Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northern Georgia, Blue Ridge is the perfect vacation destination for outdoor enthusiasts, particularly in the fall when the air starts to cool and the colors of the leaves begin to change. The area has 300 miles of hiking trails, including the famed Appalachian Trail, and 100 miles of trout streams — the town is officially designated the Trout Capital of Georgia. Zip lining, whitewater rafting and kayaking are also on the list of outdoor activities in this mountain town, and if you’re looking for something more laid-back, you can visit one of the many craft breweries and wineries in the area, go apple-picking or enjoy a round of golf. If you’re planning a trip to Blue Ridge or you’re considering the town for an upcoming vacation, this guide can help you make the most of your experience. (Note: Some tours, events and attractions may be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Check local tourism boards before traveling.)
Lake Blue Ridge
The reservoir, formed when a dam was constructed on the Toccoa River, is 11 miles long and boasts 65 miles of shoreline, only 25% of which is developed. You can spend a day here or settle down at one of the campgrounds for your entire trip. You can relax on the beach, go swimming or pull out your fishing rod, and if you visit the marina or one of the boat ramps, you may be able to rent kayaks, paddleboards or a pontoon boat. Depending on where you go and what time of the year you visit, the lake also has concessions, a waterfront restaurant, picnic areas, public restrooms and showers. You’ll also find well-maintained hiking trails weaving through the woods and around the lake, where you can go for a stroll on your own or with your family.
Toccoa River Swinging Bridge
Measuring 270 feet in length, the Toccoa River Swinging Bridge is the longest swinging bridge east of the Mississippi River. The bridge is about 21 miles southeast of downtown Blue Ridge, but it’s only a short hike from the parking area once you arrive. You can plan a short visit just to see the bridge, or you can make it part of a day hike on the Benton MacKaye Trail. Past visitors note that the gravel road leading to the bridge can be rough on smaller vehicles, and recommend arriving early in the day to avoid a parking jam. But the bridge is a great option for families who want a short hike or adventurers who plan to stay in the area longer. Along the way, you’ll drive through the scenic Wilscot Valley, where you can book a room at the Wandering Wilscot Lodge.
Opened in 1943, this family-owned apple orchard dates back four generations. Bring your family for a U-Pick event, where you’ll be able to pick fresh apples, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and peaches. You can also check out the market, where you’ll find more fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as a variety of jams, jellies, preserves, apple butter and more. While the U-Pick events are subject to weather and availability, the market is open year-round (with the exception of select holidays). While you’re there, stop by the café for breakfast or lunch. You may also want to try out some of the orchard’s hard ciders on tap — Mercier is the only apple orchard in the state that grows, presses, ferments and bottles their own cider — or take your pick from the orchard’s robust wine collection. The only drawbacks to consider are that prices can be a bit high, and the orchard can get crowded on weekends and during apple-picking season.
Address: 8660 Blue Ridge Drive, Blue Ridge, GA 30513
Blue Ridge Scenic Railway
If you want the full Blue Ridge Mountains experience, look no further than the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. Guests can take a two-hour ride or a four-hour excursion with a stop. With the latter option, visitors will start in downtown Blue Ridge and embark on a 26-mile journey along the Toccoa River. You’ll spend the first hour on the train, which has both open-air and closed, climate-controlled rail cars, depending on your comfort level and the weather. After the first leg, you’ll stop at the sister towns of McCaysville, Georgia, and Copperhill, Tennessee, where you’ll have two hours to explore the towns, grab a bite to eat and do some shopping. Then, you’ll take the one-hour trip back through the forest to Blue Ridge. Visitors especially love this scenic ride during the fall and winter. There are two- and four-hour excursions in the fall, allowing you to see the changing colors of the leaves. The special Holiday Express ride is only one hour long, but there is a four-hour option in December as well.
Go horseback riding
Blue Ridge Mountain Trail Rides offers the chance to go horseback riding with a view of the Cohutta Mountains. Rides range from one to two hours, with six departure times throughout the morning and afternoon. Hell’s Hollow Adventure Outpost, where the tour starts, is located roughly 14 miles northwest of downtown Blue Ridge and the tour operator recommends using the Waze navigation app to get here instead of other GPS maps. Although children younger than eight years old aren’t allowed to ride, the outpost has baby goats they can see. Past guests have mentioned that the horses are calm and the guides are helpful and knowledgeable.
Hike to one of 16 waterfalls in the area
Whether you’re an avid waterfall hunter or you simply enjoy a good hike, Blue Ridge is an excellent choice for an adventurous getaway. While about half of the trails to the waterfalls are relatively easy, some are strenuous. Among the more difficult ones are some views that are worth your while, however. At 729 feet, Amicalola Falls is the tallest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River. Recent visitors called the sheer size of the falls mesmerizing. Meanwhile, the trails leading to Jacks River Falls will take you through rugged, remote wilderness, which may be perfect for more experienced hikers. Other popular waterfalls in the area include Fall Branch Falls, Long Creek Falls and Helton Creek Falls. Before you go, do some research on the difficulty of the hike and whether the parking areas require a fee to enter.
Tank Town USA
In nearby Morganton, you’ll find Tank Town USA, where visitors will have the opportunity to drive a 17-ton steel tank. It’s just a 10-minute drive from Blue Ridge, and once you’re there, you’ll learn the basics of how to operate a tank. Afterward, you’ll be able to test your skills on a rugged outdoor course for 10 minutes or half a mile, whichever comes first. If 10 minutes sounds too short, don’t worry — visitors have the option to extend their experience or upgrade to the car crushing package, which includes a 25-minute drive and a car that can be smashed from every angle. If you’re not dying to drive a tank, you can also pay to operate an excavator or shoot 100 rounds with an M-1919 machine gun. Keep in mind that there are age restrictions for all activities, including for those who want to ride along in the tank. While the activities are pricey, past visitors have called them a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Some even mentioned that kids can join in by spray painting and busting the windows of the car before the crushing starts.
Address: 10408 Appalachian Highway, Morganton, GA 30560
Cohutta Cove Mini Golf
This 18-hole mini-golf course is located just south of Blue Ridge and is ideal for families with small children. The course has a concession stand that serves up refreshments like coffee, tea, smoothies, soft drinks, chips and candy, and when you’re done with a round, you and your kids can step over to the gem mining station, where you’ll receive a bag with a mixture of various gemstones, such as topaz, sapphire, emerald, quartz and more. If you’re planning to do both, be sure to buy a combo package for discounted rates. The course is fun, clean and well-maintained, and compared to other gem mining spots in the area, guests have said you receive good value for what you pay.
Address: 64 Dunbarton Farm Road, Blue Ridge, GA 30513
Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association and Arts Center
Located in downtown Blue Ridge, the Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association is the artistic center of the town, which is listed as one of the top five arts towns in the state of Georgia. The center features a variety of multi-cultural works and mediums, running more than 35 different exhibits and events throughout the year, with exhibits changing every four to six weeks. They also offer an array of classes and workshops suitable for all ages, including a summer art camp for kids between the ages of 6 and 14. But if you don’t have time for a class, the center offers to-go art kits that can be completed at home. Depending on when you visit, you may be able to participate in the center’s Cork and Canvas event, where you’ll be able to sample a selection of local wines paired with savory food. The setting of the center in an old courthouse is unique, according to past visitors, who called the collection of works from local artists beyond beautiful and eclectic.
Address: 420 West Main St., 30513
Baugh House Historic Museum
Operated by the Fannin County Heritage Foundation, the Baugh House Museum offers a glimpse into Blue Ridge’s intriguing past. The home’s architecture was rare when it was first built in 1893, with its two stories and I-house style — one room deep and two rooms wide. Brick houses were also rare in Georgia at the time. In addition to the exhibit, the museum also houses a genealogical library and research center, which can be a good place to do some family history work if you have ancestors who lived in the area. As an added bonus, there’s no admission fee to see the period clothing, antiques and other historical items the museum houses. Consider the museum if you’re looking to learn about the history of Fannin County or want to do some genealogical research.
Address: 411 West First St., Blue Ridge, GA 30513
Fannin County Veterans Memorial Park
This well-maintained park is home to a full-size helicopter and a memorial honoring veterans from the area who served in conflicts ranging from the War of 1812 to the modern-day Iraq War. Visitors say the park has a reverent atmosphere, and with its open spaces, it’s a good place to relax on the grass, have a picnic and pay respects to the county’s veterans who served their country.
Address: 4560 Old Highway 76, Blue Ridge, GA 30513
Bear Claw Vineyards
This women-owned vineyard is a 10-minute drive from downtown Blue Ridge. If you visit on a Saturday, you can take a tour of the vineyard, which includes seven wine tastings complimented by cheese and crackers. Plan in advance, though, as the tour is offered on a limited basis. You can also stop by for a tasting, with a few options to choose from, or a wine slushy. On the weekend, the vineyard hosts live music with local bands. The vineyard even has a treehouse on the property, which you can rent for a night or longer. Just be sure to plan ahead of time to ensure availability. Past visitors loved the beautiful property and high-quality wine, noting that the atmosphere is peaceful and relaxing. If you’d like to expand your palate even further, consider Serenberry Vineyards, Cartecay Vineyards, Chateau Meichtry, Ott Farms and Vineyard or Paradise Hills Winery Resort & Spa, all of which are located in Blue Ridge or nearby towns.
