Northern Georgia is a wonderland of adventure from ambling backroads, curving through pastoral farmland, rugged cliffs and dramatic waterfalls – the gateway to The Blue Ridge Mountains never disappoints.
We started off our adventure at Amicalola Falls State Park before a taking in the charm of small-town Dahlonega…in this entry we’ll wander through the Chattahoochee National Forest and explore Vogel and Unicoi State Parks.
Let’s Chase Waterfalls:
Northern Georgia dazzles with dozens of wondrous waterfalls; some are easily accessible right off the road, and others require intense hiking…
With my starting point in Dahlonega, I referred to the tourism center for a list of area waterfalls. This link provides a comprehensive list of area falls.
If I a dozen dozen I would have hiked to all these beautiful cascades, but being pressed for time, I decided to start with an easy backcountry hike to DeSoto Falls.
Roughly twenty minutes from downtown Dahlonega off scenic US-129 (via GA9), DeSoto Falls is hidden in the lush wilderness of the Chattahoochee National Forest. DeSoto Falls is actually two separate hikes – the lower and upper falls each provide stunning scenery.
After Spanish armor was discovered in the area, legend grew that famed Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto passed through the area in the 1540s in their attempt to discover gold.
You’ll see a well marked sign as you approach the turnout for the falls. The NFS area includes bathroom access, picnic tables and day use…
Grabbing my camera, I crossed past a babbling Frogtown Creek before reaching the trailhead. The Lower Falls is .3 miles downstream from the trailhead and the second is .75 miles upstream. I decided to focus on the Lower Falls – given limited time in the area. The steady and somewhat steep trail was well marked. I did get a workout on the way up scaling the steps.
The reward – a beautiful gentle cascade and the serenity of the forest.
After enjoying the mountain air, I continued on the backroads, north on US-19. This stretch of highway is one of the prettiest in Georgia with winding forested roads and expansive views of The Blue Ridge Mountains.
Seven minutes north of DeSoto Falls, I noticed the historic Walasi-Yi interpretative center. This stone lodge was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps and now serves as a museum and postal stop of hikers on the Appalachian Trail. In fact this 1937 structure (built specifically for the AT hikers) is the only man-made structure that is on the entire 2,000 + stretch of the AT.
Stopping at Walasi-Yi you can tour the museum and shop in the gift shop.
I continued north past stunning vistas of Georgia’s highest peak – Blood Mountain.
The early frost of a cold November day formed out of this world icicles on the roadside crags
Continuing north a few more miles, I found lakeside serenity at Vogel State Park…a beloved summer recreation spot with swimming, hiking, cabins and hiking – this is a gem that is worth exploring.
From Vogel State Park I traveled thirty minutes northeast through byways to reach the alpine town of Helen and Unicoi State Park.
I’d visited Helen before, but wanted to return to visit Anna Ruby Falls, unfortunately I arrived at 4 p.m. – right as they closed…but no worries – I was able to enjoy a relaxing view by the lake at Unicoi State Park.
Unicoi is conveniently located just outside of Helen and a stone’s throw from the famed Anna Ruby Falls (we’ll get there eventually). This state park has tons of recreational access from swimming and hiking and beyond. The Unicoi Lodge is the perfect place to book a room and enjoy a rustic getaway. The Unicoi Lodge Dining Room and Tavern offers delicious food and spirits with mountain views…
After my adventures in Northern Georgia I headed down to Atlanta for a work trip, but fear not…this exploration hasn’t ended yet. Stay tuned for more Georgia adventures in the coming days.