Helen Area Attractions

With so much to see and do in and around the Helen area in the beautiful North Georgia Mountains, local attractions abound. Local attractions include Brasstown Bald, Hardman Farm, Smithgall Woods State Park, and more! Check out the photos and videos below for a closer look at just a few of the wonderful attractions in and around the cabins available for rent from Acorns of Gold, LLC.

Brasstown Bald

Brasstown Bald is the recognized highest point in the State of Georgia at 4784 feet in elevation, making it one of the largest attractions in the area. It sits on the line that divides Towns and Union counties. It can be accessed easily from the Helen area. Go back down Highway 356 toward Helen, and on reaching Highway 17/75 (Robertstown), turn right and continue for about ten miles. The access highway to Brasstown Bald is Highway 180, which goes left off 17/75. From here it is easy to follow the signs to the top of the mountain, but for accuracy it is approximately 5.3 miles up Highway 180 to Spur 180 on the right that goes to the Brasstown Bald parking lot. A $2 shuttle from the parking lot will take you to the top, or you can take a short trail walk to “climb the mountain” if you so desire. On top is a large observation platform with the direction and skyline well outlined; an observation tower that goes quite a bit higher than the mountain’s top, but which is usually closed, it seems; an information center; a museum; and a theater that shows a short production every thirty minutes to better inform the visitor about the mountain and the local area.

Brasstown Bald observation deck and tower

View of lower parking lot

Looking west toward Blood Mountain

Hardman Farm

The story of the Hardman Farm begins well before the first white settler entered North America. Still, even today when one visits Helen the prominent Indian mound where Highway 17 from Clarkesville joins Highway 75 just south of Helen is one of the first landmarks one sees. The ancient Cherokee town of Gauxule occupied the site for untold centuries before it was visited by Hernando DeSoto in his quest for New World riches in 1540, making this one of Georgia's prominent historical attractions. The mound at that time had a sacred fire that burned continuously, and dances and other religious activities were associated with the mound. The mound is 190 feet long, 150 feet wide, and 20 feet high. After departure of the Cherokees, banished to Oklahoma in 1838-39 in what is known as the “Trail of Tears,” the lands were occupied by locals, though the mound was respected except for numerous archeological surveys. After the Civil War, the lands around the mound became property of a former Confederate officer, Colonel John H. Nichols (who also discovered and named Anna Ruby Falls, after his daughter). In 1869 he built the structure that is the main house of what later became the Hardman Farm, modeling it after his brother-in-law’s house in Milledgeville, GA. Healso built the gazebo on top of the mound a year later. Today the Hardman Farm offers tours and a history lesson that is worth the time and effort to see and hear.

Stovall Mill Covered Bridge

There are 15 historic covered bridges in Georgia, according to reliable sources. Among these architectural attractions is the Stovall Mill Covered Bridge not far from Helen. The bridge was part of a complex that included a grist mill, a wooden shingle mill, and a saw mill, all powered by flowing water from a millpond near the site. The original bridge was constructed after the Civil War by Fred Dover, but this bridge washed away in the early 1890s. Will Pardue bought the operation and replaced the bridge in 1895 with the present structure, which has several unique architectural features seldom seen in covered bridges. While the mill and the dam of its pond washed away in 1964, the bridge one sees today is the original replacement bridge built by Dover over 120 years ago. It sits just off Highway 255, and is one of the easiest attractions to reach from the cabins. Go north on Highway 356 (turn left on reaching the entrance to Tanglewood Drive) and go until the highway dead ends into Highway 197. Take a right, and a few miles down 255 (don’t take Highway 255 Alternate or you’ll miss it) the bridge sits on the left, a short distance from the modern bridge the highway takes today. If you happen to be at the Old Sautee Store, simply continue north on 255 until you see the bridge on the right. Apart from the unsightly and ubiquitous graffiti, it is in mint condition and the construction is ingenious. The bridge’s claim to fame goes back to the 1951 movie, “I’d Climb the Highest Mountain,” starring Susan Heyward, where the bridge is prominently featured. Go take a look.

