How to Get to Helton Creek Falls in Blairsville GA

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From Anna Ruby and Amicalola Falls to Hemlock, Minnehaha, and Angel/Panther Falls, one of our favorite things about our 2020 staycations has been exploring many of the amazing waterfalls in North Georgia.

But until recently we hadn’t made our way to the Richard B. Russell Scenic Hwy to hike the waterfalls near Helen GA, including Dukes Creek, Raven Cliff and Helton Creek Falls.

Our friend Rachael Seeley, who wrote our in-depth guide to Vogel State Park in Blairsville while volunteering there, had raved about how Helton Creek was high on the list of her favorite North Georgia waterfalls.

So last week we made a day trip to drive the scenic highway from Blairsville to Helen and back, hiking some of the best waterfalls in GA along the way.

So here’s our in-depth guide to Helton Creek Falls, including the history of this part of the Chattahoochee National Forest, driving directions, and an overview of the .6-mile hiking trail to reach the lower and upper falls.

READ MORE: The 15 Best North Georgia Waterfalls

 

 

Helton Creek Falls, GA Info

ADDRESS: Off Hatchet Creek Rd/Helton Creek Rd in Blairsville GA 30512

PHONE: 706-745-6928

COST OF ENTRY: Free (including free parking)

HELTON CREEK FALLS HOURS: Always open

WEBSITE: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/conf/recarea/?recid=10546

Start of Helton Creek Falls Trail in Blairsville GA
Helton Creek Falls Trail

Helton Creek/Blairsville History

Like much of the North Georgia mountains (and Appalachia as a whole), the area that is now Blairsville was originally Cherokee and Creek Indian territory.

The Chattahoochee National Forest takes its name from the Chattahoochee River. In the Muskogean dialect, Chatta means stone and ho chee means flowered or marked. Settlers adopted the name used by natives when they arrived.

The area attracted lots of European settlers after gold was discovered nearby in the 1820s. Union County was formed during the Georgia Land Lottery of 1832, and named after a political party that was in favor of removing Native Americans entirely.

Interestingly, local residents were largely pro-Union, and county delegates voted against the secession movement at 1861 Georgia state convention.

Although most locals in the Blairsville area wound up supporting the Confederacy, many fought and died for the Union.

Lower Helton Creek Falls, photographed from above
Lower Helton Creek Falls viewed from above

The land on which Helton Creek Falls sits was purchased by the US Forest Service in 1911, as part of a 31,000-acre package.

Sold by a local family at a price of $7 an acre, this prime North Georgia property was set aside as the Cherokee National Forest in 1920.

Ranger Arthur Woody played a major role in the conservation of the national forest’s Blue Ridge Wildlife Management Area, in which Helton Creek is located.

Decades of poor resource management had depleted North Georgia’s populations of deer and trout. Woody helped stock local creeks and streams with trout, and hand-fed fawns purchased with his own money until they were old enough to release into the wild.

Several landmarks in the Chattahoochee National Forest bear Ranger Woody’s name in tribute, and Blairsville’s 175-acre Sosebee Cove is set aside as a memorial in his honor.

READ MORE: The 10 Best North Georgia State Parks

Mary Gabbett Hiking the Helton Creek Falls Trail
Hiking the Helton Creek Falls Trail

Hiking the Helton Creek Falls Trail

One of the easiest North Georgia hiking trails we’ve done, the most difficult part of the Helton Creek Falls trail is just getting to the parking lot.

There had been heavy rains in the days before our early November visit, so we actually had to cross two shallow, rocky creek beds on Helton Creek Rd in our tiny Hyundai Elantra.

Still, as the best of the waterfalls in Blairsville GA (and one of our picks for the best waterfall hikes in North Georgia), it was totally worth the effort!

The .6-mile round trip, dog-friendly path is well maintained and wide enough for passing. And the scenery along the way is stunning, especially when Fall colors are popping.

You get your first glimpse of the waterfall through the trees as you make your way down the trail’s entry staircase.

The descent is gradual enough for little kids, leading into a gorgeous forest valley of hardwoods and hemlocks mixed with conifers and rhododendrons.

