found here:

Parking, Fees, and Amenities:

Parking can be a bit of a pickle, and I recommend arriving early to find a parking spot since the lot is small.

You will want to bring cash for the $5 parking, which we placed into an envelope drop box. Or you can pay using the Recreation.gov mobile app by scanning the QR code at the area. There are few amenities on-site, but a public restroom is near the parking lot.

The Hike: The entire DeSoto Falls Trail is approximately 2 to 3 miles, depending on how far you hike. Easy to moderate hike (hiking difficulty can vary).

When you arrive, there are two choices: the Upper Falls Path or the Lower Falls Path; we took both but started with the Upper Falls Path. The hike to the Upper Falls is longer, about three-fourths of a mile to the falls, but I found it easier to hike than the Lower Falls Path. 

The Upper Falls Path is stunning; lots of greenery and tall trees. We went on a cloudy, rainy day, and it was perfect with the light coming through the trees. I’ve never been to the Pacific Northwest, but I imagine it would be similar to this trail. 

The path also takes you near the campground; there are a few places to grill food with picnic benches. There’s nothing like walking in the morning near a campground with coffee brewing on the campfire! Sigh…the coffee aroma is heavenly.

When you reach the waterfall, you can view it from a platform, making it a great spot to take pictures. The waterfall itself is beautiful; I took many horizontal and vertical exposures.  

Although shorter than the Upper Falls Path, the Lower Falls Path is narrow and uphill with a few switchbacks. It was also muddy when we went. It’s not stroller-friendly, but kids might have fun on the hike. We also saw some fallen trees along the way with some giant mushrooms! I don’t like eating mushrooms, but I love how they look, so I had to stop and take some pictures.

A mushroom on a trail
Image shot on Ektar 100 film.

When you reach the Lower Falls, there is a small viewing platform to take images. The waterfall is smaller than the Upper Falls and makes lovely vertical images. Unfortunately, we did not get to stay here too long since it started to rain, but it was nice since we had the whole place to ourselves.

Lower DeSoto Falls
Lower DeSoto Falls. Image shot on Ektar 100 film.

Helton Creek Falls

Lower Helton Creek Falls
Helton Creek Lower Falls. You can get into the shallow pools here, but watch for snakes! Image shot on Ektar 100 film.

Location:

I’ve been to Helton Creek Falls several times, and you don’t want to miss these waterfalls near Helen, GA. The trail takes you to two waterfalls in the Chattahoochee Forest, and you can walk right up to the falls, which are spectacular!

As you near, look for Helton Creek Road, which takes you into the parking area for Helton Creek Falls. It is approximately a 2-mile paved and dirt road that is narrow in some places with a few deep potholes.

You can find Helton Creek Falls with your GPS or on the map here:

Parking, Fees, and Amenities:

Arrive early to visit these falls, as there is limited parking. There is no fee to visit Helton Creek Falls.

Also, plan ahead, as Helton Creeks Fall has no public restroom. However, if you stop at Mountain Crossings at Neel Gap, you will find a bathroom; it is a hiking and outfitter store not too far from Helton Creek Falls, and many people hiking the Appalachian Trail stop here. They sell the best granola bars, the “Big Sur Bar.” It’s the only store selling them in Georgia, so grab one on your way out before visiting Helton Creek Falls.

The Hike: Approximately 0.6-mile round trip. Easy to moderate hike (hiking difficulty can vary).

Some steps are involved in going up and down to see both falls. Altogether, it is less than a mile to see these falls and not too strenuous. 

Also, some brave people swim in these falls, but considering two snakes were on the trail last time we went, I will not be jumping in any time soon!

Upper Helton Creek Falls
Helton Creek Falls (upper falls). Image shot on Ektar 100 film.

Dukes Creek Falls

When we visited in the early morning, Dukes Creek Falls was challenging to photograph due to the sun’s position in the sky.

Location:

Dukes Creek Falls is on the scenic highway that twists and turns through the Chattahoochee National Forest and is not too far from Helton Creek and DeSoto Falls. The address is 699 Richard Russell Highway, Helen, Georgia, or you can find it on a map here:

Parking, Fees, and Amenities:

To visit Dukes Creek Falls, it is $4 per vehicle. They rely on the honor system for payment, but you can drop your cash or check in the collection box. Or you can pay using the mobile Recreation.gov app by scanning the QR code at the site. Parking is limited at Dukes Creek.

There is also a bathroom, but it is more like an outhouse, and you’ll definitely want to bring hand sanitizer.

The Hike: Approximately 2 miles round trip. Moderate hike (hiking difficulty can vary).

Dukes Creek trail is probably the most challenging hike on this list due to the distance and some elevation gain on the return trip from the falls to the parking lot. Despite the moderate difficulty, it’s a beautiful trail that takes you under a canopy of tall trees as you descend to the falls.

We did this hike on a brisk Sunday morning. We didn’t see any people for the first thirty minutes or so, but we were pretty sure we heard a bear lumbering around in the fallen leaves. Luckily, we didn’t see the bear, but I am sure the bear saw us. Black bears are active on this trail, so you’ll want to keep an eye out and a healthy distance if you run into one.

As you go down the trail, you’ll catch glimpses of the falls through the trees, but the best view is at the bottom near the base. Water gushes rapidly down the granite cliffs into Dukes Creek. While the waterfall is a spectacular sight, I found it challenging to photograph as the sun partly lights up the falls during the early morning, leaving the rest in a dark shadow. All the more reason to go back and retake the shot!

Also, don’t forget to take in the stunning panoramic view of Yonah Mountain when you leave. The overlook is near the parking lot and restrooms. It is hard to miss!

What are your favorite waterfalls near Helen, GA? Please comment and share below!

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There are 6 beautiful waterfalls that you must see when visiting Helen, Georgia. All 6 hikes are less than an hour's drive from downtown Helen and make the perfect day trip if you want to explore beyond the town's limits.

2 thoughts on “Hike to 6 Amazing Waterfalls Near Helen, GA”

  1. My husband uses a walker and go far. We live in Athens, GA and I am trying to find more outdoor places for us enjoy. We go to Helen, GA. And he used to be able to do Anna Ruby Falls, but no longer can. We did make a trip to Tallulah Fall and he did make it. Any Suggestions Would Be Welcomed!
    Thank You!
    Bettina

    Reply
    • Hello!

      Thank you for your comment, and my apologies for this delayed response. If you haven’t done so before, I would check out Toccoa Falls and Rock City (on the border of Tennessee and Georgia). There is also a nice overlook at Cloudland Canyon State Park, but the hike into the canyon is strenuous. Dahlonega is also a nice city to visit with nearby wineries if you like wineries. Ellijay and Blue Ridge are beautiful cities to visit in the fall.
      I hope this helps! Thank you again.

      Kind Regards,

      Jessica
      Travel by Grain

      Reply

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