Helen, Georgia
Bavarian Village in the North Georgia Mountains

An Old World experience just 95 minutes from Atlanta!

The Bavarian village of Helen is a beloved mountain community just 90 miles north of downtown Atlanta, Georgia. There are shops, accommodations, places to eat, outdoor adventures galore, and an array of other things to do. 

The story of Helen is as magical as a walk through the town's charming downtown.

This valley, created by the Chattahoochee River as it flows south from the mountains, is in the homeland of the Cherokee people. Their ancestors of the Lamar time period (A.D. 1350 to 1600) lived, farmed, and hunted along the river long before the first explorers from across the oceans reached North America. The preserved Sautee Nacoochee Mound at Hardman Farm State Historic Site (two miles from downtown Helen) is an elegant reminder of 
the Native Americans who made their lives here.

The site was occupied when Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto reached the mountains in 1540 during his ruthless exploration and search for gold. Some scholars believe it was the center of an early Cherokee town - likely either Nacoochee or Chota - as late as the mid-1700s. A famed buffalo trace and trading path called the Unicoi Turnpike passed nearby.

Hernando de Soto missed his chance at riches. The area streams and creeks were filled with gold but he passed by and never saw it. That discovery remained for another prospector and in 1828 gold was found in Dukes Creek, a tributary of the Chattahoochee, not far from today's Helen.
Helen is a charming destination in the Georgia mountains that recreates the feel of an Alpine Bavarian village. It is a popular destination for food, shopping, fun, and outdoor adventures.
The continued decline of Helen was alarming to local leaders. Tourists were passing through on their way to visit Brasstown Bald and other attractions in the Chattahoochee National Forest, but few stopped in the fading town.

Inspiration struck in January 1969, however, when three local business leaders sat down in a restaurant to brainstorm the situation. They came up with the idea of revitalizing the main street to make it more enticing for tourists. One of the men volunteered that he knew an artist who might have ideas that would help.

The artist was named John Kollock. He came to look at Helen and was immediately reminded of visits he made to Bavarian communities in the mountain valleys of Germany during his days in the military. He drew sketches of what Helen would look like as a Bavarian village and the town fell in love with his ideas.

The people of Helen immediately went to work and a Bavarian village was born in the Georgia mountains. The revitalization worked. Travelers on their way to the national forest fell in love with the unique community and soon began to stop by the thousands. Shops, restaurants, and accommodations followed.

The Alpine Helen/White County Convention & Visitors Bureau promotes Helen to potential visitors around the world. These videos will tell you much more:
The beautiful upper Chattahoochee River flows through Helen, giving outdoor enthusiasts a great stream for tubing right in the middle of the Bavarian village.

The discovery ignited the great Georgia Gold Rush of 1829. Thousands of miners flooded into the mountains hoping to strike it rich. The area was still part of the Cherokee Nation, but the boundary meant little to the prospectors.

Nearby Dahlonega (originally called Licklog) grew from nothing to a town of 5,000 people almost overnight. A U.S. Branch Mint was completed there in 1838, eventually printing more than 1.5 million coins before it closed its doors during the Civil War.

The discovery of gold increased pressure on the federal government to seize the lands of the Cherokee people and drive them west of the Mississippi. Most were forced to walk the Trail of Tears in 1838-1839. More than 4,000 died before they reached the lands assigned to them in present-day Oklahoma.

The California Gold Rush eventually surpassed the Georgia one and mining declined, but prospectors continued to work around Helen through the Civil War. By the end of the 19th century, however, a new industry boomed in the area - timber.

Logging was big business and a railroad was built to haul cut lumber from the mountains out to markets around the world. The town of Helen - named for the daughter of a railroad surveyor - grew during the lumber era as workers came for jobs in the woods and sawmills and merchants came to supply the workers.

The virgin forests were not endless, however, and this boom also peaked and faded. By the 1950s and 1960s, Helen was in serious decline.
Alpine Helen Georgia is roughly 95 minutes north of Atlanta in the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The map below will help, but from Atlanta take US 19 North 58 miles to GA-115 in Lumpkin County. Follow GA-115 to GA-75 in Cleveland and then follow GA-75 into Helen. 

Please click here to learn more about hotels and accommodations, places to eat, and things to do in Helen, Georgia.
Helen is the third most-visited destination in Georgia. Its conversion from a fading lumber mill town to a recreated Bavarian village gave it prosperity.

Enjoy a carriage ride through Helen by clicking the play button below: