The Unicoi State Park & Lodge overlooks the rolling landscape of the Blue Ridge Mountains of northern Georgia with postcard-perfect views from picture windows and open-air balconies. Nestled near Unicoi Lake, the lodge combines spacious accommodations with the seclusion of more than 1,000 acres of protected wilderness.
An extensive network of hiking trails weaves across the mountain landscape, from the meandering loop around the lakefront to a white-knuckle mountain bike path. Across the property, visitors can fish for trout from lakeside docks or shallow stream banks. In warmer months, sunbathers flock to a sandy beach adjacent to a roped-off swimming area, and canoers and kayakers explore the lake’s outer reaches. Weekly park staff events range from full-moon hikes to cave tours and beard grooming.
Back at the lodge, the restaurant hosts all-you-can-eat buffets three times a day. Included breakfasts typically feature waffles, bacon, and biscuits with country gravy, and dinners always include mountain trout. Beyond the lobby, draped with hand-sewn quilts, lodge rooms are simply appointed with forest prints. The two-bedroom, all-wood-interior Smith Creek cabins are warmed by stone fireplaces, and the barrel-shaped lake-view cabins feature hobbit-like architecture with curved walls and arced ceilings. All cabins come with a full kitchen, cookware, and an outdoor charcoal grill.
Helen, Georgia: Alpine Village with Frequent Festivals
The nearby town of Helen imagines the Appalachians as Alps. The quaint, Bavarian-style town is lined with cobblestone alleys and timber frame cottages. Helen’s schedule of festivals and events celebrates the mountain landscape with vineyard tours, trout-fishing competitions, and birding trips. One of the most popular traditions is the annual Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race, which fills the skies with myriad multicolored floats.
There's also plenty of outdoor scenery to enjoy in the surrounding Chattahoochee National Forest. The Appalachian Trail passes near Helen, and it comes alive every spring with thru-hikers attempting the entire 2,180-mile journey without the assistance of GPS or a st. bernard. By Memorial Day, the Chattahoochee River warms up and becomes a bona fide lazy river traversed by weekenders on inner tubes.