Read Now, Travel Later
COVID-19 has changed the world. The tourism industry has been one of the hardest hit areas of the global pandemic. Local restaurants, museums, state and national parks have all changed hours of operation, procedures, and some have gone out of business altogether.
Please verify current operations of any places you want to visit mentioned in these articles, and contact me if a business has permanently closed so I can update the article. Thank you and stay safe out there!
Anna Ruby Falls in Helen, Georgia is one of the most beautiful and accessible waterfalls in North Georgia. It’s that accessibility along an easy path that makes it such a popular place to visit. I spent a few hours here on a cool summer day, captured a few photos, and enjoyed the sound of rushing water. Here are a few tips on how you can enjoy Anna Ruby Falls in Helen, GA.
Hiking the Anna Ruby Falls Trail
The adventure begins at the Visitor Center in a large parking lot with plenty of room for cars, RV’s, and campers. The 0.9-mile roundtrip hike follows a paved path, making it one of the most accessible waterfalls in the state. The path does get a bit steep at points but I passed two people in wheelchairs the day I visited.
The path meanders along Smith Creek, crossing it once just a few minutes from the parking lot, and then again near the waterfalls. There are several cascading waterfalls to enjoy along the way and even the warmest of summer days feels cool beneath the canopy of leaves.
At the end of the trail are two wooden observation decks. The lower observation deck sits atop a few stone steps and the upper deck a short set of stairs. However, those in wheelchairs can still enjoy the view of the twin waterfalls from the bridge that crosses between the observation decks.
The upper observation deck has a few bench seats and stretches out a bit toward the falls. This was my “basecamp” for about an hour as I captured photos of the falls and then sat back with a good book. The roar filled my ears with noise but didn’t overwhelm me or distract me. It was a great place to take a break and enjoy a bit of nature.
Braille Signs on the Lion’s Eye Trail
One of the neat additions to the hiking options at Anna Ruby Falls is the Lion’s Eye Trail. This short trail was designed for the blind or those with visual impairments. Several interpretive signs are written in braille so people can learn a bit about the forest while hiking the trail.
Alternate Route on the Smith Creek Trail
More ambitious hikers can reach the waterfalls from nearby Unicoi State Park via the 8.7-mile Smith Creek Trail. This moderately strenuous trail ascends nearly 800′ from the park’s campground to Anna Ruby Falls while climbing over Smith Mountain in between (the waterfall is just 400′ higher in elevation than the trailhead).
The trail follows the Sautee Ditch, a 7-mile waterway that was created during Georgia’s gold rush in the late 1800s. This trail is not handicap accessible at all as it climbs stairs, crosses footbridges, and has a pretty steep section leading up Smith Mountain. Along the way the trail crosses a few creeks while hidden beneath a canopy of leaves that provides good shade on sunny days.
If you’re thinking the climb might be a bit too much, try hiking the trail one-way from Anna Ruby Falls to Unicoi State Park. This route has a modest 400′ ascent up Smith Mountains and then a near-steady descent to the state park from there, making for a much easier hike.
Sign up for my newsletter. I’ll keep your email address secret forever and send you a FREE PDF copy of The Ultimate Road Trip Checklist!
Getting There & Fees
You have to know about Anna Ruby Falls or you may never find it on your own. It’s in a bit of a hidden area just north of Helen, Georgia. The official address is 3455 Anna Ruby Falls Road, Helen, GA, and that address plugged into my GPS got me there. But cellphone signal was very weak so you may not be able to rely on cellular data for your GPS.
The visitor center is located at the end of a road on the east side of Unicoi Lake, part of Unicoi State Park. You’ll pass the Beach House, a popular place for recreation on the lake, along the way to the visitor center. The road loops around and back to the campground, but you’ll want to turn onto Anna Ruby Falls Road. Five minutes later you’re there.
The waterfalls are maintained by the Cradle of Forestry in America (they also operate the attraction at Brasstown Bald). The gates are open 9am – 6pm daily, but they may close under severe winter weather conditions. They also charge an admission fee of $3 per person.
The Anna Ruby Falls Visitor Center has a large gift shop with local arts and crafts, books, and clothing, restrooms, and a place to fill up your water bottles before hitting the trails.
A Few More Waterfalls Near Helen, GA
Just in case the stunning Anna Ruby Falls wasn’t enough, here are a few more waterfalls near Helen, GA: