From waterfalls to wine, get away from it all in the North Georgia Mountains
For the ultimate adults-only weekend getaway, Blue Ridge, Georgia, about 90 minutes north of Atlanta, is the go-to destination for savoring football Saturdays with friends, adventurous outings, brewery tastings and outdoor fire pit gatherings. Offering several major trail systems, including access to the Appalachian Trail which extends for more than 2,000 miles to Maine through many of the states on the Eastern Seaboard, this is a hiker’s paradise where nature sets the scene for good times. Pursue these paths for outdoor explorations on one of the many trails in a system of over 300 miles, including short trails suitable for beginning hikers. Then wind down with sudsy sips at local breweries and tasting rooms before continuing the adventure, cooling off with excursions to nearby waterfalls. Top off the day with unbeatable Blue Ridge eats, including the nation’s #1 barbecue restaurant.
Take a hike
- Three Forks to Long Creek Falls–The hike to Long Creek Falls is a great way to experience the Appalachian Trail. This adventure includes a scenic 5.3-mile drive into the forest following Noontootla Creek to the Three Forks area where you will begin your two-mile round-trip hike following Long Creek to a beautiful cascading waterfall with two drops totaling 50 feet. Take a picnic to enjoy at the falls.
- Swinging Bridge Trail–Another awesome excursion requires rambling the Benton MacKaye Trail south from Hwy 60 for three miles to be rewarded with sweeping views of the pristine Toccoa River flowing beneath a structure known simply as the “Swinging Bridge.” The longest suspension bridge east of the Mississippi, the passage was built by the USDA Forest Service and the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club in the mid-1970s.
- Hike to the Appalachian Trail terminus–One of the greatest outdoor adventures in the world, the Appalachian Trail, begins in Fannin County at the top of Springer Mountain.
- Aska Trails–This is a popular 17-mile trail system near Blue Ridge, with hikes that intersect and loop ranging from one- to 5.5-miles.
- Benton MacKaye Trail to Fall Branch Falls–A short distance away and part of the larger Benton MacKaye Trail, Fall Branch Falls is a double waterfall with mountain laurel and rhododendron growing along the trail and creek bank. The hike to the falls is about 30 minutes round-trip.
- Angry Hops Brewing was created by two guys who have a love for craft beer. One day they decided to take the leap and start their own brewery in Blue Ridge. Once they started working together everything just clicked. They have a love for the traditional styles of beer, but also push the envelope on popular styles like IPAs, stouts, and sours, so they are positive they will have a beer for every taste. 341 East Main Street; www.facebook.com/AngryHopsBrewing
- Embracing the copper mining heritage, the motto of Copperhill Brewery is “Craft Beer You’ll Dig!” Located just a few steps over the “Blue Line” in McCaysville, their passion is brewing high-quality, diverse and exceptional tasting craft beer. Brewing craft beer is an art form and their goal is to brew an exceptional selection of craft beers that will set Copperhill Brewery apart. The taproom is both a local hangout and a much-loved establishment. 105 Ocoee Street Copperhill, Tennessee; www.facebook.com/CopperhillBrewery
- Grumpy Old Men Brewing, Blue Ridge’s premier nano brewery, was founded in 2013 and strives to bring people together over a delicious beer and a unique community. With 24 taps, novices and experts can find plenty to enjoy, including flagships like Choco Blanco White Chocolate Wheat Ale, Scentsation Double IPA, Hell’s Holler Porter, as well as seasonal rotations. 1315 East Main Street; www.facebook.com/GrumpyOldMenBrewing
- Fannin Brewing Company sums up just about all you need to know: Fresh Air, Fresh Water, Fresh Beer. Being local is also important to Fannin Brewing; it’s in the name of their beers. Hiawassee Golden Ale, Toccoa Brown and Chief Whitepath White IPA, along with several specialty and seasonal beers. Owner Tom Fennell spent time in German biergartens, sampling a host of German beer styles, and was bitten by the craft beer bug in 2012, when he brought his brewing skills to Fannin County. 3758 East 1st Street; www.facebook.com/FanninBrewingCompany
- Mercier Orchards is one of the South’s largest orchards and a family farm for 65 years. Buy just-picked fruit, local vegetables and baked goods, visit the tasting room and sample Georgia’s first hard cider and fruity wines like strawberry, blueberry, blackberry and apple. 8660 Blue Ridge Drive; www.facebook.com/pages/Mercier-Orchards/108441886766
