Unicoi State Park is right outside of the tourist town of Helen, Georgia—known for Bavarian-themed tchotchke shops and Harley-Davidson cosplayers. If you’ve never been before, just try imagining a tourist trap with a German twist. Unicoi features a man-made lake, cabin rentals, and campsites. The cabins run $125+ depending on the season. Campsites are around $15 per night, making this an incredibly cheap basecamp for a summer weekend getaway filled with mini-golf, river tubing, and water slides.
There are several trails around the park, but the most popular one is the 2½-mile loop around the lake. It’s very kid-friendly with almost no elevation changes. You’re supposed to pay $5 per car to access the park (it’s an honor system where you pay and hang a tag from your rearview mirror). Oddly enough, the entrance to Anna Ruby Falls is through Unicoi State Park even though it’s technically in the wholly separate Chattahoochee National Forest, which demands its own fee of $3 per adult. If you’re just driving to hike the .7 mile path up to the falls, then you don’t have to pay the Unicoi State Park access fee. But that doesn’t mean they don’t try to double-charge you anyway.
One of the cool things about Unicoi is the man-made beach. One of the uncool things about the beach is the silty, slimy bottom of the lake. I highly recommend picking up some water shoes before visiting. You can use them when you’re tubing in Helen as well.
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