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!
It’s time to cool off and soak in the views from North Georgia’s creeks, rivers, and streams. These small, but mighty, bodies of water offer an extensive variety of activities and adventure. The canopy trees, wildlife, and stunning boulders all around the waters provide plenty of sights for the whole group.
The spectacular waters found in the North Georgia Mountains are truly hidden gems. With hot temperatures rising, jumping into these cool waters is a must. These parks and recreation areas will allow you to experience the beauty of nature in a family-friendly environment. The best part is you can stay as long as you’d like! The sun is shining, the water is flowing and the mountains are calling! So what are you waiting for?! Grab your water shoes and let’s go!
Cooper Creek Recreation Area
Nestled in the North Georgia Mountains, Cooper Creek Recreation Area is a prime location for an afternoon or a weekend of adventure! Activities at this recreation area include hunting, hiking, and trout fishing. Cooper Creek is stocked with rainbow trout so all fishermen will not leave disappointed! After you’ve explored the shady banks of Cooper Creek, grill some burgers and hot dogs for a creek-side cookout!
Mulky Recreation Area
Another spot located along Cooper Creek is the Mulky Recreation Area. This is a simple, yet serene environment to spend some time. Activities involving hiking, fishing, and creek splashing are all offered at the Mulky Recreation Area. Test out your hiking boots on the Yellow Mountain Trail, which follows an old logging road for 3.6 miles through forests of hemlock, pine and hardwood.
Deep Hole Recreation Area
The Deep Hole Recreation Area is just north of Suches, GA, and sits alongside the banks of the Toccoa River. This campground has picnic tables, benches, and trails through the lush forest. There is also a canoe launch available if you’re looking to experience the river in a new way. Bring your portable hammock to swing within the trees and take a nap with the soothing sound of the Toccoa’s waters!
Sandy Bottoms Recreation Area
The Sandy Bottoms Recreation Area is filled with towering hardwoods and views of the Toccoa River. It is in Morganton, GA, making it not too far from the town of Blue Ridge. There are places to camp, fish, swim, or sit and enjoy the outdoor scenery. This is a site that is pleasant all year long, but there is no better time than now to check it out for yourself!
Tammen Park is only a few miles north of the town of Blue Ridge and is a great place for the entire family. The park amenities here include a softball field, sheltered pavilions with picnic tables, river access, and a playground. The Toccoa River access at the park is the perfect spot to cast a line or load in your kayak or canoe. With Lake Blue Ridge sitting right around the corner, you’ll find yourself wandering around the area all day!
The Amicalola River is a stream part of the Etowah River and lends its name from the popular Amicalola Falls. This site offers walking trails, stunning sights of the water rapids, and a swimming hole. With its sandy beaches, there are multiple places alongside this stream to enjoy an outdoor picnic! After your adventure, head over to Amicalola Falls State Park to catch the 729-foot cascading falls. You can then watch the sunset fall behind the mountains at the Amicalola Falls Lodge and grab a bite to eat or a refreshing drink!
Horseshoe Bend Park
This park offers a full day of fun! Located in McCaysville, it is a wonderful place to bring the entire family. The Toccoa River flows alongside the Horseshoe Bend Park offering non-stop views. Picnic tables, volleyball nets, and playgrounds are all available for use at this park. Horseshoe Bend Park is also the location of ‘Pickin’ In the Park’. ‘Pickin’ In the Park’ is an event with live music from local artists. It occurs every Thursday, May- September, from 6pm to dusk and is a relaxing place to enjoy a summer’s evening!
The Hiwassee River
The Hiwassee River begins in Towns County and flows through the spectacular North Georgia Mountains, into North Carolina, and eventually merging into the Tennessee River. Activities at the Hiwassee River include walking, fly-fishing, kayaking, or tubing. There are plenty of sights and plenty of opportunities for adventure!
Bringing your dog with you on your Blue Ridge mountain vacation can enrich a trip in so many ways. You’ll meet and talk to dog-loving strangers who otherwise would have passed right by you. You’ll travel to dog-friendly parks and other places that wouldn’t ordinarily be on your itinerary. You’ll have a built-in reason to go outside, exercise and have fun. Most meaningfully, you’ll have your best friend at your side. We are glad that you and your four legged pooch have decided to stay with us, and we thought we’d take this opportunity to share some of Blue Ridge’s favorite canine and people friendly spots.
Let’s Get Our 20,000 Steps In
Fido isn’t wearing a Fitbit, but he does have twice as many legs that welcome the fresh air and exercise that come as a vacation bonus here in the foothills of the Appalachians. The Chattahoochee National Forest is dog-friendly. When combined with the Oconee National Forest, the Chattahoochee National Forest spans nearly 867,000 acres across 26 counties and features thousands of miles of clear streams and rivers, 850 miles of recreation trails, picnic areas, and areas rich in natural scenery, history, and culture. Hikers bringing their dogs on the trails must keep them under verbal or physical restraint at all times—using a leash in crowded areas is highly encouraged.
If your dog loves to socialize with her canine counterparts, then a visit to the Humane Society of Blue Ridge Dog Park is a must. An off leash park there offers both Big dog and Small Dog areas. There are toys to play with or you are welcome to bring your furkids favorite fetch toy. Clean up bags are provided, but you need to do the heavy lifting and disposal into the litter cans. The park is open sun-up till sun-down, 7 days a week.
Shopping is GRRRRReat
Blue Ridge Cotton Company is a dog-friendly clothing store, located in downtown Blue Ridge. Inside the store, you’ll find an extensive pet section, including gifts, books, leashes in a variety of colors, treats, and more. There’s even more irresistible human stuff, too. Additionally, Blue Ridge Cotton Company donates one percent of every purchase to a number of animal charities in the local area.
If it’s a girls day out, then the two of you need to head over to Humble Pie Ladies Boutique. A pet-friendly ladies outfitter in Blue Ridge, the clothing they stock is Bohemian-style, unique, affordable and comfortable. Dogs are welcome to join you in the dressing room as you decide which flowing dress or headband best suits you.
Love Dogs and Cats Too is a pet-friendly store full of items for Fido and Fluffy. They stock everything from healthy treats and snazzy leashes to plush toys and comfy beds. Dogs are welcome inside to sniff out their birthday gift or drop some hints as to their favorite kind of toy to take home.
Drinking out of a bowl, frosted mug or goblet
Eventually you and your pet are going to get thirsty. Though your four legged friend isn’t old enough to legally indulge in liquid spirits, he/she will still love to socialize with you as you test out some of the finest in craft beers and wines produced in our region. Hanging out on the patio seating at Grumpy Old Men’s Brewing will actually put you all in a good mood. Fannin Brewing Company is another favorite for Fido travelers and the Ale beer connoisseur on the other end of the leash. Just up the road from downtown Blue Ridge is Bear Claw Vineyards & Winery, a boutique farm winery with vineyards where production of handcrafted wines are offered in the tasting room which also includes a dog friendly patio. Salud!
This Movie Rates 5 Bones
When was the last time you took your pooch to the movies? Here in Blue Ridge you can bring Chunky with you to catch Call of the Wild (or Lady and the Tramp if she’s into chick flicks) on the biggest screen she’s ever seen – at the Swan Drive-in Theater. Screening since 1955, this drive-in features 1st run blockbusters & an old-school snack bar with burgers. You’ll love the nostalgia, your pet will dig the burger bar outdoor patio and you’ll both enjoy the movie.
French Fries to Fine Dining
It’s vacation, and McDonalds isn’t going to do for either of you. It’s time to try new gourmet delights, something that didn’t come out of a can. Toccoa Riverside Restaurant, located in Blue Ridge, GA, is a casual eatery that serves up a variety of delicious American fare. Best known for their local trout dishes, it’s best not to mention to your pet that there is also catfish on the menu. Spot is welcome to join you at one of their pet-friendly outdoor tables while you enjoy your meal. (They even offer a special menu just for pups with options like hot dogs, burgers, chicken, rice, and more!) And there is live entertainment for your pet too, as they quack up watching the ducks waddling along the river bed.
You don’t have to be a Polish Greyhound to enjoy the patio dining at Margo’s Gourmet Polish Kitchen. Margo makes everything fresh daily, and Cuddles will appreciate that she refers to her famous steamed weiners as sausages, not hot dogs. If you are both preferring something more like a pizza than a pierogi, upstairs from Margo’s is where Blue Jeans Pizza is located. Rated #1 Blue Ridge Pizza on Trip Advisor, this Italian-American eatery also serves up menu options like appetizers, salads, burgers, pizza, strombolis, calzones, subs, pasta, wraps, and more. And your furry bambino is welcome to join you at their outdoor patio seating.
When the palate calls for something more upscale or a certain date night ambience, then be sure to sniff out these two places. Harvest on Main has comfortable seating on their patio under the porch for both you and your furkid. Don’t share the menu though. Cuddles will have you ordering the Smoked Duroc Bone-In Pork Chop served with Red Skinned Garlic Mashed Potatoes & Pork Collard Greens, topped with Mushroom Ragout. Guess who wants the bone?
And talk about the right canine atmosphere to indulge in culinary perfection, check out the 200 year old tree that Cuddles can rest under while you indulge in what’s been voted the best weekend brunch in Blue Ridge at The Black Sheep, just a short walk down Main Street.
Nestled only a few miles outside of downtown Blue Ridge, the Aska Adventure Area is packed with plenty of activities for visitors. Whether you are hoping to explore the serene North Georgia Mountains or grab a bite to eat at a mom-and-pop restaurant, you’ll have a blast in the Aska region of Blue Ridge. The Toccoa River, Appalachian Trail, and the Benton Mackaye Trail all intersect through the Aska Trail System. When you are ready to make your Escape to Blue Ridge, don’t forget to pack your hiking boots, load up the bicycle and get ready to have some great outdoor fun!
Eat Off Aska
If you’re looking for a tasty meal without breaking the bank, Van Zandt’s Riverwalk Grill & Grocery is a country diner serving breakfast and lunch. Their shelves are stocked with basic groceries and a gift shop with goods crafted by local artisans.
Channel your inner child and get ready for a day full of fun and adventure at the Lilly Pad Village. Explore the two acres of picturesque land and choose to go gem mining, fishing, and mini-golfing! You are sure to get lots of smiles out of your little ones, and who knows, you might end up having more fun playing along with them!
Roll up your sleeves and get ready for an entertaining and educational gem mining experience. Once you’ve discovered some shiny treasure, head over to the fishing pond for some peaceful relaxation. The fishing hole, sitting on one-third of an acre, is stocked with catfish, bream, and bass. Fishing tickets and rental equipment are offered on-site. End your trip at Lilly Pad Village with a competitive game of mountainside mini-golf. The nine-hole mini-golf course takes players through tall trees with sounds from a variety of birds and frogs at the lily pond. The best part about Lilly Pad Village is that your activity ticket lasts all day so you can stay as long as you would like!
Because of its mountainous terrain, hiking is one of the main reasons that travelers add Aska to their must-visit list. The Aska Trails Area consists of a 17-mile trail system where hikers and mountain bikers of all skill levels can explore. This trail system highlights the landscapes of North Georgia by revealing mountain peaks, shorelines of Lake Blue Ridge, and a series of hardwood trees among thickets of Mountain Laurel and Rhododendrons.
A few of our favorite hiking and mountain biking trails include:
The Toccoa River flows parallel to Aska Road and is at the heart of outdoor activities in this idyllic mountain region. The 93-mile-long river journeys through the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Ocoee River Basin and is one of the South’s few north-flowing rivers. Visitors can enjoy the beautiful Toccoa by their choice of tubing, kayaking, rafting, or fishing.
A tubing trip down the Toccoa River is a popular activity that allows visitors a simple way to capture the river’s beauty. Depending on the drop-off site, you can float on your river tube for an hour or close to four hours. The Toccoa Valley Campground, Shallowford Bridge Tubing, and Van Zandt’s each offer tube rentals, life vests, and a shuttle trip.
Rafting and kayaking allow you to embark along the Toccoa River at your own pace. If you’re looking for a route alone or with a guide, both options are available in Aska. Pack a lunch and enjoy cruising along the mountain waters. Kayaks and rafts can be rented at the Jon Ron Toccoa Outfitters.
Fishing in the surrounding Aska areas provides peace and relaxation for all outdoor enthusiasts. Sandy Bottoms is an excellent spot to splash in the swimming hole or catch fish on a hot summer day. Another great fishing location is at the Shallowford Bridge. Underneath the steel one-lane bridge, fishermen (and women) can set up their line and patiently wait for a bite. Private guided trout fishing tours are also available through companies like Cohutta Fishing Company.
The breathtaking scenery and endless adventures are waiting to be explored off Aska. This adventure area is rich in history and wildlife, and it will be a trip that you won’t forget. Hop in the car and Escape to Blue Ridge to explore the Aska Adventure Area!
Calling all thrill-seekers, backpackers, and outdoor enthusiasts! We believe that the view from up above will always be greater than the view from down below! The adrenaline that motivates you to keep going and the feeling of conquering a new trail only make up a fraction of what makes hiking worth the while. The hiking trails located around Blue Ridge remind us why we are so lucky to call this beautiful earth our home!
While hiking through Fannin County you can experience the steep mountain terrain and flowing rivers, making it one of the best ways to spend a sunny afternoon. We rounded up a the top 7 trails for beginners, experts, and everyone in between. Whether you have been hiking for years or just hoping to begin, we have found that the trails can’t tell the difference!
Accessing the 270-foot-long suspension bridge above the Toccoa River can be as short as a .5 mile hike or make it a 2-mile mountain hike and fully take in the beauty of North Georgia! This hike offers a cool breeze from the Toccoa River and the excitement of bouncing along the longest swinging bridge east of the Mississippi River!
The Swinging Bridge Trail is a part of the Benton MacKaye Trail (BMT) which consists of 300-miles of nature just waiting to be explored! If a 2-mile hike is like a walk in the park for you, keep following the BMT for more mountain views and a multitude of adventures!
Mountain Tower Trail
Hiking through the Cohutta Wilderness on the Grassy Mountain Tower Trail comes with amazing outdoor perks on a 5-mile moderate hike. The adventure begins along the shore of the Lake Conasauga, a spot ideal for a picnic to fuel up for the trek. Once you make your way around the lake, the elevation and the views begin to increase. As you make your way to the trail peak, hikers can expect to see Fort Mountain and long-ranging views. The best part of this trail is climbing the stairs of the historic Grassy Mountain Fire Lookout Tower for an outstanding view of the surrounding countryside!
Serenity and a remote escape from civilization can be found while on the Emery Creek Falls Trail. This intermediate trail takes hikers through 20 creeks and past several waterfalls throughout the 6.2-mile round trip hike. These double waterfalls, located outside of Ellijay, provide plenty of adventure with wildlife and green forestry surrounding your every step!
Hemp Top Trail offers sights with some of the highest peaks in Georgia and provides breathtaking sights of the Tennessee Valley as well. With Blue Ridge located only 10 miles away, this quiet hike will submerge you right into the beauty of the North Georgia wilderness. The abundant hardwood trees provide enough shade for moderate-skilled hikers along the 6.2-mile course and if you’re lucky you may experience a chilly mountain breeze!
Forks to Springer Mountain
This hike to Springer Mountain comes in at 8.6 miles round trip includes mountain peak views, tranquil streams, and a lush environment. This trail intersects with the Benton Mackaye Trail and the Appalachian Trail. Your summer hiking boots will lead you to the official end of the Appalachian Trail once you hike the 4.3 miles to view the Springer Mountain summit. At the Springer Mountain peak, you can take a rest with your portable hammock, grab a handful of your favorite trail mix, or simply sit in awe to marvel at the gorgeous views!
Jacks River Trail
Immerse yourself in the hardwood trees of North Georgia while hiking alongside the Jacks River. Located within the Cohutta Wilderness, the Jacks River Trail invites hikers to witness one of the most captivating waterfalls in the state! This moderately challenging trail reaches a there-and-back total of 9-miles. While a highlight of the hike is the spectacular 80-foot Jacks River Falls, the trail also features wildflowers, mossy river banks, and rocky paths waiting to be explored!
Escape to Nature
If you are looking to Escape to Blue Ridge for the weekend, one week, or even one month, there are a plethora of trails in the Blue Ridge area for you to explore! When our summer schedules get hectic, a change of scenery and a good hike can be the perfect remedy to calm our minds. Before you head out on the trails, don’t forget to bring sunscreen, a healthy snack, and plenty of water!
We would love to see your photos of when you hit the trails this summer! You can find us through our Facebook page or tag us on Instagram @escapetobr and we’ll be sure to feature you!
As we ring in not just a New Year, but a new Decade, 365 opportunities await you to get out and explore the beautiful North Georgia Mountains. Here are a few of our favorite ideas to enjoy your 2020 Escape to Blue Ridge!
1. EAT BLACK-EYED PEAS & COLLARD GREENS
After all, it’s a southern
tradition. Eat these as your first meal for the New Year and you will
increase your luck and prosperity for the year ahead. The Village Restaurant
will be open and ready to serve you the very best in Southern Cuisine
2. WALK THE LINE
Take a walk on the state line between the twin
cities of McCaysville, Ga and Copperhill, Tn! This newly revitalized town
features great shopping, delicious restaurants, and plenty of photographic
3. HIT THE LINKS
Farm is the seven-course meal of golf courses in North Georgia. It took a
few years to fill out the full complement of 18 holes, but the first nine,
which has been open since 2015, was enough to garner stupendous compliments and
comparisons to the likes of Augusta National. Now with the back nine open, and
the layout reconfigured, Old Toccoa is by far the best of the best in this neck
of the North Georgia woods!
4. ENJOY LIFE ON THE LAKE
Blue Ridge offers 3,290-acres of crystal-clear water to explore. Bring your
own water craft, rent a pontoon boat, or take a guided tour with Capt’n
Joe. Whether you are kayaking, tubing, fishing, or just floating along,
there is no prettier place in the world than where the mountains meet the
5. SADDLE UP & RIDE
There is nothing more enjoyable than unplugging form the
digital world, saddling
up on horseback, and heading out into the countryside. In Blue Ridge, forty
percent of the county’s land is located within the Chattahoochee National
Forest and has countless miles of trails to explore and enjoy.
6. TAKE IN A FESTIVAL OR 5
There is always something happening in these here mountains.
Festival season begins in February and ends in October, plus holiday activities
are abundant in November and December. You will be blown away with the ice
sculpting that takes place at the annual Fire and Ice
Chili Cookoff. Blue Ridge festivals are family friendly, pet friendly, and
7. FLY FISH IN THE TROUT CAPITAL OF GEORGIA
Brown trout, rainbow trout, and native trout are abundant in
our freshwater mountain streams. Stop by and see Andy Bowen at the Cohutta Fishing Company for some
flies and a pole. Then head out to the headwaters of the Toccoa River,
Noontootla Creek, or Rock Creek for premier trout fishing.
8. WALK IN THE WOODS
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
MacKaye Trail, 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.
Plan to visit EXPEDITION:
BIGFOOT! The Sasquatch Museum. You may be giggling on the way in the door,
but you will leave with a new appreciation for your next walk in the woods. You’ll discover why Big Footers from around the globe
make the pilgrimage to Blue Ridge just to explore this museum and its many
11. SWING INTO THE NEW YEAR
Pack up a picnic and hit either the Benton MacKaye Trail or
the Duncan Ridge National Recreation Trail to the Swinging
Bridge. This 270-foot-long suspension bridge is the longest swinging bride
east of the Mississippi River! If you do decide to jump in the middle, make
sure you are faster than your travel buddies or you might get thrown off!
12. CHASE WATERFALLS
A short, family friendly hike makes Fall
Branch Falls a must do activity for the young and young at heart. Explore
both the upper and lower area of the falls and take time to relax on the rocks
and enjoy the views. Don’t forget to bring your best friend. Dogs will enjoy
the trail as much as their humans.
13. CHOO CHOO
The iconic Blue Ridge Scenic
Railway is a must do when in town. Enjoy the scenery every season of the
year as the train departs from Downtown Blue Ridge and travels the countryside
to the revitalized towns of Copperhill, TN and McCaysville, GA
14. DRIVE IN
If you haven’t been to a drive-in movie since you were a
kid, we encourage you to make plans to go to the Swan Drive In Theater
and take in a show or a double feature! A throwback to yesteryears, there is
just something so fun about watching a movie outdoors.
15. FAIRY CROSS & TRAIL TREES
Legend has it that as the Native Americans embarked on the
Trail of Tears, they shed tears of sorrow that fell to the ground and formed
tiny crosses of stone known as Fairy
Crosses. Commonly known as staurolite crystals, these minerals are abundant
in Fannin County.
16. HIT THE RAPIDS
The Southeastern United States is known for having some of
the best whitewater
around. Here in Blue Ridge we are within 1 hour of 3 action packed, exciting
rivers and 2 hours away from one of the most challenging rivers in the state!
If you are looking for a new hair style, a total manicure
and pedicure, body scrub, massage, or a special facial treatment/peel, you will
find an amazing staff of creative and accomplished cosmeticians, estheticians
and stylists, the caliber you would only expect to find in a metropolitan area,
in the Mountains.
18. TAKE IN A SHOW
Immerse yourself in the culture of the area at Blue Ridge Community Theater.
This cozy community theater offers quality productions, live music, and a
robust children’s program. The 2020 line-up includes the first ever Blue Ridge
Film Festival, surprisingly saucy comedies, musicals, and even a sweet summer
19. SCENIC DRIVES
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.
Drive the 41 miles of Georgia’s only national scenic
drive, The Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway as it circles around the
Chattahoochee National Forest.
20. BOOK AN ESCAPE TO BLUE RIDGE
There is just something about these mountains that is so
good for the soul. Whether you want to come for a romantic getaway, to
reconnect with friends and family, or to enjoy the abundant outdoor adventures,
we have the
perfect cabin for you!
We wish each of you and yours a prosperous year ahead filled
with lots of love, exciting adventures, and many opportunities to make
heartfelt memories. Happy New Year!
If you haven’t already experienced the Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia, you should! Our families have been visiting this area for the last 6 years. Each time we return, it becomes even more special. There is something so incredibly quaint and peaceful about the small town of Blue Ridge.
Growing up in South Florida, we do not get to experience the amazing change in seasons. If you know us sisters, we are always talking about “sweater weather” and how badly we want to see the leaves change colors.
Well, we’ve teamed up again with Escape To Blue Ridge who always help us experience incredible family trips in the Blue Ridge Mountains! As we gear up for our next trip, we are excited to share information about Escape to Blue Ridge, the company we rent the cabins from, as well as some of the best activities and spots to hit up on your journey. If you love a vacation with a small town feel and views to die for, this trip is one for you.
We also want to lend you some pointers for traveling with a ton of kids! You may deal with plenty of tantrums, tears, accidents, and fights along with the fun. But if you’re well prepared, you’ll make it out in one piece.
Escape to Blue Ridge
For the past 6 years, we have reserved our mountain family cabin with Escape to Blue Ridge. The most amazing part about this company is that they have hundreds of homes you can reserve, making it easy to choose the cabin that best suits the needs and preferences of your family.
The trip we took a couple of years ago was AMAZING! We want to share those adventures with you again, so let’s get started!
We love a cabin with mountain views and a great outdoor space that’s big enough for our three families. We could not believe our eyes when we arrived on this trip. The kids were in heaven, and the views were spectacular!
There are no words to describe this place.
The name of our cabin was Falling Waters Lodge, named after the two small waterfalls running down the front yard. Let me tell you, the house was spotless, at least in the moment we all arrived. The details and decor that went into creating this home were unlike anything we’ve ever seen. The cabin had a large open kitchen with top-of-line appliances and large windows to look out over the Blue Ridge Mountains while you cook.
There was also a hot tub on the downstairs patio to enjoy the few cold mountain nights. The bottom floor had a media room for movie nights with the kids and a play room with ping pong, billiards, and air hockey. There was a large open fire pit in the front next to the waterfalls where we made s’mores every night.
And even with all that, the most incredible part of this home was being able to wake up at 7am (before the kids) to enjoy a cup of coffee while watching the sunrise and seeing the most amazing fog spread across the mountain tops.
That view was worth the entire trip for us!
Things to Do in the Blue Ridge Mountains
On this particular trip, we spent 6 event filled days in Blue Ridge, Georgia. Here are some of our favorite activities from the trip and our top must do activities when visiting the Blue Ridge Mountains!
This aquarium is amazing, and the kids will love it. Take some extra time after flying into Atlanta before heading to Blue Ridge, or before you head home, check out this great aquarium.
For us, this stop is one of the most memorable stops in Blue Ridge. There is something so special about visiting an orchard. We took a hay ride with the kiddos up to the orchard fields where they let you roam around picking and eating apples. The kids had a blast, and Mason even lost a tooth biting into an apple!
After picking apples, we walked around their enormous shop trying homemade foods and buying tons of their famous maple syrup and homemade fried apple pies. The fried apple pies disappeared before we even made it back to the car!
What is fall without a pumpkin patch? This day was so much fun! Besides a few major temper tantrums, we managed to have a really great time. The ride around this property on the tractor was so much fun, and the kids had a blast. We got to see how the pumpkins grow and some of the biggest pumpkins we have ever seen! And of course, they had fun Halloween decorations to give us some good decorating ideas for home!
The parents decided that one afternoon the guys would get some alone time, and the ladies would get to do the same the next day. Our husbands went fly fishing in the Toccoa River (please see the hilarious, yet handsome, photo below), and we went hiking.
We made videos on toddler bathroom accidents and literally almost peed our pants laughing so hard!
Everyone was in full hiking gear, but we were probably the least prepared on our trail! We hiked at Springer Mountain, which is the very beginning of the Appalachian trail that leads north all the way up to Maine. There are so many great hikes and waterfalls around the Blue Ridge Mountains, even ones that are less challenging and more kid friendly.
Lily Pad Village
This spot has the cutest little fishing pond and gem mining spot that you ever did see! The kids loved spending the morning here. They sorted through their rock buckets full of soil, mining for gems and keeping some of the cool rocks and gems they found. We spent some time fishing by the pond using live bait. They also have a mini-golf course built into the side of the mountain!
Blue Ridge Scenic Railway
This trip was very cool for the kids and great for the parents, especially if you go during the fall when the leaves are changing. The scenery on the ride is beautiful. The hour-long train ride on Blue Ridge’s old train cars takes you to a quaint town in Tennessee where you can shop the general stores and enjoy some southern food.
Our kids enjoyed riding the train and sitting in the open cart! Also, close to the train station in Blue Ridge is an amazing public park for the kids. We spent a lot of time there, until one of the kids had an accident in his pants, and we had to leave!
Three Sisters Fudge & Das Kauffee Haus
All day, every day! We ate so much fudge and drank so much coffee, and I am not upset about it! These are just two of the many perfect little shops you can stop at for fudge and coffee in downtown Blue Ridge.
We are obsessed with walking around main street going in and out of all their great shops.
BBQ and S’mores
Do not miss out on BBQ and s’mores – you don’t even have to leave your cabin! Yes, going out to dinner is fun but not always with 6 kids in tow. So we cooked at the cabin most of the time, and it made things a lot easier. We ate dinner outside and built a fire for the kids to make s’mores.
Some of our best memories from this trip were made staying home at the cabin!
Once the kids were in bed by 8:30pm, the parents enjoyed alone time and even some of our own s’mores, too!
Black Sheep Restaurant
Hands down, Black Sheep is the restaurant you want to visit in Blue Ridge. We were lucky enough to have one parent’s night out during the trip and decided to head to the main street of Blue Ridge and try this raved about dinner spot. This place is an historical home converted into one of the coolest restaurants we have ever seen. In the past when we visited Blue Ridge, we heard about this place but we didn’t feel like it would be family friendly.
But on this trip, new owners had completely revamped the restaurant in the best way possible. The ambiance and atmosphere are comfortable and casual, but it still has that fine dining feel we were craving.
We were lucky to be seated outside on the patio where the guys could watch their football during the meal. They even have an old-school movie night on the front lawn, which is such a great touch for bringing families and children to the restaurant!
Our meal was amazing, and the food was top notch. Seriously, everything was delicious, but we must say the crab cakes and the lamb bolognese were our favorites. For dessert, we had the most amazing pumpkin cheesecake ever…a slice of heaven.
Tips on Traveling with Kids
Oh man…before you do anything else, read this article Katie wrote on traveling with kids.
Now, for the tips. Our first tip is simple – just don’t take the kids with you!
We were all nervous before we left, but I have to say, the kids were great. We had a few tantrums and one nasty cold that spread around fast, but we did well. The one thing that helped us immensely was preparation!
For the airport, make sure you stock snacks, iPads, movies, games, and whatever you can stuff in your bag. Entertainment and distraction are key! We had some really fun travel games that the kids LOVED playing.
The looks we got boarding a plane with 6 kids were laughable. But never say you’re sorry as a mom. We realized we were apologizing for having kids on the plane…that’s ridiculous, right? This is life. Kids fly, and we will do our very best to keep them happy, but sometimes, kids will be kids. Luckily, ours all behaved pretty well, and we didn’t get too many dirty looks.
A great tip to keep your kid busy and interested is to let them oversee their own suitcase. Each kid had their own personalized suitcase that they were responsible for. It was so cute how much they loved having matching luggage with their cousins, and they were proud to show off their bags!
We also brought nap mats which the kids used for movie nights in the media room. Sleeping bags would be fun, too!
Final Thoughts on Traveling to the Blue Ridge Mountains
All we can say is that Blue Ridge is a magical escape that takes you to a different world. It’s a great place for families or for couples.
Blue Ridge has it all!
We are so happy we discovered this amazing vacation spot, so we can create more memories over the years. All the cabins from Escape to Blue Ridge are incredible. We have stayed in a few cabins now, but if you need a 4+ bedroom home, and it is available, we highly recommend you book the cabin Falling Waters Lodge. It has that special, warm feeling of home you long for on family vacations. We most certainly will go back!
Thanks Escape to Blue Ridge for having us and letting us experience this amazing trip with our families!
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.
For most American kids, our first introduction to the concept of trail markers is Hansel and Gretel’s attempt at leaving crumbs on their venture into the woods. The birds thwarted their efforts and that’s where their fictional journey begins. First published in 1812, their story was read to children in Germany at the same time the Cherokee Indians were creating their own trail markers here in the North Georgia Mountains. Or are Trail trees just folklore?
Trail Marker Trees
Trail trees, trail marker trees, crooked trees, prayer trees, thong trees, or culturally modified trees are hardwood trees throughout North America. One unique characteristic of the trail marker tree is a horizontal bend several feet off the ground, which makes it visible at greater distances, even in snow. These distinctive characteristics convey that the tree was shaped by human activity rather than deformed by nature or disease. The legend is that Native Americans intentionally shaped these trees for navigational purposes or to mark important places, such as sacred burial grounds.
Throughout the North Georgia Mountains, a day of hiking can find you encountering one or more of these gentle bent giants in our forests. As you hike through one of the twenty four top forests in our area you’ll stumble upon some of the most incredible shaped trees and wonder if they are the work of Mother Nature or did an American Indians walk these same trails 200 years ago. It is both highly possible and very likely that the tree was there marking a specific direction or possibly an area where a plant grew at its base that was used for healing.
For many, a hike in the woods is an adventure you remember from your childhood days. It is a child’s foray into uncharted territory, a field or a wooded area close to home where they might discover an old unidentifiable bone, a creek filled with crayfish, or a cluster of butterflies on a floral bush they’ve never seen the likes of before. They come back from these walking expeditions with pockets filled with pretty leaves, unusual shaped stones and always a bird feather or two. As adults we reawaken that lust for exploration and here on these mountain trails, there seems to be one treasure that many are hunting: Fairy Crosses.
The Legend of the Fairy Cross derives from the Cherokee Indians and thought to be over 2000 years old! It is said that long, long, ago fairies inhabited a certain quiet and remote region in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The fairies roamed freely, enjoying the beauty and serenity of that enchanted place. One day, the fairies were playing in a sunny dell when an elfin courier arrived from a far-away city bearing the sad news of Christ’s death. When they heard the terrible details of the crucifixion, the fairies wept. As their tears fell to the earth, they crystallized into little stone crosses. Though the fairies have long since disappeared, the little stone crosses, known as “fairy stones,” still remain as vestiges in that enchanted spot. There was a belief among the Cherokee that the crosses had the power to reduce the owner invisible at will. In some instances, the tiny crosses were supposed to give the owner the power of diving into the ground and coming up again among the enemy to scalp and kill with unexpected terror.
The Scientific Side
Fairy crosses (aka fairy stones) are small bricks originally formed seven miles underground of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Staurolite crystals form into little tiny “bricks” that, under pressure, twist in 60 degree or 90 degree angles, forming crosses. As they push their way up to the earth’s surface, the action of wind and rain dissolve the softer surrounding stone called schist to reveal the precious cross-shaped minerals within.
The good fortune of finding fairy stones is best after a heavy rain. Dig with your hands along the soft dirt at the base of the trees. The cross stones are the same color as the dirt, so use your hands to sift the stones from the soil until you find a cross shaped stone about the size of a small marble, usually less than an inch in length. They are wonderful keepsakes when found, and can be polished and used as a lucky pocket token, or designed into a necklace, bracelet, or earrings.
If you haven’t had the good fortune to find a fairy stone on your hiking trip, you can still find a wonderful collection of fairy crosses at Pezrok in downtown Blue Ridge, a gallery full of artistic creations of exquisite minerals, fossils, gems and carved driftwood.
There are countless numbers of adventures to be had on your visit to these mountains. You’ll want to capture many of your explorations in pictures to take home and share with us, your family, and your friends. Oh, and while you are taking a cell phone selfie at one of the bent trees you are likely to encounter, remember your phone is also equipped with GPS, which will assure your chances of getting back to your car in the parking lot. As we already know from 19th century literature, leaving a trail of breadcrumbs will not suffice.
Hiking with your dog can be fun for both you and your furry friend. Not only does it provide a great source of exercise for you and your dog, but it’s also one of the best ways to have amazing adventures while creating memories that will last a lifetime. It’s a win-win for everyone!
While we’d all love to be able to take our dogs with us on every trail we venture down, we can’t always do that. Sometimes the trails are too steep or the terrain is too rough for our four-legged friends to maneuver, or sometimes they simply aren’t allowed in that area because of other critters that may be dangerous for our dogs to encounter.
To make things a little easier for you and your furry companion, here’s a list of a few trails around the Blue Ridge area that are sure to bring tons of fun for both and your favorite adventure buddy!
Duncan Ridge Trail
Easily accessible by both the Appalachian Trail and the Benton MacKaye Trail, the Duncan Ridge Trail is one of the more difficult trails in the Northeast Georgia Mountains, spanning a total of around 30.1 miles. While the trail is labeled as moderate to strenuous by most experienced hikers and backpackers out there (mainly because of the low usage and steep climbs), don’t let that discourage you from taking on this gorgeous trek back into the Chattahoochee National Forest! You don’t have to hike the whole 30.1 miles and for those with pups that aren’t too keen on making friends with other hikers/dogs, this trail will let you have the outdoor experience you always wanted without the anxiety of other dogs and hikers.
The Duncan Ridge Trail begins at Three Forks on the Appalachian Trail/Benton MacKaye Trail. Beginning at Three Forks, you’ll hop on the AT and walk the beautiful mile stretch out toward Long Creek Falls, following the soft sounds of the creek that runs alongside the trail. Hiking toward the falls, the Benton MacKaye Trail (BMT) and the Duncan Ridge Trail veer off to the right less than 0.1 miles after the short path down to the falls begins. There will be markers present that identifies which trail is the BMT and which is the Duncan Ridge Trail but just in case, follow the blue vertical blazes (marks on the trees) for the Duncan Ridge and the white diamond blazes for the BMT.
From there, hikers will follow the trail through a tunnel of laurels and rhododendrons during the spring and summer months deep into the Chattahoochee National Forest before reaching the swinging bridge over the Toccoa River. Hikers can choose to push on and make the climb up Tooni Mountain, or call it a day a hike back toward Three Forks. Regardless of what you decide, just remember to have fun and hike your own hike!
Appalachian Approach Trail
Roughly 75 percent of Appalachian Trail hikers, thru-hikers and sectioners alike, decide to take the Appalachian Approach Trail to begin the trail while the other 25 percent simply take off at the base of Springer Mountain as they start the 2,192 mile (or less) journey. But for those who want to join the majority, the 8-mile trail starts off from Amicalola Falls State Park, beginning the 78-mile Georgia portion of this famous hiking trail to Maine. Not planning on walking to Maine? Then just hop on the Appalachian Approach Trail with your favorite furry pal and enjoy one of the best day hikes in the North Georgia Mountains.
Just above the top of Amicalola Falls (you can hike up the falls or just enjoy the view from the parking lot at the top), the trailhead begins. For the first ⅓ mile, the trail will coincide with the Len Foote Hike Inn. When the trail forks, follow the blue blazes, veer left, and head toward Springer Mountain.
Soon enough the trail will leave Amicalola State Park, climbing its way through the Chattahoochee National Forest and onward toward the Appalachian Trail. Though not strenuous, this trail is rated at moderate, so this might prove a challenge for some at certain parts of the trail. Elevation gain is steady over the eight miles, climbing gradually through the thick Chattahoochee Forest. During the spring and summer months, the trail beams with lush greenery and vibrant native wildflowers. In the fall, the trail is a technicolor of bright orange, yellow, and red. Regardless of the time of year, the trail promises spectacular scenery.
While much of the eight-mile stretch is shaded and covered with thicket, the last 1.5 miles will provide close to 500-ft elevation gain and thinning treeline as you make the final climb up Springer. And once you get to the summit, the blue blazes will fade to white, marking the Southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail and a gorgeous view of the rolling mountains and valleys of the Blue Ridge.
Stanley Gap Trail
If you’re looking for the typical North Georgia hiking experience for you and your furry friend, look no further than the Stanley Gap Trail. Full of bright red Georgia clay and plenty of white mountain granite and large roots, you’re in for an adventurous afternoon out in the Chattahoochee National Forest. Now, be forewarned, this trail doesn’t offer up any waterfalls or stunning summit views, but it’s great for those who just want to get out and enjoy the beauty of the North Georgia Mountains. Plus, you’ll have plenty of protection from the sun on hot, humid days.
Coming in at just under 5 miles — around 4.8 mi — the Stanley Gap Trail is rated at moderated, but those used to hiking easier trails shouldn’t find this one too difficult either. It’s fairly forgiving, with breaks in the upward climb every 50- 100 ft along the way. The main thing hikers should watch out for are large upturned roots and rocks that can be a bit tricky to manage if you’re not careful. But as long as you are being mindful of them, the hike shouldn’t pose any problems whatsoever.
The highest point on the trail comes around Rocky Mountain, just below the summit, near the trail’s halfway point. After reaching that point, you’ll have to scamper up one last incline before winding back down for 1,000 ft descent toward Deep Gap. If you’re not wanting to hike all the way back to the trailhead, you can always make arrangements ahead of time for someone to pick you up at the Deep Gap parking lot or even catch a ride with a trail system shuttle driver back to you (and your dog!) back to your car.
Where are your favorite places to hike with your favorite 4-legged family member? 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!