Summer Splashes at Unicoi State Park & Lodge
From Fly Fishing to Waterfalls, Feel the Cool of North Georgia’s Mountain Streams
Welcome to the gateway of the Appalachian Mountains! Now that summer is officially underway, I traveled to North Georgia for waterfalls and rivers to cool off.
The essence of Unicoi State Park & Lodge seems to feel centered on making memories your own way, because there is so much to do (think zip line, archery, hiking, wineries, and more!). This trip my mission revolved around water, which is why I’m already planning my next trip to experience something entirely new the next time.
Bring a towel and spread out on the beach, the lake beach, where alpine waters are warmed when out of the shade of streams. You can also go paddle boarding and rent kayaks, canoes and paddle boats – the adventure is yours to create. I simply chose to lounge on the sands with a book while others with more mid-day energy were paddling and boating.
Fly Fishing for Trout
I’m new to fly fishing and admit I don’t fish at all. But the guides at Unicoi State Park have this down, complete with equipment. I listened to clues about how to “read” a river’s personality to catch a mountain trout. If in the water, tread lightly near slow pools so as not to spook the fish. We fished a cooler, more shaded part of the Chattahoochee River as I was improving my fly fishing cast. Smith Creek within Unicoi State Park is an excellent spot for trout fishing too. Take a fly-fishing class.
Right: Cameron and his dad are fly fishing in the Chattahoochee River in Helen. His dad says on this part of the river he has caught “the smallest fish and the largest fish!”
Hike to Waterfalls—and to Helen!
Anna Ruby Falls is the closest waterfall to visit from Unicoi Lodge. The interpretive signs leading up to the falls on the paved pathway reveal secrets to what is growing here, and how life thrives. Two creeks are flowing that make the Anna Ruby Falls. Curtis Creek forms the taller one at a 153-foot drop, while York Creek joins it with a 50-foot drop. I enjoyed soaking in the spray mist and as I watched the falls merge at the bottom to form Smith Creek, which will feed into the Chattahoochee River and wind down through Georgia to Florida and out through the Gulf of Mexico.
Dozens of other waterfalls are within a reasonable driving distance from the park. Unicoi is a good base camp for exploring most of them.
Left: Anna Ruby Falls is a short hike from the Visitor Center and Gift Shop.
From here I jumped on the Unicoi to Helen trail that would eventually take me into Helen, GA. After hiking at just around two miles, and walking around town, I took advantage of the daytime shuttle service back to the Lodge. You meet up at the country store where lodge guests are dropped off and picked up. Expect about a 30-minute wait or less.
At the close of my weekend journey, I pulled up a bar stool at Smith Creek Tavern in the Lodge and ordered my favorite dish, called Mama Cakes—three North Georgia corn cakes drizzled with pork belly, green onions and hot honey. Seriously excellent and a nod to local cuisine. A taste of regional beers made this treat even better.
Book Your Stay: The Unicoi Lodge has 100 lodge rooms, and 29 Georgia State Park cabins across the 1,000+ acre property. Tent camping and R/V sites are also available and remember, a shuttle is available from the lodge reception if you need a ride to and from Helen or Anna Ruby Falls.
Image Caption: Rooms with a view, Unicoi State Park & Lodge
Check out a calendar of summer activities at the park, and local events in June and July. Happy splashing this summer at Unicoi State Park & Lodge!
By LYDIA SEA, Georgia wanderer finding off-the-beaten-path places (and gems!)