Fall Escape to Blue Ridge, Georgia
Just 90 minutes north of Atlanta, Blue Ridge is the go-to destination for adventurous outings, brewery tastings, window shopping and outdoor firepit gatherings. Offering several major trail systems, including access to the Appalachian Trail extending for more than 2,000 miles to Maine, 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 more than 300 miles, then wind down with sudsy sips at local breweries and tasting rooms before cooling off with excursions to nearby waterfalls. Top off the day with seasonal Blue Ridge eats, including a sweet ending from the winners of “Cupcake Wars.”
TAKE A HIKE
Three Forks to Long Creek Falls – The hike to Long Creek Falls (pictured) 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 2-mile round-trip hike following Long Creek to a beautiful cascading waterfall with two drops totaling 50 feet.
Swinging Bridge Trail – Another awesome excursion requires rambling the Benton MacKaye Trail south from Hwy. 60 for 3 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.
Aska Trails – This is a popular 17-mile trail system near Blue Ridge, with hikes that intersect and loop ranging from 1- to 5.5-miles.
Blue Ridge Brewery – Try the Blue Ridge Blood, along with other handcrafted suds like the Hiawassee Golden Ale, Sandy Bottom and Toccoa Brown. Pair sips with upscale eats like shrimp mac and cheese and catch live entertainment on the weekends without ever worrying about a cover charge.
Grumpy Old Men Brewing – At Blue Ridge’s premier nanobrewery, co-owners Jim McKnight and Steve Weber, fraternity brothers at Georgia Tech in the ’70s, embody their business name and tout the motto: “If we don’t like it, we don’t drink it. If we don’t drink it, we don’t sell it.” Signature brews include Aska Pale Ale, Moon over Blue Ridge Wheat Ale and the soon-to-be- released Hell’s Holler Porter.
Mercier Orchards Tasting Room – A popular u-pick produce destination (pictured above) now featuring a tasting room offering hard ciders and wines, including locally-produced varieties.
Serenberry Vineyard – Spend an afternoon savoring a glass of vino in this Morganton winery, where you can experience the simple pleasures of the North Georgia Mountains. Opened in 2012 by husband and wife team Mark and Janice Jernigan, wines are produced using grapes born and raised in Georgia. The owners claim that Serenberry is the special ingredient you’ll find in each bottle.
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.
Long Creek Falls – The most popular of the waterfalls in Fannin County 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, and a leisurely 30 minute hike to the falls is uphill on the way in, 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.
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. A strenuous, 8.5-mile approach trail leads from the park to Springer Mountain, the start of the Appalachian Trail.
GO TO TOWN
Black Sheep – Serving Southern comfort food in a historic residence (pictured above) once visited by Margaret Mitchell, you’ll find items like a Meatloaf Dinner, Crab Cakes with Remoulade Sauce and Peanut Butter-Banana Pie on the seasonal menu.
Blue Ridge Grocery – Offering a from-scratch bakery, deli and café, coffee bar and menu for takeaway meals, this is the sister restaurant of well known Harvest on Main.
GawdyBobbles – Artist Lynn Kemp started out making spirit bracelets for her kids’ high school and has since moved on to accessorizing models in Sports Illustrated‘s Swimsuit Edition. With more than 30 colors, Kemp’s designs range from classic bangles to seasonal creations including necklaces and earrings. (Her shop is pictured above.)
Oyster Fly Rods – Owners Bill and Shannen Oyster sell handcrafted bamboo fly rods, including those used by some of the world’s finest anglers like President Jimmy Carter. They also own and operate the Cast and Blast Inn on Main Street downtown, where they host visitors attending Bill’s fly rod classes.
Blue Ridge Olive Oil Company – Treat yourself to a gourmet selection of more than 65 varieties of olive oil and balsamic vinegars – from roasted walnut to blood orange infused oil.
High Country Art and Antiques – Peruse this gallery for traditional and impressionist fine art, folk art, photography, pottery, jewelry, sculptures, antiques and collectibles.
The Sweet Shoppe – Owners Nikki Gribble and Susan Catron (pictured) offer a taste of their winning creations from the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars.”
If you make a weekend of it, find places to stay, including cabins, bed and breakfasts, lodges and more here.
Photo Credits: Featured photo by Chris Hefferin; Long Creek Falls, Mercier Orchards, Black Sheep, GawdyBobbles and Sweet Shoppe owners Nikki Gribble and Susan Catron courtesy of the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce.
Thanks to Laurie Rowe Communications for providing this fall escape.