When we say the old Blue Ridge mountains, we mean it! As part of the Appalachian mountain range, the Blue Ridge mountains are the second oldest range in the whole world. Over 1 BILLION years ago, shifts in our Earth’s tectonic plates caused the Blue Ridge mountains to form in a system of peaks and valleys that span eight states!
Sometimes it’s a little confusing that you can see the Blue Ridge mountains in other states besides Georgia but these mountains are vast. There is a Northern section that includes Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. The Southern section includes West Virginia, Tennessee, North & South Carolina, and of course right here in Blue Ridge, Georgia! Our particular section of the range is known as the Appalachian Mountain Range and we are a part of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest.
They Really are Blue!
Have you ever wondered why these mountains are called Blue Ridge? If you catch any section of the range at the right time of day, you’ll see that the mountains have a distinctive blue color. The forests that cover these rocky protrusions are predominately made up of spruce and fir trees and they emit isoprene into the atmosphere creating the blue hue!
The Blue Ridge Mountains can span across 60 miles in some locations. While the tallest mountain in this system is Mount Mitchell in North Carolina rising at 6,684 feet high, just 30 minutes from downtown Blue Ridge is the tallest peak in Georgia, Brasstown Bald rising at 4,784 feet above sea level! Here you can see 4 states!
The Native Americans, and specifically the Cherokee, lived in the Blue Ridge area more than 12,000 years ago! The moderate climate and the character of the mountains themselves, made a perfect region for inhabitants to settle. They farmed and hunted in the valleys and mountains that they called “the Enchanted Land” until they were forced to leave on the Trail of Tears.
One popular trail system that follow the Blue Ridge mountains all the way through Virginia is the Appalachian Trail. Hikers along the trail get the advantage of seeing the stunning untouched beauty of the mountains.
At the extreme Southern tip of the Appalachian Trail and the
entire Blue Ridge mountain system is the spectacular Amicalola
Falls, the tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi!
Fall in the mountains is a special time of year. The temperatures begin to drop to more moderate levels, the leaves turn to beautiful colors, and we can finally don our favorite sweaters and boots! There is always so much to do, both inside and outside, when you Escape to Blue Ridge and experience some fall fun! Here are a few ideas to make this time of year extra special while you create memories with your favorite people!
This is the most beautiful time of the year to pack up the
family or gather your friends and hit the road for some beautiful leaf peeping!
Here are our three favorites:
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.
Brasstown Bald rises 4,784 feet above sea level and is Georgia’s tallest mountain. Visitors to this place on high find an observation deck which allows a spectacular 360-degree view of the Blue Ridge Mountains, exhibits, a film, hiking trails, and gift shop.
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)
Come on Ride That Train
Fall in the Blue Ridge Mountains is best seen via railway
through the Chattahoochee National Forest. Board the eleven-car Blue Ridge Scenic Railway train and enjoy a relaxing
26-mile roundtrip journey beginning and ending in downtown Blue Ridge with a
stop in the newly revitalized twin cities of McCaysville, Ga & Copperhill,
Local Tip: Choose one of the three open air cars to have unobstructed views and to breathe in the fresh mountain air!
Take A Hike
There is not another season that encourages you to pause and
look around quite like Fall. We think nature is best experienced slowly because
sometimes when you’re hiking it can be easy to focus more on the destination or
watching where you step. However, in the Fall, bright colors implore you to look
away from the ground and towards the colorful trees that make this season so
special. Take your time and look up!
Local Tip: Explore the Aska Adventure area with 17 miles of trails to take in the beauty of the season. You can even incorporate the Long Creek Falls loop!
Pick a Peck
We can’t really think of a much more iconic fall activity
than picking a pick of apples and finding the perfect pumpkin. Right here in
Blue Ridge, Mercier Orchards
offers you the opportunity to do both. Take a hayride around the property,
enjoy a cup of hot apple cider, or warm up from the inside out with some
delicious hard cider!
Local Tip: The best part of apple picking isn’t just about going home with yummy apples, it’s about spending quality time with your loved ones and enjoying the fresh air. Make sure to take lots of pictures, that way the memories will last a lifetime.
Watching the stars, moon, and planets shine in real time can be a powerful reminder of how big our world really is and when you look up into the Blue Ridge sky you’ll see why autumn is the best time for star gazing! So, grab a blanket, a thermos of hot chocolate, and a special someone and cuddle up under the stars for a fascinating and romantic evening. Download a Stargazing app to help decipher exactly what you’re looking at and learn about the stories of the constellations.
