Hike: High Shoals Falls Trail, north of Helen, GA (where we spent the night) and south of Macedonia, GA. This is a 2.3 mile moderate trail–unless the Hiwassee River is too high to drive over at Indian Grave Gap Road, then it’s a 4.7 mile hike with 1,000 feet of elevation gain–speaking from experience 🙂 This is part of the Chattahoochee National Forest.
Goal: To see some awesome waterfalls, and avoid the crowds. The AllTrails.com post calls it a “heavily trafficked” trail… meaning LOTS of people know about it and hike it. Therefore, we woke up semi-early (7 AM) to get there before everyone else did!
Gear: Since this was supposed to be a short hike, I wasn’t going to bring anything. However, when we added 2.5 miles due to not being able to drive to the trail head, I brought my Camelbak with all the usual items (my big 5: water, snacks, first aid, self protection, space blanket), plus my trekking poles, Altra Lone Peak trail shoes, and Smartwool socks. I had my new Oiselle flyout shirt, which kept me nice and cool on this warm, humid day.
Gastronomy: I wouldn’t call this “gastronomy” but we had breakfast at Wendy’s in Helen, GA (since nothing else was open before 8 AM). The night prior, we had a lecker dinner at The Heidelberg–the first sit-down meal at a restaurant that either of us had in 2.5 months! See pics below.
Note: Helen, GA is this super cute, quaint German-looking town, and definitely worth a visit if you love Germany like I do!
Quick pics of Helen:
Weather: A near-perfect day, mid-60’s and partly sunny–a GREAT day to be outside!
Pre-Hike: Since the campsite we wanted to stay at last night was fully booked when we arrived at 7:30 PM (after hiking Table Rock Trail and Sassafras Mountain), we headed down the road and ended up at the Holiday Inn Express in Helen, GA (first hotel stay in 3 months!) It was way comfier than sleeping in a tent, but I did miss the breakfast we were going to cook over the fire, in a cast iron skillet (sausage, egg, and cheese bagel sandwiches!) Since we couldn’t cook out, and the hotel had slim pickins for breakfast–granola bars, muffins, and oatmeal do not constitute a hearty breakfast, IMO–we ended up at the only open restaurant, Wendy’s, and got sausage-egg-cheese biscuits. Not exactly high-quality fuel for hiking, but at least it tasted good 🙂 We ate as I drove up the road, a 25 minute windy, mountainous trip.
We realized quickly we couldn’t “ford” the river in my old car (BMW), so we checked the map and decided to walk the extra mile up to the trailhead. We were the first ones to park by the river, so we hoped we’d be alone, at least for the most part, since crowds are not fun. Part of the fun in getting back to nature is getting away from others!
The Hike: Starting off just after 8, the first 1.25 miles was uphill (500 feet gain!) along a windy hard-packed dirt road. The breakfast biscuit slowed me down a bit! Only 1 car was at the trailhead, so we figured we’d see a few others out here.
We stopped for a bathroom break, and a couple guys came along. We leap-frogged with them several times over the hike.
We came to the High Shoals Creek, and saw the bridge had been swept away… it lay broken in multiple pieces down the creek (if I had read just one more hiking review of this trail, I would have known that). I decided to ford the creek wearing my Altra’s (I had the Lone Peaks on, but my spare King MT’s were in the car). Joel wanted to go barefoot, to save his boots from getting soaked. The water was cold for a few seconds, and the current was swift for a small creek, but the depth was only a foot or so.
We saw a couple camping, with their two dogs, then noticed all the nice, flat, empty camping spots along the creek. Darnit–if we had only known! Although, it would have been a pain in the rear carrying all our camping gear down here. Ha!
Not much further (half a mile?) and we saw the falls.
We explored the upper and lower area (very carefully, as it was super slippery), but yet again (like at Table Rock), we didn’t have a proper map to see how far it was to the bottom. It was probably another quarter mile, but given that I wanted to be on the road home no later than 1 PM, we decided to head back and get on the road to Brasstown Bald (our purpose for coming to GA).
We walked the 2.3 miles back to the car, and got on our way! Many more people were there by this time, 10 AM.
Recommend: Yes. This was a good, short hike. My kids could easily hike it, if we hiked from the trailhead (2 miles round trip), and the river and waterfalls gave it that extra something to make it special. I can see why this is a top-rated hike. And if I ever go back, I’d love to camp near the creek.
“P” for where we parked:
Next up, Brasstown Bald!