Bell Mountain County Park and Historical Site
The 18-acre summit of Bell Mountain originally belonged to the Cherokee Indians but for the last 183 years has been in private ownership. In 2013 the summit was given to Towns County by the Hal Herrin Estate (most recent owner) for everyone to enjoy. Bell Mountain now hosts a paved road to a parking area where a breathtaking view of Lake Chatuge, Towns County and the surrounding area can be seen. From the parking area a stairway of 115 steps leads to an observation deck where a less obstructed view can be gained and if you’re lucky you may be able to see the eagles that nest nearby. The mountain has been used for years as a hang out location by local college and high school students and most of the rocks in and around the parking area boast historical graffiti and is part of the mountain’s colorful history. Paragliders can also be found on Bell Mountain when the weather is just right! Bell Mountain is located in Hiawassee, just a few minutes from downtown.
There so many ways to enjoy this gorgeous mountain lake which is shared by both Georgia and North Carolina. With its 128 miles of shoreline it is not the largest lake in the state but it is by far one of the prettiest. Fishing is outstanding on Lake Chatuge which has been host to several large tournaments including the BASSmasters Elite Series Angler of the Year Tournament. Because of its attraction for residents and visitors, boating is also a favorite spring, summer and fall pastime. Aqua Tiki, a fleet of pontoons resembling a floating tiki hut offers boating trips for groups and parties and is outfitted with a bar and grill area. Splash Island, an exciting new addition to Lake Chatuge, is an inflatable playground for kids of all ages and is located directly in front of The Ridges Resort on Lake Chatuge. And, for anyone who wishes to boat without a motor… stand-up paddleboards and kayaks can be rented from several local boat rental businesses. If visiting with children, make sure to visit the Towns County Recreation Beach on Lake Chatuge for a safe swimming area open throughout the summer.
High Shoals Falls
This double waterfall located within the Chattahoochee National Forest is one of the most photographed in northeast Georgia. The trail leading to the waterfalls is a 1.2-mile hike in (2.4-mile round-trip) through lush, green forest and is considered to be a moderate hike. The first waterfall reached is Blue Hole Falls which is approximately 20 feet high. The waterfall gets its name from the dark blue pool of water found at the base of the waterfall. Visitors can observe from a sturdy wooden deck before traveling to the next, larger waterfall, High Shoals Falls, which also has an observation deck overlooking a large pool of water. High Shoals is approximately 50 feet high. Please note that it is dangerous to climb on, swim under, stand on or jump from any waterfall. And, hiking with your dog is permitted in the Chattahoochee National Forest as long as your dog is leashed.
Brasstown Bald Mountain
With an elevation of 4,784 feet, Brasstown Bald is the highest mountain in Georgia. The Brasstown Bald Visitor Center Complex located atop the mountain attracts over 100,000 visitors a year. The 360-degree observation deck offers breathtaking mountain views across four states. On a clear day in fall and winter, it is even possible to see the Atlanta skyline. Brasstown Bald Mountain is easily accessed by a paved road leading to a large parking area. From there, visitors can climb .5 mile to the Visitor Center or take a shuttle to the top. There are also four trails of varying difficulty that can be used to reach the main parking area. Activities available on Brasstown Bald are picnicking, hiking, education programs, museum, kids’ activities and a Mountain Top Theatre. During the summer months special programs are available to the public on topics from Stargazing to Rattlesnakes of Appalachia.
Hamilton Gardens at Lake Chatuge
Home to the largest collection of rhododendrons and native azaleas in the Southeastern United States. The Gardens encompass approximately 33 acres and include 1.5 miles of easy-to-walk mulched trails. In 1981 Hazel and Fred Hamilton gifted their personal collection of rhododendrons and native azaleas to Towns County and created this Legacy Garden. A profusion of wildflowers appears each spring and enhance the beauty of this botanical paradise. Hamilton Gardens is easily accessed through the main gates of the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds and provides a spectacular view of Lake Chatuge from the northern end of the hiking trail. A festival to celebrate the blooming season is held each April through May and is fittingly called A Bloomin’ Affair. Entrance to the gardens is on the honor system and is a very reasonable $2/person or $5/family. All profits are used to restore, preserve and enhance this beautiful treasure. g