Ellijay, Georgia, Should Be on Everyone's Fall Bucket List
There are countless reasons to escape to the north Georgia mountains, especially in autumn. If you crave fall color, you'll be treated to one of the South's finest displays. Shades of crimson and gold cascade down mountain peaks as we flip the calendar from October to November each year. Though the area's riches of Appalachian views may be its calling card, the charm of small towns like Ellijay is what keeps Southerners coming back.
Ellijay is the perfect antidote to a busy autumn season. The tiny town of less than 3,000 pairs crisp mountain air with quaint orchards, wineries, eateries, and antiques, making it an idyllic weekend refuge for residents of nearby cities like Atlanta and Chattanooga. Sprinkle in the fact that it's steps away from the Appalachian Trail, spectacular waterways, and some of the South's best biking trails, and you've got ample reason to take Monday off too.
The Blue Ridge Mountains, Carter's Lake, and three area rivers offer superb natural beauty with boundless autumn adventure. Start in nearby Amicalola Falls State Park to enjoy its namesake 729-foot waterfall. You can either hike from the base to the top of the drop or take a drive for a panoramic view. If you're steady on two wheels, take advantage of the Ellijay's renowned mountain biking trails. Known as the "Mountain Bike Capitol of Georgia," the town has more than 50 biking paths right at its fingertips. Kayaking the Cartecay River with the help of Cartecay River Experience is a great way to spend the day before the season dips into colder temperatures. Grab a paddle or float—you're sure to enjoy a bright, foliage-framed cruise either way. Adventurers looking for a view can't miss Carter's Lake where 62 miles of shoreline are free from private docks and development. Rent a pontoon boat for the afternoon or cast a line into the clear waters at the deepest reservoir lake in Georgia.
U-Picks and Sips
Pack your flannel and head down Highway 52, also known as Apple Alley, to see why Ellijay is Georgia's apple capitol. The picturesque valley is dotted with pick-your-own apple orchards and rolling hills. Red Apple Barn, Hillcrest Orchards, and B.J. Reece Orchards are star attractions, though you can't go wrong with any orchard in the area. If you're visiting in October, the Georgia Apple Festival brings the core of Ellijay alive to celebrate the seasonal apple crop. The traditional two-weekend event offers a parade, car show, road race, craft festival, and, of course, a plethora of apple treats.
While you're venturing in the foothills, there's award-winning wine to taste. Kickback and sip mountainside on a terraced vineyard where wine tastings come with a side of live music on weekends. Fan favorites, like Fainting Goat Vineyards & Winery, Engelheim Vineyards, and Chateau Meichtry, will entice you with wines ranging from Sauvignon Blancs to Merlots.
Explore the Town
There's more than an afternoon's worth of specialty storefronts to meander through in Ellijay. On Main Street, Artful Ellijay promises comforting, yet refined home furnishings while Mountain Treasures tempts shoppers with everything from ladies' apparel to rustic furnishings, candles, and regional art. Whether you're on the hunt for a t-shirt or homemade soap, you're sure to find a gift at Looch and Quigley. Continue perusing at the town's trifecta of antique shops: Antiques on North Main, Black Bear Antiques, and Southern Flare Antiques. Each has a little something different to offer, from rustic relics to English antiques. Gear up at Blue Ridge Mountain Outfitters or Live The Trail before your weekend adventures, and locals behind the counter can share tips to set you up for success too.
Refuel over a plate of barbecue at Poole's Real Pit BBQ, known for its infamous pig signs and pit-cooked menu, or enjoy the views at The Roof downtown, a rooftop kitchen and bar. Satisfy your sweet tooth at the Bavarian Chocolatier, and enjoy a night cap at River Street Tavern before the day is done.
Stay a While
Overnight at Elatse'Yi where you can tailor your glamping experience to your comfort level. Airstreams with accompanying tree lofts and pavilions, a geodome, and creek-front cabin invite you to take in all the season's splendor before the temperature turns. Those looking for an indoor retreat after a day outdoors can have their pick from an array of cabin rentals and boutique inns. The Villas at Coosawattee River Resort offer one-, two-, and three-bedroom cabins featuring river and mountain views while Ellijay River House supplies B&B-lovers with an adults-only Craftsman stay.