Winter Hiking in Blue Ridge



There are few better places to hike than on the hundreds and hundreds of miles of trails that crisscross the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Georgia. Not only is this an area that speaks to the hiker in familiar terms – Appalachian Trail, Benton MacKaye Trail, Hike Inn, Amicalola Falls – but it’s the wide variety of experiences, from the casual to the challenging, that make these hikes some of the most popular in America. You can come prepared and packed to the hilt or just carry a water bottle and be perfectly pleased with the result.

Every year thousands of hikers start the Appalachian Trail journey – north–to-south, south-to-north, or a split blend of both – and roughly one-quarter of those who start with intentions of a thru-hike manage to complete the 2,000-mile plus trek. Those are usually serious hikers with high aspirations, deep determination, and a lot of time.

Many, many more hikers take a day (or two), or just a morning or an afternoon to enjoy the beauty of nature, 50-mile views, and the peace and solitude of a recreational hike. For those, and the more determined and dedicated both, there’s no better place to start than Blue Ridge, Georgia and Fannin County.

What draws hikers to Blue Ridge in the first place is the variety of terrain and the landscape that surrounds it. This region has been called the “hinge of botany” for its unique ability to sustain the widest variety of plant life on the East Coast – a robust mixture of northern and southern species.

Constant surprises greet those who look for unusual trees, shrubs and ground cover. You may end up in the midst of mountain laurel, rhododendron and hemlock trees all at the same time – an experience not at all common in any other part of the country.

So, where to go to discover all this?  Well, it doesn’t take more than 10-20 miles, and 30 minutes or less to get you to where you want to go.  You can avail yourself of guide services like Blue Ridge Mountain Outfitters, ready willing and able to chime in on suggestions, or to lead the hike itself.

Springer Mountain

Just minutes from downtown Blue Ridge, Springer Mountain is best known as the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. It’s the southern equivalent of Maine’s Katahdin Mountain – where hundreds per year start or finish their AT thru-hike adventures. A thru-hike isn’t a necessity to enjoy the beauty, tranquility and sense of camaraderie on the country’s most famous hiking trail. Sections of the 2,181-mile AT starting at Springer are at times both challenging and peaceful, so it’s best to consult the proper guide to determine a section of trail that suits your level of ability.

 

The Benton MacKaye Trail

Named for Benton MacKaye, the originator of the Appalachian Trail, crosses the AT about 15 miles south of Blue Ridge and features a 260-foot suspension bridge across the Toccoa River known as the Swinging Bridge. The Benton MacKaye is great option for day hikers, or you can warm up for a thru hike by doing the entire 300 miles ending in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park.

 

Grassy Mountain Tower Trail at Lake Conasauga

A couple of special things are going on here with this 4-mile trail – all at once. 1) The location of Grassy Mountain Tower Trail begins and ends with gorgeous views of Fort Mountain and the Cohutta Wilderness.  2) Lake Conasauga is a small, crystal clear mountaintop lake with remarkable beauty; and 3) The historic Grassy Mountain fire tower provides a perch from which to view the length and breadth of this shimmering mountain lake.

 

Emery Creek Falls Trail

This trail follows lushly forested creek banks to a pair of stunning, beautiful, remote waterfalls. The trail is refreshing, and especially fun in the summer months.  The Emery Creek Falls Trail splashes through 20 creek crossings to the pinnacle, cascading Emery Creek Falls.

 

The Jacks River Trail

If you are looking for and adventure, Jacks River ia a 14.8 mile trail located within the Cohutta Wilderness Area. This trail is slightly more advanced and parts of it crosses moving water. Forest service guidance is strongly recommended. However, if a crystal-clear river and a series of waterfalls gets you excited, then you really need to add this hike to your list.

 

The Hemp Top Trail

About 10 miles from Blue Ridge, The Hemp Top Trail is a hike of about 30 minutes, but well worth the trek. This hike accesses peaks that are among the tallest in Georgia — and the views are breathtaking.

