101+ Things to Do in North Georgia

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Between the charming mountain towns, rolling mountains, and breathtaking scenery, North Georgia really does have an adventure waiting for everyone.

Its unique location at the southern terminus of the Blue Ridge Mountains and mild climate allows for year long explorations of stunning terrain and a rich history surrounding each different attraction. 

So whether you’re looking for an intense adventure of hiking in the mountains or a relaxing day of fine dining and strolls through downtown, read on for our epic list of 100+ of the best things to do in North Georgia!

READ MORE: The Top 10 Treehouse Rentals in the Georgia Mountains

 

Things to Do in North Georgia Guide

  1. Waterfalls in North Georgia
  2. Blue Ridge Mountain Towns
  3. Hiking Trails in North Georgia
  4. North Georgia Attractions & Tours
  5. North Georgia Restaurants
  6. North Georgia State Parks
  7. North Georgia Christmas Events

 

Waterfalls in North Georgia

Amicalola Falls in Dawsonville, GA
Amicalola Falls, photo by Bret Love

Amicalola Falls

Located in the Chattahoochee National Forest just eight miles from the southern end of the Appalachian Trail, Amicalola Falls is the tallest, and arguably one of the best North Georgia Waterfalls.

The word Amicalola is Cherokee for “tumbling waters,” a perfect description for the falls, which cover seven cascades and reach a total height of 729 feet.

Various hiking trails will give you glimpses of the gorgeous waterfall from different angles, including the wheelchair-accessible West Ridge Falls Access Trail and the one-mile East Ridge Trail.

Anna Ruby Falls 

Anna Ruby Falls is a stunning pair of side-by-side waterfalls that are formed at the junction of Curtis Creek and York Creek in Helen GA.

Curtis Creek tumbles over 150 feet, and York Creek 50 feet, to form the enchanting twin falls, which spill into Smith Creek and flow downhill into the Chattahoochee River.

To make your way to the falls, your journey will begin at the visitor’s center just outside of Unicoi State Park.

DeSoto Falls

DeSoto Falls is another gorgeous pair of waterfalls near Helen GA. It’s believed to be the place where a piece of Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto’s armor was found from his expedition in the 1500s.

The hike to the 80-foot falls is approximately 2.2 miles round-trip, and in spring it’s full of North GA wildflowers.

The path will guide you to wooden viewing platforms where you can take in the beauty of the magnificent cascades.

Dukes Creek Falls

Located along the Richard B Russell Scenic Highway, Dukes Creek Falls is a trio of waterfalls just north of Helen GA.

There’s an ADA-accessible viewing platform near the beginning of the hike, and you can catch stunning views of Yonah Mountain along the way.

But the true treat is the viewing platforms at the base of the falls, where you can admire the sparkling waters that drop over 150 feet!

Emery Creek Falls

Located in lush, deciduous forest near Ellijay GA, Emery Creek Falls is a stunning pair of waterfalls.

The trek to Emery Creek Falls is considered one of the more difficult hiking trails in North Georgia, with over 20 creek crossings along the way.

But once you reach the lower falls and the double cascades of the upper falls, it’s well worth your efforts!

Upper Helton Creek Falls in Blairsville GA
Upper Helton Creek Falls

Helton Creek Falls

Nestled in the Chattahoochee National Forest, these stunning waterfalls near Blairsville GA are truly a sight to see.

Wooden stairs take you down to reach lower Helton Creek Falls, where the cascade tumbles down into a crystalline pool of water that’s perfect for wading on hot summer days. 

There’s a viewing platform near the upper falls, with a huge rock outcrop allowing clear views of the beautiful cascades and plenty of boulders around to sit on.

Hemlock Falls

To reach Hemlock Falls, follow the Waterfalls Trail in Cloudland Canyon State Park.

While the hike is considered relatively difficult due to the 600+ stairs along the way, the reward is worth it when you reach the tumbling cascades of Hemlock Falls.

The water from the falls drops over a towering rock wall 90+ feet down to the canyon floor, eventually flowing along a placid, picturesque stream.

Holcomb Creek Falls

Located in northeast Georgia’s Rabun County, Holcomb Creek is a gorgeous waterfall with a nearly 150-foot drop.

The hike to the falls is a 1.75-mile loop trail featuring both Holcomb Creek Falls and Ammons Creek falls.

Along the way, you’ll cross a few small cascades, making this an interesting hike to say the least.

Jacks River Falls

Located in the Cohutta Wilderness, Jacks River Falls is one of the most remote waterfalls in Georgia.

Reaching the falls is quite a journey if you choose to take the Jacks River Trail, which is 18 miles round-trip. Be prepared to get wet, as the epic trek features nearly 40 river crossings!

The Beech Bottom Trail offers a shortcut, just 4.5 miles each way. Once you reach the cascades of Jacks River Falls– which tumbles 80+ feet into a crystal-clear pool, with gorgeous scenery all around– it’s more than worth the effort. 

The 60-foot-tall Minnehaha Falls near Lake Rabun, GA
The 60-foot-tall finale at Minnehaha Falls

Minnehaha Falls

One of the most popular falls in North Georgia because of the short hike (which is great for kids), Minnehaha Falls is perfect for a quick day trip.

We recommend combining it with the Angel Falls/Panther Falls hike, which is located just across Lake Rabun.

The Minnehaha Falls Trail climbs a set of wooden stairs into the forest for just .2 miles. There you’ll reach a gorgeous  clearing where you can view the sparkling, multi-tiered cascades of the falls.

Panther Creek Falls

Located in the Chattahoochee National Forest, Panther Creek Falls is one of the most breathtaking North GA waterfalls we’ve ever seen.

The 7-mile round trip hike to the falls guides you along Panther Creek downstream, where you’ll hear the rushing sound of water before you reach the upper falls.

As the trail continues, you’ll reach the sandy shores at the base of the falls where you can swim in the cool water and admire the scenery. Note that this trail is currently closed due to damage caused by 2020 storms. 

Raven Cliff Falls

Set against a beautiful backdrop of verdant moss, towering hardwood trees, and banks lined with colorful wildflowers, Raven Cliff Falls is one of the most stunning waterfalls in North Georgia.