Horse Drawn Carriages

Smithgall Woods State Park

Among the natural attractions offered is this unique area of 5,000 acres that was donated a few years ago to the State of Georgia as a park and conservation area. It has numerous hiking trails, plentiful wildlife, and is cut by pristine and rushing Duke’s Creek, which has been named by the conservation organization Trout Unlimited as one of the top 100 trout streams in America. Fishing is perhaps the main attraction of the park, and access and numbers of fishermen is very tightly controlled. All fishing is catch-and-release, and only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used. Fishing is closed during the hottest part of summer, and is open only on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays most of the year. Make a reservation if you want to fish there by calling 706-878-3087. Park personnel will thoroughly orient you as to the rules and regulations unique to this very special fishing area. As for hiking, there are numerous options, depending on the distance one wants to hike and what one wants to see along the way (the visitors center will supply you a complete list and directions to the trail of your choice). The park also hosts a hunt for handicapped sportsmen during the hunting season. The Smithgall family built six rather plush “cottages” on the property, and these are all available to rent for individuals or groups, though the price is fairly steep, ranging from approximately $250 per weekday night to almost $700 per night (including tax) for the biggest cottage during a high season weekend. Even if you don’t rent accommodations on the property, it’s well worth the time to visit and take in some beautiful scenery.

Entrance to Smithgall Woods.

Smithgall Woods Information.

More Information on Smithgall Woods.

Bay's Bridge in Smithgall Woods.

Bay's Bridge in Smithgall Woods.

Bay's Bridge in Smithgall Woods.

Sautee Nacoochee Center

The Sautee-Nacoochee Center, located at 283 Highway 255 North, just a couple of hundred yards off Highway 17 where the Old Sautee Store is located, is a jewel of the local area when it comes to presenting and preserving both the history and culture of the surrounding mountains. It is host to two major museums, one in the main center dedicated to previous residents, from American Indians who once inhabited the area to the early settlers. Artifacts are almost wall to wall in this section, and one can spend hours looking over all it has to offer. The other museum is dedicated to pottery, both historical, functional pottery and the newer artistic creations in every conceivable shape and color. The pottery museum is so important that it’s covered in its own section of this website. The Sautee-Nacoochee Center seems it would be busy enough without it! The Center not only stands as a major monument to those people and tools of the past, but it hosts a dizzying variety of scheduled cultural and musical events each year. Some include the jewelry exhibition; a festival dedicated to Georgia artists; a gallery showing by artists who work with wood and create some fantastic, beautiful, and unique creations; a “Threadquarters Show,” fiber art that includes yarn paintings and other folk art; a “Playing in the Mud Show,” which showcases local potters and their wares; and a show of conventional paintings of all kinds done by Georgia artists. When you’re in the Helen area, don’t forget to check out this unique resource. Much of it is entirely free, though donations are certainly welcome.

Sautee Nacoochee Pottery Museum

An integral part of the Sautee-Nacoochee Center, the Pottery Museum is so comprehensive and breathtaking we decided to feature it separately on our website. The museum does charge a nominal fee for adults, but I’ve spent much more than their fee on many things of far less value. The museum is divided into two sections. The first one tells of the essential function of pottery down through the ages, with emphasis on its use in the mountain culture of the area in centuries gone by as vessels for every imaginable use, from storing vegetables at room temperature in sealed pots to using pots in a cold spring to store perishables. A great transition occurred with the advent of newer materials that did a better job, such as glass, plastic, and various metal containers. The second section traces the fate of the potters who earned their living fashioning functional vessels for everyday needs; and their loss of income to the newer materials mentioned above. The potters who survived in the trade gradually evolved into artists who, in today’s world, create beautiful pottery for show and for sale. This section is by far the larger of the two, and a tour through is leaves one in awe at what potters have done through this transition from function to beauty; from the everyday to the extraordinary. All potters featured in the museum are from within fifty miles of the Sautee-Nacoochee Center, and at least annually there is a gathering of these artists at the center so they can showcase their wares in person. It’s a great trip back through time to the present day, and we highly recommend it.

Various Sights and Attractions of the Helen Area

Fall foliage is rampant in late October.

Crescent Hill Baptist Church near Helen
Built in 1871

Fall on the Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway

Fall treat - driving the Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway

Skylake in fall near the cabins

Upstream from the Mark of the Potter

Along the road to Glen Ella Springs Restaurant

Beautiful Mountain Laurel

Christmas at Alana Falls, Helen City Park

Christmas at Old Heidelburg Restaurant, Helen, GA

Christmas decorations at Helen City Hall

Santa's sleigh in Helen City Park

Christmas tree for American patriots, Helen, GA

Decorated enclave east side of Main St., Helen, GA

Ol' Santa Clause in Helen, GA

Seclusion decorated for Christmas

West side of Main St., Helen, GA

Other Areas of Interest

Helen Area Activities

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Helen Area Businesses

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Helen Area Restaurants

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Helen Area Waterfalls

Click here to see all of the Helen area waterfalls.