North Georgia Mountains: Leaves are changing colors, big adventures await – WSB Atlanta | Dauktion

It happens every year around this time. The arrival of fall brings migration to the mountains of North Georgia. There, people can watch the leaves change color, from the greens of spring and summer to the oranges, reds, and yellows of autumn.

“Fall is a migration of peoples in the southeastern United States,” said Kurt Cannon, Mayor of Clayton. “Everyone comes to see the leaves changing and to experience the beautiful fall air.”

There is no time like late autumn in North Georgia. There’s the cool, clear air, fires in the night and the leaves.

“If you’ve never seen it, you might not understand it. If you’ve seen it, you probably don’t need an explanation because the mountains look like a patchwork quilt,” said Judy Crunkleton, Clayton City Manager. “The colors just pop and the mountainsides are beautiful and you will see this one tree that will take your breath away.”

While visitors come for the leaves, they can stay for the adventure.

“People used to say, ‘There’s nothing to do up here,'” Cannon said. “Well, it depends what kind of guy you are. Lots to do here if you are an outdoor person.”

“We have tons of great opportunities for recreation, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, ATVs riding,” said Casey Quarterman of the Chattahoochee Oconee National Forest Service. “Northeast Georgia is a gem and people are starting to discover it.”

Tackling hiking trails is high on the to-do list when visiting the area. National Forest Land makes up 75% of Rabun County’s land, but how you approach these trails will make your trip here unique.

There are hiking trails.

“This is Black Rock Mountain State Park, we have over 13 miles of trails,” said Jessica James of the park. “We have the James Edmonds Trail, which is 7.2 miles, which is a pretty intense trail, but it’s a wonderful trail if you have all day. It also has four backcountry locations that you can hike to and stay overnight.”

There are also ATV and motorcycle trails.

“Oakey Mountain is one of our (SUV) trail systems that people can take UTVs and motorcycles on,” Quarterman said. “It’s right on top of a mountain right in the heart of Rabun County and surrounded by lakes. It’s an amazing trail system with two big loops. People come from all over to bring their bikes and ATVs to have this experience.”

There are also paths for bicycles.

“This[area]has incredible mountain biking,” said Quarterman. “We have a trail system called Stonewall and White Twister and together it’s about 14 miles of trails, two different big loops. It is very funny.”

Some trails offer intense full-day trips, while others offer a nice little break.

Some take hikers to the middle of nowhere, while others offer a reward at the end of the hike.

“Here in Rabun County, (it’s) Dick’s Creek Falls on the Chatooga River, or it goes to Martin Creek Falls or Becky Branch (Falls) or they go to Rabun Soon, that’s just another very popular and iconic place here in Rabun County,” said Brent Martin of the Blue Ridge Bartram Trail Conservancy.

The good news is that hikers don’t have to be alone, especially if they are new to the area. From park rangers to tour guides, there’s plenty of help.

Shady Creek Expeditions is one of the local companies offering tour guides.

“Most of our guides are locals, so they know areas that might not be on a map or not well known on social media or anything like that,” said Trey McFalls of Shady Creek Expeditions. “Getting a guide can help you find new places in the area and you can get more experience of the area because they know a lot more about it. They can give you more information about it, historical facts, things like that. It’s good to go out there and experience with a guide first, and (then) you can go on your own.”

Shady Creek Expeditions provides all the gear to keep hikers safe in the woods. McFalls mentioned some safety tips.

“Take someone with you, never go to places like this alone. You want someone with you. First aid kits will be of great value to you. A change of clothes in case something happens. Think pretty much like a Boy Scout,” McFalls said.

Rabun County is home to portions of both the Bartram Trail and the Appalachian Trail. The Bartram Trail is 110 miles long.

“The trail was created in honor of William Bartram, an American botanist and naturalist who came to these mountains in 1775. He was one of the few colonial botanists who actually explored these mountains and wrote about these mountains – not only about the plant life, but also about the Cherokee people who lived here. He was a unique American and that’s why I think so many people still honor his legacy,” Martin said.

While some hikers hike the entire Bartram Trail, the majority spend the day hiking a portion of it. The same goes for the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail. While hikers get a taste of the Appalachian Trail in Rabun County, they can also get a taste of Rabun County and Clayton, Georgia. The area was recently named the 51st Appalachian Trail Community, a designation that identifies the area as a great resource for anyone hiking the Appalachian Trail.

“Having that here in Georgia is a great thing,” Crunkleton said. “We love what it does for our community, brings people to our little town here.”

These resources include food, shelter, supplies, recreation, and more.

Hikers can add another supplier to their checklist when visiting the area with a stop at Tallulah Adventures.

“We truly believe this is a place to begin, end or continue your adventures,” said Spencer Turk of Tallulah Adventures. “We’re in Rabun County, where there’s a lot to do. We have Tallulah Gorge State Park next to us. There is the lake, there (are) paths, there (are) waterfalls; and then we have the climbing wall, we have a great place for families to hang out and play games.”

It is housed in the former Welcome Center and offers food and drink, relaxation, fun and adventure.

“Being from Atlanta myself, this trail has always been a rep and an adventure for me, and when I came to Rabun County and Tallulah Falls, that was always the place to see the mountains and the creeks and the falls , so this place in and of itself, right in The center of Tallulah Falls State Park has over 20 miles of hiking trails, five incredible waterfalls and is just a beautiful place,” said Bill Turk of Tallulah Adventures.

Visit North Georgia for the leaves this season, but stay and enjoy some adventure in one trip.

“Come to some of these cool cities up here,” Quarterman said. “Clayton is right in the heart of Georgia’s highest mountains. (There are) incredible ways to come and eat and have a beer and stay and see the leaves change and experience fall in the Georgia highlands.

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This story is sponsored by County of Rabun.

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