If it’s been raining recently, you’ll likely see a few little side creeks crossing under you, as the sound of Helton Creek Falls’ rushing waters gradually grows louder.

READ MORE: How to Get to Minnehaha Falls, GA at Lake Rabun

Lower Helton Creek Falls in Autumn
Lower Helton Creek Falls in Autumn

Helton Creek Waterfall Viewpoints

Lower Helton Creek Falls

You’ll be less than 1/3 of a mile into your glorious stroll when you’ll spy a short side trail where a set of wooden stairs leads you down to the base of Helton Creek’s lower falls.

Reminding us of a small version of Sliding Rock (one of the most famous North Carolina waterfalls), Lower Hemlock Falls has a smooth rock face slide that sends the rushing water cascading into a tranquil pool at its base.

It was particularly picturesque in Autumn, with yellow and orange leaves scattered all around, green rhododenron flanking the falls, and beautiful blue sky above.

All around us along the forest floor were verdant mosses and ferns.

And for just a few minutes on that weekday afternoon we were the only people there, feeling like we had this little slice of paradise all to ourselves.

Lower Helton Creek was unique among the Georgia waterfalls we’ve visited thus far, but it was only a sneak peak of the glorious vision to come!

READ MORE: How to Get to Hemlock Falls at Moccasin Creek State Park

Upper Helton Creek Falls in Blairsville GA
Upper Helton Creek Falls

Upper Helton Creek Falls

Once you make your way back to the main trail, you’ll quickly begin to climb in elevation, reaching a spot where you can stand beside the falls as they tumble down into the valley.

This is a great selfie spot, but do watch your step, as the water moves quickly and the rocks are slippery in spots!

Continuing to climb, you’ll reach the Upper Helton Creek Falls viewing platform. The upper falls is taller and wider, rushing down the face of a massive rock in flowing cascades.

It made for an extremely impressive sight with the North Georgia Fall colors all around, and massive boulders and fallen trees at its base.

It’s the sort of postcard-worthy spot that would’ve made a perfect place for a picnic, had we not already gorged ourselves at the Run Cake Lady Cuban Cafe in Blue Ridge before heading to Helton Creek.

But a word to the wise: This place gets PACKED even on weekdays in peak season, so in retrospect we would recommend arriving before 10AM if you want to avoid the crowds.

There were just a few other people at Upper Helton Creek Falls when we arrived. But there were literally dozens of folks crowding those rocks by the time we made our way back to the trailhead, ending a lovely waterfall hike that’s just over a half-mile in total length.

READ MORE: How to Get to Anna Ruby Falls Near Helen GA

Closeup of Upper Helton Creek Waterfall
Upper Helton Creek Falls Closeup

Helton Creek Falls Directions

Directions to Helton Creek Falls From Blairsville, GA (13.3 Miles)

From downtown Blairsville, head south on US-129/US-19 for 6.9 miles to State Route 180. 

Turn left onto State Rte 180 and follow it for .9 miles, then turn right onto GA-348 E and go 2.9 miles. 

Turn right and take the dirt/gravel Hatchet Creek Rd for 1.3 miles, where it turns right and becomes Helton Creek Rd. Note that you may have to cross two shallow creek beds if recent rains have been heavy. 

You’ll see the Helton Creek Falls parking area on the left in .6 miles.

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

Directions to Helton Creek Falls From Helen, GA (16.6 miles)

From downtown Helen, head west on GA-17 N/GA-75 N/N Main St/Unicoi Turnpike toward White Strasse. You’ll pass Unicoi State Park & Lodge along the way.

After 1.3 miles, turn left onto GA-75Alt N and follow it for 2.3 miles. When you see Smithgall  Woods State Park on the left, make a right onto GA-348 W.

This road is also known as the Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway, which has several stunning scenic overlooks and passes Dukes Creek Falls and Ravel Cliff Falls.

So it’s worth taking your time to explore the next 11.1 miles slowly before making a left turn onto Hatchet Creek Rd.

Follow it for 1.3 miles, where it turns right and becomes Helton Creek Rd. You’ll see the Helton Creek Falls parking area on the left in .6 miles. –by Bret Love; all 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.