Trail highlights trek from Anna Ruby Falls to Hardman Farm

  • Will Wagner, site manager for Smithgall Woods State Park and the Hardman Farm State Historic Site, speaks to the Helen City Commission Dec. 10. (Photo/Stephanie Hill)
    Will Wagner, site manager for Smithgall Woods State Park and the Hardman Farm State Historic Site, speaks to the Helen City Commission Dec. 10. (Photo/Stephanie Hill)
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This map outlines a hike from Anna Ruby Falls, to Unicoi State Park, Helen and the Hardman Farm. (Image courtesy Will Wager/Smithgall Woods State Park)
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A planned New Year’s Day hike will offer an 11-mile journey from Anna Ruby Falls to the Hardman Farm State Historic Site.

The Falls to Farm First Day Hike is planned for Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020. Hardman Farm and Smithgall Woods State Park site manager Will Wagner spoke to the Helen City Commission on Tuesday, Dec. 10, about the hike and the possibility of it becoming a permanent trail.

The first day hike is generally a big event, with Smithgall Woods State Park seeing around 150 people for the event, and 50 to 60 people coming to the Hardman Farm State Historic Site, he said.

“It’s also a national event that’s promoted nation wide,” Wagner said. “This year we have elected Hardman Farm to partner with Unicoi and do our first day hike together and sort of loop Anna Ruby Falls into it.”

Wagner said they’ve come up with a project, the Falls to Farm Trail, that’s an 11-mile hike that begins at Anna Ruby Falls, goes down into Unicoi State Park, then into Helen and finishes at Hardman Farm. 

This trail would use existing trails the entire way, but he needs help from the city for the portion that goes through Helen.

“We would like to have help from the city with some possible signage at Unicoi Park, maybe some stenciling on the sidewalk, or whatever the city sees fit in order to keep the trail continuous through our four contiguous properties,” Wagner said. “No easements are needed. Really, it’s just sort of making sure there’s way finders throughout the city that help this come to fruition. Then they’ll tie into the north side of the Helen to Hardman Heritage Trail and hike the last mile down to Hardman Farm.”

Wagner said that thanks to the Helen to Hardman Trail, they’re seeing more people at Hardman Farm. Since the trail reopened in May this year after storm damage repairs, it’s averaging about 6,000 people a month walking it, he said.

For the hike on Jan. 1, Wagner said the number of hikers has been capped at 50, who will meet at Hardman Farm and be shuttled to Anna Ruby Falls. From there, they’ll hike their way down back to Hardman Farm. He added there also will be a smaller event that same day that will have people only walking the Helen to Hardman Trail.

“[It’s] an exciting event, but it’s not just a first day hike. It’s not just a one and done. We’re actually going to start promoting it every year,” Wagner said. “The big showcase for this trail will be on the first day, but it’s a year long hike that people can do. That’s why we want the signage throughout that promotes this throughout the year.”

Wagner said they’ve started some promotion on the 11-mile trail, and he received a letter recently from a hiking club that tried out the trail.

“They brought about 25 people from their hiking club out that hiked from the falls to the farm, and they stopped at Hofers [Bakery] for lunch and [said] how much they enjoyed it,” Wagner said.

Additional details for this event can be found at the Hardman Farm State Historic Site Facebook page.