View of the mountains in North Georgia on the Richard B. Russell Parkway. Photo by @gopirman

View of the mountains in North Georgia on the Richard B. Russell Parkway. Photo by @gopirman

Helen to Dahlonega Fall Road Trip

Start in a Bavarian village and end in a Gold Rush town, stopping for waterfall hikes along one of North Georgia's most scenic drives.

The 20+ mile stretch of road from the Alpine town of Helen to the charming streets of Dahlonega hugs the southernmost edge of the Chattahoochee National Forest, the nearly 750,000 acres of mountain woodlands in North Georgia. Or, you can follow this route and take the long way through Suches, driving through pastoral farmland, hiking to misty waterfalls and panoramic summits, and stopping in one of the area’s most picturesque towns with outdoor patios and scenic overlooks.

Route Overview

From Helen, head north from downtown and turn left onto 75A, then right on Highway 348, which turns into the Richard B. Russell Parkway. Follow Helton Creek Road to U.S. 19 to Vogel State Park. Then, follow Wolf Pen Gap Road (Highway 180) to Suches. From Suches, follow Highway 60 to U.S. 19 into Dahlonega. Take time to hike, shop, eat and take photos along the way.

Things to See & Do

Drive the Richard B. Russell Parkway

Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway
Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway

For the best views of North Georgia’s pristine countryside, follow the stunning 40.6-mile stretch of the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway, which loops the eastern side of the Chattahoochee National Forest. As you ascend deeper into the forest, the leaves become more abundant and colorful, the summits of Georgia’s highest peaks on the horizon. Stop at one of several scenic overlooks, including Dukes Creek Falls, which also has a two-mile hike. Or try the trek to the dramatic, misty waterfalls at Raven Cliff Falls, a five-mile round-trip.

Hike to Helton Creek Falls

Helton Creek Falls in Blairsville, Georgia
Helton Creek Falls in Blairsville, Georgia

From Raven Cliff Falls, drive 10 miles to another stunning hike: Helton Creek Falls. Ideal for families with small children, the hike is less than a mile and rewards with double waterfalls against the background of a green mossy valley, hardwood trees with brilliant fall foliage, and bubbling mountain streams.

Shop at Mountain Crossings

Sign with pumpkins at Mountain Crossings in Blairsville, Georgia
Mountain Crossings in Blairsville, Georgia

Just four miles down the road, Mountain Crossings is a must-stop shop for outdoor enthusiasts. While the outfitter is renowned for assisting more than 2,000 Appalachian Trail thru-hikers annually, even beginners will find treasures among the trail memoirs, hiking shoes, and supplies like tents, backpacks, and apparel. Don’t miss the Walasi-Yi Interpretive Center, dedicated to the history of the Appalachian Trail.

Stop in Suches

Hikers at Preachers Rock. Photo by @catholicung
View from Preachers Rock near Suches, Georgia. Photo by @catholicung

Suches, the postcard-perfect town known as “the valley above the clouds” is prized by Georgia cyclists for its wide, winding roads and stellar sightlines. While the drive itself is scenic with several roadside overlooks, you can also hop out of the car for a quick hike at Sea Creek Falls, Sosebee Cove, or Preachers Rock — a two-mile hike via the Appalachian Trail that leads to a wide, rocky outcrop with 360-degree views and the summit of nearby Big Cedar Mountain.

Drive Along Wolf Pen Gap

Fall foliage at Wolf Pen Gap near Suches, Georgia
Wolf Pen Gap near Suches, Georgia

From Suches, head north on Highway 180 — also known as Wolf Pen Gap Road — a 12-mile stretch of two-lane country road to view golden leaves and rolling hills from the comfort of your car. The road is curvy and passes by the tranquil Lake Winfield Scott and its namesake gap, perched 3,260 feet above the pristine countryside.

Shop and Sip in Dahlonega

The historic square in Dahlonega, Georgia. Photo by @theflowerchica
Bleu Art Gallery on the historic square in Dahlonega, Georgia. Photo by @theflowerchica

End your road trip in Dahlonega, site of the country’s first Gold Rush and home to the state’s prized wineries, prestige golf courses, independent boutiques and galleries, and historic architecture, like the iconic University of North Georgia gold steeple. Can’t-miss stops include sipping wine on the outside bar at Montaluce Winery & Restaurant, touring the historic Gold Mine Shaft at the Smith House, and seeing the work of local artists at Bleu Art Gallery.

Places to Stay

Treehouse at Stay Dahlonega. Photo by @waymanstory
Treehouse at Stay Dahlonega. Photo by @waymanstory

Stay Dahlonega

Stay Dahlonega offers several rentals — including luxury treehouses, rustic farm homes, and charming inns — within walking distance of the town’s attractions.

Getaway cabin interior in Suches, Georgia
Getaway cabin interior in Suches, Georgia

Getaway House

Or, sleep under the stars at Getaway House, a cluster of tiny, Scandinavian-style homes outfitted with the brand’s signature picture windows, queen-size bed(s), mini-kitchens, and private outdoor areas with fire pits tucked in the woods in Suches.

Valhalla Resort Hotel in Helen, Georgia
Valhalla Resort Hotel in Helen, Georgia

Valhalla Resort Hotel

In Helen, Valhalla Resort Hotel blends European elegance with contemporary amenities like a pool, full-service spa, golf, and a rooftop bar to wind down with a glass of wine from the property’s cellar with dramatic mountain peaks as the backdrop.

Published: September 2021
Written by: Laura Scholz