Encompassing nearly 867,000 acres in northern Georgia, the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests are home to 9 designated Wilderness areas, 850 miles of recreational trails, and the southern terminus of the famed Appalachian Trail (AT). Atop it all sits the enchanting town of Blue Ridge, Georgia, the perfect base camp for exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains, which is one of the biggest hiking attractions in the Southeast.
You’ll find the historic town of Blue Ridge on the west side of the beautiful Blue Ridge Lake an hour and half north of Atlanta, Georgia on US Highway 76. If you enjoy mixing urban activities and amenities with your outdoor hiking adventures, then consider setting up camp near town and exploring out from there.
Family Fun Camping and Hiking
Blue Ridge Mineral Springs RV Park offers 38 full hookup RV sites and 12 acres of tent camping straddling Mineral Springs Creek on the southeast edge of town. Or you can enjoy camping on the eastern shores of Blue Ridge Lake at the Morganton Point Campground and Recreation Area. For something a little more luxurious, you can rent a private “cabin” (although they’re really much more than that) or even a tree house!
To be more immersed in the Blue Ridge Mountains, consider camping at the Toccoa River Sandy Bottoms Recreation Area, a small campsite on the banks of the Toccoa River, about 18 miles south of Blue Ridge on Old Dial Road. Enjoy hiking, camping, and fishing at this riverside site. Or get deep into the mountains at the Frank Gross Recreation Area, which is 26 miles south of Blue Ridge just past the Fish Hatchery on Rock Creek Road. Frank Gross Campsite will put you near Long Creek Falls and the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail on Springer Mountain.
Once you’re settled in, you can begin exploring over 300 miles of hiking trails in the Blue Ridge Mountains right away. Take the family to the Aska Adventure Trail Area, which features several hiking and biking trails on the south side of Blue Ridge Lake and along the Toccoa River. These trails, ranging in length from one to five miles, will carry you over Green Mountain, alongside rivers, and down to the shores of Blue Ridge Lake. The Fannin County Blue Ridge Tourism and Community website offers a fantastic Aska trail system guide to help you explore this area.
A great way to get out and discover more of this beautiful area is to visit its many popular waterfalls. Fall Branch Falls near Stanley Gap in the Aska area is a short hike up from Stanley Creek Road and features a series of cascades ending in a 30-foot drop. Perhaps the most popular waterfall is Long Creek Falls, located a little further south right off the Appalachian Trail. The trailhead is more difficult to get to, but the hike in is an easy 30 minutes and the rewarding views are worth the effort.
This waterfall map guide provides directions to all the area’s waterfalls, including ones farther out but well worth visiting. One such is the Amicalola Falls on the south side of Springer Mountain near the town of Amicalola on State Route 52. This 729-foot waterfall is located within the 829-acre Amicalola Falls State Park, yet another great site for camping and hiking among the Georgia Blue Ridge Mountains.
Renowned Southeast Backpacking
Amicalola Falls State Park also happens to be the gateway to the famous Appalachian Trail, which begins on the slopes of Springer Mountain and ends 2,184 miles away on Mount Katahdin in Maine. The first 78 miles of the Appalachian Trail follow the Blue Ridge Mountains east out of Georgia, passing by Long Creek Falls on the way. Blood Mountain is the first big climb on the AT and the highest point in Georgia at 4,459 feet.
Named for the Appalachian Trail visionary, the nearly 300-mile long Benton MacKaye Trail (BMT) follows the AT just past Long Creek Falls before splitting off to the north. From there, it crosses the Toccoa River Swinging Bridge twice as it cuts west and passes by Fall Branch Falls. Turning north, the BMT passes Dyer Gap, crosses the Jacks River Falls Trail in the Cohutta Wilderness, and heads off into Tennessee. Some 200 miles later, the BMT finds its end at Big Creek on the northeast side of the Great Smokey Mountains.
This trail map guide will help you navigate both of these legendary trails. Considering how well the Benton MacKaye Trail connects the best features throughout the area, it may just be the ultimate way to experience Georgia’s enchanting Blue Ridge Mountains.
You could literally spend a lifetime exploring this abundant southeast hiking destination, and it would not be a lifetime wasted.