North Georgia State Parks: Smithgall Woods, Unicoi State Park, Anna Ruby Falls
Northern Georgia’s state parks are pristine and magnificent. Anglers will find some of the best trout fishing in the state, campers will have a surfeit of unspoiled sites and hikers will revel in the abundant trails and waterfalls.
Smithgall Woods Duke Creek Conservation AreaEnveloping over 6000 acres with bear and deer, and allowing hunting and catch-and-release fishing in one of the top trout streams in America, the Smithgall Woods Duke Creek Conservation Center is a real draw. It also provides educational exhibits and videos on the history and time-line of the woods and animals. In addition, there are fantastic trails for hiking and biking within the park and something rather unusual for a state park, a famous culinary lodge.
The Lodge at Smithgall Woods is a combination of five beautifully decorated cottages (gorgeous modern log A-frames) with a total of 14-rooms secreted away in the middle of the state park, surround by prolific Rhododendrons and wild Mountain Laurel. The unbelievable setting of pristine streams and private, forested surroundings is awe-inspiring. The Lodge provides group meetings and corporate retreats, as well as caters to regular guests. And, the Lodge staff prepares exquisite cuisine that is listed in every top magazine in the country for its fresh ingredients. This lodge provides an escape into a woodland dream and is a destination for a perfect getaway to peace and serenity. Take a peek online and visit .
Unicoi State Park & LodgeLocated two miles northeast of Helen, this outdoor haven offers hiking, mountain biking, canoes, fishing, swimming, boating and numerous tents, RV and trailer campsites. The park also offers Squirrel’s Nest Platform Campsites (you have to see these cool sites), 30 cottages and a 100-room lodge and conference center. Yes, this park is huge. It is also carefully managed to maintain an unspoiled, natural park for all to enjoy. One of park’s big advantages is Unicoi Restaurant’s delicious fare. You don’t have to eat camp food all week. The restaurant is located in the lodge and serves quality buffet meals at inexpensive prices; try the fresh fish and berry pies. For additional information, visit GAStateParks.org
Anna Ruby FallsFor a short and easy hike with a big payoff, venture to Anna Ruby Falls, located a few miles from Unicoi State Park. The spectacular falls lies in the heart of Chattahoochee National Forest and is a paradise for photographers. The quarter-mile footpath leads to the falls and is paved; it takes about 30 minutes to reach the falls from the parking lot. For more ambitious hikers, there is a 4.6-mile hike from the base of Anna Ruby Falls to Unicoi State park.
Patrice Raplee is an experienced travel photojournalist and editor of Travel Excursion and Seattle Spotlight for Positively Entertainment magazine. In addition, she writes a monthly travel column for the award-wining site Offbeat Travel. She is a member of North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA), International Travel Writers Alliance (ITWA) and the Recording Academy. Her photographs and articles have appeared in numerous international publications, as well as NW newspapers such as the Seattle Times, the Stranger, Seattle Weekly and the Oregonian. As a freelance photojournalist, she has also worked with acclaimed musical entertainers, such as Santana, Billy Joel and Steven Tyler. Patrice travels the globe to cover destinations that feature fascinating culture, art, culinary, history and soft adventure.