The Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway beckons visitors to get lost along its 40 miles of curvy mountain roads that travel through the beautiful Chattahoochee National Forest.
Visitors can enjoy the 360 degree views from atop Brasstown Bald, Georgia's tallest mountain, or escape at one of the byways numerous waterfalls. Beautiful waterfalls and secluded views are just a short hike off the main road.
Regardless of your mountain interest, the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway is an ideal getaway and drive as it wanders through scenic North Georgia.
Accessing Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway
The byway begins north of Robertstown, GA at the intersection of GA-75 and GA-75 Alternate, near Helen GA.
Go north from Helen, Georgia on highway 17-75 approximately 2 and a half miles and make a left onto alternate highway 17 may also be marked GA 356. You made the correct turn if cross the bridge over the Chattahoochee River. A short drive thru the foothills of White County will bring you to GA 348, a forestry sign reading Russell-Brasstown Scenic By-Way will tell you to take a right turn onto GA 348.
This is where your adventure begins! You can find a map on the Scenic Byways Flyer.
Chattahoochee National Forest
As you begin your drive on GA 348, you not only enter Chattahoochee National Forest, but you also begin your ascent into the highest elevations of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia. Many call this the "rooftop of the North Georgia Mountains".
Dukes Creek Falls and Trailhead
On your left, not far up GA 348 is the trailhead and parking area for Dukes Creek Falls. The parking area provides a beautiful view of the Georgia lowlands, and Yonah Mountain.
If you take the path along the side of the parking area you’ll arrive at an observation deck for Dukes Creek Falls. If you continue on the trail, past the observation deck, the trail will take you down below the falls for a closer view. Just be aware that the climb back up is strenuous!
Raven Cliffs Falls Trail
Continuing on GA 348, you'll continue your beautiful ascent up into the mountains, and arrive soon at the road and parking area for Raven Cliffs Falls Trail. Turn left onto the road to reach the parking area. This is a very popular trail, that will take you down to Raven Cliffs Falls along the Dodd's Creek. The trail is a 4.9 mile roundtrip hike, and moderate in difficulty.
This trail is one of the most beautiful in all of North Georgia. The hike follows a beautiful, rushing trout stream in a shady, moss-filled forest, that will make you feel as though you are in middle earth. You will soon find massive rock cliffs, and Raven Cliffs Falls pouring down 40 foot through a crevasse and down the cliffs.
Continuing on GA 348
Returning to GA 348 you'll continue on your drive, and ascent upward. The byway continues to wind through the Chattahoochee National Forest. Along the way, in this section, you’ll come to several overlooks. The higher up you climb, the bigger the views.
Just prior to reaching the summit of the byway, an overlook on the left looks down onto North Georgia’s Dahlonega Gold Belt. Here you'll get a full view of Yonah Mountain, with the its large cliff face. The Georgia Piedmont stretches across the horizon, providing very long range views.
Once past the overlook, you'll continue to climb the curve up to Hogpen Gap, and you'll cross the famous Appalachian Trail as it crossed the road here. This is a great place to stop, take a break, enjoy the views, and even hike on the famous AT, just so you can say you did!
Just past the AT parking lot is another overlook into the Blue Ridge Mountains. The view from this overlook is spectacular and one of the best you'll see!
Descending Down GA 348
From the last overlook, you'll begin a very steep descent down. The descent will continue for miles, as you slowly work your way down to the base of the mountain. At the bottom, you'll continue on GA 348, passing relatively flat pasture land until GA 348 ends.
At the intersection of GA 348 and and GA 180, you'll take a right on GA 180. You'll begin another long ascent up to the entrance of Brasstown Bald on the left.
After entering Brasstown Bald park, a winding and steep paved road will take you to the upper parking lot, just below the bald itself.
Directly next to the parking lot is a visitor center and gift shop. The trailhead to the top of the bald is there as well.
The trail to the top is paved and very steep, and is about a 1 mile roundtrip walk/hike. If you can't walk or prefer not to walk, you can pay a fee for the tour bus ride up and back.
The top of Brasstown Bald has a large wooden observation deck with a stone tower, which is closed. There is also a museum at the top, next to the observation tower. The views are the highlight of your visit and are amazing. From the top, you can see all of the North Georgia Blue Ridge Mountains, and even parts of the same range in North Carolina.
Brasstown Bald is the highest point in the North Georgia Blue Ridge Mountains at 4,784 feet.
High Schoals Creek Falls/Blue Hole Falls
After leaving Brasstown Bald, you'll continue left on GA 180 then turn right on GA 17. You'll see the trailhead and parking area for High Schoals Falls on your right, shortly after.
This is a great hike, where in a short distance (2-miles roundtrip) you'll see two of the most beautiful GA waterfalls!
You hike begins at the trailhead, located off gravel forest service road 283. The trail descends into the forest, where you will be surrounded by old-growth trees and mountain laurel. The trail slowly approaches High Schoals Creek, which you will soon hear as you hike closer to it. You'll pass through a campground before crossing the creek.
The trail passes through more campsites, and you'll reach a small bridge just before the sidepath that takes you down to Blue Hole Falls. As you reach the falls, you'll see a blue hole at the base, with Blue Hole Falls above it, hence the name.
Continue on the main trail to High Schoals Falls. Some old stone stairs will lead you down to the falls.
Return the way you came, but it's an unrelenting climb back up.
Back to Helen
You'll return to GA 17, and drive back to Helen GA to complete your adventure on the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway in Georgia.
There are a number of additional hiking trails and few more waterfalls we didn't mention in this guide, as we focused on the bigger highlights, but we encourage you to explore all the different trails and options along this beautiful and wonderful scenic drive.