Address: 2281 Tennis Court Road, Blue Ridge, GA 30513
Fly-fish on Noontootla Creek
The small mountain stream Noontootla Creek is well-known for its ample opportunities for trout fishing. Located about 20 miles southeast of Blue Ridge, the stream’s name is derived from a Cherokee term meaning “land of the shining water” or “middle sun.” Live bait isn’t allowed, and you can only keep one trout up to 16 inches, otherwise this creek adheres to catch and release fishing only. You can fish the stream on your own, or you can take a guided fly-fishing excursion with Noontootla Creek Farms, a privately-held farm that’s open to the public and has more than 1,000 acres of land and access to two miles of the creek. The farm also offers other activities, including quail hunting and a clay-shooting course. If you want to spend a little more time in the mountains, the farm has a four-bedroom farmhouse you can rent. Past guests have marveled at the size of the trout in the stream and the quality of the activities the farm offers.
Grumpy Old Men Brewing
Established in 2013 by two retired beer enthusiasts, Grumpy Old Men Brewing has 24 beer taps, giving you ample opportunity to try out some of the beers that have become a staple in the region. The taproom only serves its own beer and doesn’t provide any other drinks or food — though it may occasionally host a food truck. On Fridays and Saturdays, the taproom hosts live music, and if you arrive on a Thursday, you can even show off your vocal skills at the brewery’s karaoke night. Visitors can choose to sit at the bar or relax on the outdoor patio, and while some past guests said the seating is limited, visitors agree that the beer is top notch.
Address: 1315 East Main St., Blue Ridge, GA 30513
Fannin Brewing Company
If you’re a beer aficionado, you may want to try out Fannin Brewing Company’s excellent variety of beers. The brewery began selling beer in 2012, and since then, has expanded to include an outdoor beer garden with yard games like cornhole and ladder golf. While you won’t get a full meal with your beer, the taproom does sell snacks such as chips and warm pretzels. Other breweries near Blue Ridge include Buck Bald Brewing, Copperhill Brewery and Angry Hops Brewery.
Address: 3758 First St., Blue Ridge, GA 30513
Expedition: Bigfoot Museum
One of Blue Ridge’s more unique experiences is the Expedition: Bigfoot Museum. A self-guided tour takes an hour or less, and you’ll get to see various pieces of “evidence” that the elusive Sasquatch exists. The museum, which lies about 7 miles southwest of Blue Ridge in nearby Cherry Log, includes the largest permanent display of footprint casts in the U.S., several interactive exhibits and the world’s only Bigfoot research and tech vehicle on display. When you’re done with the exhibits, step into the gift shop for some one-of-a-kind souvenirs to take home. The museum is open daily but closed for certain holidays, and offers free admission for kids younger than five and active military service members. Past guests say that admission is affordable and the experience is fun for all ages.
Address: 1934 Highway 515, Blue Ridge, GA 30513
Lilly Pad Village
Located eight miles from Blue Ridge in the Aska Adventure Area, Lilly Pad Village offers a few different family-friendly activities. With the gem mining experience, visitors can buy a bucket and sift through the sand to find treasures like emeralds, sapphires, rubies, garnets and amethysts. Meanwhile, those who want to spend some time fishing will find catfish, bass and brim in the village’s one-third acre pond. The activity is catch and release only, and you can either bring your own poles or rent some from the operator. Finally, step into a mountain setting at Lily Pad Village’s nine-hole mini-golf course. Shaded by a canopy of trees, this golf course is a great way to cool off on a warm day. With one ticket, visitors can play through the course as many times as they want, or even leave and return later for another round. Past guests raved about the gem mining experience, and agreed that Lilly Pad Village is a must-do if you’re traveling with children.
Address: 24 Adelaide Drive, Blue Ridge, GA 30513
Do some shopping in Downtown Blue Ridge
Whether you’re looking to bring home the perfect souvenir or you simply want to spend the afternoon window shopping, head to downtown Blue Ridge, where you’ll find plenty of interesting shops. At the Sweet Shoppe, you’ll find a variety of gourmet desserts, including cupcakes that were featured on Food Network’s hit television show, “Cupcake Wars.” You’ll also find a few different boutiques, including Juliana’s Boutique, Blue Ridge Cotton Company and Blue Ridge Adventure Wear. At Blue Ridge Olive Oil Company, visitors can sample 65 varieties of olive oil and balsamic vinegar from around the world, and at Out of the Blue Gourmet Living, visitors can browse an extensive collection of fine wines and gourmet food. If you love antiques, check out Blue Ridge Antique Mall & Consignment Inc., which guests say is worth a visit, even if it’s just to look around.