What better way to enjoy the fall season than with a warm and toasty fire on the deck or down at the fire pit! This is really a fall MUST. It’s not optional. The air is just so fresh and clean, the crickets and frogs are chirping, and your heart is warmer than the flames with all the chitter chatter while you roast up marshmallows for the perfect s’mores.
Your cabin comes fully stocked with everything you might
need to make delicious meals for your friends and family. Since you came back
with more pecs of apples than you planned on, let’s put the fruits of your
labor to work and make some yummy fall recipes like:
The best part about fall evenings is sitting on the porch
(or in the hot tub) and watching the sun set over the beautiful mountain tops.
Instead of the same ol wine and/or beer that you normally would have, impress
your friends with some autumn inspired beverages. Apple Cider – Adult Style
Mother Nature produces colors that make Crayola Crayons jealous! So, why do we think they have to stay put outside? Pick up for favorite leaves, of all different colors and shapes, and bring them into the cabin to make your stay even more homey feeling. Create a simple centerpiece for the table or place some around the fireplace mantle in a decorative fashion. Regardless of whether or not you have children vacationing with you, you can try your hand at some of these fun fall leaf crafts. You don’t have to be super crafty to make something beautiful. Besides, the fun is in the laughter and memories you make with your loved ones.
Make a “thankfulness” list. With the Thanksgiving holiday just
around the corner, take the time to make a list of all the things you are thankful
for in your life. If you have children, make it a family project and teach
them the value of remembering all the good things that they have been experiencing
during the year.
In the North Georgia Mountains, we celebrate four gentle yet very distinct seasonal transitions, each measured very close to the designated tri-month celestial calendar. Mother Nature’s landscape specialist (shall we call her Flora?) takes a particular interest in altering our mountainscape on a quarterly basis, cloaking it in very different hues, depths of foliage, and fragrances.
To get a full appreciation of Flora’s artistry in any one of the seasonal changeovers, we encourage you to drive the 41 miles of Georgia’s only national scenic drive, The Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway. The Byway, one of only 120 highways across our fifty states so designated, circles around the Chattahoochee National Forest and can be launched just seventeen miles southeast of Fannin County, at the intersection of Hwys 129 and 180, located in neighboring Union County.
Highest Peak In GA
Following Hwy 180 northeast, you’ll travel twelve miles to the entrance to Brasstown Bald, the highest mountain elevation (4,784’) in Georgia. When you get to the top of the Bald’s observation tower, you will have a spectacular 360-degree view of three states!
Anna Ruby Falls
Back on Hwy
180 and after heading southeast for ten miles, you will turn south onto Hwy
75/17. Over the next 10 miles, you will motor through some of the heaviest of
forestry, including designated recreation areas Unicoi Gap and Andrews Cove. These are ideal places to hike,
fish, picnic or just relax before heading out on the next part of your
adventure. Driving for just a few minutes you will arrive at one of the
region’s finest natural gems, Anna Ruby Falls. This double waterfall is formed from the merging of two
creeks, both sourced from underground springs.
more miles south you will find yourself at Unicoi State Park, where you can jet off on a bicycle, paddleboard on Unicoi
Lake or eat at the Unicoi Restaurant located in the beautifully appointed
If you haven’t visited Bavaria’s USA sister city, quaint Helen GA, here’s the best opportunity, located just 3 more miles south of Unicoi State Park. But if Helen isn’t part of your plans for this scenic trip, then backtrack up 75/17 for only two miles where you’ll arrive at the entrance of one of the State’s most beautiful wooded parks, Smithgall Woods/Dukes Creek Falls State Park. Covering over 5,600 acres, this Park focuses on conservation. It’s also an angler’s paradise with some of the very best trout fishing in the State on the waters of Dukes Creek. Visit their event calendar to see what is scheduled during your visit.
There’s one more leg to this journey, and it is perhaps the most spectacular. Just a hair north of Smithgall Woods you will come upon the gateway (Hwy 348) to Richard Russell Scenic Hwy. These next 23 miles are not only a favorite for motorists, bicyclists and motorcyclists, but wildlife also love to roam all over the cliffs and valleys along this route. Do drive with patience and caution.
Helton Creek Falls
After nearly a 10 mile ascent, you’ll reach Hogpen Gap, (elevation 3,525′). This is a very popular, year-round hiking trail. But for just leaf lookers, the vistas at the appointed observation areas at this elevation are breathtaking! And in the spring there is no better place to view the “greening of the mountains”. As you begin the steep descent traveling north on Richard Russell, the valley brings more surprises as the fields open up and the farmlands, an integral facet of life in historical Choestoe Valley, are dotted across the highway. Look for a turn heading west at Hatchett Creek Rd. Follow this road till it merges with Helton Creek Road and visit one of the area’s favorite family waterfalls, Helton Creek Falls. The short hike (.24 miles) from the parking area leads to two falls. The lower falls has a wading pool area. The upper falls has an observation deck with bench seating.
