Schoolcation



With times being what they are many of us are working from home and doing virtual school as well. We know that constantly being cooped up in the house can get old really fast, so we invite you and the family to come escape with us!

Since everything is online anyways, who says you have to do it at your home? Bring your work and virtual school with you and come to your Blue Ridge home away from home for a change of scenery. You can still get everything accomplished but you can do it while looking at beautiful mountains or relaxing by the fire! Then after the work is finished unwind with fun activities all around Blue Ridge!

Change of Scenery 

All About the View Cabin

With over a year in these crazy times, we can all agree that we are pretty tired of being cooped up in the house all day looking at the same four walls. Plus, there is not much variation in our everyday routines. Wake up, virtual school, homework, dinner, and bedtime. It can be hard for adults to keep focused when you’re doing the same thing over and over, and it’s especially challenging for kids.

In fact, many adults and kids alike have developed mental health issues being isolated from the rest of the world and not having our regular socialization opportunities. And always trying to find new and wild ideas to keep yourself and the kids entertained is a chore in itself. We know that you and the kids still have work to do but why not do it somewhere else, like in Blue Ridge? The fresh change of scenery will be just what your family needs to feel renewed and focused once more. Getting out of the house and somewhere new can also help with mental health. It’ll be a much-needed getaway for the whole family!

Spacious Cabins

Eagles Landing Cabin

At Escape to Blue Ridge we pride ourselves on our spacious cabins that are stocked with all the best amenities. Everyone will have their own space to spread out and get their work done during the day.

Work on the back porch overlooking the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains or inside by the cozy fire or even lounging on one of the cabin’s many comfy beds. Wherever you choose to work you can be sure you won’t be distracted and will be able to fully focus on the task at hand. After school is finished, have the kids take advantage of the game room where they can play foosball, air hockey, and board games to their heart’s content. Then enjoy a delicious home-cooked meal in the beautiful, spacious kitchen. After dinner head outside for a bonfire and eat lots of s’mores! With amenities just like this and more, you and the family will be set for your stay! 

Get Outdoors 

One of the great parts about Blue Ridge, especially in these times, is it’s easy access to so many wonderful outdoor activities! After being cooped up in the house for months you’ll love a chance to get outside and breathe in the fresh mountain air.

During breaks and after school grab the family to explore countless hiking trails, rivers and streams, waterfalls, mountain peaks, and more! The possibilities are endless! Though one thing is for sure, whatever your outdoor adventures entail, you’ll enjoy escaping the world and being one with nature. That’s just the way life was meant to be lived!

After School Fun 

When the school day is done there’s lots of fun to be had in Blue Ridge for kids of all ages! Unwind and have a blast with fun activities the whole family will enjoy!

-Expedition Bigfoot
Photo Courtesy of @littlebitty87

Let the kids come face to face with none other than Bigfoot himself at Expedition BigFoot: The Sasquatch Museum.  Explore the museum to find all sorts of artifacts, life sized exhibits, photos and maps of Bigfoot sightings, the Bigfoot research and Tech Vehicle, and so much more! Not only is the museum a blast for kids but it’s educational too. It’s the perfect place for a fun filled, family outing!

-Hikes to Waterfalls & Swinging Bridge 
Photo Courtesy of @ancole78

Take advantage of the outdoors and go for a hike to one of Blue Ridge’s waterfalls or the Toccoa Swinging Bridge. They’ll love getting a chance to go outside and explore. With so many kids nowadays attached at the hip to electronics this will be the perfect opportunity to get them out and enjoying nature. Be sure to take some great family photos while you’re out hiking as well!

-Blue Ridge Scenic Railway
Photo Courtesy of @chushon

Most kids simply adore trains, it’s just in their nature. So why not fulfill that love by taking them on a scenic train ride through the beautiful Blue Ridge? They’ll have an absolute blast choo-chooing along with the train as it rolls down the tracks. And if you’re visiting during the Christmas season you and the kids can even hop on a special “Santa Express” ride. There’s a reason people from far and wide love riding on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway; it’s a great experience the whole family can enjoy. 

-Lilly Pad Village 
Photo Courtesy of @ashleywilliams1224

Kids love to interact and use their hands, so the Lily Pad Village is just the place for them. There’s something for kids of all ages like gem mining, fishing, mini golf, and more! The gem mining experience is fun, interactive, and educational. Dig through the trays to find beautiful gemstones and the staff will even provide you with educational information on what you’ve found.  Your kids will come home with a full stash of rocks and gemstones!

-Mercier Orchards 

Mercier Orchards is by far one of our visitors favorite attractions. Famous for their U-Pick events your kids will get a chance to roam the orchard finding the best apples. And Mercier doesn’t just grow apples; they grow strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and peaches as well, so there’s always something tasty to pick. Also enjoy some of their delicious baked goods and meals from the bakery and market cafe. There’s nothing like a warm, fried apple pie to end the day and we dare you to not indulge on their apple cider donuts!  

-Horseback 

Another thing that kids love is horses! Not only does it teach them horsemanship, but horseback riding is a great way to build up self confidence and see the world from a new perspective. So take the kids on a horseback riding excursion through the forest, past lakes and rivers, and gaze up at the stunning mountains all around you. It’s the perfect adventure the whole family will love!

-Sweets 
Photo Courtesy of The Sweet Shoppe of the South

And every kid of course has a sweet tooth, so be sure to take them for the best desserts in town! Enjoy cakes and cookies at The Sweet Shoppe or Mona Lisa’s Dessert House. Or fudge and ice cream at The Chocolate Express. The sugar possibilities are endless and this writer’s mouth is watering just thinking about all the local sweets!

-Activity Book

Another great way to get the kids out of the house is with our Kids Activity Book! Send them on a scavenger hunt to find all kinds of outdoor items. Or have them check off a bingo box for each place they’ve visited. And even have them help Ricky the Raccoon with identifying forest creatures, counting, and more. It’s a great way to get kids learning and having fun while they do it! Stop by our Property Management offices to pick up a copy or download your own copy: www.escapetoblueridge.com/blue-ridge-georgia-activity-booklet.pdf 

10 Best Blue Ridge Photo Ops



Who doesn’t love a good photo-op? On a family trip? Take a photo. On an exciting adventure? Take a photo. An outing with your friends? Take a photo. In this modern age of social media and iPhones, photo-ops and selfies have become a part of everyday life.

Being a small town, tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains sure has its benefits. We have so many fun and unique places that you can’t find anywhere else, which make for amazing photo ops! So, we’ve comprised a list of the 10 best selfie/photo-op spots here in Blue Ridge!

Next time you escape to Blue Ridge be sure to stop by some of these famous sites and take some great photos. Be sure to share anything you take with us, we love to see how much fun you’re having and which places are your favorite!

  • Cover Photo Courtesy of @k4fish

The Wall

Photo Courtesy of Gabrielle Perlman

When visiting the area it’s a MUST to take pictures in front of the Blue Ridge wall in Downtown Blue Ridge. Located on the corner of Mountain and East First Street, this is the perfect backdrop for all your fun photo-ops! This backdrop is a fantastic representation of Blue Ridge and a great way to start off your trip. After you take the picture be sure to explore all Downtown Blue Ridge has to offer from its fantastic shops, great art scene, and its delicious restaurants!

The Bears

Photo Courtesy of Chanel Josephson

How cute are these friendly bears? Located at the entrance of the Blue Ridge Mountain Mall, this welcoming bear is a perfect addition to your photo. And after you grab the picture check out the Mountain Mall for all things antiques and collectibles!

The Bridge

Photo Courtesy of Mari Ortiz

Not only is this iconic bridge a perfect place to explore while hiking or kayaking but it’s also a great location for a photo-op! It’s become a staple of the most liked photo spots in Blue Ridge and it’s not hard to see why. The bridge over the Toccoa River is the longest swinging bridge east of the Mississippi River, spanning 270 feet long! It’s surrounded by the beautiful Chattahoochee National Forest so there are trees all around, and at this time of year, the trees are sure to be at peak color. And with the beautiful river flowing freely down below, it really is a fantastic spot. Located on the Benton MacKaye Trail and the Duncan Ridge National Recreation Trail in Fannin County, make sure to put this experience on your list of must-sees!

The Falls

Photo Courtesy of @ancole78

In Blue Ridge we are lucky enough to have 4 stunning waterfalls nearby; Amicalola Falls, Helton Creek Falls, Fall Branch Falls, and Long Branch Falls.  Any of these breathtaking and beautiful waterfalls are fantastic spots to take a great photo.

Amicalola Falls is the highest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River at 729 feet! Located in Amicalola Falls State Park, it may be a hike to get there but I promise the views are worth the trip to see this huge waterfall up close! 

Helton Creek Falls is a series of two beautiful waterfalls in the Chattahoochee National Forest of close-by Blairsville. Luckily, getting to this waterfall is a fairly easy and short hike. This gorgeous double waterfall that flows into the creek below is a sight you won’t want to miss.

Fall Branch Falls, on the Benton MacKaye Trail, is another stunning double waterfall. With a 30+ foot drop, the water drops into a deep pool at the base of the waterfall; perfect for swimming in warm weather. It’s another short hike to this waterfall but is also fairly steep, the views are worth the uphill battle though!

And last but not least we have Long Branch Falls on the Appalachian/Benton MacKaye Trail. This beautiful waterfall rushes over the surrounding boulders and cliffs and drops about 50 feet. This is another fairly easy hike, only 30 minutes uphill. 

The Bald

Courtesy of Brasstown Bald

The views from on top of Brasstown Bald are completely out of this world beautiful! It’s the highest mountain peak in all of Georgia, and from the observation tower, you can see 4 different states at once! It truly is a sight to behold. Since the elevation is so high, you can even see the clouds over the mountains, which always takes my breath away!

Coke & a Smile

Another great backdrop for your pictures is the Coca-Cola wall, which is also located in Downtown Blue Ridge. Located at the end of East Main Street on the side of the Fly Fishing shop, it’s the perfect backdrop for both Coke and Blue Ridge lovers alike. Get a couple of friends, grab the shot, and share a coke with Blue Ridge!

The Orchard 

Photo Courtesy of Kendra Mae

Mercier Orchard is the largest apple orchard in the southeast and one of the most popular places to visit while in Blue Ridge. With so much fun to be had from picking fruit, to shopping, and gobbling up their delish bakery treats, it’s a great place to take the family! Throughout the orchard, there are so many places to take awesome pictures, but by far the most popular spot is the entrance. Nothing screams Blue Ridge like standing in front of the sign of one its most popular attractions! 

For Husbands 

Photo Courtesy of @Ancole78

How funny is this!? Having the husband take a photo in front of this sign would be a hilarious and fun memory. The “Husband Daycare Center” is actually the Black Bear Bier Garten, which is a German bar and pub. Take a fantastic photo in front of the sign and then head inside for some great German fare! 

The Tree & The Train

We couldn’t possibly leave the famous “tree” off the list! Located at the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, this tree shows off its stunning colors every fall. It’s become one of the most photographed things in Blue Ridge during the fall season because you just can’t beat those stunning colors! After you take a photo (or 10) in front of Blue Ridge’s famous tree, be sure to snap some of the train before you hitch a ride on the scenic railway for even more beautiful sights!

GA/TN Line

Photo Courtesy of Dan Blankowski

How many times can you say you’ve been in two places at once? Or even two states at once? Probably not very often! But you CAN be in two places at once and snag a great picture if you visit the twin cities of McCaysville, GA and Copperhill, TN. Here is the sign between the two states that is sure to provide you with all kinds of fun photos!

Escape To Blue Ridge

Our property management offices located at 1844 Old Hwy 76 is a perfect place to stop in, pick up a Kid’s Activity Book and get your photo taken with our holiday trees! Who says trees are just for Christmas anyway? We love celebrating all the holidays with our seasonal tree!

Romantic Date Ideas



@c_ozanich at Wander in Lodge

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it’s the perfect time for romance. And we have the best date ideas for you to treat your special someone. A Blue Ridge vacation is the perfect romantic getaway for all those love birds out there. The small, charming town and beautiful mountain views will transport you to another world and help to enhance all the romantic feelings. It’s sure to be a trip of a lifetime; so grab your love and come escape with us! 

Dinner

Photo Courtesy of the Black Sheep

You can never go wrong with a romantic dinner for two at any of Blue Ridge’s superb restaurants. Some of our favorites for a special date night out are The Black Sheep or Harvest on Main. Both of which are located in Downtown Blue Ridge. You could go for a stroll along Main Street together, admiring all the trendy shops, before stopping in for a delicious dinner.

At The Black Sheep, you can sip on a cocktail while enjoying a wonderfully handcrafted meal made with fresh, local ingredients. Put your worries to rest, relax, and enjoy an upscale dining experience with an atmosphere that will put you at ease. And the food is simply amazing, no matter what you get; they don’t call it the best dining in Blue Ridge for nothing!

Harvest on Main is another great restaurant for your perfect date night. They serve southern inspired global cuisine; and who doesn’t love a little southern flair, especially when you’re in the mountains. From steaks to fish to soup and salad, there’s a little something for everyone. These restaurants are meant to bring out the romance. 

Horseback Riding

How about a romantic horseback ride through the wilderness? That’s like something you’d see in a romance movie but you can actually do it here! Check out Appalachian Trail Rides for this great opportunity. You can book a private trial ride for you and your “hon-neigh” to ensure everything goes exactly as planned. You’ll take a peaceful ride through the woods and see babbling brooks and maybe even some wildlife. And if this date is an extra special one and you want to pop the question, there’s a special proposal ride which takes you to a secluded romantic gazebo by the lake where you can spill all your heart’s desires. And there will even be sparkling cider! Doing something new and different like a trail ride together will be sure to bring the two of you even closer. 

Waterfalls

Not much can inspire your love more than the natural beauty of the outdoors. So get outside and enjoy a beautiful hike to one of our stunning waterfalls. You’ll feel completely at peace as you listen to the water rushing down the rocks and see the beauty all around you. Relax on the rocks while the cool mist of the falls hits your face. Soak it all in and find yourself feeling 10 times calmer than before you arrived. Even snap a few cute couple photos while you’re there. 

Stargazing 

Photo courtesy of @itmariecoragravante

It doesn’t get much more romantic than cuddling up with your love and gazing up at the starry night sky. Grab a blanket and a bottle of champagne for a relaxing and romantic night under the stars. The stars go on for miles and you will get to enjoy a front row seat. So grab a glass and cheers to you and your love, lay back, cuddle up, and take it all in. 

Spa Day

For the ultimate relaxation and stress relief, there’s nothing like a spa day. Drop on by Serenity in the Mountains to get the full works. You and your love can unwind together with a romantic couples massage. Feel an undeniable calm wash over you as you drift to a place of pure bliss. Taking a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and finally getting treated will have you and your honey living on a high. 

Wineries

Blue Ridge and the surrounding areas are home to so many wonderful wineries. In Blue Ridge check out Bear Claw Vineyards and Serenberry Vineyards, in Ellijay try Cartecay Vineyards, and in Young Harris visit Crane Creek Vineyards. All have a wide variety of wines, beautiful mountain views, and a relaxing atmosphere. Sit in the tasting room or on the patio and unwind with a glass of wine. On weekends you can also enjoy the sounds of local musical artists who will serenade you and your sweetie while you sip and snack. Any of these wineries will provide you with a perfect afternoon date. 

Cozy Cabin

Photo Courtesy of @amybencole

Maybe instead of a day or night out you can enjoy a night in your cozy Escape to Blue Ridge cabin. With all the amenities you could need you’ll be all set for your night in. Cook a fancy dinner in the kitchen or order in. Then relax in the hot tub to completely unwind. Afterward, come inside to escape the cold and cuddle by the fireplace while you enjoy a nice glass of wine and a movie. Our cabins will provide you with everything you need to enjoy a perfect, romantic night together in your warm, cozy cabin. 

Watch the Sunset

Take a seat on your spacious deck and watch the sunset below the mountains. Every Blue Ridge sunset is simply gorgeous and will leave you breathless. It’s hard not to get swept up in the beauty and romance of it all, so don’t fight it. Soak it in and curl up together in the twin rocking chairs. Or for an even more relaxing spot why not watch the sunset from your hot tub? Now that’s what I call a romantic getaway!

Budget Friendly Vacation for the Post Holiday Traveler



The holidays can be a very expensive time of the year, so we understand needing to save money where you can. If you’re planning on taking a trip to Blue Ridge after the holidays but need to be a little more money savvy than usual, there are still lots of budget-friendly activities for you to experience! We’ve comprised a list of 6 activities for you and your family to take part in, for your wonderful Budget Friendly Blue Ridge Vacation! 

Hiking 

One thing Blue Ridge has plenty of is outdoor experiences. Hiking is one of our most popular outdoor activities because we have mountain trails galore! Climb to the peak of some of Georgia’s tallest mountains with the hike to Brasstown Bald near Blairsville or Fort Mountain in Chatsworth. Both of these hikes will provide you with breathtaking views from all around and a great workout! You could also hike to one of our four local waterfalls; Amicalola Falls, Helton Creek Falls, Fall Branch Falls, or Long Branch Falls. All four of these waterfalls are simply stunning, so you can’t go wrong with whichever you chose! And of course, you can always enjoy a hike on any of the trails through the Chattahoochee National Forest. With over 850 miles of recreational trails throughout the forest, there’s no way you’ll run out of fun!

Scenic Drive

Photo Courtesy of Bob Reel

With mountains all around, Blue Ridge and the surrounding areas have plenty of beautiful scenic drives you can take. Even though most of the trees will not have leaves since it’s wintertime, the mountain views and exploring the countryside are what make the drive. Hop on Highway 60 through Suches and find yourself high above the clouds, at 3,000 feet above sea level! Check out Highway 5 as well for a relaxing drive through the Cohutta Wilderness. And if you’re up for a little bit more of a road trip then hop on either the Cherohala Skyway or Ocoee Scenic Byway both of which will take you through parts of Tennessee. Spending the afternoon cruising around the countryside is an incredibly relaxing experience after the chaos of the holidays. So pile in the car, grab the wheel (and some snacks), and cruise!  

Window Shop

One of the most fun parts of shopping is looking at everything. It’s great to get a chance to scope out all of your options and Downtown Blue Ridge is the perfect place to window shop. Check out different oils from all over the world at Blue Ridge Olive Oil Company or check out all the outdoor accessories at Blue Ridge Adventure Wear. With so much to see and do around town, and a variety of different stores, you could window shop all day if you wanted! But if you do end up seeing something in the shop that’s an absolute MUST have and need to spend just a little, we promise we won’t tell if you don’t. Shhh! 

Live Music 

Who doesn’t love free live music? Many of Blue Ridge’s restaurants, bars, breweries, and wineries have free live music on the weekends. Stop by Grumpy Old Men Brewery on a Friday or Sunday afternoon for great music and great drinks. The Blue Coyote Bar in Downtown Blue Ridge is known for their live music and entertainment every Friday and Saturday night. At the delicious The Black Sheep restaurant, enjoy a yummy Sunday brunch all while listening to local artists perform. Bin 322 also has live music every Friday and Saturday night. And many of our local wineries offer live music on the weekends as well including; Cartecay Vineyards, Engleheim Vineyards, Crane Creek Vineyards and Chateau Meichtry Family Vineyard and Winery. Music makes you feel good. Simple as that. And in Blue Ridge we have an abundance of options! 

Explore Landmarks 

Photo Courtesy of Chanel Josephson

Over the years tourists have loved coming to Blue Ridge and exploring all we have to offer. So of course, they started to find some of our wonderful hidden gems and turned them into the great tourist attractions they are today. And it costs exactly nothing to explore and find them all! First on the list is the Swinging Bridge over Toccoa River, which has turned into one of tourists favorite spots. The bridge is over 270 feet long and the perfect place to take a great photo! Next on the list is the bears welcome sign located at the entrance to Blue Ridge Mountain Mall. This cute welcoming bear has become such a fun part of the Blue Ridge experience. After you visit with the bear be sure to go into the to the Mountain Mall to check out all kinds of antiques and collectables. Did you know that the Statue of Liberty is in Blue Ridge? No, not the one you’re thinking of; but we do have our own mini Statue of Liberty in front of the Fannin County Courthouse in Downtown Blue Ridge. Though, instead of a torch our Statue of Liberty holds a lamp globe to help light the streets at night. It’s such fun surprise to see! If you take a little road trip over to the twin cities of McCaysville, GA and Copperhill, TN then you can actually stand in two states at once! There’s a sign that sits in between the two states, that’s a perfect place to take a photo. Have fun jumping back and forth between states. And last but certainly not least, the Blue Ridge mural in Downtown Blue Ridge is a must see! You can’t complete your Blue Ridge vacation without making a stop to see it!

Cabin Time

Our cabins have so many incredible amenities that will make it hard for you to leave; from hot tubs and game rooms, to beautiful fireplaces and firepits, to large kitchens with all the appliances you need and wrap around porches with stunning views; Escape to Blue Ridge cabins have a little something for everyone! While our little town has so much to explore we won’t blame you if you want to stay curled up inside your cabin instead. Lounge around the cabin or in the hot tub all day, then eat a delicious home cooked meal, watch the sunset from your porch, and then end the night with a cozy movie marathon by the fire. Sounds perfect doesn’t it? There’s nothing wrong with a little rest and relaxation every once and a while; after all that’s what vacations are all about! 

However you chose to see our little town, there’s plenty of ways to do it without breaking the bank. Make it a vacation to remember while still saving for anything life might throw your way. Whatever way you escape, we’re happy you chose to do it with us!

Christmas Lights Around the Mountains



Every family has many Christmas traditions that they enjoy preserving. For this writer, one of my family’s favorite things to do is to go drive around and see all the Christmas lights! However, when you’re not from around here, you wouldn’t even know where to begin to look for lights to enjoy. Well, we tried to make it easy for you and stalked as many of our friends pages to locate all the Christmas light displays that you HAVE to go check out!

Each community offers a brief directions, but click on the town name to access a Google map to help you find your way! If you’re a local reading this and know of other places we’re missing please drop a comment or send us a Facebook or Instagram message. Merry Christmas!

Click to go to the Escape To Blue Ridge Christmas Light Map

Blue Ridge:

William’s Home Photo Courtesy of Becky Dyer

Downtown Blue Ridge – East Main St.

Spur 60 – Between Mineral Bluff and NC State line. Drive through Winter Wonderland! Santa on certain nights.

The Penlands – Hwy 75, just past the North Carolina/Georgia state line.

Williams’ – Forge Mill Road off Hwy 515 across from Cucina Rustica. Santa on certain nights.

Blairsville:

Gwynn’s Christmas Light Show

Chamber of Commerce – Tour of Trees. 9am – 5pm. 129 Union County Recreation Road, Blairsville

Collins – 257 Windy Hill Rd. (Santa Here)

289 Cook St

Downtown – On the Square

195 Forest Dr

Gwynn’s Christmas Light Show – Shows at 7pm & 7:30pm. Tune your radio to 91.9 and enjoy! Address is 121 Birch Cane Drive, Blairsville, GA 30512

262 Jewell Mason Rd

Stonehenge Assisted Living – Hwy 129 North towards Murphy, about 7 miles north of Hwy 76/129 intersection. Note: Nativity Scene

The Browns – Take Old Blue Ridge Highway out past Mulkey Gap. Right on Ed King Road. Just before the solar panel field. Note: Santa’s Mailbox – leave a letter to Santa and receive a reply!

The Jones – Take Blue Ridge Hwy, then a left on Mulkey Gap, right on Jones Rd.

Hiawassee

Mountain Country Christmas in Lights

Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds – Mountain Country Christmas in Lights every Thursday, Friday, Saturday from 6pm-9pm through December 28th. Here you will enjoy beautiful light displays and food ops along with food, music, arts & crafts, hot chocolate, marshmallow, a petting zoo and Santa. Admission is $5 per person and children 12 and under are FREE! On the main drag – Hwy 76 in Hiawassee.

Bugscuffle Road – Through the town of Hiawassee, but before the School. See Uhaul & Parker Oil, next road on left is Bugscuffle. On Hwy 76, just west of Towns County School.

Scataway Road – About 5 minutes past the Towns County School, see sign for Mount Zion Church on left and follow the red glow. Off of Hwy 76, 5 minutes east of town. See Santa on certain nights.

Panter House – Gumlog Rd off of Hwy 66 in Young Harris. On the Towns County side of Gumlog.

North Carolina:

Harshaw Road Lights Courtesy of Susie Bryant

Penlands – Hwy 75, just across the NC/Ga line.

Harshaw Road – Near Cherokee Hills Golf Course

Top 5 Scenic Fall Drives



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!

Suches

Preachers Rock courtesy of The Hobson Homestead

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. 

Cohutta Wilderness

Jacks River Falls Trail in the Cohutta Wilderness courtesy of Atlanta Trails

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

Cherohala Skyway photograph by Mike Waller

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

Chilhowee view courtesy of Jim Caldwell

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

Hwy 180 courtesy of Scott Michael Anna

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!

Fireside Ghost Stories



I’m supposed to write to you about telling ghost stories around the campfire, but the truth is this writer is a big ‘ol scaredy cat and just researching good ghost stories is enough to have the hair on the back of my neck stand up! Why do we like telling ghost stories? Do we like to be scared or do we prefer to do the scaring and see someone else’s reaction? Is it the thrill of the story? The adrenaline rush when your brain is thinking is this a fight or flight situation? I mean, we know it’s not real and can’t possibly be true, but…….why is this so scary then?

I’ve been around firepits where some of the funniest moments that ever happened was when someone got super scared. You know the scared I mean, when they are all tensed up, on high alert, and usually make some really strange and high pitched shrieking sounds. Next thing you know, they are tripping over themselves and acting a fool running back toward the safety of the cabin in a frantic wail! (That may or may not be a rather personal experience, but I’ll let you be the judge of that!)

A dear friend is an amazing storyteller that puts on the Georgia Mountain Storytelling Festival and participates in Appalachian Story nights at the Haunts & Harvest at Blue Ridge Community Theater. So, I reached out to her to find out if there are any legends or lore in these Blue Ridge mountains that would be fit for a ghost story tale. She shared this super creepy Cherokee Tail that happened right here in these mountains that you may be interested in. But fair warning, if you don’t like to be scared or don’t want to be super creeped out try these lighter ghost stories and don’t scroll below to read the Cherokee Legend of Spear-Finger!

Ok. I lied. There is no such thing as “lighter” ghost stories. Even the kid’s ones are totally creepy! Why can’t we just stick to roasting marshmallows and singing “Kumbaya” around the campfire?! Ok. I’m pulling myself together. Here we go. I remember hearing this one as a kid. Maybe this was the beginning of my trauma. Courtesy of Café Mom, enjoy “The Pink Jelly Bean”.

Premise: At the end of a long, dark road is a long, dark path. At the end of the long, dark path is a lone, dark house. And the lone, dark house has a single, dark door. Behind the single, dark door is a long, dark hall. At the end of the long, dark hall are some tall, dark stairs. (Story continues, narrowing in from a room to a closet to a chest to a box, etc.) And in the small, dark box is … a pink jellybean!!!!

Notes for telling: The idea here is to build as much suspense as possible before you leap forward and dramatically shout the jellybean line. You’ll know you did it right if your audience reacts by instantly pooping their pants.

Here are a few more:

The Broom Town Curse

Dem Bones

The Ball Pit

Creak

WiFi Connection

As promised, here’s one to make you shiver:

A Cherokee Legend – SpearFinger

Long, long ago there dwelt in the mountains a terrible ogress, a woman monster, whose food was human livers. She could take on any shape or appearance to suit her purpose, but in her right form she looked very much like an old woman.

But not an ordinary woman: her whole body was covered with a skin as hard as a rock that no weapon could wound or penetrate, and that on her right hand she had a long, stony forefinger of bone, like an awl or spearhead, with which she stabbed everyone to whom she could get near enough.

On account of this fact she was called U `tlun’ta “Spear-finger,” and on account of her stony skin she was sometimes called Nun’yunu’I, “Sone-dress.” There was another stone-clothed monster that killed people, but that is a different story.

Spear-finger had such powers over stone that she could easily lift and carry immense rocks, and could cement them together by merely striking one against another. To get over the rough country more easily she undertook to build a great rock bridge through the air from Nunyu’tlu `gun’yi, the “Tree rock,” on Hiwassee, over to Sanigila’gi (Whiteside mountain), on the Blue Ridge, and had it well started from the top of the “Tree rock” when the lightning struck it and scattered the fragments along the whole ridge, where the pieces can still be seen by those who go there. She used to range all over the mountains about the heads of the streams and in the dark passes of Nantahala, always hungry looking for victims. Her favorite haunt on the Tennessee side was about the gap on the trail where Chilhowie mountain comes down to the river.

Sometimes an old woman would approach along the rail where the children were picking strawberries or playing near the village, and would say to them coaxingly, “Come, my grandchildren, come to your granny and let granny dress your hair.”

When some little girl ran up and laid her head in the old woman’s lap to be petted and combed the old witch would gently run her fingers through the child’s hair until it went to sleep, when she would stab the little one through the heart or back of the neck with the long awl finger, which she had kept hidden under her robe. Then she would take out the liver and eat it.

She would enter a house by taking the appearance of one of the family who happened to have gone out for a short time, and would watch her chance to stab someone with her long finger and take out his liver.

She could stab him without being noticed, and often the victim did not even know it himself at the time – for it left no wound and caused no pain – but went on about his own affairs, until all at once he felt weak and began gradually to pine away, and was always sure to die, because Spear-finger had taken his liver.

When the Cherokee went out in the fall, according to their custom, to burn the leaves off from the mountains in order to get the chestnuts on the ground, they were never safe, for the old witch was always on the lookout, and as soon as she saw the smoke rise she knew there were Indians there and sneaked up to try to surprise one alone.

So as well as they could they tried to keep together, and were very cautious of allowing any stranger to approach the camp. But if one went down to the spring for a drink they never knew but it might be the liver eater that came back and sat with them.

Sometimes she took her proper form, and once or twice, when far out from the settlements, a solitary hunter had seen an old woman, with a queer-looking hand, going through the woods singing low to herself:

Uwe’la na’tsiku’. Su’ sa’ sai’.

Liver, I eat it. Su’ sa’ sai’.

It was rather pretty song, but it chilled his blood, for he knew it was the liver eater, and he hurried away, silently, before she might see him.  

At last a great council was held to devise some means to get rid of U `tlun’ta before she should destroy everybody. The people came from all around, and after much talk it was decided that the best way would be to trap her in a pitfall where all the warriors could attack her at once.

So they dug a deep pitfall across the trail and covered it over with earth and grass as if the ground had never been disturbed. Then they kindled a large fire of brush near the trail and hid themselves in the laurels, because they knew she would come as soon as she saw the smoke.

Sure enough they soon saw an old woman coming along the trail. She looked like an old woman whom they knew well in the village, and although several of the wiser men wanted to shoot at her, the other interfered, because they did not want to hurt one of their own people. The old woman came slowly along the trail, with one hand under her blanket, until she stepped upon the pitfall and tumbled through the brush top into the deep hole below.

Then, at once, she showed her true nature, and instead of the feeble old woman there was the terrible U`tlun’ta with her stony skin, and her sharp awl finger reaching out in every direction for someone to stab.

The hunters rushed out from the thicket and surrounded the pit, but shoot as true and as often as they could, their arrows struck the stony mail of the witch only to be broken and fall useless at her feet, while she taunted them and tried to climb out of the pit to get at them. They kept out of her way, but were only wasting their arrows when a small bird, Utsu’ gi, the titmouse, perched on a tree overhead and began to sing “un, un, un.”

They thought it was saying u’nahu’, heart, meaning that they should aim at the heart of the stone witch. They directed their arrows where the heart should be, but the arrows only glanced off with the flint heads broken.

Then they caught the Utsu’ 1gi and cut off its tongue, so that ever since its tongue is short and everybody knows it is a liar. When the hunters let go it flew straight up into the sky until it was out of sight and never came back again. The titmouse that we know now is only an image of the other.

They kept up the fight without result until another bird, little Tsikilili, the chickadee, flew down from a tree and alighted upon the witch’s right hand. The warriors took this as a sign that they must aim there, and they were right, for her heart was on the inside of her hand, which she kept doubled into a fist, this same awl hand with which she had stabbed so many people.

Now she was frightened in earnest, and began to rush furiously at them with her long awl finger and to jump about in the pit to dodge the arrows, until at last a lucky arrow struck just where the awl joined her wrist and she fell down dead.

Ever since the tsikilili is know as a truth teller, and when a man is away on a journey, if this bird comes and perches near the house and chirps its song, his friends know he will soon be safe home.

Welcome October!



As the season changes from summer to fall, make sure you don’t miss out on the crisp weather, changing leaves and fun 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!

UPCOMING EVENTS & ACTIVITIES

Fall Festival
October 3rd – 31st
LOCATION: Cartecay Vineyards

Every weekend in October is the Fall Festival at Cartecay Vineyards. Enjoy live music and fine Georgia Wines! Food and Arts & Crafts Vendors will be onsite.

Lake Blue Ridge Concert Series
October 3rd & 24th
LOCATION: Morganton Cove on Lake Blue Ridge

David Nail will be performing at Morganton Cove on the shores of Lake Blue Ridge on Saturday, October 3rd. Later in the month Alex Guthrie and Jennifer Lynn Simpson will perform on October 24th. The event will be compliant to social distancing and you are encouraged to bring your own chairs and coolers. All proceeds go to St. Jude Hospital for Pediatric Cancer.

Barktoberfest
October 4th
LOCATION: Grumpy Old Men Brewery

The Humane Society of Blue Ridge is hosting their annual fundraiser at Grumpy Old Men Brewery. Enjoy a day of music, food, & cold beer! Jeff’s Hotdogs will be onsite and all furry friends are allowed to attend!

Yoga at Old Toccoa Farm
October 4th, 11th, 18th & 25th
LOCATION: Old Toccoa Farm

Join Christie Gribble for Yoga by the river at beautiful Old Toccoa Farm. All levels are welcome!

Guided Hike – John Muir Trail to the Narrows
October 9th
LOCATION: Benton MacKaye Trail

Beginning at the Swinging Bridge, join fellow hikers on a beautiful journey filled with fascinating rock formations, water crossings, and plenty of fall beauty!

Fall Arts & Crafts Show
October 9th, 10th, 11th, 16th, 17th, & 18th
LOCATION: Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds

This 2 weekend event will feature more than 80 arts and crafts vendors, food vendors, and musicians playing throughout the Fairgrounds! The event will take place October 9th, 10th, & 11th as well as October 16th, 17th, & 18th. Admission is $5 per person and children 12 and under are FREE!

FAME: the Musical JR
Thursdays – Sundays October 16th – 31st
LOCATION: Blue Ridge Community Theater

Fame The Musical inspired generations to fight for fame and light up the sky like a flame! Conceived and developed by David De Silva – now known affectionately to the planet as “Father Fame” – this high-octane musical features the Academy Award-winning title song and a host of other catchy pop numbers.

53rd Annual Mountain Moonshine Festival
October 23rd – 25th
LOCATION: Georgia Racing Hall of Fame

Check out one of the largest car shows in the Eastern US! There will be hundreds of vintage cars, classic music, arts & craft vendors, kids activities, and of course moonshine!

Appalachian Brew, Stew, & Que Festival
October 24th
LOCATION: Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds

The 2020 Appalachian Brew, Stew, & Que Festival brings you 35+ great craft breweries from Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina & Alabama. There will also be delicious food from area restaurants, regional arts & crafts, and lots of Appalachian & Americana music!

Chimp or Treat at Project Chimps
October 24th & 25th
LOCATION: Project Chimps

What’s better than trick or treating? Chimp or Treat, of course! At Project Chimps, children will take a 30-45 minute guided walking tour, get treats at seven different stops along the way and get a chance to see a chimpanzee from the viewing window!

Bigfoot Boogie 5k
October 31st
LOCATION: Riverwalk, McCaysville

The Riverwalk Run Series presents the Bigfoot Boogie 5K. 3.1 Miles, 2 States, 1 Steelbridge. A 5K like no other, and costumes are encouraged! This scenic run follows the historic Toccoa River along McCaysville, GA and into Copperhill, TN for a Spooktacular day of fun!

NEW HOMES ADDED TO OUR PROGRAM

Surrounded by tranquility and the beauty of nature everywhere you look, staying at Mountain Blu is like being in an enchanted forest, with tall shady trees above you and the sound of the babbling creek below. Located on nearly four wooded acres in the private community of Mountain Tops, this magnificent, secluded property offers you the ultimate in mountain luxury!

Wolf Mountain Hideaway makes a stunning first impression. Tucked away on a wooded hillside, it has glorious long-range mountain vistas visible above the trees and a prow roof pointing toward the sky. Beautifully designed on three levels with a wraparound deck, the pine log cabin is spacious yet cozy, its bright and airy open-plan design and elegantly rustic décor creating a comfortable, inviting ambiance.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Adventure Awaits in Aska!

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 RiverAppalachian 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!

A September to Remember



September is a time of transition, when summer is coming to an end, but the crisp nights promise something even better! As the season changes to fall, make sure you don’t miss out on the cool mountain weather and fun fall traditions in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains!

UPCOMING EVENTS & ACTIVITIES

Artist in Residence: Colleen Sterling, Plein Air International Paint-Out, & Blackberry Creek Artists
September 1 – September 30
LOCATION: Blue Ridge Mountain Arts Association

Photo Courtesy of The Art Center

Spend the day at the Blue Ridge Mountain Arts Association! Previously a historic courthouse, you will now find a creative place to view art, take classes, pick up art supplies, and mingle with fellow artisans.

This September, the Art Center will be hosting a Plein Air Paint-Out, an art display by the Blackberry Creek Artisans, plus this month’s Artist in Residence, Colleen Sterling! Note: The winner Of the Plein Air Paint-Out will receive a $500 gift certificate for a cabin of their choice!

Pickin’ in the Park
September 1 – September 24
LOCATION: Horseshoe Bend Park

Photo Courtesy of the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce

Enjoy a trip out to the twin cities of Mcaysville & Copperhill to shop and dine for the day. If you’re there on a Thursday, stop by Horseshoe Bend Park and enjoy the appalachian sounds. No cost to attend, and you are welcome to bring blankets or chairs.

Wine Themed Movie Nights & Live Music
September 1 – September 30
LOCATION: bin322 Wine & Tapas Bar

Photo Courtesy of bin322

Kick back and relax with your favorite glass of wine at Blue Ridge’s wine bar. Along with tasty tapas options you can also enjoy live music and wine themed movie nights!

September 5th – Robert Ferguson
September 10th – Special Wine Tasting Event
September 11th – Surrender Hill
September 12th – Topper Unplugged
September 16th – Trivia Night
September 19th – Loose Shoes Duo
September 23rd – Shannon York & Rob Harper
September 26th – Danny Rhea

Music at The Blue Coyote
September 1 – September 30
LOCATION: The Blue Coyote

Photo Courtesy of the Blue Coyote

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!

September 4th – Hughes Taylor
September 5th – Gregg Erwin Band
September 11th – Fish and Grits
September 12th – Donny Hammonds Band
September 18th – Disciples of Sound
September 19th – Breaking Point
September 25th – Topper
September 26th – Mind the Stepchildren

Brunch & Live Music
September 1 – September 30
LOCATION: The Black Sheep

Photo Courtesy of the Black Sheep

The Black Sheep added new outdoor pet friendly patio area and feature live music on Sundays to go with their incredible brunch!

Live Music at Grumpy Old Men Brewing
September 1 – 30
LOCATION: Grumpy Old Men Brewing

Great beer (18 beers on tap), a fun atmosphere and a stellar philosophy – delicious beer, dog-friendly, people tolerated. Plenty of craft beers, including those brewed in the brewery, and lots of live music. It’s one of those places that locals like!

Photo Courtesy of Grumpy Old Men Brewing

September 4th – The Orange Walls
September 11th – Barefoot Boon
September 18th – Radio Rangers
September 25th – Travis Bowlin

Appalachian Cookery
September 11
LOCATION: The Folk Apothic

Photo Courtesy of the Folk Apothic

The Appalachian ladies are back in the midst of harvest season to share some of their favorite Autumn recipes. As always, they will prepare, cook, and share cooking secrets and recipes before sitting down and breaking bread together.

The Outsider
September 17 – 30
LOCATION: Blue Ridge Community Theater

Photo Courtesy of the Blue Ridge Community Theater

Live theater is back! Take in a show at the Blue Ridge Community Theater and just in time for the election, this comedy will have you laughing all the way to the polls!

Discovery Days at Project Chimp
September 26 – 27
LOCATION: Project Chimps

Kids and kids at heart will enjoy this special day of art and discovery at the Project Chimps sanctuary for former research chimpanzees. Spend a few hours with the chimps to see their forever home. Tour the sanctuary and learn about the lives of the chimps!

NEW HOMES ADDED TO OUR PROGRAM

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but to truly appreciate the magnificence of Star Mountain you have to see it in person. High on a hilltop and nestled in the trees on three wooded acres, it makes a great first impression, with stunning long-range mountain vistas that will take your breath away. Spacious enough to accommodate large families or a group of friends yet cozy and intimate, Star Mountain will make you feel relaxed, at peace, and at home as you disconnect from life’s stresses and reconnect with nature.

Entering Fireside Retreat you can’t help but feel a comfortable inviting vibe with its soaring ceiling, exposed beams and floor to ceiling stone fireplace greeting you! Featuring two great rooms, on the lower and upper level, each has a stone gas fireplace with 55” Smart TV outfitted with DirecTV and Apple TV. The lower level modeled after a late 1800s English pub is an experience of itself and has been dubbed The Green Dragon. It features a foosball table, electronic dart board, an array of family games as well as some captivating décor that is better seen than described! The Green Dragon also features a full bar area with a full size refrigerator, sink and microwave.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

EXTREME OUTDOORS FOR THE BRAVE AT HEART

The moments when we conquer our fears are the moments when we feel most alive! Extreme activities in the great outdoors allow you to capture the place we all call home from an entirely different perspective. You’ll be chasing the adrenaline rush for days to come! And what better place to try out a new and unusual outdoor activity than in the Blue Ridge Mountains?
These 7 extreme activities will swipe you off your feet…literally!

HOW DID THE BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAINS FORM?

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! Learn more about how the Blue Ridge Mountains formed.

Mountain Flora & Blue Ridge Fauna



The Blue Ridge mountains are an ideal habitat for both vegetation and animal life due to several factors including rainfall, climate, and soil types. In just Blue Ridge alone, 40% of our county’s land is located in and protected by the Chattahoochee National Forest which creates a safe environment for abundant flora and fauna to thrive.

Our mountain ranges are covered in over 140 species of trees and is notably one of the most extensive broad-leaved deciduous forests still flourishing in the world. The combination of southern plant growth known as the Appalachian Forests put on quite the dramatic show throughout the year making fall one of the most popular times to visit and experience all the changing colors of fall. Let’s take a look at some of the more popular plants and animals that inhabit this special region.

Mountain Laurel

Photo Courtesy of bbg.org

The evergreen Mountain Laurel is a staple plant in the hills of the Appalachian Mountains. Tolerant to shade, these North American shrubs produce gorgeous flowers in the late spring and early summer. The spectacular blooms range in color from white to pink to deep rose and have distinctive and symmetrical purple dots or streaks. Mountain Laurel is slow growing, but average 6-15 feet in height. You will often see mountain furniture and home accents made out of the bark of the Mountain Laurel. Of Note: These plants are poisonous if ingested.

Rhododendron

Photo Courtesy of Gardening Know How

The evergreen Rhododendron come in many shapes and sizes, but they are most known for their spectacular blossoms that appear in the early spring to mid-summer in a variety of colors. The blossoms can be pure white, soft pink, yellow, red, purple and blue! Of Note: These plants are poisonous if ingested.

Azaleas

Photo Courtesy of Old Farmer’s Almanac

Azaleas were designated, in Georgia, as the official state wildflower in 1979. A relative to the Rhododendron, and in fact a part of the Rhododendron genus, but as all azaleas are rhododendrons, not all rhododendrons are azaleas. Similarly, azaleas bloom in brilliant colors like scarlet, crimson, orange and more. The main difference between the rhodies and the azaleas is the leaf size, quantity of stamen, and azaleas are deciduous as opposed to its evergreen cousins. Of Note: These plants are poisonous if ingested.

Fun Fact

Photo Courtesy of Hamilton Gardens at Lake Chatuge

Close by in Hiawassee, there are rhododendron gardens filled with azaleas, mountain laurels, and many other native Georgia plants. Plan to visit The Hamilton Gardens at Lake Chatuge and learn more about area flora. Admission is a suggested $5 donation.

Cherokee Rose

Photo Courtesy of petals from the past

The official state flower of Georgia is also found thriving in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Cherokee Rose is both beautiful and interesting. Rooted in Cherokee legend, the Cherokee Rose is said to have been created from the tears of Native American mothers crying for their children journeying on the Trail of Tears. The fragrant rose is white for their tears, a gold center represents the gold taken from Cherokee lands, and 7 leaves for the 7 Cherokee clans. The evergreen Cherokee Rose plant is a climbing shrub that has antibacterial properties.

Whitetail Deer

Photo Courtesy of My Canyon Lake

Probably the most common and most exciting animal to see grazing in the woods. These beautiful animals are the smallest of the North American deer population and graze on leaves, corn, fruits, and acorns. Male deer are called bucks and are easily recognizable by their antlers which grow each year and fall off in the winter! The female deer are called does and they give birth to 1-3 fawns a year. The best time to spot deer are at dawn and at dusk since deer are primarily nocturnal animals.

Wild Turkey

Photo Courtesy of CTpost

You might see wild turkeys on the side of the road on your drive up to the mountains or out in a field foraging with their flock. Turkey are a large game bird with a long neck and long legs. Male turkeys are distinguished by their unfeathered heads and large red throat known as a “gobble”. Turkeys can fly short distances and often roost in trees or under shrubs.

Black Bear

Photo Courtesy of Scott Michael Anna

The Black Bear is the smallest of the North American bears. These bears are ominivores which means they eat both plants and meat. Bears are also nocturnal which means they sleep during the day and come out to hunt at night. While we are intrigued by them, it is best for black bears to meander through the woods without human interaction.

Bird is the Word

Male Rose Breasted Grosbeak Photo Courtesy of Scott M Anna

Birding is a popular pastime for nature lovers and there are more than 80 species of migratory birds and 200 species of  native x to spot in the mountains! The Georgia State bird, the Brown Thrasher, can be seen here along with the Ruffed Grouse, Owls, Ravens, Wrens, Woodpeckers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and many varieties of Warblers and Hawks including Bald Eagles.

Coyote

Photo Courtesy of WFAE

Resembling a small dog, coyotes are indeed canines, but they are not of domesticated variety. They have keen eyesight, an acute sense of smell, and the ability to quickly adapt to a variety of habitats. In the evenings you may hear distant high pitched cries, shrieks, barking or howling as these animals communicate with each other. Contrary to popular believe, coyotes do not hunt in packs, but are primarily solo hunters and are effective in maintaining a balance in Georgia’s rodent population.