Fall is finally here! And that means taking the more scenic route, to enjoy all the beautiful fall foliage that Blue Ridge and the surrounding areas have to offer. Here are our 5 favorite scenic roads to drive this fall that will provide you with the best views and a variety of fun stops along the way that the whole family will enjoy!
A drive through Suches, on Highway 60, has to be one of the most beautiful drives through Blue Ridge’s countryside! It is one of the most elevated areas in the state of Georgia, approaching 3,000 feet above sea level, which is why many people call it “The Valley Above the Clouds”. It’s such a beautiful place that, up until recent years, the Tour of Georgia bicycle race went directly through Suches and onto Dahlongea. Suches is completely surrounded by the Chattahoochee National Forest so there are many fantastic hiking trails and pit stops to make. If you’re up for a little adventure there’s the Swinging Bridge over the Toccoa River. It’s the longest swinging bridge east of the Mississippi River at 270 feet long! It’s the perfect place to hike or even kayak down the river. Nearby is also Preacher’s Rock, a great place to hike and catch some stunning views.
We couldn’t make this list without a trip through the beautiful Cohutta Wilderness! The Cohutta Wilderness is the largest wilderness area east of the Mississippi taking up over 40,000 acres of land. They also make up a part of the oldest mountain chain in the world, running all the way from Fannin County to the Tennessee and North Carolina borders. For the best views take Highway 5, which will lead you through the Cohuttas and be surrounded by fall beauty all around! Make sure to take a pitstop at Mercier Orchards to pick up some fresh apples and enjoy fun for the whole family. And be sure to check out the historic site of Prater’s Mill, a pre-civil war building and continued working mill.
Cherohala Skyway passes through Tennessee and parts of North Carolina, but we assure you it’s worth the drive. It’s a 43 mile long National Scenic Byway and National Forest Scenic Byway, passing through both Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests which gives the road its name Chero-Hala. While on the drive be sure to make a stop at Bald River Falls. It’s a beautiful, 90-foot waterfall and a great place to take some awesome pictures. Another great stop is located in Tellico Plains, TN; The Charles Hall Museum and Visitor Center. The museum features many antiques from Charles Hall who was a local businessman and resident of Tellico Plains. From old photographs, guns, telephone equipment, and other historic artifacts there’s sure to be something fun and interesting for the whole family!
Ocoee Scenic Byway
Ocoee Scenic Byway is another Tennessee road filled with stunning mountain views, rock peaks, Lake Ocoee, and the Cherokee National Forest. The area is also filled to the brim with Civil War and Cherokee Indian historic sites. One historic site to check out on your drive is the Old Copper Road. Originally, the road was used to transport copper ore from Copperhill and Ducktown to Clevland, TN. They moved the copper by horse-drawn wagons and once they reached Cleveland the copper was then transported by train all the way to Richmond, VA and Birmingham, AL. The copper transported here was the main source of copper for the Confederacy during the Civil War. The original Old Copper Road has now been rehabilitated into a hiking trail at Ocoee Whitewater Center. The river at the Ocoee Whitewater Center was even the site of the canoe and kayak competition in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games!
Highway 180 connects with Georgia’s only national scenic drive, The Russell-Brasstown Scenic Drive. You’ll circle around the Chattahoochee National Forest on this road and have a front row seat to all the trees changing colors. If you follow highway 180 for about 12 miles you’ll reach Brasstown Bald, which has the highest elevation in the whole state of Georgia. Make sure to check out the observation tower where you’ll have a view of 3 different states at once! Hop back on 180 and pass through Helen, GA where you can stop at Habersham Vineyards & Winery, one of Georgia’s oldest and largest wineries. Relax for a bit and enjoy a refreshing glass of one of their award winning wines. Also in Helen, GA be sure to check out The Georgia Mountain Coaster. It’s the first alpine roller coaster in Georgia and a quick ride on it will be sure to be a thrilling experience!
These roads are the perfect trip to enjoy the views and the vibrant colors that the mountains have to offer. So grab your family, fill up your tank, and keep the windows rolled down for an awesome trip through the Blue Ridge Mountains this fall! And please share your photos with us. We love to see them!
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 to 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.
As the season changes from summer to fall, make sure you don’t miss out on the crisp weather, changing leaves and fun fall festivals in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Georgia! Fall is one of the most beautiful times of year so don’t miss your chance to create memorable traditions with your loved ones! Check out the events below and Escape To Blue Ridge!
There’s nothing better than excellent wine and food, unless it’s consuming both for a good cause. Enjoy wine pairings with a selection of salmon, chicken cordon bleu, lamb chops, or lasagna with all proceeds benefiting Habitat for Humanity of Gilmer and Fannin County. Live entertainment and a silent auction round out the event.
House concerts are an old concept made new, and they are growing in popularity. It’s a new/old way of helping to sustain music arts in a radically changing music industry landscape. For the audience it provides exceptional acoustics in an intimate environment, where you can meet neighbors and new friends, and get to know the performers personally. Najar and Soledade are accomplished jazz and acoustical guitar performers with an international following.
For those who haven’t had a chance to visit the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC, the traveling version provides a scaled version of the same thing, and it brings it to your hometown. In October it’s coming to Blue Ridge. The display, a 3/5 scale, stands as a reminder of the sacrifices made during the Vietnam War. The Wall travels to help heal the emotional wounds of that war, and to rekindle friendships of that era.
Visit Grumpy Old Men Brewing for great live music and delicious beer! Eighteen beers are currently on tap, and new brews are added frequently! Open Tuesday through Saturday. Dogs are welcome and people are tolerated!
October 4 – Mike Bohnam October 6 – Barktoberfest October 18 – Steve Baskin October 25 – Greg Erwin
The Blue Coyote is known for their live music and entertainment. While you’re there you can enjoy their tasty bar food and a whole bunch of beer! They even have a dog-friendly patio! Stop by, check it out, and enjoy the music!
October 4 – Natti Lovejoys October 5 – Slickfoot October 11 – Southern Vantage October 12 – Breaking Point October 18 – BEATS Workin’ October 19 – Mind the Stepchildren October 25 – Fiction October 26 – Gregg Erwin Band
Here’s your monthly opportunity to drink wine with no guilt. A yoga workout – then drink wine. Easy. The guided yoga lasts about an hour – the wine tasting and wine drinking has no set time parameters. Enjoy!
These are not marbles. Those small, round things that young boys and girls used to “shoot”, kneeling on the floor, or trading them. Remember “purees”, “cat eyes” and “steelys”? No, this festival is a celebration of indigenous rocks, quarries, and local art. Tate marble is historic and world famous and marble quarry tours will be given during the festival.
One of the best ways to enjoy fall is with others who enjoy it just as much as you do! You can do that at the John C. Campbell Fall festival, in the company of a couple hundred of your closest, new friends, and among nearly 300 art and crafts vendors from throughout the region. Traditional and contemporary crafts; bluegrass, gospel, folk, and Celtic music on both days. Tap your toes to clogging demonstrations or just listen to the music. It all takes place on the Brasstown, NC campus, home to hiking trails, and winding wooded paths.
Two separate events, two separate places, on two different days – both benefiting local pet rescues. The first, a football party at a vineyard, with raffles, live music and football on large screens, will take place October 5 (Pours for Pups benefits Tri-State Pet Rescue). The second, innovatively called “Barktoberfest” on October 6, also will feature live music, a silent auction and raffles, to benefit the Humane Society of Blue Ridge. Not surprisingly, Grumpy Old Men Brewing is dog-friendly.
Artists from a large number of states, and perhaps even a few foreign countries, will compete for cash prizes in this 12th annual juried art show. The entries, including show winners, will be on display in the Arts Center in Downtown Blue Ridge from October 5th – 9th. Opening reception is October 5th from 5pm – 7pm.
A beautiful vineyard and winery set in pastoral farmlands in the heart of the Southern Appalachians. Cartacay’s wine history dates to 2007, but it’s heritage is comprised of Cherokee roots (in fact, Cartecay translates to “bread valley”). The winery features plenty of locally sourced wines, tastings and special events, plus live music on most weekends.
October 5 – Craig Hendricks October 6 – Scott Stambaugh October 12 – Timothy O’Donovan October 13 – Man Bites Dog October 19 – Gregg Erwin October 20 – Adrian Stover October 20 – Surrender Hill October 26 – Adrian Stover October 27 – Johnny Summers
What’s even more fun than a town called Cherry Log? Why, a festival in a town called Cherry Log, of course! And this one goes on for three straight weekends in October! Homemade everything (cakes, pies, canned goods, crafts, breakfast, lunch, etc.) and some good old fashioned bluegrass, gospel and country music. Festival hours are 9am – 5pm each weekend day.
You’ve got to love a fair that spans weekdays, welcoming visitors for nine straight days! That gives you a chance to enjoy this annual event during large crowd days and during quiet times. You can even plan a fair food lunch. As usual, this year’s fair will feature musical performances, arts and crafts vendors, educational demonstrations, a flower show and, one of the fair’s annual highlights, Georgia’s Official State Fiddlers’ Convention.
Anytime there’s an adjective in front of a race, you should pay attention. It’s usually a pretty clear indicator that there’s going to be something different, challenging, or outrageous about this race. In the case of the Blue Ridge Ultra Race, the Ultra means a 50 mile running race, including six miles of hidden trails and nine miles of Forest Service road, with creek crossings, steep ascents, even steeper descents, jumping over logs and sometimes quite, as they say, “technical” spots throughout this 50 mile race. Needless to say, this race challenges the most expert racer, but 50 miles is not required; there are also 30 and 15 mile options over the same terrain. Whew!
A true sign of autumn, the fall version of Blue Ridge’s popular Arts in the Park, set amidst the lovely, tree-filled downtown park, with fresh food smells all around, local art, special events and musical performances.
Sorghum is one of those mystery words. Pork product? Dental affliction? Nope. It’s actually a cereal grain that grows tall, like corn, but boiled down it produces a sugary-like syrup. You’d be able to deduce that from one item on a list of events that’s part of this annual festival: a biscuit eating contest, with sorghum on top. You may know sorghum better by its full name – sorghum molasses. Whether the taste speaks to you or not, this festival also features live music, arts, crafts, and more fun contests like rock throwing and log sawing!
For 46 years, apples have brought folks together in Ellijay, East Ellijay and Gilmer County. These days, people come from all over for the apples, the parade, the antique car show, the arts and crafts, and almost everything you can imagine (or eat) made from apples!
Spoiler alert: the rock doesn’t actually talk! But this is a cute event in a charming town with everything you’d expect of North Georgia autumn beauty in small town America. Antiques, bluegrass and Southern gospel music, and plenty of food.
NEW HOMES ADDED TO OUR PROGRAM
Like the private treehouse retreat you loved as a kid but a thousand times more spectacular, Little Bird Landing is a hillside oasis that elevates the idea of living in the woods to a whole new level. With a wraparound deck, soaring vaulted ceilings and enormous windows that showcase the magnificent long-range mountain views from every angle, this rustic yet modern showplace has everything you desire in a Blue Ridge vacation hideaway. The cabin can accommodate eight guests in its three comfortable bedrooms plus a queen-size pullout sofa in the game room. Whether you’re planning a family vacation, a couples’ weekend, or a getaway with your best friends, Little Bird Landing offers you fun, peace and quiet, and all the comforts of an exclusive resort in a breathtaking mountain setting.
Located on a mountaintop in Morganton, GA, and named for the deer you’re likely to see nearby, the custom-built, beautifully designed and decorated cabin has wraparound decks that showcase long-range mountain views from sunrise to sunset. Deer Haven Hideaway has three comfortable bedrooms, one per floor and featuring hand-carved queen beds, and luxurious bedding designed to create a cozy, warm, and inviting setting. Each has access to the covered decks through French Doors. At this magnificent mountain oasis, it’s all about relaxation, with an ambiance that encourages you to exhale, unwind, and de-stress while enjoying time with family and friends.
Just as with restaurants, we all have a wide variety of choices in the world of golf experiences. In North Georgia, you can easily find a golf course to suit your basic needs, then spend a couple of hours chasing the small ball, in high traffic, over unremarkable terrain, or you can be more discerning and decide to play a more sophisticated and truly exceptional track. When you Escape to Blue Ridge, you have many choices within a short driving distance from you cabin. Let’s take a look at a few great options. Keep Reading.
Guest Blog by Blake Guthrie as written for the AJC (Atlanta Journal & Constitution).