Seasons of Fun!
Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway is a 4 season wonderland. In the spring the hiking trails boast 1500 varieties of wildflowers with over 200 plants indigenous to just this Southern Appalachian region.
Stop, look and listen and you’ll see fawn and bear cubs emerging from the woods, beavers building dams to reroute the heavy spring rainwater, and you’ll hear the songbirds who’ve migrated back to these mountains from their winter retreats.
Open the windows on your summer drive and capture the fragrances of the season as you pass cavernous areas of native azalea, rhododendron and mountain laurel. The farmers cut hay around Memorial Day and again at Labor Day. The smell of fresh-cut hay, watching the baling process or just coming upon a field of hay bales peppering the countryside all leave an indelible imprint on one’s senses.
visits to the waterfalls along this road will often find the thunderous waters
framed by a rainbow. And as the days become shorter and autumn ushers in, the
forest canopy bursts with vibrant colors as the sweetgum, red maples, and oak
trees display their final fashion before shedding their foliage. In winter the
starkness of the bare forest, covered in frost is an incredible photo
opportunity. The cliffs near Hogpen Gap are covered with ice and a favorite
spot for ice climbers to hone their skills.
Plan on this driving adventure the next time you visit us. It promises to impress you, whatever the season. Share your adventures with us by tagging #escapetobr on your social posts. Enjoy!
Just off the holiday season is a perfect time to talk about the best places to get married or propose in 2019. More engagements take place around Christmas and New Year’s than any other time of the year. If you were one of the lucky ones, congratulations! If your New Year resolution was to make an honest man or woman out of your other half, here are a few of our favorite most romantic places in North Georgia.
The Ring is the Thing
Ridge Scenic Railway – Getting on board the marriage track can be as simple
as getting aboard a train. Because of who they are and what they do, the folks
who operate the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway know what it takes to make an
engagement extra special. Yes, it’s been done before, but popping the question
aboard a train – with that lonesome whistle crooning romantically in the
background – is guaranteed to melt a heart – maybe even two.
Bald – Elevation can lead to exhilaration – plus fantastic 360 degree views!
There’s nothing more exciting than anticipation…and the climb up Brasstown Bald,
to the highest point in Georgia, can leave you both breathless. Whether you
choose an engagement here or to
set your wedding among the tall pines, you can’t go wrong in this memorable
Knot Tying Made Memorable
Mercier Orchards – Memorable is
the goal of a destination wedding, and setting your wedding against a backdrop
of apple and peach trees in a rustic farmland is definitely memorable. Mercier Orchards
is a year-round venue for weddings, complete with lovely ponds, old barns, and
apple sheds — a true and genuine setting — and there are plenty of perfect
spots to get down on one knee and ask “will you” or stand up to say “I do”.
Old Toccoa Farm – Old Toccoa Farm is rooted in simplicity, quality and natural beauty. Trout streams boarder the golf course providing a relaxed and casual atmosphere with an emphasis on the outdoors. The farm is what it says it is – agricultural, rural and peaceful – and the perfect place for a simple or formal wedding.
Bear Claw Vineyards – It’s hard to
get much more romantic than a vineyard and winery. After all, all the elements
for a successful event are built in. Vines and wine. What more do you
need? This vineyard and winery was
actually built with romantic visits in mind – a unique treehouse, a wedding
venue, and a delightful tasting room ideal for receptions. The owners
themselves call this a “soothing and relaxing aesthetic” – what better place to
take first steps toward an everlasting life together?
Classic and Classy
Aska Farms – There is a reason why Wedding Wire has consistently identified Aska Farms as a top choice of couples for wedding venues in North Georgia. The majestic mountain background is truly jaw dropping and makes for some amazing pictures. The venue can be low key, or it can be an extravagant and awe-inspiring location! With a house and grounds that sets up ideally for brides (including a bridal party preparation suite) and a groom’s party space that encourages guys to just relax, there’s something for everyone.
At Escape To Blue Ridge, we offer many cabin options that are perfect for out of town guests or for a romantic honeymoon. We hope that regardless of the location that you choose, that love fills your life from the beginning and follows you all through your lives together! Share your happy memories with us and let us see the joy from your happiest days!