Hiking in Unicoi State Park, GA
There are many miles of hiking trails in Unicoi State Park, along with a 7 mile mountain bike trail. The trails provide a great opportunity to enjoy the scenery of the north Georgia mountains, with views and hiking experiences that change with each season. Spring brings new greenery to the forest and the colors of the early blooming flowers. Summer offers more flowers and the the fully leaved hardwoods forests. Bright fall colors eventually give way to the open forest and scenic views, which offer a perspective of the landscape that you do not get when the vegetation is more lush and flush with foliage.
Except for the Smith Creek trail, the hiking trailheads are located at the the level 3 lodge parking area. The mountain bicycle trail is found at the end of a road that is accessed from GA 356, just east of the turn off for Unicoi Lodge.
Bottoms Loop Trail
This is a 2 mile loop with a moderate rating. The trail winds through forest, crosses brooks several times, and passes along the edge of Smith Creek.
Frog Pond Nature Trail
This 1/3 of a mile loop is the easiest trail in the park. It has signs along its route that explain some of the natural features you encounter along the way.
Unicoi to Helen Trail
The trail is 3 miles one way so if you want to hike to town and back you are in for a 6 mile trek. From the trailhead the trail initially follows the Bottoms Loop Trail and then branches off when that trail begins its loop back to its origin. There are some hills and switchback sections that are a bit strenuous but the majority of the trail is fairly easy walking. You will pass through some stands of rhododendrons and mountain laurels, over some bridges to get across the creek, and cross the mountain biking trail. You enter Helen at Unicoi Hill City Park.
This is an easy 2 1/2 mile loop trail. It is relatively flat and varies from a forest road to a narrower single track trail. There are many nice views of the lake, the forest, and the mountains along its route.
Smith Creek Trail
This is a strenuous 5 mile (one-way) hike. The U.S. Forest Service trail that heads out from a spot near the camping area of Unicoi State Park. It first follows a creek up stream, gaining about 1000' in elevation by the time you arrive at Hickorynut Ridge. The trail then slowly drops in elevation as it winds its way through the mountainside forest, crossing a creek a little ways before it reaches the Anna Ruby Falls observation bridge. From there you have two options. You can follow the trail out to the Anna Ruby Falls Visitor center and continue down the paved road that leads back into the park (near the Smith Creek Cabins). You may also turn around and walk back towards Hickorynut Ridge to make your way to the trailhead near the campground.
Mountain Bike Trail
A 7 mile loop trail. Beginning March 1, a $2 daily or $25 annual pass will be required for mountain biking. This trail is for experienced riders. It is built on an old roadbed and is a wide single track. The trailhead is located at a parking area that provides access for the park's fishermen and mountain bikers. There is a bathroom, a self-serve visitor fee box, and a board with information about fishing and biking in Unicoi. To get to the road leading to the parking area - after passing the turn off for Unicoi Lodge take the first paved road to your right as you travel east on GA 356.
The mountain bike trail was designed as a NORBA racing course and has been used for a number of mountain biking racing events. It varies in difficulty as you travel along the trail but it is not for beginners. In many areas the trail is a real challenge, going up and down in elevation with longer stretches where you really have to pay attention to the track. Other areas provide a little bit of a break. You can enjoy the scenery as you follow the creek and take in some of the views at a few higher elevation portions of the trail.