We don’t typically associate the word “Alpine” with the Blue Ridge Mountains of north Georgia, but the community of Helen is a little piece of the Bavarian Alps that found its way into this expanse of Dixie. In addition to the hiking trails and whitewater rafting you would be expecting to discover in this part of the southern Appalachians, there is a three month Oktoberfest that lasts from the late summer until the midpoint of fall every year, a customary Bavarian Christmas Alpenlights celebration, and yet another transplanted Germanic tradition, das volksmarch. The best place to enjoy Oktoberfest is from one of the numerous cabin rentals in the vicinity, or a deluxe room in one of Helen’s tasteful European themed inns.
Originally inhabited by Cherokee Indians, the region was the site of a gold discovery in 1828. For over seventy years, prospectors and commercial mining companies worked deposits that rivaled those in the Rockies and the Sierras. The gold fields were mostly mined out by 1900, but the wood industry moved in shortly after. With the approach of the railroad, the township of Helen was formed in 1913. The timber business was short lived. By 1931, the trees were cut down and by 1960, all that remained was a row of cement block houses. The town’s resurgence commenced in the early 1970s as it begun to reinvent itself in the Bavarian style, influenced by an artist who had served with the U.S. Army in Germany. Nowadays, Helen is one of the top getaway resorts in the region.
The Chattahoochie River provides recreational opportunities for whitewater rafting and inner tubing, while the adjoining mountains offer hikers a chance to experience nature and the different woodland species up close and personal. Mountain cabins that include hot tubs are obtainable for romantic getaways, and the town itself is home to various specialty shops and four star bistros, including an authentic Bavarian Hofbrau Haus, featuring the unique cuisine of Germany’s southern region. German and northern Italian cuisine may also be tasted at The Troll, one of Helen’s more flavorful eateries.
Easily accessible family outdoor activities include golf, mountain biking, fishing and horseback riding. In fact, there is almost no better way to see this segment of the Blue Ridge than from the back of a horse. Check out Chattahoochie Backcountry Treks and Sunburst Stables for more information.
For hikers, one of the most wonderful sights is Anna Ruby Falls, one of the four waterfalls in the immediate area within Unicoi State Park. The falls are slightly over 800 yards from an improved public access area, and are really two separate falls with the better of the two topping out at more than 150 feet high.
Of course, just because you are out in and among nature does not imply you have to rough it. North Georgia bed breakfasts have all the comforts of home including cable TV and wireless internet access. The proprietors of these accomodations are more than pleased to reveal the rich history of the vicinity as well as recommend other interesting site seeing tours and delicious regional bistros.