Deep in the north Georgia mountains miles from anything is the gorgeous Helton Creek Falls. Thundering down a rocky drop off into a shallow pool of water and surrounded by fallen logs, this waterfall is the perfect spot for kids to splash around and adults to enjoy a picnic. A bonus lower waterfall and easy-to-hike trail make this a must-see waterfall in the state and one you won’t soon forget.
The most difficult part of seeing this waterfall is finding it in the first place. It’s not too difficult unless you don’t know where you’re going or don’t have a GPS device to guide you (don’t rely on cellphone guidance because signal is very weak near the waterfall).
Highway 19 connects the mountain towns of Blairsville and Dahlonega, both places you should visit at some point. The road leading to the waterfall, appropriately named Helton Creek Road, is closer to Blairsville off Highway 19. Coming from Blairsville you will pass Vogel State Park on the right, and coming from Dahlonega if you see the park entrance you’ve gone too far.
The small road on the east side of Highway 19 leads into a residential area. The road gets narrow, down to just one lane at points, before the pavement ends and the road continues as dirt and gravel. It’s a passable road for cars and other two wheel drive vehicles, but be careful after heavy rains or snows. About 2.2 miles from Highway 19 you will come upon a small parking area with room for about a dozen or so vehicles (it takes 10-15 minutes to drive this section of the dirt and gravel road).
Park anywhere you can while also leaving room for vehicles to get passed your vehicle. The trailhead is marked and immediately heads downward into the woods.
The 0.6-mile roundtrip hike into the woods is one of the easiest hikes to a waterfall in the state. The hike to the lower falls is very easy along a primitive dirt path. Be sure to wear good shows, however; the trail crosses a mountain stream and can become muddy after heavy rains. You will hear the lower falls before you see it with a spur trail located in the bend of the main trail on the left. Climb down this trail to reach the bottom of the lower falls.
On an average day the water is shallow enough to easily walk through the creek. This is an excellent place for children to splash around in the water. The lower falls is more of a cascade than a waterfall as the water tumbles down a smooth rock face. The lower falls is surrounded by rhododendron which gives it a lush and green tapestry year-round.
Be sure to keep hiking along the main trail just a few more minutes to reach the main waterfall. I have heard too many stories from people who hiked this far, thought they had seen Helton Creek Falls, and returned to their vehicle. It is only five more minutes along the trail to the big waterfall.
The trail gets a little rough and slippery, especially if the creek is running high after a heavy rain or in the late spring. A wooden boardwalk leads to an overlook with a gorgeous view of the waterfall, but this rarely satisfies visitors. Years of foot traffic has carved a path alongside the wooden deck but it’s not entirely easy to walk, it can become wet and slippery, and once on the other side of the wooden deck you are on your own.
Getting out to the waterfall isn’t too difficult, but you need to plan to get your feet wet. Pick up a pair of water shoes like the Crocs Swiftwater Sandal to give you good traction while climbing across smooth, slippery rocks. You’ll also need to crawl across one or two fallen trees to reach a good spot in front the waterfall. It’s a pretty amazing place to get to if the weather and water conditions will allow it.
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