Unicoi State Park

Unicoi State Park is one of the most popular parks in North Georgia because of its close proximity to the City of Helen, a famous tourist destination also known as the Alpine Village of Helen. With a population of only 420 residents in the U.S. Census of 2000, Helen is renowned throughout the South for its Bavarian mountain chalet style architecture and picturesque cobblestone streets. Tourism is the primary industry in Helen and the local economy thrives on many thousands of weekend visitors from the Atlanta Metropolitan Area.

Located on Highway 356 about two miles from Helen, Unicoi State Park contains 1,050 acres of protected land, the 53 acre Lake Unicoi, camping facilities and a 100 room Lodge & Conference Center. Outdoor activities in Unicoi State Park include boating, swimming, fishing, camping, hiking and backpacking through 16 miles of nature trails. One of the most popular hiking trails in Unicoi State Park leads to the famous twin waterfalls at Anna Ruby Falls and the Anna Ruby Falls Scenic Area. The 1,600 acre scenic area around Anna Ruby Falls is part of the Chattahoochee National Forest and the only access to it is through Unicoi State Park.

Unicoi State Park was named after the Unicoi Mountains and the Unicoi Turnpike, an ancient Native American Indian trail. It is believed that the Cherokee word unicoi meant “place where the white man lives.” The Unicoi Turnpike was the only trail leading across the Great Smoky Mountains between northwestern Georgia and the French Broad River gorge. During the 1930’s the U.S. Civilian Conservation Corps camped near what is now Lake Unicoi and in 1954, the State of Georgia officially opened Unicoi State Park to the public at 1788 Highway 356, (706) 878-2201.

Real estate in areas near Unicoi State Park

Homes and properties in Helen are located in beautiful rural areas where population densities are as low as 800 people per square mile. Because Helen is a tourist destination with a German Alpine design theme, many homes were designed to look like European mountain chalets. Home prices in Helen typically range from $300,000 to over a million dollars and available properties usually sell quickly.

In the outlying countryside, modern log cabin style homes with mountain views on 1 or more acres of land are available from $250,000 to $500,000. More upscale residential developments are anticipated in the future because the demand for high value properties in the North Georgia Mountains has steadily increased. The demand for commercial real estate is strong in Helen because the large number of tourists creates profitable economic potential for businesses that are located near the center of town.

Lodging, shopping, dining and entertainment

Unicoi State Park contains 82 tent, trailer and RV campsites, 33 walk-in campsites and 30 fully equipped cottages. The park’s Lodge & Conference Center has 100 guest rooms with mountain views and meeting facilities for groups of up to 500 people at a time. At the Unicoi Restaurant, buffet dining is available for breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days per week all year round. Unicoi State Park also contains 6 large picnic shelters, 4 tennis courts, and facilities at Lake Unicoi that rent canoes and pedal boats.

Because Helen is such a big tourist attraction, many excellent hotels and bed and breakfast inns are located near the center of town. Rustic and luxury vacation cabin rentals are available through local real estate agents or directly from owners who advertise their properties in local newspapers and on the Internet. Helen also contains supermarkets, antique stores, more than 40 restaurants, and art stores featuring a colorful array of Appalachian folk art from well known painters, potters and sculptors.

Lake Unicoi is kept well stocked with catfish, bass and brim, and fishing is permitted from the shore as well as from 6 designated fishing docks. Nearby Lake Unicoi, Smith Creek is renowned for brook trout, rainbow trout, and brown trout fishing. There are two sections of Smith Creek in which fishing is allowed with a license. One section is above Lake Unicoi and the other section is below the lake.

Many people come to Unicoi State Park to enjoy hiking along 8 miles of nature trails or mountain biking on 8 miles of designated mountain bike trails. The hiking trails vary in difficulty from an easy 1/3-mile interpretive trail around a pond to the strenuously rated 5 mile trail to Anna Ruby Falls. There is also a 7 mile loop trail reserved for the exclusive use of mountain bikers that has been used to accommodate many well known regional and national mountain bike races.

The City of Helen sponsors many different public events throughout the year including a hot air balloon race, Bavarian Nights of Summer, Winefest, Volksmarch and Oktoberfest. Helen’s annual 6-week Oktoberfest from September through November features oompah music bands and street celebrations where thousands of steins of Marzen brew are served, and it has become one of Georgia’s biggest public parties. During the Holiday season from Thanksgiving through December, Helen celebrates Alpenfest with family oriented entertainment and Christmas celebrations.