Hiking Duke Creek Falls and Biking Smithgall Woods State Park

by | Nov 18, 2023

Hiking Duke Creek Falls and Biking Smithgall Woods State Park in Helen, GA

We had several weeks of great weather in North Georgia to go out and experience the hills and trails. This week I visited two popular spots, Dukes Creek Falls for a hike to a series of beautiful waterfalls and Smithgall Woods State Park to bike over 5 miles in this amazing conservation area.

Duke Creek Falls

Dukes Creek Falls is located on Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Highway a few minutes outside of Helen, GA and 20 minutes from Leisure Acres Campground. This was one of our shorter hikes we experienced this year providing great views of the surrounding mountains, vibrant Fall foliage, and the series of waterfalls at the end of the trail did not disappoint.

The trail is well walked and offers a number of short steps and wooden walkways along the trail and at the bottom to observe the waterfalls. The walk is gradual, well maintained, and did not contain any obstacles to navigate. There were several spot along the trail where we could stop and see the mountains with this year’s Fall canopy rich in yellows, oranges and reds. As we walked the trail, we were able to view Dukes Creek and teased with a number of small cascading flows along the rock formations as a hint to what we would find at the end of the trail.

Reaching the bottom of the trail, we were greeted with a number of waterfalls. One was a small stream starting several hundreds hundreds of feet above and gracefully flowing down the mountain side to the stream below. Continuing along the observation deck, a series of falls flowed over a large rock formation. The waterfalls and the cascading steam below gave a beautiful show with the hills and Fall foliage in the background.

The hike back to the top took around 30 minutes and took moderate effort. At the top, is another view of the mountain vistas in the distance capping off this hike in the North Georgia mountains.

Smithgall Woods State Park

Leaving Dukes Creek Falls and heading back to the campground, we stopped at Smithgall Woods State Park located at 61 Tsalaki Trail next to Helen, GA.

Smithgall Woods is a Conservation Area consisting of 5,664 acres as a protected wilderness area. It contains old growth forests, trout streams, and abundance of wildlife. The area is named for Charles A. Smithgall Jr., a Georgia publisher and philanthropist who sold the property to the state in 1994 for half its appraised value. During his time of ownership, he had teams restock streams and plant thousands of trees to restore the natural beauty.

I took the bike to ride along 5 miles of trails. The bike trails were a mix of paved and gravel roads where I experienced the beautiful hardwood trees in their fall colors along with the streams and wildlife. We didn’t have time to enjoy the many trails in the park during this trip, but the bike ride didn’t disappoint.

I hope you have an opportunity to visit these sites in the future. They are easy to hike and bike and there’s so much to see in these nature wonderlands.

Dukes Creek Falls and Smithgall Woods State Park
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