October 30, 2018
5 Great Day Trips from Helen, Georgia
By: Ginevra Boyes
Helen is a bustling alpine town located in the heart of the gorgeous North Georgia mountains. While there is more than enough here to keep you occupied for the duration of your stay, we also recommend taking a day or two to explore the other incredible gems this region has to offer. From charming apple orchards to authentic gold rush towns, here are our favorite day trips located just a short drive away from the Sylvan Valley Lodge & Cellars.
1. Picnic at the Waterfalls
The North Georgia Mountains are famous for their jaw-droppingly beautiful waterfalls. There are too many waterfalls in the region to list here, but by far the most famous is Anna Ruby Falls. Anna Ruby Falls is located in the Chattahoochee National Forest, just 9 miles from the Sylvan Valley Lodge. The hike is very short, just under half a mile, but we recommend packing a picnic and making a day of it. The shady, moss-covered forest and breathtaking twin waterfalls are the perfect setting for a relaxing afternoon in nature. However, if you are willing to drive a little further, we highly recommend you make the journey to Amicalola Falls, which holds the distinction of being the tallest cascading waterfall in the entire southeastern United States. At seven hundred and twenty-nine feet, it is a true wonder to behold. Other hikes located within 60 minutes of the Sylvan Valley Lodge can be found in a previous blog post.
2. Apple Picking at Mercier Orchards
Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge is open year round, but we think fall is the best time to visit. The orchards are located a little over an hour away from the Sylvan Valley Lodge, but the autumn scenery is so stunning we don’t think you’ll mind the trip. During this time of year, you can pick your own apples and pumpkins, take a tractor tour, and attend a variety of fun seasonal events. If you’re hungry, grab a tasty breakfast or lunch at their on-site cafe or swing by their tasting room to sample a flight of their excellent hard-ciders, including pear, blackberry, and peach varieties. But no visit to Mercier Orchards is complete without purchasing a few of the delicious items in their country store. Their pies are pretty unbeatable, but you will also find ciders, cookies, apple butters, apple cider donuts, and more.
3. Explore Dahlonega, a Historic Gold Rush Town
Dahlonega is a historic Gold Rush town located about 35 minutes from the Sylvan Valley Lodge. Back in 1828, it was the site of the first major Gold Rush in the United States, 20 years before gold was discovered in California. Though much of the town’s gold was mined within the year, this is still a wonderful place to visit to better understand that moment in our nation’s history. You can even try panning for gold yourself in one of the rivers or creeks, visit the Dahlonega Gold Museum, or take a tour of the Consolidated or Crisson Gold Mines. Even if you aren’t interested in gold, Dahlonega is still an exciting mountain destination offering scenic views, great hikes, world-class wineries, amazing festivals, and a wealth of arts & culture opportunities. However you choose to spend your day, Dahlonega is well-worth the trip.
Another great gold-related day trip is the old White County Courthouse in Cleveland, Georgia, where you will find an impressive 6-foot tall bronze statue of a gold seeker holding a precious nugget above his head. While the mint was located in Dahlonega, most of the gold was actually discovered in our own White County.
4. Visit the Moonshine Capital of the World
The Moonshine Capital of the World is located just 55 minutes from Helen in Dawsonville. Moonshine production began in Georgia in the 1780s, when Scot-Irish immigrants journeyed to the state and brought their traditional distilling methods with them. Throughout history, Georgians have made moonshine with apples, pears, corn, and whatever other local crops they could get their hands on. Moonshine may no longer be the banned, illicit substance it once was, thanks to a renewed interest in the drink and many distillers producing it legally, but it still boasts a fascinating history. Learn about this history and moonshine production at the Dawsonville Moonshine Distillery, also known as the Free Spirits Distillery. The distillery is still working tirelessly to perfect over 150 years of moonshine recipes. You can schedule a tour Monday-Saturday, 10am-5 pm or 12:30-5 pm on Sundays. Just make sure to assign a designated driver beforehand, because tastings are included.
5. Make New Friends at Lasso the Moon Alpaca Farm
Alpacas aren’t a common sight in the North Georgia mountains, but if you journey to Blairsville, you will find several dozen of these friendly, fuzzy creatures on the Lasso the Moon Alpaca Farm. A visit to Lasso the Moon promises to be a fun, educational, and hands-on experience. The owners are commiting to sharing their deep knowledge of alpacas, and that means allowing guests touch the wool both on and off the gentle creatures. While you’re there, you can sign up for a felting class, learn how to gather the wool, and buy fibers, jewelry, and other alpaca-related items at their gift shop.
Planning a trip to the North Georgia mountains? Book a stay at the Sylvan Valley Lodge & Cellars, a bed & breakfast winery located in the charming alpine town of Helen.