How to Get to Anna Ruby Falls Near Helen, GA

Among the 100+ North Georgia waterfalls, Anna Ruby Falls was both the first I remember visiting as a child and the last one we visited in 2020 before travel was discouraged.

Not to be confused with Ruby Falls in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Anna Ruby is one of four impressive waterfalls near Helen GA. The others include DeSoto Falls, Dukes Creek Falls, and Ravel Cliff Falls.

It’s one of our favorite GA waterfalls for a number of reasons. First, it’s an easy National Recreation Trail hike (details on that below) through a gorgeous part of the Chattahoochee National Forest, with rushing waters visible and audible most of the way.

Secondly, it’s one of the most attractive waterfalls in northern Georgia. It originates atop Tray Mountain (GA’s 6th highest peak), and is comprised of two different mountain streams coming together. Curtis Creek (on the left) drops 153 feet, while York Creek drops 50 feet.

At the base of the falls they come together to form Smith Creek, which flows into Unicoi Lake. So while the 1600-acre Anna Ruby Falls Scenic Area is technically part of the national forest, it’s literally surrounded by Unicoi State Park & Lodge.

In short, the entire area around these beautiful north GA waterfalls is one ginormous playground for nature lovers and outdoor adventurers. There are lots of opportunities for fishing, hiking, ziplining, and geocaching nearby, and Helen is just a short drive away.

So here’s a look at the history and hiking options at Anna Ruby Falls, as well as directions on how to get there from Blue Ridge and Helen.

READ MORE: The Top 15 North Georgia Waterfalls

Anna Ruby Falls, GA Info

ADDRESS:  3455 Anna Ruby Falls Rd, Sautee Nacoochee, GA 30571

PHONE: (706) 878-1448

COST OF ENTRY: $3 per person (ages 16 years and older); ages 15 years and under are admitted free of charge. An Anna Ruby Annual Pass is $25 per person; a $35 annual Friends and Family Pass allows admission for the passholder plus two adults. Interagency Annual Pass, Senior Pass, & Access Pass are also accepted.

ANNA RUBY FALLS HOURS:

• From Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend
9:00am to 7:00pm, 7 days a week.
No admission after 6:00pm.

• From Labor Day Weekend to the end of Daylight Savings Time
9:00am to 6:00pm, 7 days a week
No admission after 5 :00pm

• From the beginning of Standard Time to Memorial Day Weekend
9:00am to 5:00pm, 7 days a week
No admission after 4:00pm.

CURRENT LIMITED HOURS OF OPERATION- Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed on Mondays, with no access to the falls. Daily parking lot admission is limited to 65 vehicles. Once that number is reached, cars will be turned away until space becomes available. The Smith Creek Trail is currently closed during this second round of reopening.

WEBSITE: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/conf/recarea/?recid=10517

Smokey the Bear Statue at Anna Ruby Falls Visitors Center
Smokey the Bear at Anna Ruby Falls Visitors Center

Anna Ruby Falls History

Anna Ruby Falls is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Georgia, which were formed around 300 million years ago when continental plates collided.

The indigenous Cherokee and Creek people inhabited this area for hundreds (perhaps thousands) of years.

They were forced to relocate to Oklahoma in the Trail of Tears in 1836, but their names for many of North Georgia’s creeks, mountains, and rivers (see: Chattahoochee, Nantahala, Ocoee, etc.) are still used today.

Colonel John H. Nichols was reportedly the first European settler to discover the twin waterfalls of Curtis Creek and York Creek while horseback riding in the mountains. He named them after his only daughter, Anna Ruby Nichols.

By the late 1800s, this area was being deforested for a timber mill in Helen at an alarming rate. So the Chattahoochee National Forest was established in 1936 in order to restore the forest and protect both the watershed and the wildlife that inhabits it.

The U.S. Forest Service now leases the land to the Cradle of Forestry, a historically significant non-profit forest conservation initiative that’s based in North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest.

READ MORE: The Tragic History Behind the Barnsley Garden Resort Ruins

Couple Hiking the Anna Ruby Falls Trail near Helen GA
Hiking the Anna Ruby Falls Trail

HIKING ANNA RUBY FALLS TRAILS

Anna Ruby Falls Trail (Easy)

The main Anna Ruby Falls trail is arguably among the easiest waterfall hikes in North Georgia. The .8-mile out and back trail begins at the Anna Ruby Falls Visitor Center, and is entirely paved.

The path meanders along the rushing stream, with rhododendrons, wildflowers, and massive granite boulders along the way. There are numerous interpretive signs on the area’s history, geology, and wildlife.

Note that although the trail is wide, it is also fairly steep (average grade 8%, max grade 18%), so it may be difficult for wheelchair or stroller users without assistance. Dogs are allowed here, but must be kept on leash at all times.