- Spend a relaxing afternoon savoring a glass of vino at Serenberry Vineyards in Morganton to experience the simple and serene pleasures of the North Georgia Mountains. Opened in 2012 by Mark and Janice Jernigan, wines are produced using Georgia-born and raised grapes, a process that’s not only good for the environment but also supports local farmers. Visit the 1920s Tasting Barn and sample a variety of sweet, dry and hearty wines. 450 Tipton Trail, Morganton; www.facebook.com/search/top?q=serenberry%20vineyards
- Bear Claw Vineyards & Winery is known for breathtaking mountain views, pristine bubbling springs, amazing fishing and wildlife and unique and romantic treehouse accommodations. Its vineyards are densely planted, which is rarer to see, producing less grapes but better wine. Live music on Friday, Saturday and Sunday along with a food truck. 2281 Tennis Court Road; www.facebook.com/BearClawWine
- Insider Tips: View or download the Blue Ridge Brews Winery and Tastings Trail map to find more than 18 locations. Book a winery tour with Mountain Transportation for the ultimate date. (706) 851-9465
- Fall Branch Falls–The upper portion of Fall Branch Falls is a series of cascades that lead to a single major drop of some 30 feet, with the water plunging into a deep pool at the base of the falls. These falls, along the Benton MacKaye Trail, west of Aska Road, are a shorter, although a bit harder walk than Long Creek Falls.
- Long Creek Falls–The most popular of the waterfalls in Fannin County is Long Creek Falls, which can be seen by hiking down a short side trail from the combined Appalachian/Benton MacKaye Trail. These falls total about 50 feet in two distinct drops. A leisurely 30-minute hike to the falls is uphill on the way in, and downhill on the way out.
- Sea Creek Falls–Located in the Cooper Creek Scenic Area, Sea Creek Falls are an easy walk of less than .1 mile. The first, or upper falls are a series of steep cascades ending in a brief drop. The second falls are also a series of steep cascades. When the water flow is heavy either in late winter or spring, or after a summer rain, these are a remarkable sight.
- Amicalola Falls–About 21 miles from Ellijay on Hwy 52 is a spectacular 729-foot falls, the tallest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River. Also, a strenuous 8.5-mile approach trail leads from the park to Springer Mountain, the start of the famous Appalachian Trail.
Satisfy hunger pangs
- It’s possible to have fresh, sustainable seafood far from the coast at Whiskey & Water – Seafood and Bourbon Bar. Choose from oysters, clams, mussels, lobster and saltwater fish in on-point appetizers and entrees, with delicious options for those who don’t love or can’t eat seafood. 187 Depot Street; www.facebook.com/whiskeywaterBR
- Black Sheep features a locally sourced, chef-inspired New Americana menu and a Wine Spectator-recognized wine list in a historic home shaded by a 200-year-old oak. Favorites include Fried Calamari, Cold Water Oysters, Ribeye and Lamb Lollipop Chops, as well as desserts and cocktails featuring house-produced moonshine. 480 West Main Street; www.facebook.com/pages/Black-Sheep-Restaurant-Bar-Patio/293729370780405?ref=hl
- Nearby, The Dogwood delights with 150 outside seats, a huge hand-painted mural and 100+-year-old trees—a completely unique dining and drinks experience that is ideal for soaking in the beautiful Georgia weather and amazing live music. 520 West Main Street; www.facebook.com/The-Dogwood-103403064852369
- Chester Brunnenmeyer’s Bar and Grill is a seasoned pro when it comes to drawing groups in for a great time. The rustic American bar and grill feature Southeastern-inspired food, departures from the ordinary, seasonally inspired selections, an extensive wine list, signature cocktails, and regionally crafted beer. 733 East Main Street, www.facebook.com/chesterbrunnenmeyers
For a complete list of dining options including desserteries, visit https://www.blueridgemountains.com/restaurants/
If you go
Whether you need a cozy getaway for two or a group of 40 there is a perfect cabin, luxury vacation home, hotel or bed and breakfast waiting for you in Blue Ridge. Choices include lodging with stunning mountain views, creekside retreats, riverfront fishing lodges, cabins on the lake, quaint bed and breakfasts, rustic or luxury cabin rentals, resorts, hotels and campgrounds. Peruse them all at https://www.blueridgemountains.com/where-to-stay/ or contact the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce,www.BlueRidgeMountains.com, 1-800-899-MTNS.