[Updated September 9, 2021]
The infamous heat of summer in the Deep South has finally started to wane, thankfully replaced by the cool, crisp air that signals autumn’s arrival.
This is that magical time of year when more and more people are increasingly inclined to explore the great outdoors of the Georgia mountains.
Fall in the mountains of North Georgia gradually brings an explosion of vibrant red, orange, and yellow hues.
So it’s an especially gorgeous time for hiking, camping, backpacking, and fishing, or even just taking a road trip through Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.
Whether you’re looking for dramatic landscape or immersive hiking trails through the fantastic foliage, here’s our list of the best places in the North Georgia mountains to see fall colors…
Fall in the Mountains of North Georgia Guide
- Brasstown Bald
- Rabun Bald
- Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area
- Vogel State Park
- Tallulah Gorge Waterfalls
- Cloudland Canyon Waterfalls
- Red Top Mountain State Park
- Blue Ridge Scenic Railway
- Amicalola Falls State Park & Lodge
- Yonah Mountain
- Black Rock Mountain State Park
- Anna Ruby Falls
- Fort Mountain State Park
- Slaughter Mountain
- Unicoi State Park
- Richard B Russell Scenic Highway
- Hogpen Gap
- Bell Mountain
- Indian Seats
- Preacher’s Rock
1. Brasstown Bald
Reaching an elevation of 4,784 feet (making it the tallest mountain in the state), it’s no surprise that Brasstown Bald leads off our list of the best places to see fall colors in Georgia.
Towering over the 867,000-acre Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, the summit rewards you with striking 360-degree views spanning four states (Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina) on a clear day.
After a mildly grueling .55-mile hike up the mountain (or a quick trip on the shuttle bus for $2), you definitely won’t be disappointed.
The crisp autumn air and expansive views are nothing short of breathtaking, with those distinctive rolling hills the Blue Ridge Mountains are famous for.
Brasstown Bald is also among the first locations where the leaves change in Georgia, so you can see glimpses of North Georgia’s fall colors earlier in the year.
2. Rabun Bald
Soaring high above the bucolic mountain town of Clayton GA, Rabun Bald is one of the most spectacular mountains in North Georgia from which to see the changing fall foliage.
Reaching an elevation of 4,695 feet, it’s the second tallest mountain in the State of Georgia, offering rewarding hiking experiences at any time of the year.
But the summit views are absolutely stunning around the changing of the seasons.
You not only get to see the Georgia autumn leaves, but also the rolling hills and warm colors of North Carolina’s wilderness.
Hiking to the summit along the Bartram Trail is 3 miles round-trip, and it’s known for being quite intense. But once you make it to those enchanting scenic views, it will all be worth it!
3. Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area
Perfect for exploring as the fall colors in Georgia begin to show, these scenic areas offer an array of fun activities.
Nature lovers will enjoy everything from bird and wildlife watching to canoeing/kayaking, tubing, fishing, hiking, and more.
Whether you want to walk alongside the river under the huge pine trees at Island Ford, explore the ruins and streams at Sope Creek, or hike along the fitness trail at Cochran Shoals, exploring the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area is a great autumn activity in North Georgia!
4. Vogel State Park
To experience all that Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains in fall has to offer, a trip to Vogel State Park in Blairsville is an absolute must.
With several adventurous hiking trails winding throughout the landscape, you’ll be encompassed in the beauty of the colorful autumn foliage.
But perhaps the best way to see the stunning North Georgia fall colors is hiking around Lake Trahlyta, with the behemoth Blood Mountain looming large above it.
The reflection of the warm autumn colors on the water are truly something spectacular, and make for some postcard-worthy photos (see above).
For an easy hike where you can take in the gorgeous views, the 1.1-mile Trahlyta Lake Trail follows along the shoreline and eventually leads you to the impressive cascades of Trahlyta Falls.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Waterfalls Near Blue Ridge GA
5. Tallulah Gorge
With its dynamic landscapes (including the 2-mile long, nearly 1,000-foot deep Tallulah Gorge), Tallulah Gorge State Park is truly a one-of-a-kind place to experience autumn in Georgia.