Cloud Nine. It’s the type of name one would expect for a mountain vacation rental home. It’s one of those places that if you try and follow GPS directions you’ll get lost. The rental agency sent a confirmation that stressed the importance of following the turn-by-turn directions provided in the email, including detail you wouldn’t get from a GPS such as “go right when you see a bunch of mailboxes.”
What it didn’t mention was the very steep and winding one-lane road. After putting my Honda into its lowest gear for the first time ever and having to navigate past an approaching vehicle, I came to the crest of Sunrock Mountain four miles west of Blue Ridge. I saw that Cloud Nine was the type of place I might want to hole-up for a while, but, having never been to Blue Ridge or nearby Ellijay before, I came to do some exploring, to find the most beautiful scenery and the best outdoor spots to experience the autumnal ambiance.
It turned out the back porch of the cabin was one of those places. In the morning I could see how the cabin got its name. It was literally in the clouds, the surrounding mountain peaks sticking up through a thick white blanket covering the valleys below. Still, I had to venture out. First on my itinerary was the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. The major attraction in town, the railway has been in operation as a sightseeing excursion train since 1998 along tracks that have a history going back as far as 1886. The tracks follow the route of the winding Toccoa River through the Chattahoochee National Forest to the twin towns of McCaysville and Copperhill, Tennessee. They’re essentially the same town with the state line running through the middle. Like a running joke, the line is demarcated by a blue stripe painted on sidewalks, roadways and running through the middle of businesses.
The train rolls at a leisurely pace and the open-air windows are large, making it a prime fall sightseeing adventure with a good dose of history thrown in. Along the way, you’ll see a Native American fish trap in the middle of the river that experts believe is 500 years old, and the old telegraph poles that used to be the fastest form of communication in a bygone era. The trip takes four hours, with two spent in McCaysville/Copperhill for exploring the towns.
If hunger strikes, Burra Burra on the River in McCaysville is near the train station and serves pub fare and local brews. Be sure to ask for outside seating, weather permitting. The real selling point here is the covered deck that overlooks the clear waters of the Toccoa River flowing past the state line where it becomes the Ocoee River after crossing into Tennessee.
Back in Blue Ridge, the largest patio bar in town can be found at Black Sheep Restaurant, where the seasonal menu leans heavily on seafood. Housed in a historic home shaded by a 200-year-old oak tree, the patio overlooks the center of town. It’s a popular place, so make reservations for dinner. Or just have a drink at the bar.
The craft beer scene is surprisingly good in Blue Ridge for such a small town that was dry not too long ago. Two breweries — Fannin Brewing Company and Grumpy Old Men Brewing — both have large, inviting outdoor beer gardens where you can play cornhole, meet the locals and catch some live music. Wine drinkers have no shortage of options either, as wineries have been opening at a fast clip in this area over the last few years.
Near Ellijay, Chateau Meichtry (pronounced “my-tree”) stands out not only for its wine but also its patio outside the barn tasting room where the rolling vineyards reveal a long-range view of the mountains to the north.At Bear Claw Vineyards visitors can spend the night in the Blue Ridge Treehouse, featured on the DIY Network show “The Treehouse Guys.” The treehouse overlooks the vineyards and contains all the amenities one would expect when staying in a hotel.
No trip to the North Georgia mountains during the fall harvest season would be complete without taking advantage of apple country. The pull of a roadside farm store backed by endless acres of fruit orchards is undeniable. Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge and R&A Orchards outside Ellijay both have roadside markets selling freshly picked apples and other fruits, fresh-baked goods, local foodstuffs and offer pick-your-own days as well as plenty of free samples.
Welcome to the Mountains!
Lake Blue Ridge is the centerpiece of a scenic drive worth exploring. Stop at the Blue Ridge Welcome Center to pick up a detailed map. Ringed by mountains, the lake has clear, emerald-hued water and a pristine, forested shoreline. The route also runs alongside the tumbling rapids of the Toccoa River, rolling farmland, historic houses, and has many side hikes to cascading waterfalls and other pastoral pleasures. Bring comfortable hiking shoes and make an afternoon of it if you plan to visit all the stops listed on the map. On my last morning at Cloud Nine, I got up early enough to see the sunrise over the Blue Ridge Mountains and stayed on the porch until checkout. Sometimes where you are is the best place to be.
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!
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!
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.