3 scenic drives to take this fall in the North Georgia mountains

Especially spectacular when the leaves are turning next month.

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Scenic drives in North Georgia Mountains

Photograph by Anchasa Mitchell/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Ridge & Valley Scenic Byway
51 miles

The terrain on this loop ranges from pastoral valley with fertile farmsteads and 19th-century farmhouses to climbs along ancient ridges with long views and unusual geological outcroppings. Pass hikes like Keown Falls (where the trail actually passes underneath a waterfall, usually larger than a trickle only in spring and after a rain) and magical picnic spots like the Pocket Recreation Area, where you can cool your feet in a stream.

Cohutta-Chattahoochee Scenic Byway
54 miles

This route starts at the 19th century Prater’s Mill in Whitfield County—now a park where visitors can wander nature trails alongside the old grist mill—and stretches past Fort Mountain State Park, which offers spectacular lookouts and some heart-stopping drop-offs. If you’ve got time, take the short hike around the park’s summit with offshoots to the ancient 855-foot-long rock wall of uncertain origin and a 1930s stone fire tower. Or pull over at the Cohutta Overlook between Ellijay and Chatsworth—where a five-minute uphill walk takes you to a stone platform with 360-degree views.

Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway
20 miles

Start your ascent up State Route 348 near Smithgall Woods State Park, and you’ll soon roll by some of the state’s most beautiful trails (including Raven Cliff Falls, page 58). You’ll feel like you’re in a Subaru commercial as you wind along this 1930s-era route with unimpeded vistas and rugged cliffs playing host to trickling waterfalls, ferns, and flowers. Stop at Hogpen Gap—the route’s highest point and an Appalachian Trail crossing—to picnic way above Lordamercy Cove with views of Brasstown Bald. When you come down the other side, hang a left onto Highway 19 and pop into the historic Sunrise Grocery for killer boiled peanuts. Keep heading south and you’ll pass Vogel State Park and Mountain Crossings, an outdoor gear shop and the only place where the Appalachian Trail passes right through a building. Mind the motorcycles.

Back to An Insider’s Guide to the North Georgia Mountains

This article appears in our September 2020 issue.

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