Today I have the pleasure of going to the North Georgia mountains, home of Brasstown Bald (the highest peak in Georgia), Stone Mountain (a ginormous granite outcrop that has a Confederate memorial carving and a killer laser light show), and Springer Mountain (the southern end of the Appalachian Trail). These parts are so beautiful. I recall a class trip in 4th grade to Rabun County, Ga. The mountains (really more like foothills) were covered with trees of every color. Looking out form the lodge, it was magnificently beautiful. As a lifelong vacationer of the Rocky Mountains, I understand the difference between the soaring peaks of the Rockies and the more rolling peaks of the Appalachians. But there is something to be said for mountains that are more foliage than freezing. In addition, the aesthetics of a mixture of the evergreens and the deciduous oaks, hickories, maples, etc. presents a unique aspect that lasts throughout the fall. If you’re looking for a beautiful scenic drive, consider North Georgia or the Smoky Mountains just north.
Here’s a list of places to visit in North Georgia:
1. Amicalola Falls – The tallest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi, and stunningly beautiful. There are several hiking trails around Amicalola as well, including a very popular 8.5 mile approach trail to Springer Mountain that begins at the Amicalola Falls Visitor Center. You can either walk the stairs to the top of the falls or walk a trail up to the top. Keep in mind the trail is definitely more challenging. If waterfalls are your thing, Tallulah Falls and Toccoa Falls are also worth checking out. Tallulah Falls is part of the Tallulah Gorge State Park, while Toccoa Falls is actually on the campus of a Christian college Toccoa Falls College. Don’t be nervous visiting, however. The falls is the college’s biggest attraction. Feel free to visit the gift shop in Gate Cottage as well.
2. Dahlonega – Home to Georgia’s gold rush. Dahlonega is filled with history and beauty at every turn. The dome of Georgia Capitol Building in Atlanta, Ga. is actually covered in Dahlonega gold. This is isn’t so much a nature visit as it is a historical visit, but there is still so much to be learned here. The feud between European settlers and Cherokees is at the heart of Dahlonega’s beginnings, and it was this feud that caused the famous Trail of Tears. Popular events include “Bear on the Square” in April and “Gold Rush Days” in October. If scenery is what you’re looking for, however, take a drive around Dahlonega and Lumpkin County. Not only is Dahlonega nestled in the foothills of the Appalachians, it is also the heart of Georgia’s wine industry, with 5 vineyards nearby.
3. Helen – Helen, Ga. is an old logging town that decided to up its tourist appeal by recreating themselves as a town from the Bavarian Alps with coordinating architecture and decor. It’s a tourist town, filled with tourist shops and a number of good eateries. My favorite activity in Helen, however, is something that gets a little more back to nature: float down the Chattahoochee. There are a number of different companies that let you tube down the Chattahoochee River, and all of them are pretty good. I’ve used Helen Tubing Co. in the past because they also have a small waterpark, and you can buy a joint ticket that is good for both tubing and the waterpark. Just remember to grab a pole to push off rocks! My friends and I forgot to grab poles, and I had to pull us off the rocks if we got stuck, acquiring several large bruises in the process. Popular events in Helen include Oktoberfest (what’s a Bavarian-looking town without Oktoberfest?) and the annual hot air balloon race in June.
4. The Wildlife Sanctuary – The Wildlife Sanctuary in Ellijay, Ga. is a non-profit wildlife rehabilitation center that has rescued and rehabilitated most of the major native species, including cougars, panthers, lynx, bobcats, black bears, and deer. The Wildlife Sanctuary offers both private and public tours at different times. It is a great way to see some of Georgia’s native wildlife without putting yourself in danger.
5. Blue Ridge Scenic Railway – What’s more scenic than something with scenic in the name? The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway is a must-see for anyone looking to see the sights in North Georgia. It begins in Blue Ridge, Ga. and continues on a 26-mile journey, stopping at McCaysville, Ga. to allow passengers to rest and explore downtown McCaysville and its sister town of Copperhill, Tn. They even have a special Christmas train that runs from Thanksgiving to Christmas each year!
Thanks for stopping by, and come on back for the next installment of MotherNaturesPen.