Take a day trip to one or more of the surrounding towns
Northern Georgia is filled with interesting mountain towns, so it’s not uncommon for travelers to take daytrips from Blue Ridge to experience the entire region. Situated about 50 miles southeast of Blue Ridge is Helen, a Bavarian-style town that will make you feel like you’ve traveled to southern Germany — without having to cross the Atlantic Ocean. While you’re in the area, consider stopping in Cleveland, where you’ll find the North Georgia Wildlife & Safari Park and the original home of the Cabbage Patch Kids, Babyland General Hospital. If you want to do a full wine tour, make the hourlong drive to Dahlonega, which is considered the heart of Georgia’s wine country and the site of the first major gold rush in the country. Ellijay, just a 30-minute drive from Blue Ridge, is nicknamed “The Apple Capital of Georgia” and is home to the Georgia Apple Festival and the Georgia Apple Blossom Festival. Meanwhile, McCaysville, which is only a 20-minute drive from Blue Ridge, sits on the Georgia-Tennessee state line and has some great dining and shopping options.
Go zip lining
Zipline Canopy Tours of Blue Ridge offers some excellent activities for travelers who want a more adventurous experience. Located just 6 miles from downtown Blue Ridge, the tour operator offers a one-hour zip lining tour with seven zip lines ranging from 150 to 550 feet in length, as well as a two-hour tour with 13 zip lines ranging from 150 to 1,000 feet in length. Or, visitors can try out the aerial challenge course, which has up to 35 obstacles, including tight ropes, zip lines, climbing walls and suspended bridges that range in height from 15 to 45 feet off the ground. Another summer-only option is the raft and zip combo, which includes a two-hour zip lining tour and a whitewater rafting trip on the Middle Ocoee River with Ocoee Rafting. The Middle Ocoee rafting trip is a 5-mile tour that takes about 90 minutes. Zipline Canopy Tours of Blue Ridge comes highly recommended by recent travelers, with many visitors calling the tour guides the highlight of their trip.
Address: 891 Old Cashes Valley Road, Blue Ridge, GA 30513
Golf at Old Toccoa Farm
Just a 10-minute drive from downtown Blue Ridge, Old Toccoa Farm was ranked the eighth-best new golf course by “Golf Digest” in 2020. As a mountain golf course, Old Toccoa Farm has features that golfers typically don’t get from traditional links courses, such as more trees and manicured fairways. However, it also has some of the hallmarks of links courses, including sandy soil and plenty of dunes. You’ll also find natural hazards along the way, including rock outcroppings and beautiful wildflower meadows and mountain laurel shrubs. The course is immaculate, according to previous golfers, and each hole has beautiful views for an incredible overall experience.
Go canoeing on the Toccoa River
The Toccoa River Canoe Trail is a 13.8-mile beginner trail for those who want a relaxing canoe, kayak or tubing trip with only a few rapids. The trail is also an excellent place for trout fishing. If you want, you can stop at the Toccoa River Swinging Bridge before you continue your trip downstream. If you don’t have your own equipment, you can rent kayaks and canoes or even take a guided tour through operators like Jon Ron Toccoa River Outfitters and Toccoa River Tubing Company. According to past travelers, the river is a great place for a scenic float, regardless of your watercraft. Keep in mind, there’s a $5 fee to park and launch at Deep Hole Recreation Area, the starting point of the trail.
Attend one of the many festivals in the region
Throughout the year, Blue Ridge and other North Georgia towns host a number of festivals. The Blue Ridge Trout and Outdoor Adventures Festival in April, the Fire & Ice Chili Cook Off and Craft Beer Festival in February and the Blue Ridge Mountains Wine and Jazz Festival in June are just a few examples of what Blue Ridge has to offer. In the surrounding area, you’ll find the Ride the Rails fundraiser on select weekends between May and November in Mineral Bluff, and the longest-running Oktoberfest in the U.S. in Helen. As you plan your trip, check for festivals and other events, so you can join in the celebration of local traditions.
Hike Springer Mountain
One of the state’s most popular hiking destinations, Springer Mountain is the starting point of the Appalachian Trail — or the endpoint, depending on which direction you’re going. The mountain peaks at 3,780 feet, and there are plenty of trails for hikers of all skill levels. For example, you can take a hike as short as the 1.9-mile round-trip trail from the Springer Mountain parking area to the summit of Springer Mountain, or you can start at Amicalola Falls for a 15.5-mile round-trip hike. Hiking enthusiasts note that even the short trail isn’t necessarily easy and may not be a good fit for occasional hikers, but say that the views from the peak are worth the effort.
Take an electric bike tour
Pedego Blue Ridge is a locally-owned electric bike shop that offers tours and even rentals if you want to explore the town on your own. Guided tours can last up to two hours and take you along the Toccoa River and through the rolling countryside. You can also book a tour that takes you around Lake Blue Ridge, starting and stopping at the marina. This tour lasts up to 90 minutes. Reviews of the tours are almost exclusively positive, with the bikes providing an easy way to cover the beautiful mountainous terrain without a lot of effort.
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