Road to Brasstown Bald in Hiawassee, Georgia. Photo by @jerrito1

Road to Brasstown Bald in Hiawassee, Georgia. Photo by @jerrito1

Hiawassee to Helen Fall Road Trip

From the highest point in Georgia to the host of Oktoberfest, this route includes some of the state's most popular fall destinations.

On the journey from the North Georgia border town Hiawassee to the lively streets of the Bavarian-inspired Helen, travelers wind through rolling peaks and valleys and along bubbling mountain streams. Be sure to pull over for scenic vistas at Brasstown Bald and Rocky Mountain via the Appalachian Trail, hike to tumbling waterfalls at High Shoals Scenic Area, and then end with beer, brats, and all the trappings of a traditional Oktoberfest in Helen.

Route Overview

From Hiawassee, take Highway 75 south into Helen. It's a simple route filled with great places to stop along the way. Take time to hike, picnic and take photos at these favorite places below.

Things to See & Do

Climb to the Summit of Brasstown Bald

Sunset at Brasstown Bald in Hiawassee, Georgia
Sunset at Brasstown Bald in Hiawassee, Georgia

Just past Macedonia on Highway 75, make a right onto Owl Creek Road and head to Brasstown Bald in the heart of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. At 4,784 feet above sea level, the state’s highest peak has some of Georgia’s most panoramic vistas, even more stunning in the height of leaf season.

Hike the half-mile summit trail or take a shuttle from the Visitors Center parking lot to the cloud-level observation deck, where on a clear day you can see not only brilliant foliage of the rolling valleys below, but four states: Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Tennessee. Don’t miss the recreation area’s 8,000-square-foot interactive museum, which streams a short film about Brasstown Bald’s weather and features exhibits dedicated to natural history and culture.

Hike to Scenic Waterfalls at High Shoals Scenic Area

High Shoals Falls in Hiawassee, Georgia. Photo by @wandernorthga
High Shoals Falls in Hiawassee, Georgia. Photo by @wandernorthga

Once you’ve crested mountain peaks, venture deep into lush forests at the stunning High Shoals Scenic Area. The two-mile trek departs from a trailhead just off the graveled Forest Road 283 south of Hiawassee. It descends steadily through hardwood forest and thickets of mountain laurel to fern-lined creek beds leading to two waterfalls: Blue Hole Falls and High Shoals Falls, both of which tumble dramatically over sheer rock cliffs.

Trek the Appalachian Trail at Unicoi Gap

Unicoi Gap Trail
Unicoi Gap Trail | Photo by JMC Artistic Photography

For a challenging hike and more stellar views, head three miles south to Unicoi Gap. The five-mile loop trail follows the storied Appalachian Trail and ascends 1,000 feet through several switchbacks to the summit of Rocky Mountain. The technical terrain and steep climbs are worth the sweeping views of rocky outcrops and surrounding mountains blanketed in brilliant oranges, reds, and golds. Stop for photos or a picnic, then descend through blankets of ferns and wildflowers through forest canopy and past a small waterfall before returning to the start.

Picnic and Hike at Andrew’s Cove Recreational Area and Campground

Road to Andrew's Cove Campground in Helen, Georgia
Road to Andrew's Cove Campground in Helen, Georgia

Continue south through hardwood forests along the banks of the Spoilcane Creek to Andrew’s Cove, a tranquil outdoor greenspace near Helen. Pack snacks and settle in for a picnic along the picturesque mountain stream, or follow the 2-mile Andrew's Cove Trail, a rocky, moderately paced forest path dotted with swaths of colorful wildflowers, mossy rocks, and bubbling creek that also connects into the Appalachian Trail.

Celebrate Oktoberfest in Helen

Girl in Helen, Georgia. Photo by @viajando_con_carlita
Helen, Georgia. Photo by @viajando_con_carlita

End your journey in Helen, an Alpine-style village, renowned for its annual Oktoberfest celebration — the largest in the country. Held from late September through early November, the event will immediately transport you to Germany with sights of revelers in traditional festival garb, the sounds of polka and Bavarian folk songs, and charming cobblestone streets. Dine on authentic German dishes like bratwurst and spätzle at Hofer’s, which has an outdoor biergarten.

Places to Stay

A view of the lake at The Ridges Resort on Lake Chatuge in Young Harris, Georgia
The Ridges Resort on Lake Chatuge in Young Harris, Georgia

The Ridges Resort on Lake Chatuge

Families and groups will enjoy The Ridges Resort on Lake Chatuge in Hiawassee, which has contemporary-style rooms and suites as well as one- to three-bedroom villas, all with access to walking paths, lawn games, fire pits, and two on-site restaurants.

Scenic view of the mountains around Brasstown Valley Resort & Spa in Young Harris, Georgia
Brasstown Valley Resort & Spa in Young Harris, Georgia

Brasstown Valley Resort & Spa

For a splurge, the idyllic Brasstown Valley Resort & Spa in Young Harris features a brand new spa, championship golf course, horseback riding trails, fine dining, and choice of accommodations in the elegant lodge or private mountain cottages.

Road to Smithgall Woods State Park in Cleveland, Georgia. Photo by @weareoverthere
Smithgall Woods State Park in Cleveland, Georgia. Photo by @weareoverthere

Smithgall Woods State Park

Budget-minded travelers will want to opt for the rustic cabins and campgrounds of Smithgall Woods State Park in Helen.

Deck overlooking the mountains at Lucille's Mountain Top Inn in Sautee Nacoochee, Georgia
Lucille's Mountain Top Inn in Sautee Nacoochee, Georgia

Lucille's Mountain Top Inn & Spa

Lucille’s Mountain Top Inn & Spa in Sautee Nacoochee in the heart of the state’s wine country offers a quiet, intimate retreat with rejuvenating massages and other spa treatments, a communal deck for winding down and watching the sunset, and easy access to the town’s many shops, galleries, and wineries.

Published: September 2021
Written by: Laura Scholz