 

Hiking anywhere in close proximity to Blue Ridge, Blairsville, Ellijay and Dahlonega in the North Georgia Mountains is an experience not to be forgotten. The exercise, exhilaration and discovery of true companionship along the way always makes for memorable moments. Most of these trails are pet friendly as well, so don’t leave Roscoe at home. Be sure to share your pictures of your journeys with us on Facebook or Instagram. We’d love to see where your Escape to Blue Ridge takes you!

Blue Ridge Area Waterfalls



It’s hard to imagine anything more tranquil, peaceful, powerful and appealing than a waterfall. And if one is good, many are better. Fortunately, in Blue Ridge and Fannin County, there is an abundance of rushing water, and impressive elevations – and, thanks to gravity, it all inevitably leads to waterfalls in various forms or fashion – all about 30 minutes’ drive from town.

Long Creek Falls

Starting with waterfalls closest to downtown Blue Ridge, Long Creek Falls provides easy access and an impressive view of a 50-foot drop in two sections. The bonus here is that the falls are at the intersection of the Appalachian and the Benton MacKaye trails, both of which offer a reasonable, but not daunting hike in.

Fall Branch Falls

Also nearby, is the upper part of Fall Branch Falls, which is a series of cascading waterfalls leading to a single drop of about 30 feet into a deep pool at the base of the falls. Fall Branch is a slightly less dramatic drop, but the hike is more challenging and the sound of cascading falls along the trail can be heard before it’s seen.

Sea Creek Falls

Just north of Blue Ridge, close to Morganton, Sea Creek Falls rewards a hiker’s driving indulgence with a short walk to a series of steep cascades. Like Long Falls, Sea Creek drops in two sections, and at high water times of the year (usually later winter and early spring) these cascading waterfalls are enormously impressive.

Amicalola Falls

It’s not a well-known fact that the Blue Ridge Mountains are older than the Rockies, but it explains the softer and relatively less severe ridge lines, thanks to centuries of weather wearing away the rough edges. Still, there are areas in these mountains that feature geological fissures affording deep drops and in the case of Amicalola Falls, just south of Ellijay, the result is a 729-foot cascading waterfall, the steepest east of the Mississippi.

Amicalola can be accessed by way an arduous hike from Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, or by car through Amicalola State Park. If you choose the State Park route, there are a few viewing options – 1) drive to the top of the falls and look down; 2) walk up the meandering staircase, which features switchbacks and landing platforms; or 3) hike up the backside of the falls to the top and have drinks or lunch at Amicalola Falls Resort. Any and all are good options.

Whatever you choice in waterfall hunting, you can’t go wrong. From pastoral to pounding waterfalls, they are a great destination and a rich reward after a drive, hike, walk or run. Additionally, they are a great way to experience family fun together, build camaraderie among buddies, or add a bit of romance to a relationship. Get out and explore. You’ll be glad you did.

We love to see your Blue Ridge adventures! Please share your favorite waterfall photos with us on our Facebook page or tag us on Instagram @escapetobr. We can’t wait to see!

The Colin Family Takes on Blue Ridge



We have some of the coolest guests that adventure up into the Blue Ridge Mountains for some good quality R&R. Earlier this fall, a beautiful family from the Southwest region of Florida knew they wanted to come up the mountains and experience the spectacular fall season. Fortunately for them, the 2018 season proved to be one of the most colorful seasons we’ve enjoyed in a while! Fortunately for us, they made this awesome vlog about their journey.

The Players

The Patriarch, Andres Colin, is a talented singer-songwriter in and around the Sarasota area. His lovely wife, Kristen, is an equally talented photographer. Together they have one beautiful little girl, Aria, and another bundle of joy on the way. So, needless to say, life is pretty busy for the Colin family, but that wasn’t going to stop them from getting away. A local Sarasota artist, Jay Tyler of Steel View Art, recommend the family Escape to Blue Ridge and stay in a cabin called Woolly Bugger.

The Adventure

Have you driven eight hours with a toddler before? Well, lets just say the eight hour drive from Sarasota took more like twelve hours, but their reward was coming! Alas, they arrived in the mountains along a quiet dirt road and stepped out of the car to experience the crisp mountain air and check out their home away from home.

You will delight when you watch the family explore the lakes and mountains of the Appalachian region, your heart will melt when you hear Andres sing Happy Birthday to Kristen, and you will thoroughly enjoy Andres singing Una Guitarra by Gerardo Pena.

With any good road trip, food is a critical factor. Luckily for the Colin Family, there are no shortage of good restaurants in the Blue Ridge area. You may think a little mountain town only survives on bbq, cornbread, biscuits, and sweet tea. While that is absolutely 100% true, but we also have a taste for the finer things in life including healthy options offering gluten free and vegan selections.

With memory cards filled with pictures and hearts full of family memories, the Colin Family has to begin their journey back to their regular lives.  One last stop in Georgia finds the family in Valdosta at the most delightful downtown market and café, Birdie’s. That’s when the Colin’s knew. They’ve been bitten by the Travel Bug and they will make a point to get out and travel more. There is just too much in life to experience.

Take about six minutes and enjoy this very well done and beautiful vlog by Andres Colin and his family’s Escape to Blue Ridge!

Top 5 Blue Ridge Adventure Cabins



Sometimes it’s challenging to motivate for outdoor fun when it is so chilly outside. However, being active outdoors is a great way to enjoy the mountains in a whole new way. Not only is it less crowded, but there are no bugs to contend with! To make the most of your outdoor adventure and not be cold and uncomfortable, layer your clothing so you don’t wimp out and head back for the cabin. Here are a few inspiring North Georgia cabin rentals to keep you active in and around Blue Ridge.

A River Runs Through It

The Aska Adventure Lodge is located in the much sought after Aska Adventure area. Did you know Aska is the Cherokee Native American word for “winter retreat”? However, this cabin is perfect in every season. The Lodge has three bedrooms and three bathrooms and can easily accommodate ten people with king beds in the two master suits, a queen bed in the guest room, and two futons in the loft and game room.

This retreat is conveniently located less than five minutes from the quaint town of Blue Ridge, Georgia. Nearby access to the Toccoa River and Lake Blue Ridge is easily accessible. Our friend, Dell Neighbors, at Fly Fishing North Georgia would be happy to take you on a guided fly-fishing trip to the area’s many cold-water streams and rivers. When you return from a great day of fishing, you can throw your freshly caught trout on the grill of your expansive deck and reflect on the successes of the day. Cap off your evening by lighting the outdoor fireplace and relax on the deck as the sun sets behind the expansive Blue Ridge Mountains.

A Gallop and a Trot

Vista Ridge is a distinctive Georgia mountain cabin rental that offers the peaceful get away from your everyday life that you are craving. Named for the spectacular view that overlooks the Toccoa River and stretches all the way to Tennessee and North Carolina, this four-bedroom, three bath home is your perfect base camp to explore the Blue Ridge area.  To get a better feel for the view, saddle up a horse with our friends at Blanche Manor and go on an adventure through the unspoiled beauty of the mountain wilderness.

After a long day on the trails, soothe your sore muscles in the hot tub and watch the sun set behind the mountains. Back inside, turn on the gas fireplace and snuggle into the leather couches. Before your weekend is over, challenge your partner to a game of pool in the game room and make the looser take you out to a fabulous dinner at Harvest on Main.

Fly Like an Eagle

Eagles Landing is as bold, majestic and unique lodge that is the epitome of rustic elegance. This spacious custom home has seven bedrooms to accommodate nineteen guests. Situated directly on Lake Blue Ridge, this spectacular showplace has incomparable views of the surrounding mountains. The hand-carved spiral staircase spans four floors, from the unique loft down to the terrace level where you will find the “grown-ups’ game room”. There are three decks spanning the length of the home, a hot tub, swings, and a picnic table to enjoy views and privacy that cannot be found anywhere else.

