The Farmer’s Almanac is North America’s most popular annual weather reference guide. Time -tested and generations approved they claim an -85% accuracy rate. This year the Almanac predicts the peak fall foliage in the higher elevations of Georgia will be between Oct. 19 and Nov. 14.
In Georgia the most striking and vibrant colors can be seen along the Appalachian Mountain chain in North Georgia. From bright yellows to vibrant reds, the leaves transform, begging you to take a look.
For the last three seasons, I was lucky to live in North Georgia and fully explore the area, learning which routes have the best view. If you want to ride and look or hike, these are a few of my favorite spots.
Mount Oglethorpe and The Dawson Forest
North Georgia is host to 75 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Off the beaten path, Mount Oglethorpe served as the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail from 1937 until 1958. In 1995, Ken and Billie Ann Rice purchased about 107 acres of land around “Mt. O’s” summit and in 2014, they designated their property as a public park named Eagle’s Rest. Find easy hiking trails and observation decks along the summit which can be reached by driving south from Georgia State Route 136 on Monument Road for 5 miles.
If a brisk hike is on your radar, look for Tobacco Pouch Trail tucked into the woods off Monument Road. This strenuous (emphasized) hike in Dawson Forest is home to multiple water falls including Falls Creek Fall.
Adjacent to Mt. O is Big Canoe. Rent a home for the weekend (most homes have a two night minimum). You will find beautiful vistas and amenties. Hike on the 20 miles of trails with waterfalls, canoe on the lakes and golf within the gated community. Amicalola Lodge is a short drive west on Hwy 136 and the town of Blue Ridge is less than an hour north.
The Suches Loop
The Suches Loop is a twisting 50 mile ride with magnificent scenery in the middle of the Chattahoochee National Forest. Often referred to as the Georgia’s Dragon by locals, the road is popular with motorcycle riders. Head north out of Dahlonega on Route 60. Fork to the right onto Hwy 19 at the big stone pile. This pile of stones marks the grave of Cherokee princess Trahlyta. Legend says that anyone who drops a stone on her grave will be young and happy. Twice the DOT has attempted to move the grave during road construction and both times at least one person died while moving the pile. The stone grave remains today in the same place it has always been.
Continue on Hwy 19 about 9 miles to the Desoto Falls. This hike’s relatively short distance and moderate elevation change makes it a great hike for families. Hike the two mile out -and- back trail to see two rushing waterfalls set among beautiful fall colors. North on Hwy 19 is Neel’s Gap and the Walasi-Yi Interpretive Center, the only place where the Appalachian Trail passes through a man- made structure. The small stone building was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. In the trees around the building ravaged footwear is hung overhead by hikers. Check out the beautiful mountian view on the patio behind the building.
One of Georgia’s oldest state parks, Vogel offers cottages, campsites and primitive backpacking sites. The park has a 22 acre lake and 17 miles of trails
Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway
Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway is a nationally designated Scenic Byway that loops for 40.6 miles around the Chattahoochee National Forest. The National Scenic Byways Program was established in 1992, to recognize, preserve and enhance selected roads throughout the United States. Along this route, you will find many waterfalls, trails and state parks. In the know leaf peepers swing by Brasstown Bald near Blairsville. It is the state’s highest peak making it the first to display the season’s fall colors. It is a steep half -mile climb from the parking lot to the Brasstown Bald Visitors Center and Observation Deck. For those that don’t want to walk, there is a shuttle bus for a fee. On clear days, you’ll see four states- Georgia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina. It is even possible to see the skyline of Atlanta.
One of my favorite stops on the byway is Smithgall Woods State Park located southwest of Helen on Highway 75A. Smithgall, acquired by the state in 1994, protects more than 6,000 acres and offers over five miles of trails for exploring colorful hardwoods, streams, waterfalls and wildlife. Duke’s Creek rambles through the park creating picturesque views with fishermen casting their fly rods. It is one of North Georgia’s most popular trout fishing locations. If you plan to fish call ahead for reservations. Smithgall has six cottages for rent.
Georgia’s Alpine Village of Helen is celebrating their 46th Octoberfest through out the month. If you can handle the crowds, stop by for a beer and brat while you take in some German music.
In between football and fall festivals, leaf peeping is great for a family adventure, romantic getaway or girls time. Grab a Fayette Woman Magazine, snap a picture of your leaf peeping adventures and send them to email@example.com.