North Georgia Fall Foliage
One of the best places to see vivid and colorful fall foliage is in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Georgia. Blue Ridge, Georgia, located in Fannin County, is a popular tourist destination just 90 miles north of Atlanta. The area is home to Lake Blue Ridge, Toccoa River, and the Blue Ridge foothills and offers breathtaking views from overlooks, hiking trails, scenic byways. With shades of red and orange, bright yellow, auburn, and everything in between, Blue Ridge provides one of the longest lasting seasons for seeing fall foliage in the world. Due to the varied elevations, the season lasts for over a month attracting tens of thousands of visitors to the area. The best time to go is usually between mid-October and early November, although it varies from year to year. With scenic drives, visits to state parks, mountain hikes, and a train ride to choose from, here are some of the many ways to see and enjoy the breathtaking and colorful views of fall foliage near Blue Ridge.
Cloudland Canyon State Park
Located in Northwest Georgia on the western side of Lookout Mountain, Cloudland Canyon State Park is an excellent place to see the changing colors of autumn. The park’s 1000-foot canyons and overlooks provide excellent views of the foliage. Sitton’s Gulch Creek Trail runs along the creek and Waterfalls Trail has stairs that take you down into the canyon for an added adventure.
Blue Ridge Scenic Railway
To see the fall leaves by train, you can take a ride on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. Beginning at the historic 100-year old depot, the train ride lasts 4 hours round trip traveling 26 miles along the Toccoa River. As you relax on the train, you will enjoy great views of fall foliage from the enclosed train or from an open-air rail car.
Vogel State Park
Built in 1931 during the Depression era, Vogel State Park is one of the first two state parks in Georgia. Spanning 223 acres at the base of Blood Mountain in Chattahoochee National Forest and near Brasstown Bald, Georgia’s highest peak, this park is rich in history. Home of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Museum, this park is a popular destination for viewing the fall foliage from one of its many hiking trails.
At 4784 feet above sea level, Brasstown Bald is Georgia’s tallest mountain. Its observation deck at the top provides a 360-degree panoramic view of the area. From the deck, you can see Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and South Carolina. This is an excellent place for viewing the colorful rolling hillside and mountain scenery during the changing seasons.
Red Top Mountain State Park
Located on the 12,000-acre Lake Allatoona, Red Top Mountain State Park is a great place for swimming, fishing, and hiking. Once an important mining area and battlefield, today the Park offers 15-miles of hiking trails where the changing colors of fall foliage can be seen and photographed.
Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Byway
This 38-mile byway runs along the height of the mountains. You will begin in the Chattahoochee National Forest, where you can stop at overlooks to see the Georgia lowlands and Dukes Creek Falls. After that, you will arrive at Raven Cliffs Wilderness. From there you will continue through the Chattahoochee National Forest, cross the Appalachian Trial, and descend the mountain. Along the way, you can stop for hikes and indulge in excellent views of fall foliage.
Ridge and Valley Scenic Byway
If you are looking for a scenic drive that features mountain overlooks, fertile farmlands, and rich history, this is the drive for you. This 51-mile byway combines state highways and rural roads giving a taste of the diverse terrain of northwest Georgia. Along the way, you can stop and hike the Johns Mountain loop trail to relish the sweeping bird’s eye views of fall colors from the overlook.
Cohutta Wilderness Trailheads – Jacks River Falls or Jacks River Trail
Located deep in North Georgia’s mountains, these rugged wilderness trails are ideal for backpackers and hikers looking for stunning views of autumn colors. Spanning 36,000 acres, this is the largest wilderness area east of the Mississippi. 70 species of fish can be found in the two rivers, the Conasauga and the Jacks River, that run through the wilderness.
Benton MacKaye Trail – Fall Branch Falls, Swinging Bridge, Long Creek Falls or Aska Trails area
This trail, named for Benton MacKaye, the forester/planner who proposed the Appalachian Trail, follows the western crest of the Appalachian Mountains. This trail is difficult due to its vastly changing terrain, but the incredible views of the area's fall foliage will make it worth the effort.
Appalachian Trail – Three Forks, Springer Mountain or Amicolola Falls & Trails
The Appalachian Trail runs through Georgia for 79 miles, beginning at Springer Mountain. The rugged and rocky trail follows along the eastern ridge of the Appalachian Mountain and is accessible by foot from Amicolola State Park. Stunning views of fall foliage can be seen from the peaks of Springer Mountain, Blood Mountain, and Cowrock Mountain, and at many other points on the trail. Whether you decide to visit a state park, try a hike, take a scenic drive, or check out the scenic railway, be sure to bring your camera so you will have a record of your trip to look back on. You should also remember to bring warm clothes, as the autumn nights will be cool and crisp, and to book early so you will have your choice of vacation rentals. Check out Georgia State Parks Leaf Watch to find out when the colors will be at their peak, as this varies from year-to-year. With so many places to choose from to see fall foliage near Blue Ridge, you might find yourself coming back next year for more.