Sunday, November 27, 2016

Helton Creek Falls

October 2016. Photo by me.


D

eep in the North Georgia mountains in Union County on the edge of the Blood Mountain Wilderness and inside the Chattahoochee National Forest surrounded by mountains over three and four thousand feet, runs Helton Creek. Helton Creek is one of many creeks that drain through this narrow passage between these mountain ridges. The water flows to create not one but two waterfalls that can been viewed at the same stop.


On the final day of October I took my annual fall foliage trip through the mountains to view the colors, buy apples, do some hiking and relaxing away from the city. This was my first visit to Helton Creek Falls. Autumn, in particular October, is the lowest month for rainfall in North Georgia and coupled with a severe drought I expected the water flow would be minimal.

Helton Creek Road. October 2016. Photo by me.

 

Fall foliage at the trailhead. October 2016. Photo by me.

 
Driving to Helton Creek Falls is a bit of a challenge and you can easily miss the turn onto Helton Creek Road from U.S. Highway 129. Helton Creek Road is a narrow and winding gravel road with several blind curves and the forest grows to the edge of it. It is possible for two cars to pass side by side, but it is close comfort and one car is going to have to give way and precariously pull off to the side which has no barriers. If you approach Helton Creek Road or exit that direction to Georgia Highway 348 north of Helen you will drive through two creeks so having a high clearance vehicle is suggested. Also for consideration, in this remote location do not expect to find much in the way of cell phone service for emergencies. Isolation comes at a price, but this is worth it.

From the trailhead you can see one waterfall in the distance. Photo by me, October 2016.

 

At the trailhead there is limited parking on the side of the road that might have a capacity for five to six vehicles. From the parking area you can see one of the two waterfalls when the tree cover is scarce in late fall and winter, but in the summer that would not seem possible.

The first of the two waterfalls. October 2016. Photo by me.


Mountain laurel frames both sides of the waterfall. Photo by me, October 2016.

The trail to the first waterfall is a little steep and there are plenty of roots making good shoes a necessity. In wet conditions for someone not in the best of shape this might be a perilous walk. However, the walk is brief, lasting five minutes at most.

The viewing platform. Photo by me, October 2016. 
The view of the second waterfall from the platform. Photo by me, October 2016.

To get to the second waterfall you continue on the trail and this walk is more difficult. Even in a drought the trail was wet from water seeping out of the ground and from Helton Creek. There are also even more roots to create potential hazards going up the incline. Once beyond the incline the trail levels off and there is a wooden viewing platform to the second waterfall. This second waterfall is larger than the first one.

To get a sense of scale you can see the waterfall compared to the average size person. Photo by me, October 2016.

Photo by me, October 2016.
Photo by me, October 2016


At the second waterfall you can enjoy the view from a wooden platform. You can also walk around the platform onto the rocks and into the creek for a closer look when water flow is this minimal. The plunge pool is much larger and the drop is higher at this waterfall as compared to the first one.

I can only imagine how much more scenic these waterfalls would have been in a normal weather pattern without the severe drought that Georgia experienced in 2016. Even so, Helton Creek Falls is a beautiful and serene place off the beaten path from the more notable Georgia waterfalls.