North Georgia Mountains: The Leaves Are Changing Colors, Big Adventures Await – WSB-TV Channel 2

This happens every year around this time. The onset of fall brings migration to the mountains of North Georgia. This is where people see the leaves change color, from the greens of spring and summer to the oranges, reds and yellows of fall.

“Fall is a migration from the southeastern United States,” said Clayton Mayor Kurt Cannon. “Everyone comes to see the leaves change and (experience) the beautiful autumn air.”

There’s no better time than late fall in northern Georgia. There is cool cool air, fires at night and leaves.

“If you’ve never seen it, you might not understand. If you’ve seen it, you probably don’t need any explanation because the mountains look like a patchwork,” said Clayton Town Manager Judy Crunkleton. “The colors pop and the sides of the mountain are beautiful, and you will see this breathtaking tree.”

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

“I used to make people say, ‘There’s nothing to do here,'” Cannon said. “Well, it depends on the type of person you are. Lots to do here if you are an outdoors person.”

“We have tons of amazing opportunities to recreate, to hike, mountain bike, horseback ride, mountain bike,” said Casey Quarterman of the Chattahoochee Oconee National Forest Service. “Northeast Georgia is a gem and people are starting to discover it.”

Tackle the trails is high on the list of things to do when visiting the area. National Forest Lands make up 75% of Rabun County land, but how you choose to approach these trails is what makes your trip here unique.

There are hiking trails.

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

There are also ATV and motorcycle trails.

“Oakey Mountain is one of our (off-road vehicle) trail systems where people can take UTVs and motorcycles,” Quarterman said. “It’s right on top of a mountain, right in the heart of Rabun County and surrounded by lakes. It’s an awesome trail system where there are two big loops. People come everywhere to bring their motorcycles and ATVs to have this experience.

There are also paths for bicycles.

“This (area) offers incredible opportunities for mountain biking,” Quarterman said. “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 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 Bald, which is like another kind of very popular iconic place to go here in Rabun County,” said Brent Martin of the Blue Ridge Bartram Trail Conservancy.

The good news is that hikers don’t have to go it alone, especially if this is their first outing in the area. From park rangers to guide services, there is plenty of help.

Shady Creek Expeditions is one of the local companies that offers guides.

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

Shady Creek Expeditions offers all the gear needed to keep hikers safe in the woods. McFalls mentioned a few safety tips.

“Have someone with you, never go alone (to) places like this. You want to have someone with you. First aid kits will be extremely valuable to you. Have a change of clothes in case something happens. Think about it like being a Boy Scout,” McFalls said.

Rabun County is home to parts of 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 only colonial botanists who actually explored these mountains and wrote about these mountains – not only plant life, but the Cherokee people who lived here. He was a uniquely American and that’s why I think so many people still honor his heritage,” Martin said.

While some hikers hike the entire Bartram Trail, the majority spend the day hiking part of it. The same goes for the 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail. While hikers can 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 means the area is a great resource for anyone hiking the Appalachian Trail.

“For us to have this here in Georgia is a good thing,” Crunkleton said. “We love what it does for our community, brings people to our little town here.”

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

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

“We really think this is a place where you can start, end or continue your adventures,” said Spencer Turk of Tallulah Adventures. “We are here in Rabun County where there is 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 rock climbing wall, we have a great place for families to come hang out, relax and play games.

It is housed inside the old visitor center and offers food and drink, recreation, fun and adventure.

“Myself being from Atlanta, coming this way has always meant and adventure to me and coming to Rabun County and Tallulah Falls has always been where you can see the mountains, streams and waterfalls , so this place itself, right in the center of Tallulah Falls State Park, has over 20 miles of hiking trails, five amazing waterfalls and it’s just a beautiful place,” said Bill Turk of Tallulah Adventures .

Visit North Georgia for the leaves this season, but stick around and enjoy the adventure on a trip.

“Come to some of these cool towns here,” Quarterman said. “Clayton is right in the heart of the tallest mountains in Georgia. (There are) amazing opportunities to come and eat and have a beer, and stay and see the leaves change, and experience fall in the high country of Georgia.

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This story is sponsored by Rabun County.

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