Wednesday, September 22, 2021 / by Nathan Fitts
Get Out & Explore
5 Blue Ridge Hikes
Those who live in and around Blue Ridge -- and others here just for a visit -- recognize clearly and quickly that this is one of the most wonderful regions of the country for year-round enjoyment of the outdoors. That’s one of the many reasons that we at Nathan Fitts & Team love this area so much.
The range of amenities, coupled with moderate temperatures in all four seasons, enables those who love hiking, biking, fishing, camping and glamping to pick any time of the year and feel confident that discovering this neck of the woods will yield an all-around good time.
Hiking is an especially rewarding pursuit, combining the convenience of easy access with a sense of discovery and adventure. The stunning natural beauty of this area’s rolling hillsides, gentle mountains, rushing rivers and streams -- and dozens of spectacular waterfalls -- allows couples, families and friends to easily capture images and special memories almost anywhere they go.
Although this area is varied, it’s not just the terrain – this region has been called the “hinge of botany” for its unique ability to sustain the widest variety of plant life on the East Coast – a robust mixture of northern and southern species.
That means there are constant surprises for those who look for unusual trees, shrubs and ground cover. There can be moments when a hike lands you in the midst of mountain laurel, rhododendron and hemlock trees all at the same time – an experience not common in any other part of the country.
So, where to go to discover all this? Well, it doesn’t take more than 10-15 miles, 30 minutes or less and a minor dent in a full tank of gas to get you to where you want to go. The names are familiar – Appalachian Trail, Benton MacKaye Trail, Toccoa River and Swinging Bridge, and all you have to bring is water, a snack, and sturdy legs.
1. Just minutes from downtown Blue Ridge, Springer Mountain is best known as the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail and it’s the southern equivalent of Maine’s Katahdin Mountain – where hundreds per year start or finish their AT thru-hike adventures. A thru-hike isn’t a necessity to enjoy the beauty, tranquility and sense of camaraderie on the country’s most famous hiking trail. Sections of the 2,200-mile AT starting at Springer are at times both challenging and peaceful, so it’s best to consult the proper guide to determine a suitable level of difficulty.
2. The Benton MacKaye Trail – named for the first person ever to thru-hike the AT – crosses the Appalachian Trail about 15 miles south of Blue Ridge and features a 260-foot suspension bridge across the Toccoa River.
3. This part of the country is well-known for its waterfalls – and just about two dozen or so miles south of Blue Ridge, between Ellijay and Dahlonega, is Amicalola Falls, which, at 729 feet, is the tallest cascading waterfalls on the East Coast. The falls is located inside a state park and can be accessed on foot by way of a meandering staircase, or a well-maintained mountain trail. There are viewing areas above, below and in the middle of the falls.
4. Jacks River Falls, and the Jacks River Trail are located in the Cohutta Wilderness Area, on the Jacks River. The waterfall is the most visited in the Cohuttas and is reached via a 44.5 mile trail
through rugged wilderness – the trail is slightly more advanced and parts of it cross moving water. Forest service guidance is strongly recommended.
5. An unusual double waterfall can be found on the Hemp Top Trail about 10 miles from Blue Ridge. Once at the trail head, the hike in is about 30 minutes, but well worth the trek. This hike accesses peaks that are among the tallest in Georgia -- and views are breathtaking.
Hiking anywhere in close proximity to Blue Ridge, Blairsville, Ellijay and Dahlonega in the North Georgia Mountains is an experience not to be forgotten. The exercise, exhilaration and discovery of true companionship along the way always makes for memorable moments. Savor them. Treasure them.