Georgia Scenic Drive: Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway

Cool in the summer, mild in the winter, the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway beckons you to lose yourself in its luscious timberland. Linger atop Brasstown Bald to absorb all 360 degrees of rolling highlands. Escape the crowds and retire to the cooling mists of the byway's numerous waterfalls.

Got a hanker for a hike, but the Appalachian Trail isn't what you had in mind? Sparkling waterfalls and secluded valley views are just a short stroll from the main road. The average weekend hiker could spend years exploring these trails and never retrace a step.


Share a meal at a cozy picnic site or break bread in a real Bavarian hamlet enveloped in the Georgian mountains. Whether you're looking to hike the hinterland or lounge in a lazy village, the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway is an ideal getaway.

Natural Qualities of Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway

Two Forest Service Scenic Areas have been designated to protect their unique qualities and natural beauty. First, the High Shoals Creek Falls Scenic Area covers 170 heavily wooded acres that surround the numerous waterfalls along the creek. Second, the highlight of the Anna Ruby Falls Scenic Area is the dramatic 150-foot waterfall where Curtis and York Creeks join to create Smith Creek. Protecting 1,600 acres, the Anna Ruby Falls Scenic Area is covered with poplars, white pines, rhododendrons, and many wildflower species.

Three Wildlife Management areas, including Chattahoochee, Swallow Creek, and Chestatee, are designed to provide an undisturbed habitat for many of the native plant and wildlife species of the region.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources operates two state parks, as well as Smithgall Woods-Dukes Creek Conservation Area. These two parks and the conservation area collectively protect more than 6,800 acres of North Georgia wilderness. Unicoi and Vogel State Parks comprise 1,261 acres of protected lands and offer a variety of recreational and educational opportunities. The Smithgall Woods-Dukes Creek Conservation Area has been designated as a State Heritage Preserve; this designation will protect its 5,555 acres of trout streams, hiking trails, and wildlife habitats for future generations.

Recreational Qualities of Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway

Hiking trails that lead visitors to tumbling waterfalls or breathtaking mountain overlooks abound in the Chattahoochee National Forest of North Georgia. The most prominent of these is the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. Extending more than 2,000 miles from Georgia's Springer Mountain to Maine, traveling the entire Appalachian Trail is a goal for many hikers. The Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway provides access to the trail, which covers nearly 80 miles in Georgia.

Atop Brasstown Bald, hikers can explore the Jacks Knob, Arkaquah, and Wagon Train Trails. These trails, ranging from 4½ to 6 miles in length, radiate from the visitor center parking area. Numerous smaller trails snake their way around the area and can be accessed from Andrews Cove, Chattahoochee Campground, Dukes Creek Falls, Raven Cliff Falls, and the other state parks and scenic areas.

This map of Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway follows the mountainous loop through the greenery of Chattahoochee National Forest.

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Highlights of the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway

Meandering creeks and both large and small waterfalls are highlights of a visit to the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway.

The area around the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway features colors for all seasons. Whether a deep summer green or an exploding autumn red and yellow, this scenic drive is covered with slender pines, towering hardwoods, beautiful rhododendrons, and vibrant wildflowers. Hidden beneath the forest's canopy, gentle streams wander down mountain sides and tumble down spectacular waterfalls on their journey to the sea. Dukes Creek Falls, High Shoals Creek Falls, and nearby Anna Ruby Falls offer dramatic examples of the power of nature.

The Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway hosts attractions for viewing from afar or experiencing first-hand. The following itinerary offers a sampling of what the byway has to offer.


Helen: To begin your journey fully equipped with maps, brochures, and food and drink, stop at the charming town of Helen, just two miles before officially reaching the byway. Originally this area was a vibrant center of the indigenous Cherokee culture. When gold was discovered in the area in 1828, thousands of Europeans flooded the region. Gold mining and then the timber industry flourished until the mid-20th century. In the 1960s the village once again reinvented itself, this time as a quaint Bavarian hamlet.

Smithgall Woods-Dukes Creek Conservation Area: Formerly a private estate, this conservation area has been described as being home to one of North Georgia's best trout streams as well as nature trails and wildlife viewing stands.

Dukes Creek Falls: Leaving the Smithgall Woods-Dukes Creek Conservation Area, turn north on State Route 348 for a half-mile to Dukes Hollow Road and follow the signs to Dukes Creek Falls. The falls are actually on Davis Creek before it joins Dukes Creek. Dropping 250 feet down a steep granite canyon, Dukes Creek Falls is a spectacular sight. A wheelchair-accessible trail from the parking lot to observation platforms gives an overview of the falls. Hikers can continue down Dukes Creek Gorge to the base of the falls for an up-close experience.

Raven Cliff Falls: Returning to State Route 348, continue another 2.5 miles north. Parking is available along the left side of the road. Follow the signs marking the trail to Raven Cliff Falls. Tumbling a total of 100 feet down Dodd Creek, Raven Cliff Falls is actually a series of three splendid waterfalls. The middle section flows through a split in a solid rock outcropping. Other waterfalls are found on the creek with the largest having a drop of 70 feet. The surrounding wilderness, measuring more than 9,100 acres, is federally protected.

Brasstown Bald: Brasstown Bald is Georgia's highest mountain. At 4,784 feet above sea level, this vantage point offers a commanding 360-degree view.

High Shoals Creek Falls Scenic Area: Near the intersection of State Routes 17/75 and 180, Forest Service Road 283 leads visitors through the Swallow Creek Wildlife Management Area to the High Shoals Creek Falls Scenic Area. A 1.25-mile trail takes visitors down to the High Shoals Creek Falls and Blue Hole Falls. It is highly recommended that the falls be

Smith Creek: From State Route 17/75, turn left on State Route 356 for 1.5 miles, and then left at the sign for Anna Ruby Falls. Follow this road for 3.5 miles to the parking area. Fed by underground springs, rain, and snow, Curtis Creek and York Creek thunder down Tray Mountain to form Smith Creek. Paths and trails traverse the area. Lion's Eye Trail gives people with visual impairments the opportunity to experience the Smith Creek environment with Braille signs.

Drivers are treated to a tremendous view of the surrounding landscape from atop Georgia's highest point, Brasstown Bald. It's a fitting summit to a tour of the majestic green highlands along the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway.

Find more useful information related to Georgia's Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway:

  • How to Drive Economically: Fuel economy is a major concern when you're on a driving trip. Learn how to get better gas mileage.