Close by you can channel your inner eagle and zip through 165 acres of beautiful North Georgia mountain property with our friends at Zipline Canopy Tours of Blue Ridge. Here, you’ll experience the mountains from the treetops, you’ll zip into the valley, soar over pastures, and cross over Fighting Town Creek. From 75’ in the air you can squeal with delight take off on 6,000 feet of cable, crossing thirteen platforms and three walking bridges.

A Walk in the Woods

It’s impossible to walk in the woods and be in a bad mood at the same time. Fortunately, the mountains are rich with hiking trails to explore and Take a Hike cabin is the perfect home base. Beautifully situated on Mt. Pisgah, this cabin overlooks absolutely fantastic mountain views. It also has three massive decks to enjoy them and from where you’ll be inspired to plan the many and nearby open-air activities that surround you. This home has great sleeping accommodations for up to 7 people and is a perfect set up for two families vacationing together or a good-sized group.

Explore the Cohutta Wilderness just off of your back porch where you can pick from delicious blueberry and blackberry bushes for snacking along your easy hike to a waterfall, cave or to Colonel Magnum’s memorial. A quick ten-minute drive will get you to major hiking trailheads including Dally Gap, Jacks River, Benton Mackaye and Hemptop.  Whichever route you choose, you will find peace and tranquility both in the woods and back at the cabin.

A Winery, Why Not

You have a lot of choices in Blue Ridge cabin rentals, but if you’re looking for comfort, privacy, and great views, Wine Down is the perfect vacation destination. This beautifully appointed mountain retreat is the kind of place that invites you to settle in, wind down and relax with a glass of wine, like its name suggests. The cabin’s four roomy bedrooms beckon you with comfort, but the real appeal is outside. Wine Down’s covered outdoor living room on the main deck has a gas grill, table for eight, plenty of seating, and a 60” TV above the wood burning fireplace.

Wine down is located on Aska Road less than four miles from the shopping and restaurants of downtown Blue Ridge. A short drive will take you to the nearby winery at Serenberry Vineyards.  Sit back, relax, and enjoy a mountain wine tasting. Their Skeenah Red is a perfect Merlot-Cab blend, but if you prefer something sweeter, you should definitely try the Apple-lachian. Fruity and sweet, it’s like a little apple pie in a bottle!

Fall in Love with Blue Ridge



Fall took a little longer than usual to arrive this year, but as soon as we had our first frost, BAM, the colors started popping! Now everywhere you look you can find brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows. So, grab your favorite boots and cozy sweater and Escape to Blue Ridge for leaf peeping at its best!

3 Falls and a Car

The Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway is a nationally designated Scenic Byway that is 40.64 miles in length and makes a loop through the heart of the Chattahoochee National Forest.  Beginning in Blairsville take Hwy 129 South towards Blood Mountain. Turn left on Hwy 180 then right onto Hwy 348 – The Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway. Along the way, you will pass Hatchet Creek Road that leads to Helton Creek Falls. Stop and enjoy both the Upper and Lower falls. The hike is short and easy, less than a mile long and super rewarding!

Continue up the mountain passing Tesnatee Gap, home to the original Old Logan Turnpike Trail. Just around the bend you’ll find Hogpen Gap which has an amazing overlook and picture-perfect opportunities. If you are up for a more challenging waterfall hike, Hwy 348 passes right by the trail-head for Raven Cliff Falls. While Raven Cliff is one of Georgia’s most popular waterfalls, be prepared to take a 2.5-mile journey through the woods.

The last waterfall opportunity on your travels down the Russell-Brasstown Byway is at Dukes Creek Falls. A happy medium between Helton Creek and Raven Cliff, Dukes Creek Falls is a two mile round-trip hike. Passing several small falls along the way, you’ll be rewarded at the end of the trail with a 150 foot, multi-tiered waterfall.  The Russell-Brasstown byway dead ends into Hwy 75 which will take you into the Alpine Village of Helen, Georgia.

