Peel back the curtain to unveil what makes Blue Ridge special: Hidden waterfalls, black bear sightings, foliage and more
While thoughts of North Georgia’s Blue Ridge, located about 90 minutes north of Atlanta off Interstate-575, conjure images of scenic hikes, waterfalls and breathtaking views from the expansive decks of well-appointed cabins, some of the town’s most charming treasures are best explored by car.
Try these four self-guided driving tours during your next trip to Blue Ridge.
Mountains & Countryside
Beyond the charming downtown, Blue Ridge is mountain roads and country churches. It’s pastoral valleys and river rapids, a place where history and nature sweep guests miles away from the ordinary. Catch a glimpse of a hawk or owl soaring silently above. Watch for woodpeckers, turkeys and mountain grouse near the forest edges. The flash of a white-tail deer is an everyday occurrence. Rarer, but not impossible, is sighting a black bear or bobcat.Follow this driving tour to discover it all. A word to the wise: do not try to drive on any rough forest dirt road in low clearance cars.
Nature in the Cohutta Wilderness
In Fannin County the Cohuttas rise in the west and the Blue Ridge to the south and east. The Cherokee Indians considered the Cohuttas to be the “poles of the shed,” holding up the sky in this, their “Enchanted Land.” Although there were no Cherokee villages within the Cohutta wilderness, Cherokees hunted the area extensively and played their own version of field hockey on the ball fields at Little Bald Mountain, today’s group camping area. The Cohutta Wildlife Management Area (WMA) encompasses 95,000 acres, 40,000 of which are within Fannin County.
Follow this tour to drive the Cohutta Wilderness, the largest wilderness area east of the Mississippi River inhabited by black bears and wild boars, along with smaller animals like bobcats, raccoons, squirrels. The changing seasons bring blooms to mountain laurel (May), rhododendron (June), and a profusion of wildflowers (early spring), with ferns dotting the landscape all summer long. Averaging about 15 to 20 miles along the Forest Service Roads, this driving tour takes visitors on a three-hour trip through the forest. Make the drive a day-trip with stops along the way to enjoy the view; take a hike and picnic at beautiful Lake Conasauga. Vehicles need to be in good mechanical condition with adequate fuel; low clearance cars are generally a bad idea on these rough roads.
Daytrip to Dahlonega & Apple Alley
This day trip, originally produced by the U.S. Forest Service, is beautiful any time of year, but autumn highlights the fall foliage, presenting a particularly scenic drive. With great opportunities for stops along the way, this half-day drive begins and ends at the intersection of Georgia Highways 5 and 515 in Blue Ridge, with round-trip mileage at just over 102 miles. Covering a variety of North Georgia treasures, this tour takes guests to a swinging bridge, a vineyard, an apple orchard and more.
Fannin County Town & Country
Named for Col. James Walker Fannin, who fought for the independence of Texas and was killed in the Goliad Massacre after the fall of the Alamo, Fannin County was founded in 1854 from lands in Gilmer and Union Counties. Prior to that time, the land belonged to the Cherokee Indians whose fate was sealed when gold was discovered in Dahlonega in 1829. Georgia’s gold rush created more problems between the settlers and the Indians, and in 1830 the U.S. Congress passed the Cherokee Removal Act, which ultimately resulted in the tragic “Trail of Tears.”
In 1860, the first Fannin County census counted 900 families or 5,139 residents. When the Civil War began in 1861, most residents were small subsistence farmers, who had little interest in the slave issue and had mixed loyalties, some for the South, some for the North. Today, some of the unique and most fascinating features of Fannin County are its historic rural communities and settlements. Use this tour to find these “hollers” or coves, often in isolated and remote areas surrounded by mountains and nestled along the banks of picturesque streams or rivers.
FanninCounty Chamber of Commerce, www.BlueRidgeMountains.com, 1-800-899-MTNS.