Discovering Blue Ridge

Photo by Bim Peacock
The cliffs and outcroppings surrounding the peak of Sawnee Mountain give a great view of the land below. The carved out portions of rock known called the Indian seats (not pictured here) give a great observation spot. The stony walls also create a fun place for rock climbing.

Adventure is calling, and that journey is closer than some may think.  A whole wide world of exploring waits in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia, and it is time to show the glory of roaming the wilderness.  From serenity of a crystal waterfall, to the thrill of zip-lining, to coming face to face with a bear, anyone can find their place in the outdoors here.

Of all the activities available, few are as renowned as hiking the high ridges and peaks of Blue Ridge.  Among the most famous of these, Brasstown Bald stands high and proud over the surrounding landscape as the tallest mountain in Georgia.  This is a great trail for beginners, as the path is paved, the trail is not overly long, and the views can hardly be matched.  And enjoy the air conditioning of the information tower at the top.  The building can give you insight into the history of the mountain as well as an even higher viewing platform.

For all the people who live right in the vicinity of Cumming, Georgia, roaming for two hours to the top of the state is not necessary.  Just take a short fifteen minute drive to our very own Sawnee Mountain.  Two separate trails swirl their way up the steep mount, ending at a high rocky bluff gazing out across the countryside to the distant Appalachians.  The left trail is a decent jog, for all the people who just come for the sights.  But for those who come to really hike, take the right, for after the hour and a half walk you’ll definitely be panting for air.  Take a breather before leaving while reclining in the stone Indian seats, subtly carved out of the bare rock.

Along with these popular choices, there are plenty of other trails to choose from.  Woody Gap; an intense hike up an ever changing mountain, ending at the high peak of a rock cliff.  Trey Mountain, a leisurely climb through forests of laurel.  Lookout Mountain, just over the line to Tennessee, holds numerous hiking opportunities, as well as a well known cave system and the ever famous Rock City.  Though, in reality, nothing quite compares to simply hiking a portion of the Appalachian Trail for a day.

In between the mountains and valleys lie the land’s very own pearls.  Waterfalls flow freely in countless areas across Blue Ridge.  The closest is the popular Amicalola Falls.  Several different mountain routes lead hikers on different length journeys through the wilderness, ending with an incredible view of the towering falls.  And when the hiking is all over with, hikers can enjoy a hot tasty meal at the Amicalola Lodge while gazing out across the valleys.

Along the base of the previously mentioned Trey Mountain lies High Shoals Falls.  The Falls come with a long trek through an almost rainforest enveloping the entire area.  Though for some the hike can be difficult, the two cascades of water at the end will make anyone happy they came.  And for those who are tired and overheated by the end, feel free to dip right into the icy pool of water the Falls have been so kind as to provide.  Or if the hiker’s have got a bit of a wild side, they can step off the trail and make their own path down the river.

As mentioned before, Lookout Mountain just over the border offers a wide variety of experiences to discover, though the best is not technically outside.  Deep within the heart of the mountain lies an intricate cave system winding its way through the underground.  Those curious should just look for the rickety old elevator in the lodge, and they’ll find themselves amidst the colored stones and stalactites of the subterranean world.  After the tour guide takes an irritatingly long time leading through the caves, sightseers will finally arrive at the jewel of the mountain.  Ruby Falls is one of the few tourist traps in the area that is truly worth the trip.  A torrent of water flows freely from the miniscule breach in the ceiling, falling a hundred feet before it reaches the pool of water at the bottom.

There is much more adventure within the mountains than simply wandering about aimlessly. Everywhere you look you can find excitement.  One of the most loved thrill rides of the north is the Nantahala River.  Pack up the paddles and the raft for some whitewater rafting.  This frigid river is a great place for beginners because the rapids aren’t enough to throw anyone from the raft until the end.  Just before the close, Nantahala Falls gives you a taste of the rides to come.  If an easy course is not enough, go to the Ocoee River for some serious rapids.  Riders will be beaten and thrashed by the fury of this waterway where every wave makes Nantahala falls seem like a babbling brook.

For all the people who don’t enjoy the water, there is still plenty to do.  There are numerous canopy zip-lining tours all across the mountains where one can zip from tree to tree hundreds of feet in the air.  Or if climbing is not appealing, take one of the many opportunities to go rock climbing up the vast cliffs and bluffs.  Perhaps explorers simply want to enjoy the forests from a different angle.  Enjoy the same hiking paths with the fast pace of a mountain bike.  The possibilities are endless.

The North Georgia Mountains and surrounding areas hold all this adventure as well as tons more.  But why be held back by the rules and regulations many agencies hold tourists to?  Just head out and make a path across the mountains.  Find some random cliff to climb.  Spend a day just hopping from rock to rock down a river.  Adventure is calling my friends, and find the best way to answer in the Blue Ridge Mountains.