Unicoi State Park

Located in the mountains of north Georgia, Unicoi State Park features several hiking trails as well as a nationally known mountain bike course.  An added bonus, the scenic alpine village of Helen is only a few miles away.

Accommodations in the park range from a single campsite to the Unicoi Lodge, with 100 rooms and wireless internet.  There are even a few cabins that allow animals.  Unicoi State Park and Smith Lake provides opportunities for fishing, a beach for swimming, trails for hiking and biking, sites for camping, and even paddle sports during the warmer season.

For those looking for a quick jaunt, the Frog Pond Nature Trail is less than half a mile, and features a lot of information about flora and fauna of the park.

The Lake Trail is a 2 ½ mile trek offering superb views of Smith Lake and surrounding countryside.  Most people, including children, will have no problem with the hike.  The trail is fairly level, and usually wide enough for a family to walk abreast.  There are a few narrower spots that may dictate single file hiking, but there aren’t many.

Undoubtedly, those staying in the park will feel the urge to visit Helen, and there is a three mile long trail from the park to Helen.  Mostly easy going, there are a few hilly, somewhat strenuous patches as the trail winds through forests and crosses several creeks on the way to Helen.

For the avid hiker, the Smith Creek Trail beckons.  It leads from the Little Brook Campsite to Ana Ruby Falls.  Five miles one way, it is a strenuous journey with an elevation change of over a thousand feet.  This hike is not to be recommended for casual hikers.  During the hike, hikers are rewarded with fantastic views of Smith Creek and Ana Ruby Falls, especially at the observation bridge, with an altitude of 2200 feet.  Note that Ana Ruby Falls is a federal park, and you may need to obtain a permit from the Falls park office to actually visit the Falls.

Experienced mountain bikers will love the seven mile bike trail.  Officially sanctioned as a race course by the National Off-Road Bicycle Association, the trail has played host to multiple regional and national races.  Featuring multiple elevation changes  and several different difficult sections, the trail gives you an idea of what professional mountain bikers go through.  The trail head contains an information board, an honor box to pay the fee, and a restroom.  After that you are on your own.

The other don’t miss activity at the park is camping, specifically camping in the Squirrel’s Nest.  Unlike camp sites found in the rest of Unicoi State Park, or most any park for that matter, the Nest is a series of elevated platforms built on the side of a hill.  No tents are allowed, or needed, as they have covered roofs.  Below the platforms is a cook out area, complete with fire pit, picnic tables, barbecue grills, water, and restrooms.  The sixteen platforms rent for $10 per night and sleep up to six people.