Seven Lures to Georgia’s Mountains
By Chris Chamberlain
Blue Ridge Scenic Railway
241 Depot St. in Blue Ridge, 877-413-8724, www.brscenic.com.
The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway offers the chance to ride on a genuine historic train during its Fall Foliage Tours. Leaving quaint downtown Blue Ridge from a historic depot that dates back to 1905, the locomotive pulls ten passenger cars plus a commissary car on a four-hour, round-trip journey along the scenic Toccoa River. Each car is different, though several are Pullman-Standards; seating options range from open-air observation coaches to more luxurious climate-controlled vintage passenger cars. The itinerary includes a two-hour layover break in McCaysville where you can shop for crafts and antiques or enjoy an ice cream cone while strolling along the streets of the quaint little town. You can also walk across the Georgia state line into Copperhill, Tennessee—perhaps even snap a selfie while you are standing with one foot in each state.
R & A Orchards
5505 GA-52 East in Ellijay, 706-273-3821, www.randaorchards.com.
In the North Georgia Mountains, autumn is apple season. R & A Orchards, which is located on the edge of the Chattahoochee National Forest, grows an abundant variety of the luscious red treats. With 60 acres of apples planted in rows of vibrantly-colored trees in the rolling foothills, new types ripen throughout the season. Drop by to pick your own by-the-bushel on weekends; visit the orchard’s website before you go to see what’s available. As the weather turns crisper, so, too, do the apples. The October and November harvest includes Granny Smith, Fuji, Pink Lady, Gold Rush and more.
Hillside Orchard Farms
18 Sorghum Mill Dr. in Lakemont, 706-782-2776, www.hillsideorchard.com.
You can also gather your own fruit at Hillside Orchard Farms near Lakemont, plus this family farm also offers several fun opportunities for children who might not want to work that hard on an excursion. Located along the old Tallulah Falls Railroad line, Hillside is playing up the train theme this fall. Kids can enjoy a gentle train ride around the property by the barn and along the creek or the whole family can enjoy figuring their way around a locomotive-themed corn maze. Also be sure to stop by the quaint country store to pick up some jars of jams and jellies made from fruit harvested on Hillside Orchard Farms.
Red Top Mountain State Park
50 Lodge Rd. SE in Cartersville, 770-975-4226, www.gastateparks.org/RedTopMountain.
Interested in camping in the great outdoors but not sure if you want to invest money in all that gear? The Red Top Mountain State Park has the perfect solution. With the First-Time Camper program, you can borrow all the gear you need, receive expert advice, and enjoy two-night accommodations for just $50. The equipment includes a six-person tent, four sleeping pads, a camp stove and fuel, four roasting forks for s’mores, a lantern and two camp chairs. Just bring your pillow and sleeping bag. The park offers 15 miles of hiking trails rated from accessible to easy to rugged, plus canoe rentals for paddling along the shores of Lake Allatoona.
Tallulah Gorge State Park
338 Jane Hurt Yarn Dr. in Tallulah Falls, 706-754-7981, http://www.gastateparks.org/TallulahGorge.
Tallulah Gorge State Park, located in the northeast corner of the state, is always a gorgeous vista yet only as physically challenging as you choose to make it. Trails along the two-mile rim of the almost 1,000-foot deep gorge offer spectacular views of the river flowing beneath and waterfalls cascading the length of the canyon. A limited number of permits are available to hike on the pristine floor of the gorge. The park offers tent camping and RV sites for overnight stays. Tallulah Gorge is part of the state’s “Hike 4” program where frequent hikers can earn a free T-shirt by visiting four different parks.
North Georgia Canopy Tours
5290 Harris Rd. in Lula, 770-869-7272, www.northgeorgiacanopytours.com.
Avid outdoor enthusiasts flock to Lula for adrenaline-raising activities at North Georgia Canopy Tours. Twelve different zip-lines comprised of over a mile of cable crisscross the property above forests, ponds and the North Oconee River. The course ends in a dual zip where you can race a partner to the finish line. The grounds also house a disc golf course and a free geocaching course where you can use a GPS device or cellphone app to locate five hidden canisters using GPS coordinates in a high-tech scavenger hunt. Overnighters can enjoy “glamping” (a.k.a., glamorous camping) in teepees that sleep up to ten people with comforts including temperature control systems, lights and electrical outlets for your gadgets.
Lookout Mountain Hang Gliding
7201 Scenic Hwy. in Rising Fawn, 800-688-5637, www.hanglide.com.
For the ultimate in fall foliage watching, get a bird’s-eye view of the colorful canopy from the sky soaring high above the Georgia and Tennessee border. At Lookout Mountain Hang Gliding, you can learn to fly or take a tandem flight with a pro. Lesson packages range from a series that prepares you to pilot a hang glider solo to shorter training experiences on the gentle slope of a small hill where you’ll get just up to ten feet off the ground. You can also take a tandem flight with an instructor to savor the sweeping views of Lookout Valley, soaring up to 3,000 feet to marvel in the beauty below. A camera attached to the wing provides lasting images of your experience to savor and share. Select a weekend package with multiple flights and you can take advantage of lodging options including cabins, campsites and RV hookups.