Family adventure, natural enchantment, lush green forests, sparkling rivers, thundering waterfalls, and blue mountains awaits visitors here in the Northeast Georgia mountains. Visitors can connect with nature with the 1,000’s of acres of forest land, mostly in the Chattahoochee National Forest and numerous state parks found throughout the area. Here in The East Georgia Mountains there is no shortage of the spectacular sight of waterfalls, where some are big and bold, others are more delicate; however, only a few can be viewed from the highway with most falls requiring some degree of a short walk or a hike deep into the forest.
Diverse trails, 829 acres of pristine wilderness and wildlife, and the tallest cascading water fall in the Southeast makes Amicalola Falls State Park one of Georgia’s most popular parks and a true wonderland for the nature lover. There are several choices for visitors to best view the tumbling waters from an accessible walkway to view the falls from afar, a short drive to the overlook parking lot, to a challenging trail with staircases. Starting at the visitor center a short distance from the base of the falls are two trails, the East Ridge and West Ridge Trails where both end at the Amicalola Falls overlook and can be combined to make an incredible challenging loop.
The 1.1-mile East Ridge Trail starts behind the visitor center where it traverses through the woods on a rugged trail of roots and boulders gaining 800-feet in elevation in its quest to reach the summit of the falls. Near the top are several overlooks where the views of the valley and surrounding mountains are beyond spectacular. Descending down the West Ridge Trail leads one down through the gorge with spectacular views of the cascading falls. The trail starts on a staircase where 425 steeps leads to an asphalt walkway on the cliffs edge to a bridge which crosses over the gorge, providing dazzling views of the cascading water. The staircase continues down for another 175 steps with some impressive views of the cascading water tumbling its way deeper into the gorge. Near the base of Amicalola Falls the trail returns to asphalt passing by the reflection pond where it gives way to a more rugged trail ending at the parking lot in front of the visitor center.
Vogel State Park, the second oldest state park in Georgia sits at the base of Blood Mountain, which has the highest summit on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia and is surrounded by the Chattahoochee National Forest. This park has a rich history where many of the facilities were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression and the surrounding mountains were linked to Native American people before European settlement. The park’s popularity comes from the range of accommodations and outdoor activities including a 22-acre lake and a variety of trails from which to choose.
The best hike for the thrill seeker is the rugged 4.1-mile partial loop Bear Hair Gap Trail that winds its way up and over the lower ridges of Blood Mountain gaining over 1,000- feet in elevation. As the trail traverses through the woods, the only sounds to be heard is the rushing waters from the mountain streams and the sight of the many colors of fall leaves falling to the forest floor are unbelievable. At the summit of the trail, a short winding side trail leads to the outer edge where the view of the valley and Trahlyta Lake is pure breath taking. For a short leisurely walk, the 1-mile loop Trahlyta Lake Trail winds its way along the wooded banks of the parks 22-acre lake. Crossing the earthen dam provides a photographic opportunity of Blood and Slaughter Mountains which provide a spectacular back drop to the lake.
Right in the heart of the Chattahoochee National Forest near Helen Georgia lies a short half-mile path that leads to Anna Ruby Falls, a rare double waterfall flowing over a towering rugged cliff face below the summit of Tray Mountain. The sights and sounds of the twin falls spilling in wispy white tendrils and splashing over mossy boulders are beyond spectacular. The falls are created from two creeks, with Curtis Creek on the left tumbling over 150-feet into the boulder filled basin and York Creek spills 50-feet merging the creeks to form Smith Creek. Although the falls are the main attraction, the short hike is one to be noticed. Along the left side of the trail are angled rock outcrops where the sounds of the tumbling creek fill the forest on the right side. Just a short distance from the trailhead, the trail traverses over a bridge creating an opportunity for an up-close view of the creeks tumbling waters over boulders creating multiple tiers of small cascading waterfalls.
