It's autumn, and that means it's the perfect time to hit the byways. Along the Peach State's northernmost backroads, you'll encounter bucolic scenery, wondrous waterfalls, charming towns, and majestic vistas.
There will likely be lots of other folks in search of seasonal vignettes, so we've planned a route that harvests bits of well-known drives while reaping a small crop of lesser-known destinations. Although you can cover this route in a day, plan on two or three.
Falling for Views
Start just north of Dawsonville at Amicalola Falls State Park. The rustic lodge straddles the mountaintop, with views out every window. Options for hikers include a strenuous trail that follows the falls and gentle walks in the valley.
When you're ready to hit the road, head down State 52 east. Turn left on State 9 toward Dahlonega. Park along the town square, and wander through the cozy shops. The village fills with fall fun October 18 and 19, when more than 300 arts and crafts booths encircle the historic square.
You can spend an entire day or weekend exploring Dahlonega, but heed the call of the season. Leave town to the north on U.S. 19, and begin crossing Blood Mountain. Near the summit at Neels Gap, drop in on the nice folks at Mountain Crossings at Walasi-Yi. This outfitter occupies an old Civilian Conservation Corps building where the Appalachian Trail crosses the highway. In addition to the bright fleece jackets and freeze-dried backpacking foods, you'll find a selection of local pottery and weavings.
Back on U.S. 19, the road traverses a cove that's covered in brilliant tulip poplars and tall Virginia pines at Vogel State Park. We like to rent a paddleboat here to while away a sunny weekend afternoon.
Keep heading north, then turn right on State 180, which leads to the 180 spur and Brasstown Bald. At 4,784 feet, the view is Georgia's highest and coolest. No temperature above 84 degrees has ever been recorded here. Bring your sweater or jacket along for the half-mile hike to the top (or pay $2 for the round-trip via van).
Loosen Up on the Loop Route
The Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Byway flows in a big circle south of Brasstown Bald. If you have time for only part of this drive, be sure to explore State 348 from State 180 to Dukes Creek Falls, just north of the intersection with Alternate U.S. 75.
Before you call it a wrap, hike approximately 1 mile to Dukes Creek Falls, a respectable cascade that babbles about the beauty of the North Georgia woods.
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