While enjoying a tremendous breakfast at the Hole in the Wall in Blairsville, Ga., my wife and I were finalizing trip details for a waterfalls hike over near Blue Ridge when I asked our server if she had ever been there and if she'd recommend the falls that we had picked out. She quickly nodded with approval but then suggested that if we wanted a better option that we should try the High Shoals Falls trail over near Helen. "Just take 180 over until it dead ends into Ga 75 then take a right. The trail will be down a couple of miles on the left...you can't miss it." Her enthusiasm and her eloquent description painted for us a picture that we had to see in person. It was a great suggestion!
As her directions suggested, we took Ga 180 from Blairsville over until it dead ended into Ga 75 (south of Hiawassee and north of Helen). We then turned right and traveled until mile marker 2 and veered off to the left onto Ga FR 283 (see the signs above). Once on 283, after a short distance, you will encounter a washout/shoals type of crossing on the road. This may present difficulty for lower profile cars, but we were able to pass through with no problems in our 2003 Toyota Camry.
Once on FR 283, you will travel a little over a mile (1.2) until you see a parking area for the trail on the left. The trail is also well-marked with a sign letting you know that you are at the right place.
So now that we've illustrated what it looks like to get you where you need to be to start your hike, let's get to the good stuff! As the above pic shows, your hike will be a descending 1.2 mile hike down to the High Shoals Falls. We found the hike in to be moderately easy due to the slight decline in elevation. You can expect to find certain instances where the trail narrows to about 18-24 inches, but for the most part, there is plenty of room. There are a few switchbacks that you'll have to contend with, as well as rutty/rocky terrain from time to time. Footbridges are also common along the trail and provide excellent photo opportunities. The creek will also become visible at about the half way point.
Once you have made your way down the trail to the falls, you will start to hear the unmistakable sound of rushing water. If you're like us, your excitement level will rise and you will soon find an extra amount of energy that you may not have thought you had. That excitement and anticipation will soon be rewarded with a spectacular series of cascading water tumbling violently downward creating what we now know to be called the High Shoals Falls. At the base of the falls, you can expect to find an observation deck and ample opportunities for photos.
As an added bonus to the hike, there is another set of falls which you'll actually come to first (if you are paying attention) on your journey down to the High Shoals Falls. The Blue Hole Falls can be accessed at approximately the one mile mark from the trail head. There is also a viewing platform and a large pool of water that I've been told is open for swimming, but I did not confirm that.
In summary, my wife and I would not hesitate in rating this a 5-Star hike on a scale of 1-5. The trail itself was full of natural forest beauty, and the spectacular falls were a reward worth pursuing. We gladly recommend this trail to anyone heading to the Blairsville-Hiawassee-Helen area!
If you'd like more information on this trail, please check out Eric Champlin's excellent review (Atlanta Trails). Click here: Atlanta Trails