Nature Therapy, Volume 1: Helen, GA
I find that getting outside into nature to be one of the best forms of therapy. This article will be the first in a series titled Nature Therapy. Each volume will explore a new hike, walk, or outdoor experience. A majority of them will be tailored to getting into nature with your furry 4-legged friend. I hope you’ll follow along and use this as a motivator to get outside and enjoy the many benefits of nature!
A Day trip from Atlanta
Back in early September we decided to load up our 4-legged friend, Willow, and head to North Georgia. The plan was to go on a hike and then hit up the town of Helen to experience a beautiful German town right here in the U.S. Well, there was a small hiccup. We got to Helen to discover that it was their Annual Oktoberfest celebration. While it was amazing to drive down the main street and see everyone dressed up in their best Oktoberfest lederhosen outfits, we are still in the middle of a pandemic.
Due to how packed it was in the downtown area, we stuck to the outskirts of the town for lunch and didn’t get any pictures of the town itself. And honestly, I think I liked what we ended up doing better than if we would have walked around the cute town. There’s so much more to Helen than the shops and eateries so continue reading for other things to do on your next visit to Helen, Georgia.
HIKING DUKES CREEK FALLS TRAIL
A popular trail not far from downtown Helen is Raven Cliff Falls. However, on that day we decided to skip that one because we figured it would be pretty packed on a beautiful September day. Instead we headed over to Dukes Creek Falls Trail which I’ve heard is usually less populated. It’s a fairly easy hike that is dog (and kid) friendly and only about 2 miles roundtrip. At the end you will be greeted by some beautiful waterfalls and several large wooden viewing platforms.
The first part of the trail is paved and there’s even a viewing platform at .1 mile that is ADA-accessible. Granted, that’s not exactly the best view on the hike. I think our favorite part is a detour we took off the trail. At .3 mile a right turn at the junction will take you to Davis Creek. Here it opens up before you and you get a beautiful view of the creek. Willow loved getting into the water here and we attempted to try to get some “family” pictures. We actually did this detour on the way back up from the falls instead of at the beginning. It was a nice cool off for the dog and we enjoyed relaxing with just us at the creek. Farther up stream we could see a gentleman fishing. It was just an overall nice and relaxing end to the hike.
As I mentioned we did not actually get out and walk the German themed streets of Helen. But we did head to the outskirts to eat lunch outside at Hofbrauhaus Restaurant and Pub. This place was the PERFECT pick because the view was awesome. We sat right beside the stone wall and got to look at the Chattahoochee River the entire time. It was so peaceful AND entertaining. Every now and then we would see people float by on their inner tubes as they floated the river. We also had a great view of everyone getting stuck on a pile of rocks so that was entertaining as well! The food was pretty good. But the atmosphere was phenomenal.
HARDMAN FARM STATE HISTORIC SITE
With no destination in mind we started the drive heading out of downtown Helen. We took a turn and saw this big mound in the middle of a big cow field. It was actually very beautiful. So we pulled off the side of the road to read the sign and find out more. The mound is a Sautee Nacoochee Indian Mound as seen below in the picture.
We saw what appeared to be a historic site across the road so we decided to head that way and see what it was all about. We stumbled upon the Hardman Farm Historic Site. Pets are allowed on the historic site but not in any of the buildings. While we couldn’t do the guided tour, we were still able to explore the grounds of the historic site and I’m so glad we did!
Whether you’re a history lover or just looking for some beautiful grounds to walk, I really think you’ll enjoy this historic site. We were the only ones on the grounds and got to enjoy the entire place to ourselves! Talk about peaceful! However, I’d love to go back one day and get to tour inside the buildings. On the “Historic Estate” guided tour you get to explore the mansion and learn more about the 19th-century parlor, original lighting, and learn about the telephone and climate control system.
Walking the grounds with Willow, we got to explore all of the old structures and learn more about the old farm life. One of the main focal points is the Nacoochee Dairy. You will see and learn how they ran their dairy operations. We loved seeing the creamery! There are old farm equipment and wagons. One wagon had a sign on it that told the long history of it, which was really cool and interesting as well.
The Hardman Farm sits along the Unicoi Turnpike, which was once a Native American trail. This area is full of Native American history. One of my favorite parts of the day was reading the signs and learning more about the Native American history. It really reminded me how little we are taught about what was done to the Native Americans (and to other ethnicities and cultures as well).
HELEN TO HARDMAN HERITAGE TRAIL
At the parking lot for the Hardman Farm State Historic Site you will see a sign that mentions the Helen to Hardman Heritage Trail. Follow the signs to take you to the south entrance for the Hardman Heritage Trail. The trail is a paved, ADA accessible path that as an out-and-back is 2 miles. It runs from Hardman Farm State Historic Site to Alpine Helen. This trail is often described as one of the best walking trail in Georgia! It runs along the Chattahoochee River and is an easy stroll (and perfect for strollers). It was pretty empty as well and I think we only passed a couple families. This could have been because so many were at the Oktoberfest festival though.
When you approach the northern entrance and bridge, you will see a worn path to your right. If you follow that you will find some old tunnels and an old dynamite cart! Mining for gold was a big thing back in the day. When you are on this detour trail you will see the old ruins from the gold mining days. There’s an old gold mining sluice box left over from the Plattsburg Mining operation. If you walk down to the river, run your hands in the water and you will see all kinds of gold flecks in the water.
A GOOD DAY HAD BY ALL
While our day didn’t go exactly as planned, I think it ended up being even better! Our original plan was to get out and enjoy some great nature therapy. But we got to learn more about the history of Georgia and the Native Americans while taking some relaxing strolls on beautiful historic land. I hope this article might give you some ideas of things to do on your next day trip from Atlanta or your next trip to North Georgia.