Whether you’re exploring 20 miles of hiking trails or catching jaw-dropping views from the 80-foot-high suspension bridge above the gorge, there simply isn’t a bad view to be found here.
But where Georgia’s fall colors really shine best is around the beautiful Tallulah Falls, an incredible set of six cascading waterfalls surrounded by colorful oak and maple trees.
The Hurricane Falls Trail and Sliding Rock Trail are popular hikes to explore the area, visiting both the thundering Hurricane Falls and picturesque Bridal Veil Falls.
If you want a bird’s eye view of the falls from the canyon’s rim, try the North and South Rim Trails!
6. Cloudland Canyon Waterfalls
Of all the waterfalls in Georgia, Cherokee Falls and Hemlock Falls are some of the most beautiful and beloved. Especially if you’re looking to spot some truly vibrant fall colors!
Starting at the East Rim parking area, you will be guided along the canyon walls to visit Cherokee Falls.
Then you’ll continue on to a wooden viewing platform, where you can stare in awe at Hemlock Falls as it drops over 90 feet to the canyon floor.
With the vibrant backdrop of the changing mountain leaves, visiting these waterfalls is a great way to immerse yourself in the beauty of the Autumn season.
7. Red Top Mountain State Park
Located in Cartersville, less than an hour drive from downtown Atlanta, Red Top Mountain State Park is an awesome place in North Georgia to visit in the fall months.
Naturally boasting warm red hues that come from the soil’s high iron-ore content, this state park is truly a special sight in autumn. You’ll see southern red oaks, beeches, and red maples scattered all across the park.
The park also offers visitors direct access to Lake Allatoona, where you can relax by the shoreline and enjoy the reflection of the colorful North Georgia mountain foliage on the water.
To explore deeper into the forest, there are also more than 15 miles of hiking trails and well as 4 miles of biking trails to be explored.
8. Blue Ridge Scenic Railway
This scenic train ride becomes truly magical with Fall Foliage rides that run from late September through early November. (Their Santa Express is also one of our favorite North Georgia Christmas events!)
As you depart from the historic depot, right in the heart of the downtown Blue Ridge restaurants and shops, the train winds along the picturesque Toccoa River.
As you make your way to the twin towns of McCaysville GA and Copperhill,TN, you’ll watch the red, orange, and yellow hues of the stunning landscapes passing by outside your window.
Tickets can be purchased in advance on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway’s website. But be quick, as tickets for these Fall Foliage rides tend to sell out fast!
READ MORE: The Best Things to Do in Blue Ridge GA
9. Amicalola Falls State Park & Lodge
Located just eight miles from the southern end of the Appalachian Trail, Amicalola Falls State Park is a premier location to experience the beauty of the fall colors in north Georgia.
Ten different hiking trails wind throughout the park, including the Amicalola Falls Loop Trail, which takes you on a series of stairs along the park’s main attraction of the park.
At 729 feet, Amicalola Falls is the tallest of the epic waterfalls in Georgia, spilling down seven cascades.
The area offers a stunning display of natural beauty, especially when the backdrop is the brilliant shades of autumn.
This is a popular park for overnight trips, with plenty of beautiful cabins and campsites to stay in as well as the Amicalola Lodge, which offers a variety of accommodations.
10. Yonah Mountain
Situated between the charming towns of Cleveland and Helen, Yonah is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful North Georgia mountains for hiking.
Its dazzling summit views are made all the more special when the colors of fall begin to emerge.
The hike to the summit is 2.2 miles from the base of the mountain, taking you through the forest of mixed hardwoods, which is dotted with colorful GA wildflowers in late spring and early summer.
As you peer out across the horizon, you’ll see the mountains of North Georgia covered in a blanket of vibrant red, orange, yellow, and brown hues that are nothing short of spectacular.
When you’ve soaked up as much of the views as you want, the hike retraces its steps back down the mountain for a total distance of 4.4 miles.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Helen GA
11. Black Rock Mountain State Park
Reaching altitudes of 3,640 feet, Black Rock Mountain State Park is Georgia’s highest state park.
Looming large above the tiny town of Clayton GA, this massive mountain allows for some truly incredible views of the Blue Ridge region in fall.
Located on the Eastern Continental Divide, the state park offers a variety of hiking trails ranging from easy (Black Rock Lake) to strenuous (James Edmonds Backcountry Trail).
But for those really outstanding views of the Blue Ridge Mountains’ fall colors, you’re going to want to take the Tennessee Rock Trail.
This 2.2-mile trail guides you through some of the park’s highest forests, giving you spectacular views that span almost 80 miles across Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
12. Anna Ruby Falls
Formed at the junction of Curtis Creek and York Creek, Anna Ruby Falls is a rare pair of gorgeous side-by-side waterfalls located near Helen GA.
The main hike to the falls begins at the Visitors Center and leads you to two wooden viewing platforms. Hardy hikers can also take the Smith Creek Trail from Unicoi State Park, which is around 8 miles round-trip.
The warm fall colors surround you as you take in the sight of water cascading down into Smith Creek, from which it eventually flows into the Chattahoochee River.
At just under a mile, this short round-trip hike is perfect if you’re looking for an easy way to experience the beautiful North Georgia fall colors, with the added perk of the stunning waterfalls!
13. Fort Mountain State Park
Widely regarded as one of the best state parks in North Georgia for breathtaking scenic views, Fort Mountain makes for an especially great visit when the fall colors begin to peak.
Before you even reach the park, you’ll see the beautiful changing colors of the mountain foliage as you take a scenic drive on Highway 52, entering the Cohutta Wilderness.
Once you’re in the park, there’s no shortage of beautiful scenery to be found. There are hardwood forests, streams, and historic buildings (such as the stone fire tower, which was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps).
With 25+ miles of hiking trails and 27 miles for mountain biking, this park is perfect for either a relaxing day trip to enjoy the changing colors of fall or an adventurous exploration of nature.
14. Slaughter Mountain
Located in Union County within the Chattahoochee National Forest, Slaughter Mountain is another great place to see the colors of fall in the North Georgia mountains.
With some of the state’s best hiking, experienced trekkers will not be disappointed by the wide variety of trails that explore different areas of the mountain.
To reach the jaw-dropping summit views, start by taking the Byron Reese Trail uphill along the Appalachian Trail to Blood Mountain.
The trail guides you through rocky forest and connects with the Duncan Ridge Trail. There, the forest opens to reveal gorgeous views of the colorful fall foliage covering the mountain landscape.
There and back, the hike is a total of 7.5 miles. But with the stellar views at the summit, it’s well worth it!
15. Unicoi State Park
The park encompasses 1029 acres, with a variety of hiking trails for exploring different areas of Unicoi. Hiking offers excellent adventures into the forest and changing mountain foliage.
But for great photos of the mesmerizing colorful views, be sure to stop at Unicoi Lake, the centerpiece of the park. It’s breathtaking in fall, when the backdrop of the colorful mountains and trees are reflected in the water.
The beach area by the lake is great for fishing, relaxing, and just soaking in the views. Boat and standup paddleboard rentals are available as well.
Make a memorable weekend of it by renting one of the retro-funky Unicoi Barrel Cabins.
16. Richard B Russell Scenic Highway
There are no roads in North Georgia as epic as the Blue Ridge Parkway. But the Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway between Blairsville and Helen offers a gorgeous mountain road trip on a much smaller scale.
Also known as Hwy 348, the impressively scenic route stretches 23 miles. But you can easily extend your road trip by continuing north to Hiawassee, or following the 40.6-mile Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Byway loop.
In our experience, there are enough cool things to do along the Richard B. Russell stretch to fill a full day (particularly if you like waterfalls). And the colors of autumn in Georgia make the drive especially pretty!
Start your morning fishing or hiking at Smithgall Woods State Park, then head north for easy trails at Dukes Creek Falls (2 miles round-trip), Helton Creek Falls (0.3 miles), and/or DeSoto Falls(1.9 miles). The 5-mile Raven Cliffs Falls trail is also along the way, but we personally prefer the other three hikes.
If jaw-dropping scenic vistas are more your speed, don’t miss the three roadside overlooks along Hwy 348. There are also numerous North Georgia wineries nearby.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Waterfalls Near Helen GA
17. Hogpen Gap
Of the three roadside overlooks where you can stop along the Richard B Russell Scenic Hwy to soak in the dramatic mountain landscape, Hogpen Gap deserves a special mention.
Located about 10 miles north of Smithgall Woods State Park in Helen, Hogpen Gap offers one of the most stunningly photogenic views in North Georgia.
With an elevation of 3,525 feet, the overlook is always an incredible place to check out the sunset, with Brasstown Bald, Chimneytop Mountain, Rattlesnake Mountain, and other peaks providing a dynamic backdrop.
But it’s especially attractive when the hills and valleys are cloaked in the rich colors of autumn.
The overlook is also located right along the Appalachian Trail, with a good-sized parking area and a few tables that are great for picnics.
18. Bell Mountain Park & Historic Site
Located right on the border with North Carolina, the town of Hiawassee GA offers more than 100 miles of shoreline on Lake Chatuge.
There’s no better way to see it than by visiting the 18-acre Bell Mountain Park & Historic Site, whose land was donated to Towns County by the Hal Herrin Estate.
The good news is that you can drive (rather than hike) up to the Bell Mountain Summit, where there’s plenty of parking and picture-perfect 360º views from the Hall Herrin Scenic Overlook.
The bad news is that the mountain itself has been covered in graffiti (some of it vulgar and racially insensitive) time and time again, despite the best efforts of volunteer clean-up crews.
19. Indian Seats
Located approximately 40 miles north of Atlanta in Cumming GA, the 3.2-mile Indian Seats Trail is part of a network of hiking trails in the Sawnee Mountain Preserve.
The trail’s name comes from the natural rock formation at the summit. According to local legend, Cherokee Indians would frequent this lofty perch before they were forcefully removed by the Treaty of New Echota.
As you hike, you’ll gain 479 feet of elevation and pass by abandoned gold mines and interpretive signs that offer an opportunity to learn more about the area’s history.
The breathtaking view from the top is splendid for most of the year, but it’s especially so when the fall colors reach their peak.
For more information, stop by the Sawnee Mountain Preserve Visitor Center to see some ancient Native American artifacts and learn about the flora and fauna you might see along the Indian Seats Trail.
READ MORE: 101+ Things to Do in North Georgia
20. Preacher’s Rock
Located 90 minutes north of Atlanta in the tiny town of Suches (which is also home to Sea Creek Falls), this 1.9-mile hiking trail is perfect for those seeking a bird’s-eye-view of fall in the mountains of North Georgia.
The relatively easy hike offers moderate elevation gain (around 440 feet), and its stunning sights make this one of the most popular stretches of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia.
Despite its short length, the Preacher’s Rock trail offers a surprising wealth of magnificent views, some of which you can see right as you reach the trailhead at Woody Gap!
Along the way, you’ll pass several stunning overlooks before reaching Preacher’s Rock, a dramatic rock outcrop that offers sensational views near the summit of Big Cedar Mountain.
On clear days, you can even see Dockery Lake down in the valley below! –by Christina Maggitas, with additional reporting by Bret Love; lead photo of Brasstown Bald via Canva