There are so many things to do in Helen, Ga, and it ranks among our favorite North Georgia Mountain Towns because of the number of outdoor adventures. It is no surprise that Alpine Helen/White County has been designated by the State House and Senate as Georgia’s Outdoor Adventure Destination.
With so much to do, we can’t list everything to do in the Bavarian village of Helen, but we’ve highlighted our very favorites. What about you? What do you love about Helen, Ga?
Helen’s Newest Attractions
Georgia Mountain Coaster opened it’s newest Bavarian Alpine attraction a couple years ago and it is EPIC! It’s fun, fast, and family-friendly. From downtown, walk to the stairs next to Paul’s on the River (our favorite place to eat). Kiddos must be 38 inches to ride. Each ride is $15 per adult, $12 per child 7-12, $6 per child 3-6 the first time, and half-price the second time around (because you WILL want to go again)!
Valhalla Resort Hotel is the city’s newest hotel. The spa and golf course are big draws for those seeking an upscale stay in the region. Bringing the kids? I’d opt for a cabin instead.
RELATED READING: Check out our article called 15 Restaurants In Helen, Ga: The Best Places To Nosh to find the best places to stop for a meal while you’re there.
Hiking and Waterfalls
Anna Ruby Falls – Anna Ruby Falls is actually two waterfalls, where two rivers meet and create Smith Creek – the creek that fills the lake at Unicoi. The falls are majestic, and the walk is short and easy. You simply cannot visit Helen without taking in this natural beauty. In fact, I think it’s reason enough, alone, to make the journey from Atlanta.
Raven Cliff Falls – Many families avoid this hike because they fear it isn’t family-friendly. Have no fear – most of the hike is very flat, and it follows Dukes Creek, with multiple smaller falls and places to dabble in the water. It is only the very last 1/8-mile that is not safe for kiddos, but the hike is still worthy – awesome, in fact – if you can’t do the whole thing.
Dukes Creek Falls – I love this waterfall in winter, but any time of year will do. From the cabins at Smithgall Woods or from the Dukes Creek parking lot, it is only a 2-mile round trip to the viewing platform. We love the multi-tiered fall dropping 150-feet.
DeSoto Falls – Two falls for the price of one (yes, this is a paid park area). You’ll hike to the left to see the lower falls, then head back and to the right to see the upper falls. The entire trip is only 2.25 miles, but if you can’t do it all (or you’re not sure the kids will make it the whole way), I recommend heading to the upper falls first.
Horse Trough Falls – This waterfall is within the Upper Chattahoochee National Forest campsite in the Mark Trail Wilderness area. You must pay to camp here, but not if you just want to see the falls. It’s only a half-mile walk and sees far fewer visitors than other falls in the area.
Yonah Mountain – This one is a 4.4-mile difficult hike primarily because of the pitch. I haven’t done it with my young ones. Go without them and then reward yourself at the nearby vineyard. You’re going to love the views of Helen, Ga from this 3100-ft bald.
Whitley Gap Trail – Take this short trail (named for a nearby AT shelter) to the top of Wildcat Mountain, this trail is filled with fairyland shrubbery that my kids adore. It’s a short trail, but one of my favorite in the area.
Other Outdoor Adventures
Tubing the Chattahoochee – This, my friends, is a Georgia must-do! Rent a tube from Helen’s Cool River Tubing and hitch a ride from them to a drop-off location up the river. Whether you take the short ride or the long one, be sure to purchase a push stick!
Helen Waterpark – If the water is too low for tubing (or you just want to have some old-fashioned fun!) then head to the Helen, Ga waterpark where you can tube the 1000-ft lazy river, or take on the four waterslides. Tube rental is also available here.
Camping – There is nothing like camping in fall in Helen, with the changing leaves and the crisp mountain air. Andrews Cove is a small campground just off the road but a world away. The Upper Chattahoochee Campground is a bit more secluded, with toilets and a waterfall. There’s also camping at Yonah Mountain and Unicoi State Park.
Alpine Mini Golf – Alpine Mini Golf is right on main street. The clean course, with German flare and white washed fences was a wonderful way to spend an hour. I highly recommend it on a trip to Alpine Helen. Be sure to make time for an ice cream next door.
Chattahoochee Stables – One of the few horseback riding places we’ve seen in Georgia with no age limit. Kids under 5yo can ride with an adult! Take an hour guided trail ride, including 1.5 miles along the river (the only “river ride” around!) Trips go out every hour. Contact them for details.
Woody’s Mountain Bikes – Woody’s offers the complete mountain bike experience Tuesday – Saturday for kids 12 up to adults. The Alpine town trip package includes a bike, a helmet and transport, and prices start at $50.00 per person. The most popular ride is the Gap Ride- 14-miles, mostly downhill, at your own pace, with 5-miles along the Chattahoochee. Reservations are recommended.
Wildwood Outfitters – Select from 4 different 5-10 mile kayaking trips down Georgia’s Chattahoochee – either a leisurely trip or an exciting whitewater experience. Trips are 2-5 hours, depending on where and how long a trip you take. Rentals include kayaks, canoes or tandems, life jacket, paddles, helmet and shuttle. Kiddos must be at least 5 yo. If you have your own canoe or kayak then use their shuttle service for a nominal fee.
Alpine Carriage Company – Whether you are visiting with your family, as a couple, or on your own, you can’t skip the carriage ride with Alpine Carriage Company. Kids will especially get a kick out of this adventure and feeding the horse! Reminder – don’t forget to tip your driver…these guys and gals are in the hot sun all day.
Hardman to Helen Trail – We love this trail! It’s a 1-mile paved walkway along the river, running from Hardman Farm to Downtown Helen. There are beautiful stops along the way (like a terrific view of Nora Mill!) Bring the stroller, the kid’s scooters, or just your feet!
State Park Adventures
Smithgall Woods State Park – There are two Georgia State Parks in the small town of Helen. The first one I want to introduce you to is Smithgall Woods State Park. We’ve visited about half of the state’s lovely parks, but this is my favorite one by far.
I love the creek running through, the towering trees that change the temperature by a good 10 degrees with their full canopies, and the unique cottages from which you can explore.
The cottages allow easy access to Dukes Creek Falls (or you can drive only a few miles to the trailhead). Hiking, trout fishing, geocaching, ranger programs…there is so much to do!
Unicoi State Park – There is a second Georgia State Park in Helen with outdoor activities galore: Unicoi State Park. Enjoy hiking, biking, walking, fishing, boating, canoeing, swimming, and more! In fact, they have an all new Adventure Lodge Program that is The Bomb.
You can adventure all weekend and still not get in everything there is to do. Don’t forget there is lodging here, too…Barrel Cabins dotting Unicoi Lake, cottages (3 are pet friendly), camp grounds and a Lodge.
Hardman Farm – This is the newest Georgia State Park Historic Site, sitting on 173-acres in Helen. You can take tours of the Italianate architected house and dairy barn built in 1870, home of the family of Anna Ruby, for whom the fall are named.. The Nacoochee Mound is a burial site and was probably used long before the Cherokee inhabited the area.
This logging town – turned – adorable German style alpine village set among the Blue Ridge Mountains is not just for outdoor lovers, though! There are amazing shops, museums, restaurants and festivals.
In fact, Helen, Georgia is home to over 200 specialty shops packed full of goodness in only 2.1 square miles. By far the greatest density of these shops (and restaurants) are along the Chattahoochee River along Main Street in Downtown Helen.
And don’t stop there – the restaurants in the Helen area will knock your socks off!
Shopping and Museums
Nacoochee Village Antiques – There is just something about being in the mountains that makes me love antique shopping. Granted, I’m mostly “window shopping,” but it is still so much fun! This is also a great place to grab a bottle of Habersham Wine or locally roasted JumpinGoat Coffee.
Babyland General – If you are a product of the Cabbage Patch generation, this is a must see. Even my boys were drawn in and unexpectedly happy and enthused by the visit. Just about the time we were checking out, we heard the chime of a new baby about to be born.
Charlemagne’s Kingdom – Everyone will love this 50-ft model railroad exhibit set in Germany’s North Sea…spanning 700 miles to the Swiss Alps. Don’t forget to ask about the scavenger hunt – it’s a fantastic way to explore the model with kids.
Habersham Winery – One of Georgia’s oldest and largest wineries is right in the downtown area of Helen. When visiting, you can enjoy a wine tasting with five wines that includes a souvenir wine glass.
Old Sautee Store – This is a really fun way to experience history with the kids. The building is beautiful by itself, but it is fun to see that the shop keeps the spirit of roots in their detailing, candy barrels, and sweet staff. Whatever you do, don’t leave without asking them to start the music player.
Sautee Nacoochee Center – Did you know Sautee was named one the ‘100 Best Small Art Towns in America?’ (John Villani) The Sautee Nacoochee Center is an arm of the Sautee Nacoochee Community Association (SNCA,) which encourages exploration and education in arts and history.
It includes a theatre, a history museum, dance and art studios, an art gallery, a folk art pottery museum, and an environmental educational resource center. If you have an appreciation for the arts or a desire to learn about the history of the area, I highly recommend a stop.
Nora Mill Granary – Do stop into the granary to see the millstones and the dam. Take a peek at the 1876 building, with all her character. Pick up a package of freshly milled grits. But don’t underestimate your kids…talk to them about the process here. It’s history…in real life.
Oktoberfest – Helen’s Okterberfest is a can’t-miss. It’s the longest running Oktoberfest in the US, starting right after Labor Day through Oct 30. Besides the brats and beer, there are Alphorns, Cowbells and Accordions for your listening pleasure when you head to the Helen Festhalle. Don’t miss the kick-off parade – Sundays are free for Festhalle events. Even if you skip the event hall, just walking the town during this festival is unforgettable. October.
Hot Air Balloon Festival – The South’s oldest balloon event and the United States’ only long distance hot air balloon race will begin (weather permitting) with a mass ascension of 30 bright and colorful hot air balloons. We can never get enough of this festival – love it! June.
Christmas in Helen – There is nothing quite like Helen at Christmas. Tour the Festival of Trees beginning in November, with the culmination being the Helen Christmas Parade with a bonfire, s’mores and paper lanterns. Can’t make it? The weekend prior is the Christmas in the Mountains Lighted Parade, with lighted floats. Eat breakfast with Santa at Babyland. Find the perfect gift at Christkindlmarkt, a German tradition where the center of town is filled with booths offering specialty gift items, decorations, assorted savory food, drinks and candied treats, the first two weekends of December.
Where To Stay in Helen
Helen affords two options that work well, depending on the goals of your vacation. You can stay in a lovely cabin in the mountains…or find a hotel/BnB right off main street that puts you smack in the middle of the Alpine Village.
Helen Hotel Options
Best For Adults: Valhalla Resort is one of the top-rated hotels in the area, accommodating couples in a romantic setting just atop the hill not too far from Hardman Farm. You’ll find a pool and restaurant on site.
Best Location In Town: Black Forest Bed and Breakfast is right in the middle of Downtown, sitting on Main Street. Since it’s up on the hill, though, covered in trees you will not hear the hustle and bustle below. Breakfast is always included.
Best For Families In Town: One of the newest hotels in the area, Holiday Inn Express & Suites Helen is a great family option. It’s right off Main Street and comes with multiple room configuration options.
Our favorite RV camping spot to explore Helen actually sits in Hiawassee, about 13 miles away. Bald Mountain Camping Resort offers full hook-up RV sites and cabin rentals with a wide range of activities for the entire family.
Helen Cabin Rentals
Cozy for Couples
How amazing is this secluded getaway? Private property, full kitchen, screened porch and hot tub!
Details: 2 guests · 1 bedroom · 1 bed · 1 bath · Rental Info
There is plenty of space on the wrap around porch of this cabin for relaxing or enjoying breakfast. Bring s’mores for the fire pit, your swim suit for the hot tub, and bring Fido if you’d like – dogs welcome.
Details: 6 guests · 3 bedrooms · 3 beds · 2 baths · Rental Info
Plenty of Space for Large Groups
Heading to Helen with extended family or a large group? This mountain retreat boasts panoramic mountain views, a hot tub, fire pit area, game room, outdoor fireplace on the deck, and more.
Details: 10 guests · 4 bedrooms · 4 beds · 3.5 baths · Rental Info
More on Helen, Georgia
- Tubing in Helen, Georgia
- Best Cabins in Helen, GA
- Best Restaurants in Helen
- Raven Cliff Falls in Helen
- Anna Ruby Falls in Helen
- Helton Creek Falls Near Helen
- Helen’s Unicoi Adventure Program
- Best Things to Do in the N Georgia Mountains
- Georgia State Parks with Waterfalls
- Best Georgia Swimming Holes
- Best Georgia Wineries
- Romantic Getaways in GA
- Best Cabins in Georgia
- Christmas in Helen
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