The 15 Best Things to Do in Blairsville GA & Union County

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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 within 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

 

The Best Things to Do in Blairsville GA Guide

  1. Climb Brasstown Bald
  2. Drive the Richard B Russell Scenic Hwy
  3. Explore Downtown Blairsville
  4. Hike the Blood Mountain Trail
  5. Hike to DeSoto Falls
  6. Moonshine Tastings at Grandaddy Mimm’s Distilling Co.
  7. Mountain Life Museum
  8. Picnic at Helton Creek Falls
  9. Sample Blairsville Restaurants
  10. See Trahlyta Falls
  11. Shop at Sunrise Grocery
  12. Sunset at Hogpen Gap
  13. Historic Union County Courthouse
  14. Visit the Track Rock Gap Petroglyph Site
  15. Vogel State Park 

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). 

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

1. 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

2. 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

3. 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

blood mountain overlook
Blood Mountain Overlook, photo by Hope Cross

4. 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

5. 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

6. 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

7. 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

8. 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

9. 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

10. 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

11. 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 equipment, 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

Sunset at Hogpen Gap in Helen GA
Sunset at Hogpen Gap

12. 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

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

13. 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

14. 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 stories 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: Exploring the Dark History of the New Echota Historic Site in Calhoun GA

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

15. 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 kayaks, standup paddle boards, pedal boats, 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.  –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. Bret grew up camping and hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia and North Carolina with his parents, and the couple both spent childhood summers on the water with their grandparents. After becoming empty nesters, they yearned for a pristine place where they could escape the hustle and bustle of the city, commune with nature and family, and embrace a sustainable lifestyle that leaves time to appreciate the simpler things in life. Join them and their team as they explore the region, offering expert insights on Blue Ridge travel as they search for the perfect mountain home.