When the heat of summer begins to cool and the usual routine creeps back into daily life, fall and its gifts take center stage as the catalyst that propel the next experience. The vibrant hues that are possible in the mountains of North Georgia awaken senses to nature’s dramatic story, and it is so difficult to resist. Something as simple as a road trip north to the mountains—inhaling the wafting wood fires, detouring along back roads, sipping fresh apple cider—refreshes the soul.
Take a weekend off and spend it in awe of the colors of fall. Here are five of our favorite locations where the views will take your breath away.
1) Tallulah Gorge State Park
Thousands of acres rise from the one of the most dramatic canyons in the east clothed in fall color. Located on the line between Rabun and Habersham counties, Tallulah Gorge State Park surrounds 1,000-foot-deep Tallulah Gorge, where a river flows along its floor. As part of the Georgia State Park system, the park allows 100 people on the gorge floor each day; permits are free but required.
To witness the differing shades, hike the rim of gorge for exquisite views and then descend to the floor, cross a suspension bridge, and feel the mist of Hurricane Falls waterfall.
For more information or to obtain a permit, visit gastateparks.org/tallulahgorge.
2) Cloudland Canyon State Park
On the western side of Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga, Cloudland Canyon State Park decorates with canyons and cliffs, caves, waterfalls, and hiking trails that deposit travelers in the midst of dark and light hues. With lots of recreational activities available—plus campsites, cottages and yurts—a weekend simply isn’t enough time to wander in the forest.
Get close to the colors by hiking the canyon’s eastern and western rim, and then descend into the steep canyons with perspectives of waterfalls and its colorful palate. Colors usually peak early in the season.
For more information, visit gastateparks.org/cloudlandcanyon.
3) Brasstown Bald
The highest point in Georgia, Brasstown Bald rises 4,784 feet and is located between Blairsville and Hiawassee in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. Pastoral picnic areas set the stage for leaf peeping on top of the Bald, as locals call it, while three trail-heads run from the parking area for hiking. Take the shuttle to the summit and take in views of Georgia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina—and, on a clear day, possibly even the skyline of Atlanta. From the visitor’s center, many take the 1.4-mile round-trip paved walk to the summit. Considered moderately challenging, this walk is heralded for its birding.
The Brasstown Bald Visitor Center is open daily. The last shuttle to the summit leaves at 4:30 p.m. A day-use charge of $8 includes the shuttle service.
4) Richard Russell Scenic Highway
Join the bikers, the Corvettes, the Minis, and the Jeeps along one of the most beautiful drives in the mountains, Richard Russell Scenic Highway. The winding curves run through the Chattahoochee National Forest from Helen to Blairsville. Dotted with numerous waterfalls, as well as the crossing of the Appalachian Trail, the route is only about 23 miles but a must-see during the fall. There are pull-offs to park and get lost in the views.
Close by is Blood Mountain as well as Vogel State Park.
5) Black Rock Mountain State Park
As Georgia’s highest state park at 3,640 feet, Black Rock Mountain State Park rises within the vast Blue Ridge Mountains and provides an 80-mile view. Visit the visitor’s center then exit to the left for a walk on the rocks that leads to an edge right alongside the mountain range. A picnic area at the top lends for an ideal afternoon of grilling burgers and colorful landscapes.
Further up the mountain parkway, cozy cabins and campsites allow for a weekend of inspiring views and memorable experiences. Reserve well in advance of the fall season.
6) Gibbs Gardens in Ball Ground
Searching for the picture-perfect spot to stroll through a visual symphony of fall color, that more resembles a heavenly Monet painting than mere mortal trees, then a visit to Gibbs Gardens in Ball Ground is in order. Trust us, no one ever leaves here disappointed in the majesty of Mother Nature. In Mid-October through Mid-November, the Japanese Color Fest will boast more that 3000 Japanese maples and 200 varieties in the garden to create a dizzying array fall foliage to make a garden fairy swoon. Garden guests will definitely not want to miss the Fall Wildflower Meadow that springs to life. Millions of Sulphur Cosmos burst to life in colors of yellow, gold, burgundy, white, pink and violet that cover the meadow like the blanket of a queen. Bring a picnic, because you are going to want to linger a while at Gibbs Gardens this fall.