Covering only 2.1 square miles and the state’s third most visited city, Helen Georgia is well known for its Bavarian-style buildings providing a glimpse of Germany right here in Georgia. Although Helen is a small town, its Blue Ridge Mountain setting, Alpine charm, cobblestone walkways, and natural beauty draws visitors from all over the country.
Tallulah Falls is home to the 2-mile long and nearly 1,000-feet-deep gorge, where the Tallulah River has carved out a geologic formation with five waterfalls, creating one of the most spectacular canyons in the Eastern U.S. At the Tallulah Gorge State Park visitors can hike rim trails to overlooks displaying this spectacular landscape. The North and South rim trails are.75-miles each one way with modest elevation gains and a few stairs with five overlooks on each trail. For the thrill seekers, one can descend from the North rim down 310 steps into the gorge where a swaying suspension bridge crosses the gorge 80-feet above the rocky bottom with some spectacular views of the river and a waterfall. A staircase with 347 steps leads back up to the South rim.
Operated by the National Forest Service, Minnehaha Falls is considered to be the most spectacular waterfall in Rabun County. However, the drive to get there can be a little heart pounding., for eight miles the narrow two-lane highway with hair pin curves winds its way along the banks of Rabun Lake before crossing a bridge where the last two miles is a one lane dirt path which hugs the cliff wall overlooking the lake. Reaching the falls from the trail head is a short.2-mile hike up a short set of stairs before turning into the forest along the steep sided cliff wall. The trail ends in a wide, steep sided cove packed with rhododendron where the falls drops 60-feet widening quickly as it cascades over the boulders in 3 to 5-foot increments landing in a pool of boulders where a peninsular jutting out into the creek bed allows for one to actually stand right next to the base of the falls.
Just South of Hiawassee is the highest point in Georgia, Brasstown Bald Mountain, where the visitor center sits on the summit at 4,784 feet above sea level. The visitor center is a unique circular building housing an 8,000 sq. foot museum with a circular observation deck above it providing stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. To reach the summit from the parking lot, visitors have two options, a shuttle bus which runs throughout the day or the.6-mile hike through the forest on a paved trail gaining 358-feet in elevation.
Along the Eastern Continental Divide where mountain top vistas reaching altitudes of 3,640 feet overlook the pristine Appalachian Forest is Georgia’s highest state park, Black Rock Mountain State Park. The roadside overlooks showcase some outstanding scenery in Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains with vistas up to 80-miles. The park’s hiking trails rated easy to difficult, leads hikers’ past wildflowers, small waterfalls, streams, and lush forest.
The ever so popular Tennessee Rock Trails rugged 2.2-mile loop traverses through the lush Black Mountain forest gaining over 600-feet in elevation in its quest to reach the mountains peak. Reaching the narrow summit covered with huge rock outcrops provides some stunning views of the mountain ranges in the distance and the valleys in-between. The difficult ADA Hi Falls Trail is a delightful walk through a moist cove where the trail features mature hardwoods, rhododendron, ferns, and lichen-covered rocks. The trails last quarter mile descends down the cliff wall 190-feet ending at an observation platform at the base of a small cascading waterfall.
Donated to Towns County in Hiawassee, the 18-acre Bell Mountain Summit is now known as the Hal Herrin Scenic Overlook. The 2.3-mile paved road takes one right to the top with the last mile being very steep and, in most places, just wide enough for one vehicle. They are two parking lots to accommodate visitors, the lower lot for the weak at heart and the summit lot which is 300-feet higher up an extremely steep grade which is a challenge to even walk. The overlook sits at the top of a 100-step staircase at an elevation of 3,424 feet offering 360-degree views. Bell Mountain provides one of the prettiest views in Georgia of the rolling North Georgia Appalachian Mountains with Lake Chatuge sprawling far into the distance along the valley floor. For the nature lover, this mountain summit may be the saddest one you’ll ever see, to see such a beautiful place with all the childish scribblings of graffiti is heart breaking. Today signs warn visitors of cameras overlooking the summit and in time, nature will heal these scars.
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