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Your guide to Helen
In the 1960s, a group of enterprising residents transformed this then-struggling mill town in the Blue Ridge Mountains into a traditional Alpine-inspired village in a bid to attract visitors. It paid off. Today, the unexpected mix of sights—fairytale buildings and cobblestone paths, artisan pottery studios and Bavarian-style beer gardens—has helped make Helen one of the state’s most-visited towns. Its prime location doesn’t hurt, either: It’s within easy reach of north Georgia’s wine country and untouched wilderness. Hike to nearby waterfalls, shoot across Unicoi State Park on a zipline, or just tube through town on the Chattahoochee River before breaking for beers and brats, or returning to cozy up in your cabin rental.
When is the best time to stay in a vacation rental in Helen?
Helen’s mild climate makes it a year-round getaway. Expect highs in the 60-and 70-degree (Fahrenheit) range in the spring and fall, 80s in the summer, and 50s in the winter. Whatever time of year you visit, pack a jacket as evenings can dip in temperature, and an umbrella for surprise (though typically brief) rain showers, along with appropriate outdoor shoes and gear.
What are the top things to do in Helen?
Anna Ruby Falls
Reachable by a half-mile-long paved path in the Chattahoochee National Forest, this pair of waterfalls delivers a thunderous payoff without a lot of sweat. From the waterfalls, take the interpretive Lion’s Eye Trail to learn about the park’s ecosystem (the path is fully accessible, with signs also in braille), or try the more challenging Smith Creek Trail (9 miles roundtrip). Parking is limited near the entry to the falls, so try to arrive by the park’s opening at 10 a.m. during the peak season.
From May to September, floating down the river in an inner tube (aka “shooting the Hooch”) is a peak Helen experience. Local outfitters rent inner tubes and offer pickup and dropoff services for a float that lasts 1 to 2.5 hours.
Sautee Nacoochee Center
This 8.5-acre cultural center gives you a full picture of Helen’s past, with galleries and sites dedicated to local Native and African American history, folk pottery, and gold mining. Or take a deep, restorative breath in the Native Peace garden.