This trail can also get quite crowded on the weekends: Weekdays or early mornings are your best bet for avoiding the masses.

Still, the gorgeous view from the top– where you can take in the 150-foot drop of Curtis Creek and the 50-foot drop of York Creek down the side of Tray Mountain (GA’s 6th largest peak)– is totally worth it. This is one of our favorite North Georgia waterfall hikes.

READ MORE: The 15 Best North Georgia Mountains for Hiking

Smith Creek Trail to Anna Ruby Falls in Unicoi State Park near Helen, GA
The Smith Creek Trail to Anna Ruby Falls

Smith Creek Trail (Moderate)

When it comes to waterfall hikes in GA, the 8.4-mile Smith Creek Trail from Unicoi State Park & Lodge to Anna Ruby Falls is one of the longest and least crowded.

Unfortunately, recent users report it is also among the least frequently maintained, so if you do hike it please proceed with caution.

Though you may have to climb over a few fallen trees or work through some overgrown sections along the way, this is still a wonderful walk through the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, with around 1,663 feet of eelevation gain

Dogs are allowed on leashes here, and the trek is especially beautiful when wildflowers and rhododendrons are in bloom in spring and early summer.

NOTE: The Smith Creek Trail was temporarily closed due to COVID-19 in July 2020, so you’ll want contact the Visitors Center about its status before planning your hike.

READ MORE: The 10 Best North Georgia State Parks to Visit

Lion’s Eye Nature Trail (Easy & Wheelchair Accessible)

If uphill hiking to Georgia waterfalls isn’t suited to your interests or abilities, this short loop trail nest to the Visitor Center offers a wheelchair-accessible way to explore the sights and sounds of the forest.

There are guide rails and interpretive signs (including Braille for the vision-impaired) all along the trail, as well as various touch boxes and benches to sit on while listening to the stream rushing alongside it.

One of our favorite facts we learned on this trail was about the variety of wildlife found in the area around Smith Creek.

Despite the fact that Anna Ruby Falls is near Helen, GA, animals such as Wild Turkeys, White-tailed Deer, and Black Bears have been known to drink from the creek’s waters.

READ MORE: The Top 20 Blue Ridge Mountain Towns in GA & NC

Curtis Creek and York Creek, the twin falls of Anna Ruby Falls, GA
The twin waterfalls of Anna Ruby Falls, GA

Anna Ruby Falls Directions

How to Get to Anna Ruby Falls From Helen (6.1 Miles)

From South Main St in Helen, head west on GA-17 N / GA-75 N S Main St / Unicoi Turnpike.

In 1.4 miles, turn onto GA-356 E. Go 1.3 miles, then make a slight left onto Anna Ruby Falls Road.

After 1.4 miles, you’ll make a left turn to stay on Anna Ruby Falls Road.

After 2.1 miles, taking a slight left will take you into the Anna Ruby Falls Gift Shop/Visitor Center parking lot.

Mary Gabbett and Our Dogs at Anna Ruby Falls Viewing Platform

How to Get to Anna Ruby Falls From Blue Ridge (@52 Miles)

From downtown Blue Ridge, GA, follow US-76 E approximately 21 miles.

In Blairsville, turn onto Murphy Hwy (.1 mile), then left onto Blue Ridge St (.1 mile), then right onto Hunt Martin St (.3 miles), then right onto Cleveland St (.4 miles).

Continue onto US-129 S / US-19 S for 6.9 miles. Turn left onto State Rte 180 (If you reach Vogel State Park, you’ve gone too far).

After .9 miles you’ll turn right onto GA-348 E. Follow that for 14 miles, then make a left onto GA-75Alt S. After 2.3 miles, turn right onto GA-17 S/GA-75 S. Go .4 miles and turn left onto GA-356 E.

After 1.3 miles, make a slight left onto Anna Ruby Falls Rd. In 1.4 miles, you’ll make a left turn to stay on Anna Ruby Falls Rd.

After 2.1 miles, taking a slight left will take you into the Anna Ruby Falls Gift Shop/Visitor Center parking lot.  –by Bret Love; photos by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

The BRMTG was created by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett, the award-winning team behind the world-renowned responsible travel website Green Global Travel. Bret grew up camping and hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia and North Carolina with his parents, and the couple both spent childhood summers on the water with their grandparents. After becoming empty nesters, they yearned for a pristine place where they could escape the hustle and bustle of the city, commune with nature and family, and embrace a sustainable lifestyle that leaves time to appreciate the simpler things in life. Join them and their team as they explore the region, offering expert insights on Blue Ridge travel as they search for the perfect mountain home.