It’s definitely that time of the year again and here in the southern states of the US, the great outdoors becomes a luxury as the weather starts to cool. The time rolls forward, we lose daylight, the nights become longer, the leaves fall from the trees, and before long, old man winter will be popping his head in the picture. For now, this is prime time to get out and enjoy nature but of course, you can enjoy being outside anytime of the year. There might not be any mountains here in Atlanta, Georgia but just outside the city and especially a few hours north can take you to some the best hiking trails the state has to offer. Over the past few years, I have been exploring the north Georgia mountains while photographing my travels. I have put a list together containing 10 amazing places to check out around the city and north Georgia. You should definitely check them out if you’re trying to get out and enjoy a little bit of what mother nature has to offer.
All pictures were taken by me. If interested in prints, a few of these can be purchased as high-quality luster prints but only in specific sizes. Feel free to browse my portfolio or simply click on the image. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with any questions about different print sizes or if you’re interested in something not listed with a price.
(10) Toccoa Falls
The first few destinations are all straight up I-85N. If you wanted to just drive, you could hit all the ones on this route in a day. For me, I like to have a day or an overnight at each. I tend to explore and see what all I can find to photograph. There isn’t much hiking here at Toccoa Falls but this is definitely worth a stop to see. While traveling north and just shortly before arriving at Tallulah Gorge, you can find this majestic waterfall hidden about 15 minutes off the Interstate at Toccoa Falls College. Once you get on campus, you will locate the visitor center. You should be able to find parking here as well. You must go inside to gain access to the short trail leading up to the falls so you may want to call ahead to make sure they’re open, especially if its a holiday. There is a small fee to gain access.
(9) Tallulah Gorge
If you’re looking for a place with hiking near lots of water, this should definitely be on your list. The gorge is not a place for swimming, though. You enter the State Park about 900ft above the actual gorge floor. You can access the views from a trail system above the gorge or you can take the neverending set of steps all the way down to the gorge floor. I highly recommend. The amount of water flowing through here is an incredible thing to experience from the floor. I do believe there are places to cross the gorge floor but I have never attempted to do so and would suggest to not have anything valuable in your belongings if you do try. Also, make sure to check the dam release schedule ahead of time as you can’t access the gorge floor during these times.
(8) Black Rock Mountain
The further you travel north in Georgia, the more mountainous the terrain gets. Black Rock Mountain State Park lies in the most North Eastern part of the state, right up near the TN and NC state lines. The park includes four other peaks that extend over 3000 ft in elevation with Black Rock rising to an elevation of 3640ft. A trip here will guarantee many views of the surrounding mountain ranges, including the Blue Ridge mountains. The featured image in this blog post is a sunrise looking over towards the Blue Ridge Mountains. The sunrise image here is much higher in elevation than the featured image. You can really see the fog lifting creating a beautiful, hazy morning sunrise.
(7) Yonah Mountain
From many views around the northern mountain ranges, you can always pick out Mt Yonah with its huge rock face. The mountain itself is a beauty but the views from the top are incredible. Mt Yonah and next few spots can be found straight up I-985N. The trailhead to get here can be a little tricky. So make sure your gps is taking you near Chambers Mountain Road. The hike to get there is an extreme 2.2 miles or so to reach the 3166ft summit. This will put you right on the rock face. As I noted, the views from here are beautiful but there is extremely sharp drop- offs as you walk along the rock face. Please be careful if you plan to hang around these areas as falls from here can be fatal. Backcountry camping is allowed on the summit but make sure to get up there early to get the best spots.
(6) High Shoals Falls
If you have an itching for more waterfalls, north Georgia is def a good place to start. I’ll be making a blog post on just waterfalls throughout northern GA, so make sure to sign up for my emails and I send it directly to you once I get it together. However, I wanted to share this one since its probably a bit rare to see it this size. Heads up: there is a small creek to cross as you get off the main highway. However, there is some room where you can park along the side of the gravel road and hike it. You’ll find the trailhead about a mile or so up the hill that will lead you down to two different falls actually. This was the larger of the two. I made it here after some crazy storms had passed through the night before.
(5) Brasstown Bald
If you are hiking anywhere in the area, you are more than likely to see Brasstown Bald sticking out from the surrounding mountains. Why? Because it has the tallest peak in the state of Georgia. Brasstown Bald reaches a peak at 4784ft, pushing it just a bit taller than Rabun Bald which is the 2nd highest peak. I’ll be visiting there this weekend and will have some pics to share and a blog entry as well from that trip. Make sure to follow my blog in the email sign up over in the right-hand column to catch that. Luckily for those of you wanting to see the views from the top of Brasstown Bald, there is a paved highway that takes you to a huge parking area where you can access a short trail about half a mile from the top. The trail is paved as well but very steep. You will find a large observation deck on the top where you can enjoy magnificent views in all directions. Note: If traveling here during the winter months, make sure to check ahead as this is one of the first highways to close in the state.
(4) Bell Mountain
Bell Mountain definitely isn’t the highest mountain in the Hiwassee area but is no less interesting. In fact, It might be one of the most unique spots to visit. There has been a lot of controversy over whether or not ‘unique’ is good or bad. This little mountain has a huge scar on top where it was mined in the early part of the century. You can see its exposed top in the picture here. This used to be a highly sought destination to catch the sunset after a day hike to the top. Today, there is a paved road that will take you all the way to the top. On top, there is a massive lookout deck giving you panoramic views of the surrounding mountains that tower over Bell Mountain. There is also a vast amount of vandalism on the exposed rock at the top. If you’re in the area, this is definitely a drive to make but please leave the spray paint at home.
(3) Sweetwater Creek State Park
Sweetwater Creek State Park is probably the closest you will get to the city but far enough out to really enjoy nature at its finest. This park falls just west of the city near Six Flags over GA. You can find this gem right off one of the major highways (I-20W) that runs east and west through Atlanta. The trail system mostly goes along the water where you can enjoy spectacular views of the rapids, the ruins of an old mill, and might even encounter some Georgia wildlife natives. There is an excellent campground where you can stay in a yurt or camp backcountry style with a tent and a firepit. Electricity is available here as well at each campsite.
(2) Amicalola Falls to Len Foote Inn
Amicalola Falls State Park is an excellent destination if you’re looking for waterfalls, hiking, backcountry lodging or if you’re just itching to get your feet on the Appalachian Trail. The state’s largest flowing waterfall lies within the park rising to a staggering 729ft. From the parking lot, you can choose to descend the 600 or so stairs that will take you along the falls all the way to the bottom. Keep in mind, you do have to climb back up but it is worth it. Also from the parking lot at the top of the falls, you can take the trail-head toward Springer Mountain/ Len Foote Inn. The 8-mile hike to Springer Mountain will take you to the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. You can cut that distance in half by branching off at the trail-head to the self-sustained, eco-friendly Len Foote Inn. Here, you can grab a room for the night and enjoy a nice shower, delicious dinner, and breakfast from the dining hall, all before heading back out on the trail. Reservations are required but depending on what time of year, you could prob snag a room spontaneously.
This is probably the furthest drive you will make if you are driving from Atlanta. This huge Canyon lies in the most north-western tip of the state just before crossing over into Chattanooga, TN. I had taken a crazy weekend hiking trip to The Great Smokey Mountains and this was a step along the way for me. There is a lovely waterfall here as well. However, I arrived here in the middle of a drought, so there was literally no water here! Feel free to see more pics and read all about the details of that trip here. This park has about 10 miles or so of trails leading you around the canyon rim providing stunning views all around the canyon. There is also a trail that leads down to the canyon floor.