Visitors to Helen can satisfy their love of the great outdoors by visiting these scenic Georgia State Parks nearby.
If you love outdoor adventure, Helen, Georgia, is the perfect getaway for nature lovers. Nestled at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, this charming mountain town is surrounded by forests, state parks, lakes, rivers and historic sites.
If you’ve come to Helen with an itinerary for outdoor activities, be sure to add some of these nearby Georgia State Parks to your list. For just a $5 daily parking pass, you can experience incredible hiking, cycling, fishing and swimming. And if you have the budget to throw at outdoor activities, you can try ziplining, paddleboarding, kayaking and more.
Related: Easy Scenic Short Hikes Near Helen
So pack your leashed dog, your hiking shoes and your adventurous attitude as you experience the beauty of the Appalachian foothills at these state parks close to Helen.
6 GREAT STATE PARKS NEAR HELEN
Unicoi State Park
Located just 2.5 miles north of downtown Helen, Unicoi State Park is the closest state park to Alpine Helen. In fact, you can hike to the 1,050-acre park from downtown by taking the 5.2-mile out-and-back Helen to Unicoi Trail. When you get to Unicoi State Park, you can swim at the beach of the 53-acre Unicoi Lake or hike the 2.2 mile loop around the lake. Rent a kayak, canoe, paddleboard or pedal boat. If heights don’t scare you, zipline around the park to enjoy amazing views.
Smithgall Woods State Park
Less than four miles southwest of downtown Helen, Smithgall Woods State Park is a hidden gem that is often overlooked. The 5,664-acre state park offers several hike options—from the easy 1.6-mile kid-friendly Laurel Ridge Loop to the creek fording 3.8-mile Ash Creek Trail (be prepared with water shoes). Roam the fields of wildflowers in spring. Let your kids splash in the creek in summer. Enjoy a picnic and a game of catch on the large lawn in the fall while colorful leaves rain down around you. Or spend time learning about local wildlife in the educational center after a vigorous winter hike. Smithgall Woods offers plenty of options to keep you busy during any season.
Moccasin Creek State Park
Twenty miles northeast of downtown Helen, the 32-acre Moccasin Creek State Park is located on the western shore of the 2,775-acre Lake Burton. Take the short hike to Hemlock Falls and enjoy a cold dip in the natural swimming hole. Or rent a kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard for water fun. Discover more hiking and cycling options at the park.
Vogel State Park
Clocking in at 21 miles northwest of downtown Helen, the 233-acre Vogel State Park is nestled at the base of Blood Mountain, most well-known as the start of the Appalachian Trail. Enjoy summer hiking, swimming, paddleboarding, pedalboating, aquacycling and kayaking at Vogel’s Lake Trahlyta. The easy 1-mile loop around the lake gives way to the scenic Trahlyta waterfall at the mid-way point. Also, enjoy two playgrounds and mini golf courses at the park. The 4.1-mile Bear Hair Gap Trail also offers an amazing aerial view of the lake as well as fall foliage.
Tallulah Gorge State Park
Located 29 miles northeast of downtown Helen, Tallulah Gorge State Park boasts spectacular views of the 1,000-foot gorge that spans 2 miles in length. Hike the loop around the gorge, traversing a suspension bridge 80 feet above the water before tackling flight after flight of steps to some amazing lookout points. Grab a gorge floor permit to access the rocky descent to Sliding Rock—a fun stop for summer swimmers. Also, enjoy the educational displays in the interpretive center and pack a picnic for the many tables at the top of the 2,689-acre park.
Amicalola Falls State Park
Despite the hour-long drive west to Amicalola Falls State Park, you’ll quickly realize the trek is worth it when you behold the magnificent 729-foot waterfall that ranks the highest in Georgia. Hike the 2.1 miles to the top, but be sure to wear your walking shoes as you make your way up the 604 steps to the viewing platform. The 829-acre state park also offers other fun activities, including zip lining courses, 3-D archery and on weekend mornings, you can meet one of the Birds of Prey or even a reptile.
What is one of your favorite state parks near Helen?