The 20 Best Things to Do in Blairsville GA & Union County

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[Updated June 13, 2023]

As a small town with a total population of around 700 people, Blairsville isn’t as big or as bustling as popular North Georgia mountain towns such as Blue Ridge, Dahlonega, and Ellijay.

But for many people, therein lies a big part of its charm. 

Measuring just 1.1 square miles, Blairsville may seem a little sleepy on the surface.

There isn’t much in the way of nightlife here, and many of the local restaurants close by 8PM on weeknights. 

But the Union County area is a haven for nature lovers, with several lakes and waterfalls, some of the tallest mountains in Georgia, and the Appalachian Trail all less than 15 miles of Downtown Blairsville.

Read on for our guide to the best things to do in Blairsville GA, including all of the best hiking trails, museums, restaurants, and other attractions the North Georgia mountain town has to offer.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Places to Live in the Georgia Mountains


Best Things to Do in Blairsville GA Guide

  1. Blairsville Scottish Festival & Highland Games
  2. Climb Brasstown Bald
  3. Drive the Richard B Russell Scenic Hwy
  4. Explore Downtown Blairsville
  5. Explore Meeks Park
  6. Hike the Blood Mountain Trail
  7. Hike to DeSoto Falls
  8. Moonshine Tastings at Grandaddy Mimm’s Distilling Co.
  9. Mountain Life Museum
  10. Picnic at Helton Creek Falls
  11. Sample Blairsville Restaurants
  12. See Trahlyta Falls
  13. Shop at Sunrise Grocery
  14. Spend a Day at Lake Nottely
  15. Sunset at Hogpen Gap
  16. Trek Prep at Mountain Crossings
  17. Visit the Historic Union County Courthouse
  18. Visit the Track Rock Gap Petroglyph Site
  19. Vogel State Park 
  20. Wander at Byron Herbert Reece Heritage Farm

READ MORE: Top 20 Things to Do in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia

Creekside Cabin at Creekside Cottages in Blairsville GA (1 of 1)

Cabin Rentals in Blairsville GA

Creekside CottagesTucked away alongside a fast-flowing creek less than a mile from Downtown Blairsville, these 4 pet-friendly cabins feature 2 bedrooms and 1 bath. We loved the thoughtful decorative details, the full kitchen, and the excellent use of outdoor space (including creekside picnic tables, fire pits, and swings). 

Pipe Band at Blairsville Scottish Festival & Highland Games
2023 Blairsville Scottish Festival & Highland Games

1. Blairsville Scottish Festival & Highland Games

Now in its 17th year, the Blairsville Scottish Festival & Highland Games celebrates the historic and cultural significance the Scots-Irish people have had in the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains

Spreading out along the banks of the Nottely River at Meeks Park, the 2-day festival features all things Scottish, from athletic competitions and traditional music to ancestral clans and food (including my personal favorite, haggis).

The opening ceremony is an almost overwhelming experience. Marching bands with blaring bagpipes and drums lead a parade of tartans onto the main field, where athletes compete in Open Stone, Heavy Hammer, and Sheaf Toss competitions.

Entertainment includes live music, Highland dancing, and demos of sheep-herding, blacksmithing, birds of prey, and living history. There are also booths selling everything from Scottish decor and Shortbread to kilts, bow and arrows, and more. 

Scottish Festival admission is $20 per day, but children ages 10 and under get in free, with lots of activities for kids to enjoy. 

READ MORE: Where are the Blue Ridge Mountains? A State-by-State Guide

Fall colors in Georgia at Brasstown Bald
Fall colors at Brasstown Bald

2. Climb Brasstown Bald

Towering at 4,784 feet above the Chattahoochee National Forest, Brasstown Bald is the tallest mountain in Georgia.

The observation deck at its summit offers spectacular 360º panoramas that allow you to see into four states (Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina) on clear days. 

There are two options for reaching the summit: You can take a shuttle for a small fee, or follow the paved trail that leads from the Brasstown Bald parking lot to the Visitors Center at the top.

The 0.5-mile hiking trail to the top is short, yet somewhat steep in elevation gain, with lots of benches along the way for those who need to catch their breath. 

In addition to the breathtaking views, the top also features a general store with products made in North Georgia and a natural science and history museum.

READ MORE: The 15 Best North Georgia Mountains for Hiking

Richard B Russell Scenic Hwy near Helen Ga
Richard B Russell Scenic Hwy

3. Drive the Richard B Russell Scenic Hwy

Although Georgia doesn’t have any epic driving routes to rival the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway offers a picturesque road trip on a much smaller scale. 

Also known as Hwy 348, the road stretches 23 miles from Helen to Blairsville. You could also extend the drive by heading north to Young Harris and Hiawassee, or follow the larger Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Byway loop (40.6 miles). 

But there are enough cool things to do along the Richard B. Russell stretch to make a full day of it, including easy hikes to Dukes Creek Falls (2 miles) and Helton Creek Falls (0.3 miles), the 5.8-mile trail to Raven Cliff Falls, and fishing or hiking at Smithgall Woods State Park

If jaw-dropping Blue Ridge Mountain vistas are more your speed, don’t miss the three roadside scenic overlooks along Hwy 348, which offer especially stunning views when the fall colors in Georgia start to pop.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Things to Do in Helen GA

Greetings From Blairsville GA
Mural in Downtown Blairsville GA

4. Explore Downtown Blairsville

Founded after the removal of the Cherokee people in the 1830s, Blairsville was named after Revolutionary War veteran James Blair. Known as “the Paul Revere of the South,” he went on to serve 20 years in the Georgia State Legislature. 

The most iconic landmark in downtown Blairsville is the Historic Union County Courthouse, which was constructed in 1899 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

It’s home to the Union County Historical Society, which oversees several museums dedicated to the town’s history. 

Other noteworthy downtown landmarks include Blairsville City Hall (formerly the “old” jail, which was built in 1934), the Mountain Life Museum, and the Union County War Memorial Veteran’s Park. 

The historic Blairsville Square features much less traffic than other mountain towns we’ve visited.

So it’s very walkable, and home to some of the town’s best shops and restaurants (including the Cabin Coffee Co., Melissa’s Custom Cakes, and Michaelee’s Italian Life Caffe). 

READ MORE: The Top 25 Blue Ridge Mountain Towns in GA & NC

Couple Swinging on the Nottely River at Meeks Park in Blairsville GA
Couple Swinging at Meeks Park

5. Explore Meeks Park 

Located about a mile west of Downtown Blairsville on Highway 515, Meeks Park is one of our favorite recreation areas in the North Georgia mountains

Established in 1992, the park is divided into 3 sections, with Butternut Creek and the Nottely River running through it. 

The first section includes myriad baseball and softball fields, tennis courts, basketball court, skate park, 2 playgrounds, a pool and splash pad, 4 covered pavilions, the Appalachian Sculpture Project, and 4.62 miles of hiking trails.

There’s a second section that includes a kayak launch, exercise area, hiking Trails, trout fishing on the creek and river, and a historic Grist Mill‘s water wheel.

Lastly, the Meeks Park Dog Park (located next to North Georgia Technical College) offers over a mile of trails, a fenced-in off-leash area, two pens, a state-of-the-art doggie drinking fountain, and a challenging 18-hole disc golf course. 

This Union County park is home to several annual festivals throughout the year, including the Blairsville Scottish Festival & Highland Games in June, Butternut Creek Festival in July, and the Blairsville Sorghum Festival in October.

READ MORE: The 25 Best Places to Visit in Georgia

blood mountain overlook
Blood Mountain Overlook, photo by Hope Cross

6. Hike the Blood Mountain Trail

One of the tallest mountains in Georgia at 4,461 feet, Blood Mountain offers one of the most challenging and rewarding hiking trails in the state.

The trek begins at the Byron Reece Trailhead near Neels Gap, where you’ll head into a lush valley lined with rhododendron and other GA wildflowers. You’ll meet the Appalachian Trail at 0.7 miles, then head westbound.

The Blood Mountain trail reaches the rocky-topped summit at 2.15 miles, offering stellar sights of the rolling mountains.

You’ll also see a rock building there that was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.

When you’ve had your fill of the breathtaking scenery, simply retrace your steps to return to the trailhead, completing the heart-pumping hike at 4.3 miles.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Fall Fairs in Georgia

DeSoto Falls near Helen GA, photo by Jason Dominy
DeSoto Falls, photo by Jason Dominy

7. Hike to DeSoto Falls

Desoto Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls near Blairsville. 

Local legend suggests that a piece of Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto’s armor was found there long after his expedition to the New World in the 1500s.

The DeSoto Falls trail once included three different waterfalls, but the trail to the uppermost falls was closed long ago (though some experienced hikers say it is still navigable today). 

The hike follows a paved path before crossing over Frogtown Creek, where you’ll get your first glimpse of Lower DeSoto Falls through the trees.

At around 1/4-mile you’ll reach a wooden viewing platform where you can see them up close.

After a second bridge crossing, you’ll reach the spectacular 80-foot cascades of Upper DeSoto Falls and another viewing platform, where you can marvel at their beauty. 

Note that these waterfalls are much more impressive after recent rains. 

READ MORE: The 20 Best North Georgia Waterfalls (& How to Get to Them)

Grandaddy Mimms Moonshine Tasting in Blairsville GA
Moonshine Tasting at Grandaddy Mimm’s

8. Moonshine Tastings at Grandaddy Mimm’s Distilling Co.

Growing up in the Deep South, moonshine was a staple of the  Appalachian cultural heritage (but, of course, illegal).

But these days moonshine is part of the craft distillery craze, and Grandaddy Mimm’s Distilling Co. (which is located in downtown Blairsville) is the largest distillery in North Georgia.

It’s owned by country musician Tommy Townsend, who uses family recipes passed down by his grandfather Jack McClure, a notorious bootlegger in the Blue Ridge Mountains who was friends with former Governor Zell Miller. 

Dubbed “Grandaddy Mimm’s Corn Whiskey,” it is produced on stills that were designed by McClure, which you can see on brief tours of the facility.

They also offer tastings of their potent moonshine, vodka, and Georgia whiskey, with 8 samples for around $5. 

All of the varieties we tasted are delicious, but the Apple Brown Betty and Blackberry Moonshines make for particularly sweet sippin’!

READ MORE: 30 Fascinating Blue Ridge Mountains Facts

Historic Cabin at the Mountain Life Museum in Blairsville GA
Historic Cabin at the Mountain Life Museum

9. Mountain Life Museum

Launched in 1976, the non-profit Union County Historical Society was created “to preserve and promote the history and culture of Union County.

The society maintains 3 historic structures in Blairsville, two of which are part of the Mountain Life Museum, which is located just a few blocks from the square. 

Open on Fridays and Saturdays from May through December, the museum offers visitors a chance to explore what life was like in North Georgia in the 1800s and early 1900s. 

The 1861 John Payne Cabin, corn crib, and barn (which were relocated from a Union County farm) provide an authentic slice of Appalachian history, including period antiques and photographs of the owner’s family.  

The 1906 Grapelle Butt Mock house remains fully decorated in the early to mid-20th century style, and the museum’s grounds are used for a live music series and various seasonal festivals.

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

Couple relaxing on rocks at Helton Creek Falls near Helen, GA
Helton Creek Falls photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

10. Picnic at Helton Creek Falls

The Helton Creek Falls trail is one of the shortest, easiest waterfall trails in Georgia. It’s just over a half-mile round-trip, yet offers amazing ROI for minimal energy investment. 

The path descends a set of stairs into a forest filled with wildflowers, hardwood trees, and conifers before taking a short side trail down more wooden stairs to the base of Lower Helton Creek Falls. 

The water tumbles down a sliding rock face into a tranquil pool that kids and dogs love to splash around in.

After that, the short trail ascends approximately 30 feet in elevation to a viewing platform at the top, where you can see Upper Helton Creek Falls in all its glory.

This is a great place for an afternoon picnic, with large boulders and trees scattered around the pool at the base of the falls. 

Note that it can get crowded, so we recommend arriving early to ensure maximum elbow room at this gorgeous spot. 

READ MORE: The 15 Best Waterfalls Near Helen GA

Tortelini Primavera at Michaelee's Italian Restaurant in Blairsville GA
Dinner at Michaelee’s Italian Restaurant

11. Sample Blairsville Restaurants

As one of the smaller mountain towns in Georgia, Blairsville doesn’t have as many foodie-friendly restaurants as you’ll find in popular tourist hubs like Blue Ridge, Clayton, and Dahlonega.

But there are several ambitious entrepreneurs (mostly metro Atlanta transplants) who are working to change that. 

We had excellent breakfasts at the G & G Bakery & Café (formerly known as Grinds ‘n’ Glazes), which had great coffee and pastries, and The Sawmill Place, a fantastic farm-to-table restaurant that sourced ingredients from local farms

Our most memorable lunches included delicious slow-cooked BBQ meats at Rib Country and a picnic lunch we picked up at the new Japanese restaurant, Teppanyaki Time.

Their sushi, poke, seaweed salad, and “Chef Kim’s World Cuisine” menu offered a wonderfully refreshing change of pace. 

Our two favorite places to eat in Blairsville couldn’t be more different. The Blairsville Restaurant- Grits & Greens is exactly what it sounds like, offering the tastiest down-home Southern fare I’ve had since my Granny passed away.

And Michaelee’s Italian Life Caffe is the most romantic restaurant in Blairsville, offering upscale Italian fare right on the Blairsville Square. 

READ MORE: The 15 Best Restaurants in Helen GA for Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Trahlyta Falls at Vogel State Park in Blairsville GA
Trahlyta Falls as seen from Gainesville Hwy in Blairsville

12. See Trahlyta Falls

Located in Vogel State Park and surrounded by the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, Trahlyta Falls is another one of those North Georgia waterfalls that offers maximum payoff for minimal time and energy investment.

The easy, 0.8-mile trail to reach begins near the Visitor Center, circling the lovely Trahlyta Lake, passing the state park’s cabins, and offering excellent views of Blood Mountain along the way. 

After a short descent to reach a set of wooden stairs, the observation platform at the bottom gets you right up close to the 110-foot-tall waterfall. 

But the truth is that the best full view of this spectacular waterfall can be seen right from Gainesville Highway, without ever entering the park!

If you’re coming from Blairsville, look for the pull-offs on the right-hand side of the road just before you reach the Vogel State Park entrance. 

READ MORE: The 20 Best Easy Hiking Trails to Waterfalls in Georgia

Sunrise Grocery in Blairsville GA
Sunrise Grocery, Blairsville’s Historic Country Store

13. Shop at Sunrise Grocery

Built back in the 1920s, Sunrise Grocery is an authentic country store and the oldest business in Union County still in its original location.

They sell all sorts of stuff, including fresh produce, ethanol-free gas, camping gear, fishing supplies, homemade soaps, and notoriously delicious “WORLD FAMOUS boiled peanuts.

It’s our favorite place to stock up on traditional Southern foods such as F.R.O.G. Jam, preserves, country ham, and fresh apple cider made from locally grown apples

They’re also well-known for their pumpkin patch, which the place a very popular stop for people road-tripping to see the fall colors in North Georgia. 

If you have time, head to the room in the back of the store to check out the owner’s incredible photos of the local mountains and waterfalls

READ MORE: Apple Picking in Georgia: The 10 Best North GA Apple Orchards to Visit

Lake Nottely in Blairsville GA
Lake Nottely, photo by

14. Spend a Day at Lake Nottely

One of our favorite lakes in North Georgia, Lake Nottely is a Tennessee Valley Authority reservoir that was created in 1942 by the damming of the Nottely River.

Stretching approximately 20 miles northwest from Blairsville, the 4,180-acre lake features 106 miles of shoreline, with an average depth of 35 feet and a max depth of 98 feet. 

Because the lake is surrounded by the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, which is protected by the U.S. Forest Service, approximately 70% of the shoreline is undeveloped.

But there are a few lake houses for rent here, and the proximity to Atlanta (a two-hour drive) has made Nottely increasingly popular in recent years. 

Boating, jet skiing, fishing, picnicking, and paddle boarding are all popular activities, as is camping at the Poteete Creek Campgrounds, which offers 59 campsites.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Lakes in Georgia to Visit

Sunset at Hogpen Gap in Helen GA
Sunset at Hogpen Gap

15. Sunset at Hogpen Gap

Hogpen Gap is one of three stunning scenic overlooks located along the Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway. But it deserves special mention for a several different reasons.

First off, the overlook is located right along the Appalachian Trail, and the strenuous 14.5-mile stretch from Hogpen Gap to Unicoi Gap is widely considered one of the most challenging and beautiful hiking trails in Georgia. 

Secondly, this one of the few places in Georgia where the Appalachian Trail crosses a major road.

So it’s a very popular place for “trail angels” who want to share food, water, and other gifts with weary AT thru-hikers. 

But in our opinion the #1 reason to visit Hogpen Gap is for the splendiferous sunsets the overlook offers.

They’re especially eye-popping when the wildflowers bloom in Spring, and when Fall colors begin to peak. 

READ MORE: The 15 Best Day Hikes on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia

Mountain Crossings a.k.a. Walasi-Yi Interpretive Center
Photo courtesy Mountain Crossings

16. Trek Prep at Mountain Crossings

Hiking 14 miles on the Appalachian Trail with my parents and their church youth group when I was 6 years old is one of earliest formative memories of exploring the outdoors. 

From carrying my heavy backpack uphill and taking off my boots to ford a rushing creek to camping in the forest, my fond memories of the trip remain strong nearly 50 years later. 

But what I remember most clearly is picking up freeze-dried food and other hiking essentials at the Walasi-Yi Interpretive Center, a.k.a. Mountain Crossings. It’s the only place where the 2,179-mile AT runs through a man-made structure.

Made famous by Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, this colorfully eclectic retail store/hostel/backpacker hangout is housed in a historic brick building about 30 miles from the AT’s southern terminus.

Whether you’re a thru-hiker looking to refine your gear before making your way north to Maine, or simply a day hiker interested in AT history, it’s a must-see stop at Neels Gap. 

READ MORE: 30 Fascinating Facts About the Appalachian Mountains for Trivia Buffs

Union County Historic Courthouse in Blairsville GA
Historic Union County Courthouse on the Blairsville Square

17. Visit the Historic Union County Courthouse

Another historic landmark in Blairsville, the Historic Union County Courthouse was built in 1899 from a design by renowned Georgia architect J.W. Golucke.

Unfortunately, the courthouse suffered from years of neglect and fell into a state of disrepair around the Great Depression.

It was condemned and slated for demolition in the 1970s, but the Union County Historical Society was formed to protect and preserve it. 

It has since been completely restored, and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Most of its rooms house museums covering everything from Blairsville history and U.S. military history to an extraordinary collection of dollhouse-style miniatures. 

But the highlight of the free attraction is the historic courtroom, which still has several pieces of original furniture and is often used for live musical performances

READ MORE: Downtown Asheville, NC History: From Biltmore to the 21st Century Boom

Track Rock Gap Petroglyphs in Blairsville GA
Track Rock Gap Petroglyphs

18. Visit the Track Rock Gap Petroglyph Site

It should be noted that this Blairsville attraction is temporarily closed (as of March 2022), due in large part to mindless vandalism of what is arguably the most important archaeological site in Georgia. 

Located in the Brasstown Ranger District of the Chattahoochee National Forest, the 52-acre Track Rock Gap Archaeological Area is home to the most significant petroglyphs of ancient Native American origin in Georgia. 

Much like the Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site in Calhoun, the mysterious carvings in 6 table-sized soapstone boulders pre-date the arrival of the Cherokee in Georgia. 

The Cherokee people called the site Datsu’nalasgun’ylu (where there are tracks) and Degayelun’ha (the printed or branded place).

Cherokee legends hold that ancient hunters carved images of animal and bird tracks, human footprints, and other symbols during a great hunt.

Historic mentions of the petroglyphs date back to 1834, but the unfortunate carvings of people’s initials into these sacred stones are much more recent. This is why we can’t have nice things… 

READ MORE: 6 Incredible Indian Mounds in Georgia to Visit

Lake Trahlyta at Vogel State Park in Blairsville GA
Lake Trahlyta in Vogel State Park, photo by Rachael Seeley

19. Vogel State Park 

Vogel is one of the oldest and most popular North Georgia State Parks: Many of its buildings were constructed during the Great Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Vogel State Park offers 17 miles of hiking trails, including the easy Trahlyta Lake Trail loop and Byron Herbert Reece Nature Trail, the moderate 4.1-mile Bear Hair Gap Trail, and the strenuous 12.8-mile Coosa Backcountry Trail.

Other awesome activities include fishing, splashing in the roped-off swimming area, visiting the Civilian Conservation Corps Museum, and renting standup paddle boards, pedal boats, kayaks, or bikes. 

The park also offers 90 tent, trailer, and RV campsites; walk-in and pioneer campsites; and 35 cabins ranging in size from one to three bedrooms.

READ MORE: The 10 Best National Parks in Georgia to Visit

Byron Herbert Reece Farm & Heritage Center
Photo courtesy Byron Herbert Reece Society

20. Wander at Byron Herbert Reece Heritage Farm

Though it’s not an official Georgia State Historic Site, the Byron Herbert Reece Heritage Farm is one of the best places to visit in Blairsville for anyone interested in the early 20th century Appalachian way of life. 

Located a mile north of Vogel State Park on US 129, the 9.3-acre Reece Heritage Farm offers free admission and self-guided tours of a property packed with authentic farm buildings and equipment.

Developing the interpretive history attraction is a long-term project of the Byron Herbert Reece Society, which honors the life and work of the native Blairsville poet/author. 

They’ve restored the main barn and corn crib, constructed period buildings (chicken coop, spring house, and smoke house), and relocated/renovated the Reece family house, which is a Welcome Center and home to the Reece Family Museum.

They also built a pedestrian bridge across Wolf Creek, created the Poetry Trail Garden, and constructed a 2,620-square-foot pavilion that is used for weddings and other large private events.  –by Bret Love; all photos by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett unless otherwise noted


Leave No Trace logo

We encourage anyone who loves the Blue Ridge region to learn about the Leave No Trace principles of responsible environmental stewardship. 

Stay on marked trails, take only pictures, pack out your trash, and be considerate of others who share the trails and parks you explore. 

Remember that waterfalls and rocky summits can be dangerous. Never try to climb waterfalls or get close to a ledge to get a selfie.

When you're exploring the wilderness, it's better to be safe than to be a statistic!

The BRMTG was created by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett, the award-winning team behind the world-renowned responsible travel website Green Global Travel. Born and raised in North Georgia, Editor-In-Chief Bret Love grew up hiking and camping in the Blue Ridge Mountains with his family. A professional writer/editor since 1995, he's covered travel and culture for 100+ publications, including American Way, Destination Marriott, Georgia Travel Guide, National Geographic, and Southbound. In 2010 he co-founded the award-winning website, Green Global Travel, which is ranked among the world's top travel blogs. Since launching BRMTG in 2020, he and Mary Gabbett have visited 50+ Blue Ridge Mountain towns together. Though she lived in NYC for 14 years, photographer/Business Manager Mary Gabbett's family has Georgia roots dating back 200+ years. Her great-grandfather was President of the Western Railroad of Alabama. Before moving to Atlanta in 1989, she fell in love with the North GA mountains, where her aunt owned a cabin. In 2010 she co-founded Green Global Travel, and has since traveled to more than 40 countries on six continents. Her photos have appeared in numerous travel publications (including National Geographic and Southbound) and various textbooks.