Everywhere you turn this time of year, you’ll find a plethora of lists heralding the best drives and hikes to traverse as your senses seek fresh autumn air and the vibrant colors of the season. So, not to be redundant, we thought we’d take a different route – offering up ideas for new opportunities you might want to consider when visiting this fall. We hope these ideas take the experience of shifting coloration to a new level as you catch more than a glimpse of these majestic mountains morphing into bright, rich shades of gold, orange, and red.
*Cover photo courtesy of All About The View
Come on Ride that Train!
Have you ever wondered what the absolute best way to see all of Georgia’s fall foliage in one shot is? Well, hop aboard the train right in the middle of town. You don’t need a map, your GPS, a bunch of lists of the best roads to take. This is a historic and creative way to take a trip this autumn and see all there is to see from the comfort of a train. All aboard Blue Ridge Scenic Railway!
Climb to the Highest Georgia Peak
There is a lot of advice on how to hike up the mountain, but –pssst- let us let you in on some sound advice. Take the shuttle up to Brasstown Bald. The Brasstown Bald Visitors Center sits atop Georgia’s highest mountain at 4,784 feet above sea level. Surrounded by the Chattahoochee – Oconee National Forest, its cloud level observation deck offers stunning 360-degree views of the colorful Southern Appalachian Mountains and valleys. On a clear day, one can see four states. Your cell phone camera will capture a lot, but for those who take their photography very seriously, hauling your tripod and lenses up the mountain via the shuttle is much easier. Shuttle service is included in the day pass for $7 per person. The shuttle runs 7 days a week 10am – 4:30pm, but closes for lunch break between 12:30 and 1:10pm.
Cycling Through Town & Country
If you’re feeling extra adventurous, step it up a notch and rent an electric bike and save a little strain on those calf muscles. Pedego Bike Rental and Tours offers tours of Lake Blue Ridge where you get double the color – for the mountains reflect beautifully on the glass top lake this time of year.
Take the 60-90 miniute Lake Blue Ridge Marina Tour on your electric bike ( you even have the option of pedaling if you are feeling extra energetic.) The start and finish of this tour is at the Marina on the shore of Lake Blue Ridge, just 3 miles from Downtown Blue Ridge. This tour is available every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
You ‘Oar’t Have a Great Time
If you prefer to be on the water when vacationing, autumn sightseeing while floating has become “a thing”. Our lakes and rivers are relatively safe, with flat and calm waters. And even the most inexperienced ship hands can enjoy water sightseeing on a paddleboard, kayak or canoe.
Lake Blue Ridge Outfitters can set you up in a matter of minutes with whatever paddleboard or kayak equipment you might need to rent (or purchase). If you want to fish on a gorgeous fall morning, consider renting their Fishing Kayak, but rent it a little longer than planned. Once out on that serene lake, mesmerized by the red and white bobbing float, you might never want to return to land.
Henry David Thoreau wrote that every channel of water was a road for a canoe. You can rent your canoe and secure transportation to the Toccoa River launch with Toccoa River Outfitters. The Toccoa River Canoe trail starts at the Deep Hole Recreation Area and flows 13.8 miles to the take out at Sandy Bottoms. You’ll enjoy views of the colorful forested public lands, pastoral private lands, and most likely, some of their associated wildlife. Coupled with great fishing and some rapids make this a perfect canoe trip. This canoe trail is ideal for beginners and those who enjoy a less than vigorous float in a north Georgia Mountain River. This is the only designated canoe trail in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests. Length: 13.8 miles Use: Moderate Rating: Easy River Flow 3-4 MPH.
Peddling through a Photograph
We think that pedal boats and aqua cycles are arguably two of the top family-friendly water activities you can enjoy with your entire family- young and old alike. They are suitable for family fun, a picnic out on the water, or even fishing. Both of these water fun floats can be rented at Vogel State Park for use on this area’s favorite State Park lake, 22 acre Lake Trahlyta.
While summer might be the season that comes to mind as the prime time to enjoy a pontoon boat, we suggest you seriously consider a lake pontoon ride in Fall. The crisp air makes you feel alive, as you are no longer battling the oppressive heat. Lake Blue Ridge is 11 miles long and has 65 miles of shoreline where the explosion of fall foliage will take your breath away. The opportunity to escape on the water before winter arrives makes spending a few hours on a pontoon seem like the best idea yet. To schedule your rental contact Lake Blue Ridge Marina.
It’s a Boat, It’s A Plane, It’s a Good Time!
Some vacations you might find yourself throwing caution to the wind (and your trip budget, too). If you find yourself on just that vacation then consider a tour by Sea Plane. Offered by Wing – In- It Adventures their Mountain Views Package is an exclusive 60 minute air tour of Lake Blue Ridge, Lake Nottely, and Lake Chatuge. Enjoy the beautiful views of the Georgia Mountains Region with an eagles view. The deluxe tour plane holds up to three passengers -or- 450 lbs total passenger weight.
Get a Bird’s Eye View
To say autumn is the most visited time of year here is an understatement. Instead of crowded parks and trails to marvel at the cascade of blazing reds, yellows and oranges of these Blue Ridge Mountains, why not take in the fall foliage from the comfort of a helicopter? Blue Ridge Helicopter Tours offers a dozen different tours from 8 mins to 90 mins long. Choose your location and your price point.
Have you been to Town’s County’s (Hiawassee) Bell Mountain yet? If you aren’t sure, then you probably haven’t, because the ride up there is better than any hair pin ride Disney has to offer. Yet, for some, it isn’t enough to experience the journey up by car, and then be rewarded with a view of up to four states and a Lake that looks more like it was woven in and out of the Swiss Alps. The views once at top and higher platforms -150 more steps straight up- is even more amazing. And still… STILL, this isn’t enough. So Bell Mountain serves as a launching pad for area Hang Gliders. Maybe jumping off the top of a mountain wrapped in an unpowered flying apparatus consisting of a frame with a fabric airfoil stretched over it isn’t your idea of vacation fun, but going up the mountain to watch others find their thrill on Rosemary Hill, well that’s a freebee experience we think you’ll find is worth the admission.
Maybe not hang gliding, but there is something about flying through the air that is alluring. So, why not fly through the colorful forests attached to a zipline? Zipline Canopy Tours of Blue Ridge is set on 165 acres of beautiful North Georgia Mountain property. Located only 6 miles from downtown Blue Ridge they offer a one-hour tour with seven multiple ziplines ranging from 150 to 550 feet in length for a total of half a mile of cable. They also offer a two-hour zipline tour that features one mile of cable with 13 multiple ziplines, ranging from 150 to 1,000-feet in length and ranging from 25 – 75 feet in height. All zipline tours are guided and require no experience.
Up Up and Away!
And for our last “by air” suggestion, we leave you with this. The Fifth Dimension sang about it, and those of us old enough to remember the lyrics, dreamt about it. “Way up in the air in my beautiful balloon. Love is waiting there, in my beautiful balloon…” If this fall vacation you are looking for the perfect place to ask for your love’s hand in marriage, look no further. Balloons Over Georgia is located here in North Georgia, generally operating in the area between Canton and Cumming. Most of their flights launch from an area about 35 miles south of Blue Ridge, but they utilize several different launch sites in the area to take advantage of varying wind conditions and directions.
Whether by land, by sea or by air, experiencing these Blue Ridge Mountains this time of year is candy for your eyes and nourishment for your soul.
Happy Fall, ya’all.