See 4 States

The Southern Highroads Trail can be traveled in its entirety or in sections.  This very scenic route travels through four national forests (Chattahoochee, Nantahala, Cherokee, and Sumter) and four states (North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia).  Enjoy shopping, dining, entertainment and outdoor activities in all 13 counties the route passes through.

Another way to see four states without all the mileage is to visit the top of Brasstown Bald. The approach to the Bald is worth the car ride alone. Turning onto Hwy 180 from Hwy 129 South in Blairsville, travel approx. 9 miles to Spur 180. Wind yourself up the mountain and be cautious of the hairpin turns, they’re liable to take your breath. Once you get to the top parking area, you still have another mile to go to reach the highest peak in Georgia at 4,784 feet above sea level! You can choose to hike the steep summit trail or take a shuttle bus up to the top. Either way, you will enjoy a breathtaking 360 degree view of four states (North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia) from the observation deck. Inside you’ll find a museum featuring Georgia and Native American History. It is even said that you can see the Atlanta skyline on a clear day from the top of the Bald!

An Adventure

Just on the other side of downtown Blue Ridge, you’ll find the outdoor adventure area of the Aska Trail Systems. Here you can hike, fish, bike, and leaf peep. Being that Blue Ridge is the Trout Capital of Georgia, access to the Toccoa River is just off Aska Road. If you get hungry the Toccoa Riverside Restaurant is ready to serve you fresh trout, a top sirloin or a plethora of sandwich and salad options. They even have a full Pooch Porch Goodies menu featuring canine cuisines for Fido!

Whether you are biking or hiking, you can choose from strenuous to moderate trails. Our favorite is the hike down to Fall Branch Falls. This is a short half mile, family friendly hike that follows the Benton MacKaye Trail and ends at one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Georgia. The trail is mildly challenging, and the path is mostly uphill, but it is definitely worth the effort! As you approach you will hear the roar of the falls get louder as you near the multi-tiered falls. Notice a short side trail and take this down to the observation deck.

Pinnacle of Beauty

If you really want a mountain experience, you need to take the back roads and experience the simple life we enjoy here in the mountains. Take Highway 60 towards Dahlonega. Start your trip off right with a wine tasting at the picturesque Serenberry Vineyards. When you’ve built up your nerves of steel you can test your balance on the Swinging Bridge. This 270-foot-long suspension bridge is the longest swinging bridge east of the Mississippi River!

Continue down highway 60 to Georgia’s best secret, Suches, or the Valley Above the Clouds. At 3k feet above sea level, the Suches area provides a stunning view of picture perfect landscapes and glorious mountain views. Here you’ll also find the smallest public school in Georgia educating children from Kindergarten through 12th grade all in one building.

Take Hwy 180 to Lake Winfield Scott. This secret hideaway is a recreation area in the Chattahoochee National Forest. With a beautiful lake as the centerpiece, Winfield Scott beckons you to get out of the car, stretch your legs and take in the untouched beauty of this special part of Georgia. Continue down Hwy 180 with its hairpin turns and lush forest to Vogel State Park, Gerogia’s most beloved State Park. Here you can enjoy the beauty of Lake Trahlyta and take a short walk down to Trahlyta Falls.

Legend Has It

So interesting fact, Lake Trahlyta was named after a Cherokee Indian Princess.  Vogel State Park is located at the base of Blood Mountain where the Native Americans fought many years ago. They say that Slaughter Creek, which runs adjacent to Blood Mountain ran red for 3 days with all the blood that was shed. Lake Winfield Scott, just above, Vogel and Lake Trahlyta, was named after the General that led the Indians out on the Trail of Tears. You can take the full Suches loop around and pass by Trahlyta’s grave which is the rock pile at Stonepile Gap. Legend has it that if you stop and place a rock on Trahlyta’s grave, you too can be as young and happy as she once was.

Photo of Lake Winfield Scott courtesy of Gene Crawford.