Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Byway
- DesignationNational Scenic Byway (2000)
- Intrinsic QualitiesScenic
- Length40 miles
The beauty of the Chattahoochee National Forest surrounds this route as it encircles the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River. Winding through the valleys and mountain gaps of the southern Appalachians, you will find. vistas atop Brasstown Bald that are jaw dropping and the cooling mists of waterfalls are plentiful. Everywhere scenic wonders fill this region. Hike the Appalachian Trail or fish in a cool mountain stream.
Story of the Byway
Cool in the summer, mild in the winter, the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway encircles the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River and is surrounded by the Chattahoochee National Forest. Featuring nearly 118,000 acres of designated wilderness, hundreds of miles of clear-running streams and rivers, 850 miles of recreation trails, and dozens of campgrounds, picnic areas, and other recreation opportunities, these lands are rich in natural scenery, history and culture. Colorful wildflowers, waterfalls, and dazzling fall colors are some of what you will see. Secluded valleys abound. Though only 40 miles long, allow at least three hours driving time and allow for time to stop at the popular mountain recreation stops.
The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest is a haven for outdoor lovers. There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the national forest’s outdoor recreational activities along the byway. Adventurous visitors will love horse riding, fishing, or geocaching throughout the park. Try your hand at panning for gold in one of the streams within the borders of the national forest. Although in most cases only a few cents of stream-bed gold can be planned in an hour, there’s always a chance of finding a stray nugget or odd pocket of finer gold. Alternative, try your hand at “rock hounding” by collecting a handful of interesting rocks, minerals, or petrified wood. You may even find a fossil.
Get out and stretch at Dukes Creek Falls and enjoy the two-mile round trip trail that brings you to a misty poolside below and to the base of a cascading waterfall. Mount Yonah’s prominent cliff can be seen in the distance. The mountain itself is climbable. The 2.1 mil trail is great for hikers who wish to go up 1,400 feet for spectacular views.
Cross the famous Appalachian Trail at Hogpen Gap. Views from Brasstown Bald, Georgia’s largest mountain offers 360-degree views of the rolling highlands. Be sure to check out the visitor center there. From the top of this great summit, visitors can see views of four states, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Visitors can choose whether to hike up to the top or take the accessible shuttle in order to experience this great vista.
Smithgall Woods State Park offers hiking and biking trails, trout streams, and much wildlife for visitors of all skill levels. Nearby Unicoi State Park has something for everyone, including a lodge, restaurant, campground, trails, and a swim beach. Overnight visitors should be sure to take a look at the rustic haven of cottages that are easily accessible from the byway. Check out the twin falls at Anna Ruby Falls where two creeks meet to create the rare, 150-foot twin falls. The path is .4 miles and is paved for everyone’s enjoyment.
For those that get hungry along the way, share a meal at a cozy picnic site along the way, or break bread in Helen, a Bavarian-themed hamlet located near the byway.
If you still haven’t gotten enough of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest by the time you finish the byway, try exploring the 60/180/129/19 Scenic Loop, which is nearby.
The route encircles the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River and includes State Highways 348,180, and 17/75. Start just outside of Robertstown or Choestoe or from any of these State Highways to make the 40-mile circle
Points of Interest
The Byway crosses the Appalachian Trail near Dodd’s Creek/Hogpen Gap.
Chattahoochee River's Headwaters
The river begins in Jack’s Gap and flow south from ridges that form the Tennessee Valley Divide.
Brasstown Visitor Center and Observation Deck
View Georgia’s largest mountain
Georgia’s tallest mountain listed at an elevation of 4,734 ft
Chattahoochee National Forest
Part of the Chattahoochee-Oconee Forest (two forests for one. The Chattahoochee is the largest section at just over 750,000 acres
Duke Creek Falls
Mile-long hiking paths with views of waterfalls
Bavarian-themed hamlet near the byway
Vogl State Park
Popular park with 22-acre lake, multiple hiking trails and a museum,cottages, and campsites
Outdoor Fun on the Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Byway
Head west into the Chattahoochee National Forest from Helen to Dukes Creek Falls. Stretch your legs on this two mile round trip hike, which leads to a view from the base of the 150 ft falls. Keep an eye out for Mount Yonah’s prominent cliff face in the distance, visible from the Duke Creek Falls Trailhead. Marvel at the nature surrounding you as you drive through the national forest from your car.
Heading north for 22 miles, you’ll reach the Brasstown Bald Visitor Center. Climb to the summit of Georgia’s highest mountain with stunning views of four states from the observation deck. This is a great spot to enjoy a picnic lunch.
As you return south, take a detour on Forest Service Road 44 to take solace in the remote setting of the Upper Chattahoochee River. This is a peaceful setting to enjoy hiking and fishing.
From the detour, continue south for nine miles to return to Helen. From Helen, travel northeast to Unicoi State Park. Take a dip to go swimming or enjoy hiking on one of the many trails. Following the same road north, discover Anna Ruby Falls. This .4 mile paved path is great for the whole family, and the Anna Ruby Falls is one of Georgia’s best known twin waterfalls attraction, where two creeks converge into one waterfall.
As you finish with your day, stop for dinner in Helen, a Bavarian-themed hamlet near the byway, for a unique experience you’ll never forget.
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