The echoing of a thundering waterfall drowned out the noise of my shoes scuffing along the trail. But I still couldn’t see it. My pace quickened. Just a few more steps. I came around a bend in the trail, and there it was – the twin waterfalls of Anna Ruby Falls.
Curtis Creek cascaded 153 feet while York Creek freely fell for fifty feet. At the bottom, the newly formed Smith Creek flowed away alongside the trail I had just hiked, dumping into Smith Lake I passed driving to the waterfall.
Anna Ruby Falls is not exactly a secret, but it’s also not the easiest waterfall to find. Here’s everything you need to know to plan a hiking trip to the majestic waterfall in the north Georgia mountains.
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Anna Ruby Falls is in Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest
Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest covers 867,000 acres in northern Georgia, abutting Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina and Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee. The national forest boasts over 800 miles of hiking trails, the popular Chattooga River District, and dozens of recreation areas and campgrounds.
The Anna Ruby Falls Recreation Area is located in the Chattooga Ranger District, but it is operated by FIND Outdoors, a non-profit organization helping people discover the great outdoors.
Did you know? FIND Outdoors operates the facilities at Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia, the Cradle of Forestry in America at the site of the country’s first forestry school, and the Northwest Trading Post on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Unicoi State Park
Part of the confusion of finding Anna Ruby Falls is that it’s operated by a non-profit based in North Carolina, located in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, and you have to drive through Unicoi State Park to get there. Did you get all that?
Unicoi State Park is one of Georgia’s premiere resort parks. The park features zip lines, paddleboarding and kayaking on the lake, and dozens of hiking trails, some of them leading directly to Anna Ruby Falls. Spend the night – or a few nights – at the lodge or one of the park’s fascinating historic barrel cabins.
Anna Ruby Falls Tickets
Fortunately, there is no admission to drive through Unicoi State Park. However, you’ll have to pay once you reach the ticket booth at the Anna Ruby Falls Recreation area entrance.
Admission to Anna Ruby Falls is $5 per adult 16 and older and free for anyone younger.
The Interagency Access Pass, more commonly known as the America the Beautiful Park Pass, will get you free admission to the national recreation area.
Anna Ruby Falls Hours
Anna Ruby Falls is open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. throughout the year, but the daily schedule changes with the seasons. No admission is allowed after 4 p.m.
From March 1 – December 31, the recreation area is open 7 days a week. But during the winter peak from January 1 – February 28, the recreation area is only open from Thursday – Sunday.
Anna Ruby Falls Visitor Center
Anna Ruby Falls Road ends at the visitor center for the national recreation area. There is plenty of parking for personal cars and RVs.
The visitor center has a nice collection of local arts and crafts, souvenirs, and books. You’ll find restrooms and water fountains, which are nice before a long hike. Pick up a map of the Anna Ruby Falls Trail – you might want to check out some other trails while you’re there.
Hiking the Anna Ruby Falls Trail
The 0.4-mile Anna Ruby Falls Trail is deceptive. It’s a paved path, which is odd to see slicing through a national forest to a waterfall. But just because it’s paved doesn’t mean it’s easy.
From the parking lot, the trail ascends about 200 feet in elevation. It’s a steady climb, never more than about fifteen degrees, but a steady climb nonetheless. At least that means you’ll have a downhill hike to look forward to on the way back.
The trail is paved and wide, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s handicap accessible. A motorized wheelchair could possibly make it to the waterfall, but it’s not recommended. And it’s definitely not recommended to try in a manual wheelchair.
But it’s an easy hike with your own feet.
The paved trail crosses Smith Creek on a sturdy wooden bridge just a tenth of a mile from the parking lot. The trail never wanders far from the creek, providing several beautiful vistas of miniature cascading falls along the way.
After about a twenty-minute hike, the echoing sounds of a thundering waterfall fill the air. It drowned out the noise of my shoes scuffing on the trail and caused me to quicken my pace. I was wholly unprepared to see Anna Ruby Falls for the first time.
A Lower Observation Deck at the trail’s end has a moderately nice view of the twin waterfalls. It’s an excellent place to relax if a gaggle of people is crowded on the other deck. But people tend to move on quickly, so it didn’t take long for me to work my way up to the Upper Observation Deck.
From here, I had a commanding view of the waterfalls. To the left, the 153-foot cascading waterfall from Curtis Creek left a fine mist in the air. To the right, the 50-foot free-falling waterfall from York Creek filled the air with a reverberating cacophony.
Built-in benches on the observation deck were the perfect place to enjoy the view.
Insider Tip: More adventurous hikers may enjoy the 4.6-mile Smith Creek Trail that begins near the lake at Unicoi State Park and follows the route of the creek to Anna Ruby Falls.
Lion’s Eye Trail to Smith Creek
Although the Anna Ruby Falls Trail is not handicap accessible, the Lion’s Eye Trail is – and it was specifically built for that purpose. The interesting trail features braille signposts detailing points of interest in the national forest. The Lion’s Eye Trail is about a tenth of a mile long and leads to Smith Creek from the Visitor Center.
Waterfalls Near Helen, GA
There are 10 fantastic waterfalls to explore near Helen in the north Georgia mountains:
- Amicalola Falls
- DeSoto Falls
- Helton Creek Falls
- Raven Cliff Falls
- Minnehaha Falls
- Tallulah Falls
- Panther Falls and Angel Falls
- Toccoa Falls
- Holcomb Creek Falls
- Anna Ruby Falls
Anna Ruby Falls is located in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, four miles north of Helen, Georgia.
Anna Ruby Falls is 4 miles from downtown Helen, Georgia. It takes about ten minutes to drive there.
You can drive as far as the Anna Ruby Falls National Recreation Area visitor center. From there, it is a half-mile hike to the waterfall.
Parking at Anna Ruby Falls is free. However, you will need to pay admission to visit the waterfall.
Anna Ruby Falls opens at 9 a.m. seven days a week from March through December and then at 9 a.m. on Thursday – Sunday in January and February.
Anna Ruby Falls closes at 5 p.m. seven days a week from March through December and then at 9 a.m. on Thursday – Sunday in January and February. The last entry is allowed at 4 p.m.
While horseback riding, Confederate General John Nichols discovered the twin waterfalls. He named both waterfalls after his only daughter, Anna Ruby Nichols.
From the visitor center, it is a 0.4-mile hike to Anna Ruby Falls that takes about twenty minutes at a casual pace.
Anna Ruby Falls is a moderately easy hike with a steady climb and an elevation change of about 200 feet.
No, Anna Ruby Falls is not wheelchair accessible.
No, Anna Ruby Falls is part of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest.
No, Anna Ruby Falls is not a national park.
No, you cannot swim at the base of Anna Ruby Falls.
Anna Ruby Falls is two waterfalls. On the left, the cascading waterfall from Curtis Creek is 153 feet tall. On the right, the freefalling waterfall from York Creek is 50 feet tall.
No, Anna Ruby Falls and Ruby Falls are not the same. Anna Ruby Falls is an outdoor twin waterfall in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest near Helen. Ruby Falls is an underground waterfall beneath Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee.