Alpine Helen: Outdoor Adventure off the Beaten Trail

Where Mother Nature comes to play

Photo of Bavarian style buildings in Alpine Square with bear cubs statue in the foreground. Photo courtesy of Alpine Helen

Some think of Alpine Helen, Georgia, as a colorful Bavarian village on a tubing river with fun dining, shops, and in-town accommodations. Serious and amateur outdoors enthusiasts rave about the hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, fly-fishing, and more to be found just outside of town. It’s so accessible yet remote and rewarding that Alpine Helen and White County have been designated by the state Legislature as “Georgia’s Official Outdoor Adventure Destination.” 

An hour and a half north of Atlanta, the lively town of Helen is surrounded with peaceful protected national forests, designated wilderness, state parks, rivers, scenic highways, roads, and trails. Looking for a mountain cabin or luxury mountain getaway, with room to wander, waterfalls, and heart-stopping views? This north Georgia destination soothes the senses and satisfies the soul. Spring is the perfect time to visit, when the trails are even less traveled and the views are even better. 

Just 2 miles northeast, Unicoi State Park and Lodge is a 1,063-acre mountain adventure retreat within the Chattahoochee National Forest. Explore miles of hiking and biking trails, paddle the calm waters of Unicoi Lake, zip-line, learn archery and fly-fishing, or just relax. The lodge and accommodations are a rustic haven with a tavern, on-site dining, lodge rooms, furnished cabins, barrel cabins and safari tents, and RV and tent campsites.

Explore trails cut through ancient forests in search of some of the area’s most epic waterfalls

Next door to Unicoi is one of north Georgia’s most spectacular, Anna Ruby Falls, where the thundering rush is heard well before you see its double display.

Once a secret fly-fishing and hunting retreat, Smithgall Woods State Park reveals hidden gems, including ultra-luxury lodge-style “cottages” and a waterfall on a tumbling stretch of Dukes Creek, a top north Georgia trout stream for catch-and-release fishing.

That’s just the beginning of the outdoor adventures you’ll find. Within these 41,533 acres of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest are several protected wilderness areas and a section of the bucket-list Appalachian Trail. The easiest walk is the Helen to Hardman Heritage Trail, a 1-mile, pet-friendly, ADA-accessible path along the Chattahoochee River from Helen to the Hardman Farm State Historic Site. Learn the stories behind the 1870 mansion and the iconic gazebo atop an ancient Native American mound. Next, head to a winery; dine on the cuisines of Germany, Asia, South America, and the South; have a great night’s sleep; and wake up to more exploration.

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