The North Georgia Mountains are filled with adventure for everyone. You can be an adventure-lover or hiker, of course. But there are also wonderful treasures for art-admirers and foodies in the mountains in Georgia. The North Georgia mountains offer camping, glamping and luxurious RV spots, as well.
Did we miss one of your favorite things to do in the mountains? Let us know!
The Ellijays are the perfect base camp for exploring the great outdoors. Its surroundings are home to eleven mountain hiking trails, fifty-nine mountain bike trails, several impressive waterfalls, and some of the best trout waters in the Southeast. Whether your version of adventure is a lazy day on the lake, a gentle walk along the river or something a bit more adventurous like mountain biking or hiking into the wilderness, you will find just the adventure to keep you coming back for more. Plan a great hike: visit Trailful Outdoor Co. for trail and adventure recommendations from the Atlanta Trails crew! Trailful is a new hiking and backpacking outfitter shop located in downtown Hiawassee. They stock hiking and camping gear and apparel, as well as locally-made gifts and mountain-inspired goods. The Atlanta Trails founders are in the shop every day, giving insider tips on the best local waterfalls, mountaintops and views. Stop by every Sunday for a free pour-over coffee!
The Ellijays are the perfect base camp for exploring the great outdoors. Its surroundings are home to eleven mountain hiking trails, fifty-nine mountain bike trails, several impressive waterfalls, and some of the best trout waters in the Southeast. Whether your version of adventure is a lazy day on the lake, a gentle walk along the river or something a bit more adventurous like mountain biking or hiking into the wilderness, you will find just the adventure to keep you coming back for more.
Plan a great hike: visit Trailful Outdoor Co. for trail and adventure recommendations from the Atlanta Trails crew! Trailful is a new hiking and backpacking outfitter shop located in downtown Hiawassee. They stock hiking and camping gear and apparel, as well as locally-made gifts and mountain-inspired goods. The Atlanta Trails founders are in the shop every day, giving insider tips on the best local waterfalls, mountaintops and views. Stop by every Sunday for a free pour-over coffee!
Explore Downtown Blue Ridge Ga. Ready to find out why Blue Ridge is one of our favorite mountain towns? Packed with art galleries, antiques, hand-crafted wares and much more, Downtown Blue Ridge is rich with shopping opportunities. Try Canoe & Baubles, Chocolate Express, Huck’s General Store and Blue Ridge Olive Oil Company. Eat at Harvest on Main or Blue Ridge Brewery.
One of our family’s favorite things in Downtown Blue Ridge is the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. We enjoy the open-air cars. Every ride is amazing, but the fall foliage ride will take your breath away!
Blue Ridge hiking and waterfalls draw a crowd year round. Fall Branch Falls is an easy family walk off Aska Rd, with an upper and lower level falls. Long Creek Falls is only about a mile hike (two-miles round trip,) but it is a tad more strenuous. There are smaller falls along the path that are fun for the kids to play in. As you drive to the parking lot for Long Creek, you’ll have to pass the Three Forks camping area, a primitive series of sites along the river, that to me are some of the best in the area.
Blue Ridge cabin rentals are definitely the way to go if you want to make a weekend of it. Mountain Top Cabin Rentals is the the group we used, and I was very pleased. My favorite things were the wrap around porch with mountain views, the screened in porch in the master bedroom, the fire pit, the game room downstairs for the kids and the hot tub with a view.
Mercier Orchards is the best option for fruit picking in the state. This massive orchard was started all the way back in 1943 with a simple apple house -- but boy has it grown! We’ve picked blueberries, cherries, strawberries and apples. The shop and restaurant are worth a stop even if the u-pick is not open. I love the chicken salad served in a tomato for lunch. This is also a fun place to get groceries for a cabin stay.
Mountain Art Center features exhibits and events from local and visiting artists. Exhibits rotate every 1-2 months, so there is always something new.
If you love the water, then head to Lake Blue Ridge, with 80% of its shoreline sitting in the National Forest. There are several access points for those with a boat. Without a boat, head to Morganton Point Rec Area to enjoy a “beach,” camping units, restrooms and an outfitter with kayaks and paddleboards.
With kiddos, spend some time at The Lilly Pad Village. Enjoy gem mining, mini golf within the trees, fishing and hiking.
Toccoa River Swinging Bridge is a fun place to hike. Camping is first-come-first-serve, but worth the effort to grab a place along the river.
The Swan Drive-In Theatre offers a unique taste of the past with current first run movies. Enjoy a movie outside under the stars or in the privacy of your car. Don't worry about crying babies or non-smoking areas, you can relax and enjoy yourself. The Swan prides itself on being a family oriented theatre. The Swan is one of four drive-in theatres in the state that is still operating. The locations of the other three are Atlanta, Jessup and Tiger, Ga.
Even if you’re not an avid fisherman, everyone has to try their hand at trout fishing in Blue Ridge, Ga. It’s the Trout Capital of Georgia! Find a spot along the Toccoa River for the best chance of catching a prize. No gear? No problem. There are a number of outfitters in the city; you can even get a fly-fishing lesson.
Whether you catch something or not, extend your trout experience by dining along the Toccoa at Toccoa Riverside Restaurant- delicious fare and breathtaking outdoor seating options.
If you’re tired from the hiking and fishing and shopping, then finish the day at Serenity in the Mountains. Enjoy a massage or any number of treatments, or stay the night and indulge on a Romantic Sap Package or a Girl’s Getaway Package.
Camping in Blue Ridge and Helen is also the perfect “home base” for enjoying the mountains.
If you're looking for hiking trails, look no further than Blue Ridge. Most people are familiar with the Appalachian Trail. Did you know it was envisioned by a man named Benton MacKaye? You can hike along the route he originally envisioned on the Benton MacKaye Trail. It starts at the same place as the AT and stretches 300 miles to the northeast end of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The AT and the BMT are the same for the first few miles before splitting apart to go their separate ways. Blue Ridge is the first town on the Benton MacKaye Trail system, which traverses the county into the Cohutta Wilderness and then into Tennessee.
A Brew House Tour with Blue Ridge Mountain Food Tours is a must. Enjoy 20-25 minute stops at 5-6 beer focused restaurants and a brew pub to sample offerings on their menu. The owners, managers and/or chefs will talk about their restaurant and offerings. And while you're in the mood, visit the Fannin Brewing Company, a hometown mircro-brewery influenced by German style.
Helen is a small town that packs a lot of punch! There is a plethora of Helen, Ga attractions, most notably Cool River Tubing. Here you can water tube the Chattahoochee on a one- or two-hour float, or grab a tube for the whole day very affordably. Kids must be 3 yo. They also have two HUGE waterslides. $5 will get you as many rides as you can take.
The northeast Georgia mountains have so much to explore outdoors, and Helen is no exception. When you’re in Helen, hiking and waterfalls MUST be on your to-do list. Anna Ruby Falls is an easy, short climb to a beautiful waterfall. There are a few steps near the end, but with a paved walk little ones can use a stroller most of the way.
My favorite short hike is Whitley Gap. The first part is fairly steep (though my 2-year-old did it) so bring your hiking poles. At the top of the hill you ascend upon a magical array of rhododendron that create a canopy, and then finally open to great long range views.
More popular hikes in this area include Raven Cliff Falls, which is part of the Chattahoochee National Forest and a family favorite, and Dukes Creek Falls, which is a short 1-mile hike to a loud and roaring waterfall.
DeSoto Falls is fun because there are actually two falls here, an upper and a lower falls, both are easy and beautiful.
High Shoals Falls Trail is another trail with a double waterfall. It’s a tad more difficult that DeSoto, and twice as long, but should not be missed. The two falls are called High Shoals Falls and Blue Hole Falls.
Exploring Downtown Helen is an adventure in itself. This darling German town in Georgia includes gift shops, candy shops and dynamite dining. I suggest starting at Hot&Sweet for a full immersion brewed cuppa joe. Mmmm.
For lunch or special treat, hit Hofer’s Bakery…do not leave without trying the mac n cheese and the Rueben. WOW!
Two other must-eat places in the downtown Helen area include Troll Tavern and Bodensee. Troll Tavern has a great beer and hamburger selection, and sits on the Chattahoochee…a great way to watch the tubers in summer. It kind of looks like a bar, but if you get outside seating, it totally works for the whole family.
Bodensee has incredible authentic German fare, with a casual ambiance…nice but not too stiff. Great for couples or families.
If you are visiting in nice weather, do not miss a ride around the downtown area in the horse-drawn Alpine Carriage. The kids will love feeding a carrot to the horse afterward.
Of course, the can’t-miss event each year in the fall is Oktoberfest. Bring the kids or make it a date night. Your fall is just not complete without a visit to this amazing festival.
Get in touch with nature and visit one of the Georgia State Parks near Helen, which include Smithgall Woods and Unicoi. These are great places to hike or stay while visiting Helen. Smithgall Woods offers upscale cabins; our favorite by far is Creekside Cottage. There is great trout streams, hiking and ranger programs here.
Unicoi is adjacent to Anna Ruby Falls, with a lake for kayaking or fishing, hiking and more. Stay in a “barrel” cabin which is really fun, or at the Lodge.
Another great overnight option is Hampton Inn Helen. The rooms are large, and the kids can play in the stream that runs out back. Rooms include a cozy fireplace and balcony overlooking the water.
If you are looking for cabin rentals in Helen, Ga then check out these serene locations.
The town just Southeast of Helen is Sautee Naccochee…it is almost adjacent to Helen so you will want to make it part of your visit to this area. It is such a special place. Visit the Old Sautee Store, a great general store with delicious cheeses and jellies.
Next door is the Old Sautee Market. I have eaten here 2-3 dozen times – almost every time I visit the woods, I make a point to stop here for lunch. The grilled cheese is made on homemade sourdough, with the farmers cheese that the Old Sautee Store is known for. And to make it "adult" they added bacon and a ripe red tomato. Kids can have PB&J and play with the bubbles.
It’s in the Sautee Village that you will also find The Lavender Cottage & Garden, a gift boutique offering a variety of unique lavender products.
We also love the Sautee Naccochee Center. It’s a beautiful building by itself, but it is also home to four amazing museums: Valley Heritage Center, the History Museum (kids will love this!) the Folk Pottery Museum and an amazing African-American Heritage Site which includes a restored slave cabin that will bring you to tears.
If you love handmade art like we do, then you’ll also want to treat yourself to a visit to Mark of the Potter. It’s about 12 miles from Helen, in Clarkesville. Fuel up before heading out. It’s worth the trip.
Just a bit north of Helen in Hiawassee, get out on the water at Lake Chatuge. Swimming, canoeing, kayaking, and more are always on the agenda at this beautiful mountain lake.
Finally, another place close to Helen, in Cleveland Georgia, is Babyland General Hospital. It costs nothing to see a Cabbage Patch baby being born. Kids will love it.
Things To Do in Ellijay, Georgia (and Neighboring Dawsonville, Ga)
Ellijay is most notable for its apple season! The Georgia Apple Festival is another fall time family celebration in the mountains.
U-pick apple season offers terrific weekend excitement. We have an entire post of the Best Apple Picking Orchards in the mountains, but I want to point out that Mercier (mentioned earlier, in Blue Ridge) is our favorite family locale. However, when we can’t wait for the weekend, we head to Ellijay’s BJ Reece Orchards because it is the only place we have found that offers U-pick during the week.
After apple season, before the pumpkins come in, there are sunflowers. Fausett Sunflower Farm in Dawsonville (adjacent to Ellijay) offers 13+ acres of gorgeous flowers for picking or photographs.
Finally, in late fall, head to Burt’s Farm for pumpkin picking, a hay ride and lots of fall goodies.
Amicalola Falls is just down from Burt’s. You can walk the falls or drive to the bottom, middle and top. The middle falls parking lot allows for a safe short walk to a footbridge that crosses the falls. It’s a great photo.
If you want to take in everything offered at this park, consider the Adventure Lodge package, which includes a stay at the Lodge and a number of family-friendly activities, priced as a package to make it more affordable.
If that sounds too tame, then don’t miss Len Foote Hike Inn. You’ll hike 5 miles into the self-sufficient hiking lodge for the stay of a lifetime. This is one peach state gem. It is still one of my most memorable adventures with my kids!
The Tater Patch Farm is a seasonal produce stand that you have to visit. You can dig your own potato out of the ground, cut it with a fun lever-type contraption mounted to the wall, and then cook your French fries in an open fire! (In 2018, they didn't have the patch, but they did still have potatoes for sale. Check their Facebook page for updates.)
Did you know that Dawsonville is the Moonshine Capital of the World? Take a tour and a tasting from Dawsonville Moonshine Distillery. They’ve been using the same recipe for over 150 years.
Also just outside of Ellijay is Tate House. It is only available to tour with groups of 30 or more, but it is worth driving by it just to see this stately mansion built of pink marble.
Enjoy two courses with 14 stations at Etowah Valley Sporting Clays. For something more challenging, try the “Clays & Feathers” package. You will warm up with 50 targets of sporting clays, lunch with a guide, followed by an Upland Bird Hunting experience provide by their sister company Etowah Valley Games Preserve.
Advanced cyclists will love to take a ride with Northstar Bicycle. Saturday mornings offer beginner and intermediate rides, and Thursday nights are for advanced riders. If you prefer mountain biking, then try a Wednesday night ride.
Dawsonville is also home to the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame, preserving the history of auto racing in Georgia. Did you know that 12 Daytona victories were from Dawsonville drivers??
If you’re visiting on the weekend, then plan a stop at Around Back at Rocky’s Place for one-of-a-kind folk art from dozens of local artists.
Uncle Shuck’s is perfect for fall, with 12 acres of corn maze, with 4 miles of trails.
Talking Rock Park is perfect for water play. The park includes restrooms and covered picnic tables. There is a playground, too. But the real fun is in the water. Kids can wade in the shallow water, or walk upstream a bit for a deeper section with fun rocks and plenty of shade. It’s difficult to find info on this secret getaway, so plug this address into your GPS: 4573 Georgia 136, Talking Rock, GA 30175
Springer Mountain is sacred ground, the southern-most point of the Appalachian Trail. From the parking lot, it’s a two-mile hike to the AT. Bring trekking poles for the uphill, rocky effort.
Dahlonega is home to five wineries, and the county produces almost 100 acres of grapes yielding 23,000 bottled cases each year. Cavendar Creek is great for a family trip. Montaluce Winery is a personal favorite, with a delicious brunch. Don’t skip the mead, made with N Ga wildflower honey.
On the square, try the Time to Wine - Dahlonega. Three tasting rooms offer a great taste of Georgia mountain wine.
Dahlonega is known for it’s gold history, serving as the nation’s first gold rush town. Visit the Gold Museum first for a super overview of the history and a better appreciation of other attractions in the town. And don't miss the Gold Rush Days Festival in October, for a weekend full of family fun.
Just around the corner from the Gold Museum you’ll find the Chestatee River Diving Bell, used for mining on the river floor.
Dahlonega is also home to a few gold mines, including Crisson Gold Mine. It is home to the only working Stamp Mill in Georgia – 130 years old.
Cane Creek Falls is a lovely roadside stop, but be aware that visitors are not allowed in the water.
Watch a free planetarium show most Friday nights at 8pm at the George E Coleman, Sr Planetarium.
Have fun feeding a variety or rare, mini, and unique farm animals at North Georgia Zoo.
Crimson Moon is an exceptionally intimate live music venue on the square. Some weekend shows are ticketed, but plenty of afternoon and weekday creative opportunities call.
Helton Creek Falls is a dynamic family-friendly waterfall. It is a short walk from the parking lot, and kids can play in the shallow water at the base. Mine will play here for hours at a time.
One of Georgia’s more popular parks, there is plenty to do at Vogel State Park. Take a hike, play putt-putt, enjoy a canoe ride on the lake or hike to the falls. We adore the refurbished cabins, as well.
Blood Mountain is a challenging but incredibly rewarding hike along the AT. It is probably one our top 5 favorite hikes in Georgia, with fantastic views at the peak.
We never go to Blairsville without a stop at Mountain Crossings, a gorgeous stone building that marks the only covered part of the Appalachian Trail. When you visit, be sure to look up at the bats lining the rafters.
Tucked into the mountain side at Track Rock Gap, you can see rock carvings, or petroglyphs, in the soapstone. They mark a story told by Cherokee Indians over 1,000 years ago.
Byron Herbert Reece is a respected Georgia author from the early 1900s. You can tour the The Byron Herbert Reece Farm to learn about the poet and mid-twentieth century farm life.
Sleepy Hollow is a store and an “enchanted garden” of fairies and gnomes. The fairy homes found here are the work of Art Millican, Jr, a former Disney artist and model-maker. It is free to tour the art works.
Lasso the Moon Alpaca Farm is free (donations appreciated) but you’ll need to make an appointment. The tours are best for older children or adults. There are also a number of felting classes available.
The tallest point in Georgia is Brasstown Bald. Interestingly, it has a micro-climate similar to Massachusetts. Take a shuttle or walk the (nearly vertical) 6/10-mile hike to the top.
Black Rock Mountain State Park is the highest state park. Hike Ada-Hi Falls or the loop around Black Rock Lake. The best part? Taking a seat on the rocks by the visitor’s center and soaking up the view.
On the way into Black Rock you’ll pass a sign for Foxfire Museum. This is an outstanding living-history museum that kids (and adults) will love. There is a superb self-guided tour. Cant recommend this enough!
Minnehaha Falls is another family-favorite. The hike is short and the falls are ideal for kid-play.
Tallulah Gorge State Park offers something for all levels of hikers. The short rim trails are great for beginners. More advanced hikers can hike to the swinging bridge or the bottom of the gorge.
Our favorite waterfall is not a popular one. It’s a drive, and then a hike through a secluded forest. But you won’t be disappointed at Denton Branch Falls.
Visit Jaemor Farms for sweet produce treats like peaches, berries, pumpkins and more. With 350 acres, this Centennial family farm has something every season.
Moderate terrain over 1.75 miles along Lake Rabun Beach will lead you past two beautiful falls, Angel Falls and Panther Falls.
Another moderate 2-mile hike in the county is Hemlock Falls at Lake Burton. The road leading to the falls parking area can get flooded during heavy rains.
When you visit the Dillard House Restaurant you might expect just a meal, but it's a true Southern culinary event that awaits you.
You can also stay overnight at Dillard House- at the Inn, in a cottage or at a secluded cabin. Try the spa or the horseback riding package.
The Tallulah Falls Railroad Museum is owned and operated by Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School. Finished in 2002, the Museum contains a fascinating collection of artifacts and photographs preserving the history of the railroad, and houses a full-size two-foot gauge locomotive, passenger car, flat car, crane, hand pump car, caboose, and a motorized car.
Just south of Rabun County but still along the South Carolina border, you’ll find Toccoa Falls tucked behind Toccoa Falls College.
Don Carter State Park is the state’s newest park, with cabins, a beach on Lake Lanier and plenty of water fun.
Typically called a cross between Stonehenge and the Rosetta Stone, no one knows the exact purpose of the granite masterpieces called the Georgia Guidestones. They are a little freaky, and a lot weird. But there is no denying their artistic prowess.
Lake Rabun Hotel & Restaurant allows you to relax in a completely natural setting, “a hidden gem,” and enjoy what many call “the best food in Georgia.” Wake in the mornings to a gourmet breakfast in the dining room or al fresco on the deck.
Visit Brasstown Valley Resort and hit a few balls on the golf course. And plan to make it an overnight of course!
Things To Do in Rome and the Northwest Mountains
Myrtle Hill Cemetery in Rome is a beautiful old resting place worthy of a visit. You can also take the self-guided Tree Tour. The site boasts over 35 different species of trees.
Do you know there is a Labyrinth in Rome? Right up the hill is the Rome Visitor Center where you can learn about several other places to visit, like Berry College or Ridge Ferry Park. Rome is worth a day of exploration (or more!)
Native Americans, early settlers, the railroad and Civil War soldiers all left their mark in the land of Tunnel Hill. Visit the Tunnel Hill Heritage Center and then tour of what is left of the Western and Atlantic Railroad tunnel.
Built in 1855, Prater's Mill is a water-powered mill originally fitted with the latest in grain cleaning, grinding and sifting machinery, all powered by the Coahulla Creek. During the Civil War, the mill was used as a campsite by soldiers from both sides and since it was considered an invaluable food source by the Union Army it was not destroyed.
If you are looking for Georgia State Parks with cabins, especially for a fall get away, then head to Fort Mountain State Park. This Chatsworth park sits in the northwest corner of the state near the Cohutta Wilderness. You’ll find magnificent hardwood forests, which shine brightest in fall. We visited one of the cabins, but you might also enjoy camping here on the campground or in the forest at a backpacking site.
Stay in a yurt at Cloudland Canyon State Park, and climb to the canyon floor for an incredible waterfall.
Lula Lake and Falls and the Land Trust is open on the first and last Saturday of the month from December-April, and the first and last weekends of the month May-November. Hiking, picnics, fresh air, and sunshine can be found here. Trails can accommodate cyclists of all ages and abilities, from sweet single track to wide fire roads for the kids. Dogs welcome on a leash. Open Gate Days are $15 per vehicle, and reservations are now required.
North Georgia Canopy Tours’ seven teepees offer "glamping." Each teepee has heat/AC, lighting and electrical outlets and has been painted with authentic Cherokee symbols, themes and patterns relating to the clan camping area in which they are located. Alternatively, 15 rustic camping sites are available for people choosing to pitch their own tents.
Howard Finster was a folk artist of “sacred art.” He began building the Paradise Garden in the 40s, and continued with Paradise Garden which is available for tours. He has been called both “the grandfather of Southern Folk Art” and “the Andy Warhol of the South.”
At Red Top Mountain State Park you can connect with the natural beauty of Lake Allatoona and explore the iron mining tradition & history of the Etowah Valley.
The West Trail Loop + Summit Overlook trails of Pine Mountain Trail total almost 2 miles. The trail is somewhat rugged in places, so be prepared for that. The scenery & the view from the top are very rewarding – it’s the highest point in Cartersville.
Barnsley Resort blends a charming and romantic history with nature, outdoor sports, food, wine, and a healthy dose of pampering. It should be on the calendar of any couple looking for a unique getaway, with the perfect combination of nature and nurture.
New Echota is one of the most significant Cherokee Indian sites in the nation and was where the tragic “Trail of Tears” officially began. Today, visitors can see 12 original and reconstructed buildings and take trails leads visitors to New Town Creek and a small beaver pond.
In the 1830s almost the entire Cherokee Nation was forced west on the infamous Trail of Tears. The Vann family lost their elegant home, rebuilding in the Cherokee Territory of Oklahoma. Today the Vann House survives as Georgia’s best-preserved historic Cherokee Indian home.
Surrounded by rural countryside and the Chattahoochee Forest, Sloppy Floyd Park offers outstanding fishing on two stocked lakes. Visitors can hike along three miles of lake loop trails and relax in swings while watching for the many bluebirds that live in the park.
Gibbs Garden is 292 acres and the house and gardens include 220 acres, making it one of the nation’s largest residential estate gardens. It's beautiful all year long!
One of the most fun times we’ve ever had? Snorkeling in the Conasauga. Clear mountain waters are home to over 70 different species of fish! This is the most biodiverse river basin the world!! A small pool of water smaller than the size of a football field becomes a living underwater classroom.
Take a ride spin on an ATV at Moto Mountain Park. No ATV? No problem. You can rent them here…Ride 4-wheelers, mountain bikes, dirt bikes and side-by-sides. There are also cabins, a zip line and an observation deck.
General Fun in the Georgia Mountains
Swimming Holes And Old-Fashioned Water Play In North Georgia. Go for a dip in one of the 15 waterfalls, creeks and streams that your family can enjoy in the heat of Georgia’s summer.
Camp in a yurt. There are several places in the mountains to experience this unique glamping overnight.
Spend your time in one of the Georgia State Parks we mention, enjoying it one of these 52 different ways.
Go hiking with the kids. Beginner? No worries. Here are 125+ hikes that are 2 miles or less.
Enjoy sleeping under the stars. You’ll find 52 campsites- full service to back country- all in the mountains.
Enjoy a tour of the Georgia Wine Highway. Seventeen wineries stretch from Jasper to the border. Visit during Wine Weekend in March, or take your own tour.
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After 18 years in software development, Lesli bailed on the corporate scene. When she’s not traveling, she’s hiking in the mountains or checking out Atlanta’s culinary scene, whiskey in hand.
Lesli has two kiddos -Cooper and Elliot- plus two bonus kids currently at UGA, and she’s happily married to her soul mate.