This tiny town of 430 may well be one of the Blue Ridge’s most unique and best-kept secrets. In the late 1960s, after realizing that Helen’s logging industry was in rapid decline, town officials completely re-branded their city with hopes of attracting more tourism. The modern result of this re-branding is an authentic American version of a German alpine town. In Helen, all structures—even the Wendy’s—are mandated by local zoning laws to exhibit architectural traits more common to southern Bavaria than southern Appalachia.
But authentic German architecture isn’t Helen’s only claim to fame. It’s also the home of the Chattahoochee River Headwaters, Smithgall Woods and Unicoi State Parks, and provides quick access to the Chattahoochee National Forest. Unlike the Chattahoochee further south, the headwaters are pristine and free-flowing, offering incredible fishing and rafting. The Appalachian Trail is just outside of town, and road cyclists train on the winding mountain roads surrounding Helen. And each winter, runners flock to Helen for the Hogpen Hill Climb, a 10.7-mile climb up steep mountain roads to Hogpen Gap.
DID YOU KNOW? Helen is also home to some of the best ice climbing in Georgia. A forty-foot road cut near Helen provides prime ice climbing opportunities in the winter.
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