The popular Raven Cliff Trail will guide you to the falls. It follows Dodd Creek upstream through the forest, with smaller streams along the way and a few side paths leading to other cascades.

In 2.9 miles you’ll reach the 40-foot falls, which can be more like a trickle when the weather has been dry. 

Tallulah Gorge Falls

Home to the nearly 100-foot-tall Hurricane Falls and four smaller waterfalls, Tallulah Gorge State Park is filled with adventure in the 2-mile long, 1,000-foot deep Tallulah Gorge.

The strenuous, 2-mile Hurricane Falls Trail is one of the most popular waterfall hiking trails in Rabun County, with nearly 1,100 pulse-pounding stairs to reach the jaw-dropping view.

For a bird’s-eye view from the canyon’s rim, you can take the easy 3-mile North Rim and South Rim Trails.

Toccoa Falls

Located on the campus of Toccoa Falls College in the foothills of northeast Georgia, Toccoa Falls is privately owned, but open to the public.

Toccoa Falls is one of the tallest free-falling cascades east of the Mississippi River. Its water drops 186 feet into a steady stream that flows through the 1,000-acre college campus.

The best part is that it only takes a short, handicap-accessible walk to reach the viewing area. Specifically, it’s located just 100 yards away from the visitor center and gift shop.

Trahlyta Falls in Vogel State Park, North Georgia Mountains
Trahlyta Falls, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

Trahlyta Falls

This 110-foot-tall cascading waterfall is located in Vogel State Park, and surrounded by the beautiful Chattahoochee National Forest.

The Trahlyta Lake trail, one of the more easy and scenic hikes with waterfalls in Georgia, starts near the Vogel State Park Visitors Center and guides you through the forest. 

After descending a short set of stairs, you’ll reach a large viewing platform offering the exquisite close-up view pictured above.

Long Creek Falls

Long Creek Falls is located in Fannin County, about 24 minutes from downtown Blue Ridge.

Specifically, it’s on the Appalachian Trail near Three Forks, where the AT, Benton MacKaye, and Duncan Ridge Trails meet.

The 2-mile out-and back trail to the falls guides you along the creek through hemlock, rhododendron, and tulip poplar forest to the 50-foot falls, which tumbles over two distinct drops.

Becky Branch Falls

Located near Warwoman Dell in Clayton GA, Becky Branch Falls can be accessed through a .3-mile hike along the Bartram Trail.

Though the trail is short, it’s also fairly steep, with several switchbacks, making it a bit more challenging than other North Georgia waterfall hikes of similar length. 

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can continue climbing to Martin Creek Falls, which adds 3.5 miles to your hike.

 

Blue Ridge Mountain Towns

Blue Ridge, GA -Scenic Railway

Blue Ridge GA

Founded in 1886 with the arrival of the Marietta & North Georgia Railroad, Blue Ridge GA has grown to be one of Georgia’s most popular mountain towns.

There are lots of fun things to do in Blue Ridge, which boasts a vibrant downtown filled with upscale restaurants, local breweries and wineries, and a fantastic arts scene.

For outdoor lovers, there are an abundance of activities in the area, including horseback riding through the Chattahoochee National Forest, white water rafting, kayaking at Lake Blue Ridge, and of course hiking!

Blairsville GA

Nestled in the heart of the Chattahoochee National Forest, Blairsville is home to treasured North Georgia landmarks such as Brasstown Bald (the tallest peak in Georgia) and Vogel State Park.

Nearby Lake Nottely and Lake Trahlyta are some of the best lakes in the North Georgia mountains and offer amazing boating, fishing, and swimming opportunities.

You can also drive the Richard B Russell Scenic Highway to Helen, which is especially stunning when Georgia’s fall colors begin to reach their peak. 

Clayton GA

It may not have the name recognition of Blue Ridge, Dahlonega, or Helen, but there are so many things to do in Clayton GA that it quickly rose to the top of our list of the best places to live in North Georgia. 

Within 15 miles of charming downtown Clayton, you can visit 17 waterfalls, 4 lakes, 3 state parks, 2 of the tallest mountains in Georgia (Black Rock and Rabun Bald), and countless hiking trails. 

There’s also a burgeoning foodie scene here, with restaurants like Fortify and Fortify Pi leading the way. 

Dahlonega GA

Dahlonega is one of the most beloved mountain towns in North Georgia. Its historic downtown area features beautiful 19th century buildings, a vibrant arts scene, colorful local shops, and myriad dining options.

Home to musicians like Zac Brown and Amy Ray (of Indigo Girls fame), the town hosts the Bear On the Square mountain music festival every spring. 

Visitors can also learn about the town’s history in the Georgia Gold Rush, kayak/canoe in the Chestatee and Etowah Rivers, or even try their luck panning for gold in the underground gold mine!

Dawsonville GA

Dawsonville GA offers a myriad of fun activities, including exploring Amicalola Falls State Park, paddling down the Etowah River, and tasting 150-year-old recipes at the Dawsonville Moonshine Distillery.

There’s also the family-owned Fausett Farms Sunflowers & Horse Trails, as well as a folk art gallery called Around Back at Rocky’s Place, which features the works of self-taught artists.

To experience fall in the mountains of North Georgia, be sure to check out Burt’s Farm and Uncle Shucks’ Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch, where you can go on hayrides, make S’mores, and find the perfect pumpkin for Halloween!

Dillard GA

Like Clayton, Dillard is close to 4 lakes, 3 state parks, and 17 waterfalls. It’s also home to over 40,000 square feet of antiques in the downtown area alone! 

The outdoor activities in this tiny town are endless, with everything from horseback riding and hiking to white water rafting and zip lining. So it’s sure to satisfy your desire for adventure

While you’re there, be sure to check out the Dillard House Restaurant, which is renowned for their delicious Southern-style family meals.

Ellijay GA

Known as the “Apple Capital of Georgia,” Ellijay is most famous for their apple orchards.

The town of around 2,500 residents hosts annual festivals such as the Georgia Apple Festival, Taste of Ellijay, and Georgia Apple Blossom Festival.

Downtown Ellijay is a great place to explore, as it’s filled with antique shops, wineries, and delicious dining. Nearby you’ll find hiking trails into the Chattahoochee National Forest, including Amicalola and Cochrans Falls.

Lake Chatuge Georgia by Brandon Montgomery
Lake Chatuge, photo courtesy of brandonmontgomery.smugmug.com

Hiawassee GA

Full of vibrant scenery and cool attractions such as a historic Pioneer Village and the Hiawassee River (which is also known as the “hidden jewel of trout fishing“), Hiawassee is a must-visit North Georgia mountain town.

Check out the expansive Hamilton Gardens, home to over 3,000 plants and GA’s largest collection of rhododendrons.

There are also some incredible hikes leading to Bell Mountain (an incredible place to watch the sunset over Lake Chatuge) and the spectacular High Shoals Falls.

Helen GA

Much like Little Switzerland NC, this lively little town combines the magic of Bavaria with stunning landscapes, cobblestone walkways, and German-inspired architecture.

The Alpine dining in Helen is to die for, with treats ranging from schnitzel and wurst to craft beers, locally made wines, and fudge. Outdoor activities like hiking, tubing, ziplining, and panning for gold are all family-friendly.

But perhaps the most famous attraction in Helen is their annual Oktoberfest celebration, where visitors can enjoy a variety of activities, traditional food and dance, and an all-around festival of fun.

Suches GA

Called “The Valley Above the Clouds,” Suches reaches an elevation of 2,792 feet, offering stunning views of the beautiful North Georgia Wilderness.

The hiking trails in the area lead to hidden gems like Preacher’s Rock, Sea Creek Falls, and Sosebee Cove. The Lake Winfield Scott Recreation Area is an awesome place for anyone looking for an authentic mountain camping experience.

There’s also the Valley at Suches, which is a gem for anyone interested in catch-and-release fly fishing.

Sautee-Nacoochee GA

Captivating visitors with its rich history and scenic beauty, Sautee-Nacoochee is perhaps best known for the ancient Indian Mound at the Hardman Farm (a Georgia State Parks Historic Site).

It is believed to have been a burial ground for Georgia’s original indigenous inhabitants, and now stands as a symbol of their connection to the land.

For a look at the town’s past you can visit the Sautee-Nacoochee Center, where you’ll find a Nacoochee History Museum, African-American heritage site, butterfly garden, the Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia, and more.

 

Hiking Trails in North Georgia

Blue RIdge Mountains seen from overlook in Black Rock Mountain State Park
Black Rock Mountain State Park, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

Black Rock Mountain

Standing tall in Black Rock Mountain State Park, Black Rock Mountain offers a picturesque hiking trail to its summit, the Tennessee Rock Trail.

Departing from the state park’s main trailhead area, the hike climbs into the forest and eventually on a set of wooden stairs to reach the Tennessee Rock Overlook at 1.75 miles.

The views are simply stunning, and to complete the hike the trail descends northbound toward the trailhead.

Big Cedar Mountain

Big Cedar Mountain is located in the Blood Mountain Wilderness portion of the Chattahoochee National Forest, and is widely considered one of the Best North Georgia Mountains for Hiking.

Preacher’s Rock, a famous landmark on the Appalachian Trail that’s located near the summit of the mountain, offers notoriously stunning views.

The hike is just 2 miles round trip, starting at Woody Gap on GA Hwy 6. 

Blood Mountain

While it is one of the more difficult North Georgia hiking trails, the hike to Blood Mountain’s summit is well worth the trek, offering truly enchanting views from the top of the Appalachian Trail’s highest summit in Georgia.

The hike starts at the Byron Reece Trailhead and reaches the summit at 2.15 miles, next to a rock building constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in the 1930s.

The hike retraces the outbound route to the trailhead, completing the adventure at 4.3 miles.

Cowrock Mountain

Situated along the Appalachian Trail, Cowrock Mountain is known for having some pretty tough hikes that reward you with magnificent views.

The hike to the summit starts at Tesnatee Gap and takes you westbound on the white-blazed AT. 

You’ll reach the summit at just .85 miles, where you’ll find a smooth rock outcrop that’s perfect for just relaxing and enjoying the killer views!

Fall colors in Georgia at Brasstown Bald
Brasstown Bald

Brasstown Bald

Towering over the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, Brasstown Bald is the tallest mountain in Georgia. On a clear day it offers expansive views of four states (Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina).

The hike to these breathtaking views follows a paved trail stretching from the Brasstown Bald parking lot up to the Visitor Information Center at the summit.

The hike is only .55-mile, but it’s surprisingly challenging due to the trail’s constant incline. Still, with many spots along the way to rest, most people find the trail doable, and the view at the top is truly a must-see!

Grassy Mountain

With its location deep in the Cohutta Wilderness, Grassy Mountain offers a chance to see some of North Georgia’s most dynamic peaks.

Starting at the Grassy Mountain Tower trailhead, the 1.5-mile hike to the summit immediately goes into the forest, steadily climbing in elevation until you reach the summit. 

Once there, if you climb the Grassy Mountain fire tower, you can bask in nearly 360º views of Fort Mountain and the surrounding wilderness.

Powell Mountain

One of the more secluded hiking trails in North Georgia, the trek to the top of Powell Mountain takes you through a lush forest of towering hardwoods to see gorgeous views of the rolling Blue Ridge Mountains.

Departing from the Dicks Creek Gap trailhead, the hike follows the Appalachian Trail southbound until the trees open to reveal gorgeous views that include the sparkling waters of Lake Burton, Lake Seed, and Lake Rabun!

The moderately difficult hike is 5.2 miles, gaining some 1,725 ft in elevation.

Ramrock Mountain

If you’re looking for a short day-hike, but still want truly beautiful scenery along the way, the hike to the top of Ramrock Mountain is perfect.

Starting at Woody Gap, the 2.9-mile hike follows the Appalachian Trail south until you reach a 4-way split.

Go to the left and you’ll reach the wide open skies of Ramrock Mountain’s summit, where you can see the gorgeous rolling mountains on the horizon.

Rabun Bald Summit seen from Black Rock Mountain State Park
Rabun Bald Summit (center right) seen from Black Rock Mountain State Park

Rabun Bald

Soaring above the Appalachian range, Rabun Bald is the second tallest mountain in Georgia and offers some of the best hiking in the state.

The 3-mile trek to the summit is known for being challenging, but it’s manageable thanks to a series of switchbacks. 

At the summit there’s an observation platform where you can enjoy 360º views, from Black Rock Mountain and Standing Indian Mountain all the way into Western North Carolina‘s wilderness!

Rocky Mountain

For an authentic North Georgia hiking experience, look no further than Rocky Mountain.

The day hike from Unicoi Gap to Rocky Mountain’s summit is widely considered one of the most popular and difficult treks on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia. 

As the name of the mountain implies, the terrain here is rocky and pretty steep. But it’s well worth the effort once you reach the unforgettable views at the mountain’s peak.

Slaughter Mountain

Nestled in the Chattahoochee National Forest, Slaughter Mountain is a great place for experienced hikers who want to tackle some of the best hiking trails Georgia has to offer.

Taking the Byron Reese Trail will lead you uphill to the Appalachian Trail, which you’ll follow to Blood Mountain.

After passing through a rocky forest and connecting to the Duncan Ridge Trail, you’ll take one last faint trail that will lead you to the summit and its jaw dropping views.

Springer Mountain

One of the more popular mountains in north Georgia to visit because it’s where the southernmost blaze of the Appalachian Trail is located, Springer Mountain offers some epic hikes.

To get to the peak without embarking on the entire AT trek, the Springer Mountain Loop trail will guide you to the summit along with other overlooks that you can explore along the way.

The hike to the summit is only one mile, but the looping path continues onto the Benton Mackeye Trail before finally returning to the Springer Mountain parking area at 4.7 miles.

Yonah Mountain near Helen, GA
Yonah Mountain, photo via Canva

Yonah Mountain

Situated between the charming mountain towns of Cleveland and Helen, Yonah Mountain is best known for its spectacular views of the Appalachian range.

To see for yourself, the hike to the summit begins at a trailhead off of Chambers Mountain Road.

Follow the trail as it turns to gravel and, at just over 2 miles, you’ll reach a picturesque mountaintop meadow. There you can just relax and enjoy the beautiful views before heading back down the trail.

Tray Mountain

One of the most popular mountains in GA for hiking, Tray Mountain is packed with trails to explore.

For stunning summit views, follow the Appalachian Trail through the rhododendron-filled forest and up a wooden staircase until you enter the Tray Mountain Wilderness and eventually reach the summit.

Pulling yourself away from the breathtaking views of the rolling Blue Ridge mountains will be difficult, but the rest of the hike will be easier because it’s mostly downhill!

Byron Herbert Reece Nature Trail

Perfect for beginner hikers, this quick .75-mile interpretive trail has info-packed placards intermittently along the trail.

So it’s a great hiking trail for kids and anyone looking to learn more about the flora and fauna of North Georgia.

The trail loops through the edge of the wooded valley, crossing over small streams, with a moderate 170-foot elevation gain. There are also benches placed along the way, making it perfect for a leisurely adventure.

Bear Hair Gap Trail

The Bear Hair Gap Trail is approximately 4.1 miles, rewarding hikers with a beautiful view across Lake Trahlyta and beyond.

The moderate trail takes you through a hardwood forest, with an elevation gain of almost 1000 feet and a couple of narrow rocky sections. But overall the trail is gentle enough for less experienced hikers.

In total the Bear Hair Gap trail takes 2 to 3 hours to complete.

Toccoa River in Aska Adventure Area of Blue Ridge, Georgia
Toccoa River, Aska Adventure Area

Aska Adventure Area

Situated south of Blue Ridge GA along the banks of the Toccoa River, the Aska Adventure Area is home to an impressive array of outdoor adventures.

It has awesome hiking/biking trails, including the 2.3-mile Long Branch Loop, the 2.8-mile Green Mountain Loop, and the 6-mile Flat Creek Loop. The famous Appalachian Trail also crosses through the area.

Other fun things to do in the area include camping at the Toccoa Valley Campground, tubing or kayaking in the river, or exploring the historic landmarks.

Warwoman Dell Recreation Area

Located in a wooded valley near downtown Clayton, the Warwoman Dell Recreation Area is a beautiful area in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest.

There are a variety of different hiking trails here, including the Warwoman Dell Nature Trail, the epic Bartram Trail, and a short trail that leads to an unnamed Warwoman Dell waterfall.

Coosa Backcountry Trail

This intense trail at Vogel State Park has an elevation gain of 3,628 feet and covers a whopping 12.8 miles.

Winding through the Chattahoochee National Forest and the Blood Mountain Wilderness, the trails offers hardy hikers plenty of opportunities to soak in the rolling mountain scenery.

To hike this trail you’ll need to get a permit, which can be picked up for free at the park Visitors Center.

Smith Creek Trail

Starting at the Unicoi State Park Lodge and connecting to the main trail at Anna Ruby Falls, this moderate 8.4-mile trail has beautiful scenery the whole way.

The hike goes through the Chattahoochee National Forest, with several creek crossings and an elevation gain of approximately 1,663 feet.

It’s not a largely traveled trail and isn’t as well-maintained as others in the area. So be prepared to work your way through some possibly overgrown sections.

Toccoa Swinging Bridge in Blue Ridge GA
Toccoa River Swinging Bridge

 Toccoa Swinging Bridge

One of the most iconic attractions in Blue Ridge GA, the hike to the Toccoa Swinging Bridge is quick, yet incredibly  scenic.

The hike is just a half-mile round-trip, guiding you along the Toccoa River and across the 270-foot suspension bridge (the longest east of the Mississippi).

You can even spot a small waterfall on the other side of the bridge, where there are lots of great spot for a picnic.

Benton MacKaye Trail/Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail and the Benton MacKaye Trail both start in Fannin County on Springer Mountain.

They follow the same path for a few miles, but then split and head in different directions.

The Benton MacKaye Trail System stretches 300 miles to the northeast section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but also runs through Blue Ridge GA and into the Cohutta Wilderness before moving into Tennessee.

Bottoms Loop Trail

Rated as moderately strenuous, this 2-mile loop trail at Unicoi State Park passes by an old homestead, with hemlocks, rhododendrons, and mountain laurels decorating the path.

The hike crosses several small streams and eventually guides you alongside the gentle Smith Creek.

If you want to add more hiking, you can also take the 1/3 mile Frog Pond Nature Trail loop.

Unicoi Lake Loop Trail

It’s no wonder why this 2.2-mile hiking trail is one of the most popular at Unicoi State Park.

Looping around a glistening lake with several scenic overlooks, the trail is very spacious and well-maintained. 

The trail and the lake can get pretty busy on summer weekends. But if you can get there when it’s less crowded, the place is surprisingly serene (especially considering the fact that Helen GA is just a few miles away). 

 

North Georgia Attractions & Tours

Iguana Painted School Bus at Schoolbus Graveyard in North GA_

Schoolbus Graveyard

Just an hour north of Atlanta in Habersham County, the Schoolbus Graveyard is one of the most unique roadside attractions in North Georgia.

This 5-acre junkyard surrounding Alonzo Wade Used Cars & Auto Parts features art from dozens of innovative artists, with some coming from as far away as California, Quebec, and Ireland to contribute.

The Schoolbus Graveyard is completely free, and is a must-see if you like colorful graffiti and mural art. 

Expedition Bigfoot Museum

Located in Cherry Log GA, the Expedition Bigfoot Museum is a unique roadside attraction that you simply have to check out if you’re even remotely interested in unexplained phenomena.

The 4,000-square foot museum has an expansive collection of exhibits featuring all kinds of Sasquatch folklore, artifacts, and memorabilia.

You can explore hundreds of documented Bigfoot encounters, including videos and recordings of Bigfoot sounds that attempt to prove these humanoid creatures really do exist.

Barnsley Gardens Resort Ruins

Offering a glimpse into the state’s pre-Civil War history, the Barnsley Gardens Ruins are located in the foothills of Adairsville GA. 

You can explore the ruins of the English Manor built by Godfrey Barnsley in the 1840s while staying in the resort’s cottages, visiting the swanky spa and fine dining restaurants.

The resort becomes even more magical at Christmas, when the estate is all decked out in holiday lights.

Goats on the Roof

Just 3.1 miles from Clayton, this quirky roadside attraction is great family fun.

As its name suggests, it features real live goats on the roof, with an array of ramps and tunnels that allows them to descend to a pen on the ground.

There are lots of photo opps and a souvenir shop where you can buy chow to feed the adorable animals by hand!

Exterior photo of Foxfire Museum & Heritage Center in Clayton GA
Foxfire Museum & Heritage Center

Foxfire Museum & Heritage Center

Another Clayton area attraction, the Foxfire Museum & Heritage Center offers a look into how Appalachian culture and history has influenced the identity of the North Georgia mountains.

Located just outside Black Rock Mountain State Park, the living history museum features 20 historic buildings and a variety of artifacts from the area’s pioneer era (1820s-1940s).

You can explore classic Blue Ridge log cabins, folk art, a blacksmith shop, and a tribute to the Cherokee Indians that once inhabited most of North GA.

Whitewater Rafting the Chattooga River

Listed as one of America’s National Wild & Scenic Rivers, the Chattooga River is perfect for those looking to go whitewater rafting in North Georgia.

Clayton’s Southeastern Expeditions offers 3 different rafting tours, ranging from shorter trips for beginners to the thrilling 7-hour Section IV trip, with Class III-V rapids. 

For a longer trip, you can also take part in an overnight Chattooga Rafting/Camping Experience.

Mercier Orchards

The family-owned Mercier Orchards has been operating 75+ years, making it one of the oldest apple orchards in Georgia (not to mention the largest in the Southeast). 

They have 20+ varieties of apples, plus “U-Pick” offerings including strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries.

You can also take a tractor tour of the orchards, visit their winery, and shop for goodies ranging from jams and preserves to their famous fried apple pies!

Downtown Blue Ridge Historic Walking Tour

One of the most charming southern mountain towns, Blue Ridge GA is also one of the oldest towns in North Georgia.

Founded in 1886, the town is packed with history that can be explored on a self-guided historic walking tour.

You can visit some of the town’s oldest buildings, including the Baugh House (built in 1890), the Blue Ridge Inn Bed & Breakfast (a restored Victorian home built in 1890), and more.

Horseback Riding at Hell's Hollow Adventure Outpost
Horseback Riding in Blue Ridge

Horseback Riding with Blue Ridge Mountain Trail Rides

Blue Ridge Mountains Trial Rides was one of the first tour operators to offer horseback riding in Blue Ridge GA.

Located in a remote, unspoiled area, their “Hell’s Hollow Adventure Outpost” offers 1- and 2-hour trail rides for all skill levels, with horses ranging from ponies (perfect for kids) to Tennessee Walkers. 

The terrain also varies with your comfort level, from gentle walks along streams to more intense jaunts up a small mountain to an excellent scenic overlook.

Blue Ridge Scenic Railway

Departing from the historic downtown railway depot, the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway train takes visitors on a 13-mile ride along the Toccoa River to the twin border towns of McCaysville GA and Copperhill TN.

Along with the picturesque views, conductors and “car hosts” are an abundant source of information to keep passengers entertained with stories of the past.

For an extra special journey, visit during the holidays and take a Blue Ridge train ride with Santa Claus!

Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association 

Located in the Historic Fannin County Courthouse, the Art Center is the heart of the cultural scene in Blue Ridge GA.

The center hosts a variety of events for painters, writers, film enthusiasts, and other artists throughout the year, as well as hosting dance, art, and music classes for kids and adults.

At any given time the historic courthouse is also filled with exhibits (35+ a year) and artists-in-residence.

Rafting the Ocoee River

Founded in 1976, Ocoee Rafting is the oldest outfitter in the area, offering tours of Tennessee’s Ocoee River (which is known as the Toccoa River in Georgia).

Their tours include whitewater rafting of the Upper Ocoee River (where the 1996 Olympic Slaloms were held), the Middle Ocoee River, or a 10-mile combination of both.

The rapids can get pretty extreme. But if you’re up for an adventure, you’re sure to find a memorable one here!

Blue Ridge Mountains Food Tour at Mercier Orchards Tasting Room

Blue Ridge Mountains Food Tours

Blue Ridge GA boasts a brilliant foodie scene. What better way to explore its restaurants than through a food tour?

Blue Ridge Mountains Food Tours has three tours to choose from-–the Fabulous Foodie Tour, Raise Your Glass Tour (focused on wine/spirits), and the Sugar High Tour. Each one lasts around 3 hours and features tastings at 5 to 6 different restaurants.

Along with tasting yummy food and drinks, you’ll also learn quite a bit of Blue Ridge history along the way.

Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area

Spanning across a series of 15 different sites stretching from Atlanta to Lake Sidney Lanier, the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area is a perfect outdoor attraction for nature lovers.

With everything from bird and wildlife watching to canoeing/kayaking, tubing, fishing, hiking, and more, you’re sure to have a great day packed full of outdoor adventure. 

For guaranteed wildlife sightings along the river, visit Roswell’s Chattahoochee Nature Center.

Fishing in Blue Ridge GA

Often called the Trout Capital of Georgia, Fannin County is a hot spot for anglers looking to catch big fish.

The Toccoa River is one of the best places in the region for trout fishing. But you can also find great fishing spots on Cooper Creek, Rock Creek, and Noontootla Creek.

If you’re looking to catch bluegill, bass walleye, and even rainbow trout, you can also visit Lake Blue Ridge. Just make sure you have the correct Georgia fishing license when you go!

 

North Georgia Restaurants

Interior of Sweet Shoppe Bakery in Blue Ridge GA

The Sweet Shoppe Bakery 

The Sweet Shoppe Bakery has truly made a name for itself since becoming nationally-known in 2015, when the owners won Season 6 of the Food Network reality show, Cupcake Wars.

There’s something for every type of sweet tooth at this busy Blue Ridge bakery, with everything from brownies, blondies, and breakfast pastries to their famous peanut butter and jelly cupcakes. 

Rum Cake Lady Cuban Café

Owned by Liz Correa, the Rum Cake Lady Cuban Café is truly a family affair. Correa’s son, David, works the counter and brings food out to tables, while her older sister, Susan, works in the kitchen.

The charming restaurant (which has locations in Blue Ridge and Morganton GA) has a menu packed with delicious traditional Cuban cuisine, and has grown into one of the area’s most popular restaurants.

Black Sheep Restaurant

Located inside the historic home of Colonel William Butt, a former Blue Ridge mayor and Georgia State legislator, the Black Sheep Restaurant is filled with as much history as it is fantastic food.

With a stylish interior and an expansive covered patio under a 200-year-old oak tree, this upscale Southern eatery easily ranks as one of the Best Restaurants in Blue Ridge, GA!

Danielle’s Café

One of the oldest Blue Ridge GA restaurants, Danielle’s Café was opened by Paris-trained chef Danielle Coste in 2005.

The menu features classic French cuisine, with a variety of different quiches and crepes to choose from. There’s also an extensive array of sandwiches, ranging from Bratwurst and Italian subs to Pressed Cubans and Tuna Salad.

Don’t leave without trying one of their decadent dessert crepes, which are available in 7 flavors.

Lunch at Hansen's Grill in Downtown Blue Ridge, GA

Hansen’s Grill

The owners of this popular Blue Ridge restaurant are Danish, and the chef has experience in Denmark and the Caribbean. But their breakfast menu is traditional, with 3 different kinds of Egg Benedict, Waffles, French Toast, etc.

The variety comes with their lunch menu, which has European options like Nordic Smoked Salmon Dip and Sundried Tomato Hummus with Falafel Chips.

Along with their international entrees, they also have American faves like burgers, wings, and seafood options.

Harvest On Main

Offering upscale Southern cuisine from James Beard Award-nominated chef Danny Mellman, Harvest On Main is one of our favorite Blue Ridge GA restaurants.

The interior boasts a classic mountain lodge style, with massive wooden beams, riverstone steps, Elk and Deer antlers, and fishing/hunting decor.

But the food is where the wow factor comes in. Their seasonal Farm-to-Table menu features many ingredients from the chef’s farm, including fresh eggs, produce, honey, wild game, and more!

Las 2 Huastecas

This unassuming Mexican joint is located just outside Downtown Blue Ridge in a strip shopping center.

So you might not recognize Las 2 Huastecas as one of the best restaurants in Blue Ridge until you get a taste of their deceptively simple, simply delicious food.

Each dish is built on a platform of perfectly prepared meats, including Asada (steak), Carnitas (pork), Chorizo (pork sausage), and Lengua (beef tongue). The street-style tacos are truly sublime perfection.

Mercier Orchards Cafe

Founded in 1943, Mercier Orchards has long been one of the most beloved Blue Ridge attractions.

Their downtown cafe opened in 2018, and is best known for the Southern-style breakfast. But their lunch menu– which has soups, salads, and sandwiches– is well worth a try.

The entrees range from good to great, but save room for the dessert menu, which includes a decadent Apple Cinnamon Bread and addictive Apple Cider Donut Holes that are brought to every table.

Bianco Pizza at Masseria Kitchen & Bar in Blue Ridge, GA
Bianco Pizza

Masseria Kitchen & Bar

One of four Blue Ridge restaurants owned by Danny Mellman and Michelle Moran of Lil’ Pond Hospitality, Masseria Kitchen & Bar is a must-try.

With a lively patio and a stylish interior that includes a stunning bar, the atmosphere is laid-back and welcoming.

The food ranges from starters like Hummus served with harissa oil and focaccia and Zucchini Feta Bruschetta to their delicious gourmet pizzas and pastas. The Pasta of the Day special is almost always a safe bet. 

Mona Lisa’s Dessert House

This family-run restaurant offers sleek, sophisticated design complemented by their rich array of decadent desserts.

From the Burbon Caramel Spice Cake and tangy Key Lime Pie to their 6 flavors of “Royal Jacqueline Shakes,” there is sure to be a dessert here that satisfies your sweet tooth.

The best part is that your dessert can also include an array of sweet “Rimmed Wines” from their swanky wine bar!

South of North

Located in the Downtown Blue Ridge Art District, this inventive restaurant offers a chef-driven take on traditional Vietnamese dishes.

You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but some favorites include their Sticky Pork Belly “Naan Mi,” and  a Bún Bowl with Tandoori Chicken, herbs, and roasted cashews.

Other dishes include Banh Mi, Pho, Blistered Edamame, and Vietnamese Meatball Lettuce Wraps.

Southern Charm Restaurant

This aptly-named Blue Ridge restaurant is family-owned and all about Southern hospitality.

With southern classics like Buttermilk Biscuits with apple butter, Fried Catfish, Fried Green Tomato dishes, Country Fried Steak, and Fried Chicken, it’s our go-to place for authentic southern dining.

There’s also a number of vegetarian dishes, including 4 salads and the veggie plate. Just make sure you save room for dessert, because their Caramel Bread Pudding is simply to die for!

Award winning steak at Fortify Kitchen & Bar in Clayton GA
Photo courtesy Fortify Kitchen & Bar

Fortify Kitchen & Bar

Located in Clayton GA, Fortify Kitchen & Bar is an award-winning farm to table restaurant that offers an innovative twist on New American cuisine.

Their dinner menu is packed with delicious dishes such as Mountain Trout, Filet Mignon, Fried Shrimp, and Duet of Duck. Classics like Fried Green Tomatoes, Gouda Fritters, and Fried Brussels Sprouts are also on their lunch menu.

The best part is the place is surprisingly affordable: Two entrees with sides and a shared dessert totaled about $60!

 

North Georgia State Parks

Cloudland Canyon Overlook- Waterfall View
Waterfall viewed from one of Cloudland Canyon’s overlooks

Amicalola State Park & Lodge

Located 8 miles from the southern end of the Appalachian Trail, Amicalola State Park & Lodge is home to the highest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi.

There are 10 Amicalola hiking trails, with three (the ADA-accessible West Ridge Falls Access Trail, one-mile East Ridge Trail, and New Appalachian Approach trail) offering excellent views of the 729-foot Amicalola Waterfall.

Aside from hiking, the Amicalola Falls Lodge also offers visitors myriad activities for an additional charge, including live reptile exhibits, birds of prey demonstrations, and some of the best ziplining in North Georgia.

Black Rock Mountain State Park

Towering over the Eastern Continental Divide at 3,640 feet, Black Rock Mountain is Georgia’s highest state park.

With classic Blue Ridge Mountain hiking trails, including the 2.2-mile Tennessee Rock Trail, the park offers exceptional views that span into North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

You can also go fishing and kayaking/canoeing in Black Rock Lake, try your hand at geocaching, and visit the park’s stunning overlooks for exceptional mountain views at sunrise and sunset.

Cloudland Canyon State Park

With 3,538 acres of lush woodlands and beautiful natural attractions such as a 1,000-foot-deep canyon and sandstone cliffs, Cloudland Canyon State Park has no shortage of breathtaking terrain.

There are over 30 miles of biking trails, 16 miles of horseback riding trails, a fishing pond, and an 18-hole disc golf course to keep you entertained as well.

But the main attraction here is the park’s 64 miles of gorgeous north Georgia hiking trails, including the acclaimed West Rim Trail and the ever-popular Waterfalls Trail (which leads to both Cherokee and Hemlock Falls).

Fort Mountain State Park

Fort Mountain State Park is a gorgeous state park on land that belonged to Cherokee Indians for hundreds of years.

The park has some of the most beautiful and historical hiking trails in north Georgia. Attractions include an ancient 855-foot long stone wall believed to have been built by early indigenous Americans for defense, and a stone fire tower built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1935. 

Other fun activities here include mountain biking, horseback riding, miniature golf, and kayaking/canoeing.

The Marble Mine Trail at James H Floyd State Park
The Marble Mine Waterfall

James H. Floyd State Park

Nestled between pastoral countryside and the Chattahoochee National Forest, this state park is named after former Georgia State Representative James H. “Sloppy” Floyd (who grew up in the area).

There are lots of fun things to do at James H Floyd State Park, including visiting two stocked lakes perfect for fishing and kayaking, birdwatching, picnicking, camping, and more.

There are also five miles of hiking trails that take you to the entrance of an abandoned mine, to the epic Pinhoti Trail, and around the lake’s boardwalk into the wooded hillsides.

Moccasin Creek State Park

Located on the shores of the 2,800-acre Lake Burton, Moccasin Creek State Park is known as the place where spring spends summer. Naturally, fishing, boating, and kayaking/canoeing are very popular here.

There’s also a unique, ADA-accessible fishing pier available to those ages 65+, 11 and younger, and people of any age with a Georgia disability fishing license.

To explore the state park further, there are three miles of hiking trails (including the excellent Hemlock Falls Trail). One leads to a wildlife observation tower where you can try to spot some of the animals that call the park home.

Smithgall Woods State Park

Widely considered one of the best North Georgia parks, Smithgall Woods was originally used for hydraulic gold mining during the 19th century.

Fisherman will love visiting Dukes Creek, which is regarded as one of North Georgia’s best trout streams.

The park also has an array of beautiful hiking trails that take you wading through Dukes Creek, along scenic boardwalks, and even to a deck that’s perfect for birdwatching.

Tallulah Gorge State Park

Home to some of the most stunning waterfalls in North Georgia, Tallulah Gorge State Park has an abundance of breathtaking natural beauty.

The Tallulah River is a prime location for kayaking, canoeing, and whitewater rafting on specific water release dates.

Other cool attractions include the two Canyon Rim Trails, the Gorge Floor Trail , and an 80-foot high suspension bridge that offers some of the best views in the park.

Hiking the Unicoi Lake Trail in Helen GA
Hiking the Unicoi Lake Trail

Unicoi State Park

One of the most beloved state parks in Georgia, Unicoi is surrounded by magnificent Georgia and beautiful scenery, and within walking distance of Downtown Helen and Anna Ruby Falls.  

There’s no shortage of outdoor adventure on offer here, ranging from an archery/rifle range and kayaking in the Chattahoochee River to some of the best hiking trails in Georgia. 

Other fun things to do include visiting Unicoi Lake, taking fly fishing or standup paddle boarding classes, going on a zipline aerial adventure, or .

Vogel State Park

One of north Georgia’s oldest state parks, Vogel was established in 1931 and has buildings constructed during the Great Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Along with its rich history, the park has an abundance of gorgeous views and dynamic landscapes.

There are 17 miles of Vogel State Park hiking trails, including the popular Trahlyta Lake Trail (which crosses an earthen dam created by the CCC in 1935) and the Bear Hair Gap trail (which takes you through the lower ridge of Blood Mountain). Don’t miss stunning Trahlyta Falls!

 

North Georgia Christmas Events

Christmas in Blairsville GA- Christmas on the Square
Christmas in Blairsville on the Square

Christmas in Blairsville

This small town of less than 700 people truly packs in the holiday cheer around Christmastime. 

From Dec 1 through 31, you can visit the Union County Community Center’s Tour Of Trees, where over 40 decorated trees and wreaths will be displayed.

Other fun local Christmas traditions include the Blairsville Holiday Stop & Shop at the Union County Civic Center, and the annual Holly Jolly Christmas Breakfast with Santa.

Light Up Blue Ridge

Blue Ridge GA is a great place to visit to celebrate the holiday season, and Light Up Blue Ridge is their signature holiday event.

The festivities begin the day after Thanksgiving (a.k.a. “Blue Friday”) with holiday bargains and carolers roaming the streets. On Saturday, Santa and Mrs. Claus make their way to town for special appearances and photos with kids. 

Other local holiday events include the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway’s Santa Express and Holidays at INOLA Blue Ridge, a living historyvillage that’s always festively decorated in the style of the colonial era.

Clayton Christmas Parade

Hosted by the Rabun County Chamber of Commerce and City of Clayton, the Clayton Christmas Parade features dozens of festive floats and even an appearance by Santa.

While the parade is their main holiday event, there’s also the Merry Market & Fundraising Jolly at the Rabun County Civic Center, where you can shop for locally-produced gifts like arts & crafts, yummy baked goods, and more.

Christmas Shindig at Tunnel Hill

Billed as “North Georgia’s most exciting Christmas variety show,” the Christmas Shindig at Tunnel Hill features local singers, comedians, dancers, and other performers showcasing their talents for the holidays.

This fun event happens in Dalton GA, which hosts an annual Holiday Open House. Downtown Dalton also hosts an annual Tree Lighting celebration and the ever-popular Spirit of Christmas Parade. 

Santa & Belles at Christmas in Dahlonega Celebrations
Santa & Belles in Dahlonega GA

Dahlonega’s Old-Fashioned Christmas

Beginning with the annual lighting of the tree, Dahlonega’s Old-Fashioned Christmas is a quaint affair, making Christmas a perfect time to visit the small mountain town.

The historic square is decorated with hundreds of twinkling lights and festive decorations, and there are Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides available to experience the town in all its charm.

There’s also an annual Christmas Parade in which local civic organizations, marching bands, costumed characters, and floats parade down the street in celebration of the season.

Dawsonville Christmas Parade

Located in the foothills of the North GA mountains, Dawsonville truly knows how to celebrate Christmas.

The season is kicked off with the Lighting of the Tree, followed by festivities like the Dawsonville Christmas Parade.

Other holiday activities include the Jingle Market, where you can shop for gifts from local vendors and get food from local food trucks.

Christmas at Pettit Creek Farms

Situated on 80 acres of land in Cartersville GA, Pettit Creek Farms truly lights up during the holidays.

There’s old-fashioned hayrides, a petting zoo with live Reindeer, a live Nativity scene every weekend, and even photo opportunities with Santa Claus every Thursday through Sunday.

There are also Christmas trees for sale, plus hot apple cider, cocoa, and S’mores to enjoy as you explore the farm.

Holiday Lights at Veterans Park

This patriotic holiday celebration at the Cherokee Veterans Park in Canton GA offers a 2-mile drive featuring over a million twinkling Christmas lights.

It includes two drive-thru tunnels, animated displays, and a 1/4-mile devoted to each branch of the US military.

Tickets are $20 per car, with a portion of profits donated to NGOs like the Veterans of Cherokee County and CRPA Play it Forward.

Seasons Greetings Christmas Lights at Lake Lanier Islands, GA
Lake Lanier Christmas Lights

Lakeside Lights Spectacular

Replacing the beloved Magical Night of Lights, this new attraction is a walk-through light show set to holiday music at Lake Lanier Islands.

There are carnival rides, games, and visits with Santa, with hot cocoa, S’mores, and cocktails available for purchase.

Lanier Islands also has accommodations at the Legacy Lodge for those who want to extend their holiday stay.

Mountain County Christmas in Lights

Held at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds, Mountain County Christmas in Lights features a spectacular holiday light show set to the background of joyful Christmas music.

Appalachian arts and crafts are also on display, as well as delicious country-style food and photo opps with Santa!

Rock City Christmas

The Enchanted Garden of Lights at Rock City is an award-winning light show that has been named one of the Top 20 Events in the region by the Southeast Tourism Society.

Their bright Christmas display features 30+ holiday scenes (such as the Arctic Kingdom and Magic Forest) and almost a million LED lights!

There are also fun holiday activities like decorating gingerbread cookies and visiting Santa in his North Pole Workshop.  –by Christina Maggitas; photos by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett unless otherwise noted

 

Growing up in rural south Georgia, Christina Maggitas developed a love for nature at a young age and spent the majority of her formative years outdoors. Since first visiting the Great Smokey Mountains with her family as a child, she has always admired the beauty of the Blue Ridge region and spends as much time as she can hiking north Georgia. She has a passion for writing and storytelling with the hopes of inspiring others to enjoy the great outdoors. Currently, Christina is a senior at Kennesaw State University where she is studying Journalism and Emerging Media.