Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Byway
Chattahoochee National Forest
​Helen, Georgia

Waterfalls, Valleys, and Georgia's Highest Point

The Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Byway allows you to see waterfalls, mountains, valleys, Georgia's highest point, and even hear a talking mannequin tell its story!

Here are some of the highlights:

High Shoals Falls

The byway begins at the intersection of SR 75 and the Unicoi Turnpike just northwest of Helen, Georgia. From there it loops 40.6 miles through the beautiful southern Appalachian Mountains and returns to its starting point. See the map at the bottom of this page for an overview of the route.

From the starting point just outside the charming Bavarian village of Helen, turn right (north) on Unicoi Turnpike (GA-75) and drive through beautiful mountain scenery 1.4 miles. Look for the High Shoals sign and turn right onto Forest Service Road 283 (Indian Grave Gap Road) to reach the first of the great waterfalls along the byway.

Follow FS Rd 283 for 1.5 miles to the free parking area. You will cross a "low water bridge" - this means that water flows across the road - so don't be alarmed but don't drive through it if the water is obviously too deep!

From the parking area, the well-traveled High Shoals Trail leads 1.2 miles down to a series of beautiful waterfalls that fall a combined total of 300-feet. Please note that the trail is pretty easy on the way down but is very strenuous on the way back up. Be sure to carry water and take your time.
High Shoals Falls is one of the many spectacular natural sights along the Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Byway near Helen, Georgia.

If the 6.6-mile hike through mountain terrain is a bit much for you, save your breath for the next stop at the much more accessible Dukes Creek Falls.

Dukes Creek Falls

From the Raven Cliff Falls access road, turn right on GA-180 and continue 1.1 miles. Turn right on the access road for the Dukes Creek Falls trail. The entry fee is $4 per vehicle per day.

The trail is well-designed and wide with switchbacks and benches along the way. It leads down 1.25 miles to the lower observation deck at the waterfalls. 

This twin waterfall is spectacular. Two different creek branches fall 150-feet down granite canyon walls to Dukes Creek. The stream is noteworthy in history because many sources say Georgia's first gold strike was at Dukes Creek. 

Frank Logan, a prospector and farmer, believed there was "gold in them there hills" as a local U.S. Mint employee later proclaimed. He and the African-American slaves that he "owned" worked to prove it. They struck gold in Dukes Creek in 1828 and sparked the great Georgia Gold Rush of 1829.

Other prospectors made similar claims, and the truth is that multiple people likely found gold in various places around Helen and Dahlonega in 1828. Thousands of prospectors flooded to the area, and gold mining became big business. It remained so for 20 years until the California Gold Rush of 1849.

There is still gold in the mountains, and recreational panning is allowed in most creeks and streams of the Chattahoochee National Forest. Please click here to learn about rules and regulations.

The Dukes Creek Falls area is open daily, and next to nearby Anna Ruby Falls, the waterfalls are the easiest to access high falls in the vicinity. The address is 1699 Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway, Helen, Georgia.
Sections of the original Natchez Trace are visible at spots along the modern parkway. An array of noteworthy figures walked or rode the path.
Brasstown Bald

After leaving the falls, make your way back to GA-75, turn right and drive 0.5 miles to GA-180. Turn left onto 180 west for 5.3 miles to GA-180 Spur (look for the Brasstown Bald signs). Turn right and follow the spur 2.4 miles to the Brasstown Bald parking area. Admission is $5 per person ages 16+.

Brasstown Bald is the highest point in Georgia, reaching 4,764 feet into the sky over the surrounding mountains. A visitor center and observation deck on the top provide information about the history and legends of the mountain and let you enjoy 365-degree views of the Chattahoochee National Forest. On a clear day, you can see to Atlanta!

Be sure to stroll through the visitor center to meet the animated, talking mannequin of the first ranger of this spectacular national forest. He will tell you the story of how it became the wonderland that we enjoy today.

Brasstown Bald is a U.S. Forest Service area that is operated by the Cradle of Forestry in America Interpretive Association. Please click here for maps and more information.

Raven Cliffs

From Brasstown Bald, follow the 180 Spur back to GA-180. Turn right and continue your drive for 6.3 miles. Turn left on GA-348 and continue 11.3 miles until you see the Ravel Cliff Falls access road on your right at 3000 Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway, Helen, Georgia.

The waterfalls are beautiful, but be aware that reaching them requires a 6.6-mile hike! Raven Cliff Falls drop 60-feet before gushing out through an unusual split in the rock and falling another 20-feet to a natural pool at the bottom.
Water pours down 150-foot high Dukes Creek Falls in the Chattahoochee National Forest near Helen, Georgia.
The Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Byway continues from Dukes Creek Falls another 1.5 miles back to its starting point near Helen.

Many visitors do not realize as they complete the drive that they have looped around the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River. From springs in the mountains of the Mark Trail Wilderness in the national forest, it flows south through Helen, Atlanta, and Columbus to Lake Seminole on the Georgia-Florida border. There its waters join with those of the Flint to form the Apalachicola and continue their journey down to Apalachicola and the Gulf of Mexico. 

The byway is free to drive although some of the points of interest - Brasstown Bald and Dukes Creek Falls, for example - charge entry fees. 

Alpine Helen, Georgia, is an excellent base for exploring the byway. There you will find places to stay, restaurants, stores, and more. Please click here for details.

Click here to visit the official website of the Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Byway.

Click the play button below to enjoy a short video tour of the Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Byway: