Fall in the Mountains of North Georgia (Where to See the Best Fall Colors)

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[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

  1. Brasstown Bald
  2. Rabun Bald
  3. Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area
  4. Vogel State Park
  5. Tallulah Gorge Waterfalls
  6. Cloudland Canyon Waterfalls
  7. Red Top Mountain State Park
  8. Blue Ridge Scenic Railway
  9. Amicalola Falls State Park & Lodge
  10. Yonah Mountain
  11. Black Rock Mountain State Park
  12. Anna Ruby Falls
  13. Fort Mountain State Park
  14. Slaughter Mountain
  15. Unicoi State Park
  16. Richard B Russell Scenic Highway
  17. Hogpen Gap
  18. Bell Mountain
  19. Indian Seats 
  20. Preacher’s Rock
Fall colors in Georgia at Brasstown Bald
Fall colors at Brasstown Bald, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

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.

READ MORE: The 15 Best North Georgia Mountains for Hiking

“View from Rabun Bald” by Martin Bravenboer is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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!

READ MORE: The 25 Best Hiking Trails in North Georgia Bucket List

Sope Creek, photo by www78 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

3. Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area

The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area stretches along a series of 15 different sites between Atlanta and Lake Sidney Lanier on the Chattahoochee River.

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!

READ MORE: How to Get to Horsetrough Falls & the Upper Chattahoochee River Campground

Lake Trahylta in Vogel State Park, North Georgia
Blairsville’s Vogel State Park, photo by Rachael Seeley

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 GA 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 Restaurants in Blairsville GA for Foodies

Tallulah Gorge State Park, North Georgia Mountains
Tallulah Gorge State Park, photo via GAStateparks.org

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!

READ MORE: The 15 Best North Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites

Cloudland Canyon State Park - North Georgia
Cloudland Canyon Scenic Overlook

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!

Located in Cloudland Canyon State Park (about 35 miles north of Summerville GA), the two falls can be seen from the popular 2.1-mile Cloudland Canyon Waterfalls Trail.

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.

READ MORE: The Top 15 North Georgia Waterfalls (& How to Get to Them)

Sunset on Lake Allatoona near Red Top Mountain State Park
Sunset on Lake Allatoona near Red Top, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

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.

READ MORE:The 15 Best Lakes in the North Georgia Mountains

Blue Ridge Scenic Railway in Blue Ridge GA
Blue Ridge Scenic Railway photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

8. Blue Ridge Scenic Railway

For a truly spectacular way to experience the Blue Ridge Mountains in fall, take a ride through the Appalachian foothills of North Georgia on the 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

“Amicalola Falls” by gentleolas is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Blue Ridge Georgia Cabins to Rent

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

Sunrise at Black Rock Mountain State Park, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

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.

READ MORE: Things to Do in Black Rock Mountain State Park Near Clayton GA

Curtis Creek and York Creek, the twin falls of Anna Ruby Falls, GA
Anna Ruby Falls, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

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 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!

READ MORE: The 10 Best Restaurants in Helen GA for Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

“Fort Mountain State Park” by rctfan2 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

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.

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

Slaughter Mountain Viewed from Lake Winfield Scott is licensed by CC0 1.0

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!

READ MORE: The 20 Best Pumpkin Patches in North Georgia to Visit

Unicoi State Park in Fall, photo by mckeaton is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

15. Unicoi State Park

Located close to charming small towns such as Helen, Hiawassee, and Dahlonega GA, Unicoi State Park is a truly wonderful place to experience autumn in Georgia.

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.

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

Richard B Russell Scenic Hwy near Helen Ga
Richard B Russell Scenic Hwy, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

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

Sunset at Hogpen Gap in Helen GA
Sunset at Hogpen Gap, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

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.

READ MORE: The 25 Best Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks in NC & VA

View of Lake Chatuge from Bell Mountain in Hiawassee GA
Bell Mountain, photo by Eric Champlin courtesy of Visit Towns County

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. 

So go for the breathtaking autumn scenery of one of the most beautiful lakes in North Georgia. But please act responsibly and practice the Leave No Trace principles while you’re there! 

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

Indian Seats atop Sawnee Mountain in Cumming GA
Indian Seats, photo by Grant Frederikson of Chatterstone Photography

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 Appalachian Folklore, 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

Preacher's Rock in Cleveland GA
Preacher’s Rock, photo by Keith Smith via Pixels.com

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

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!

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.

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