Ellijay, Georgia, Should Be on Everyone's Fall Bucket List

The perfect place to visit for apples, wines, and waterfalls.

There are countless reasons to escape to the north Georgia mountains, especially in autumn. If you crave fall color, this town is a delightful display of some of the South's best foliage. Shades of crimson and gold cascade down mountain peaks as we flip the calendar from October to November each year. Though the area's Appalachian views may be its calling card, the charm of small towns like Ellijay, Georgia, keeps visitors coming back.

Ellijay, Georgia, is the perfect antidote to a busy autumn season. The tiny town of fewer than 3,000 pairs the 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 visit this town for a weekend (perhaps even longer).

Get Outside

Amicalola Falls State Park

The Blue Ridge Mountains, Carter's Lake, and three area rivers offer outstanding natural beauty with boundless autumn adventure. Start in nearby Amicalola Falls State Park to enjoy its namesake 729-foot waterfall. Hike from the base to the top to view the waterfall drop or drive around for a panoramic view.

If you're steady on two wheels, take advantage of Ellijay's renowned mountain biking trails. Known as the "Mountain Bike Capital of Georgia," the town has dozens of biking paths at its fingertips.

Cartecay River and Carter's Lake

Kayaking the Cartecay River with the help of the 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 outline 3,200 acres of deep, clear water and undeveloped shoreline. Rent a pontoon boat for the afternoon or cast a line into the clear waters at the deepest reservoir lake in Georgia.

Amicalola Falls And Bridge
Amicalola Falls. Stephen Liebenauer

U-Picks and Sips

Pick Your Own Apples

Pack your flannel and head down Highway 52, also known as Apple Alley, to see why Ellijay is Georgia's apple capital. Pick-your-own apple orchards and rolling hills dot the picturesque valley. Star apple picking attractions include Red Apple Barn, Hillcrest Orchards, and B.J. Reece Orchards, 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. Since 1971, the traditional two-weekend event offers a parade, car show, road race, craft festival, and, of course, a plethora of apple treats.

Wine and Cider Tastings

While you're venturing through the foothills, there's award-winning wine to taste. Kick back and sip on stops throughout the mountainside or 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.

Located on 20 acres, Ott Farms and Vineyard offers stunning mountain views, food trucks, and local artwork to browse while wine tasting. Extend your wine-tasting journey by booking a stay at Buckley Vineyards. A one-bedroom cabin is a short walk from the vineyard, and a two-bedroom option includes a complimentary wine tasting of six wines.

As an alternative to wine tasting, visit Reece's Cider Company to explore the fresh apple taste famous in the region. Stop by for a Cider Flight to explore the unique hard cider flavors.

Ellijay Georgia
rodclementphotography / Getty Images

Explore the Town

Visit Main Street

There's more than an afternoon's worth of specialty storefronts to meander through in Ellijay. On Main Street, Artful Ellijay promises casual yet refined home furnishings, while Mountain Treasures tempts shoppers with everything from ladies' apparel to rustic furnishings, candles, and regional art. You will find a gift at Looch and Quigley if you're hunting for a t-shirt or homemade soap.

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.

Going Antiquing

Continue perusing the town's trifecta of antique shops: Antiques on North Main, Black Bear Antiques, and Southern Flare Antiques. Each has something different to offer, from rustic relics to English antiques.

Discover a Legendary Museum

Just a 10-minute drive, this museum offers an out-of-this-world experience. If you've ever been interested in learning more about Bigfoot sightings, The Sasquatch Museum is your opportunity. It's a family-friendly museum that offers self-guided tours of the history and reports of this legendary figure.

Where To Eat

Breakfast

Start your morning at the Ellijay Coffeehouse on Main Street. Stop by for parfait or panini, made with in-house artisan bread and signature granola, with a side of Scrumptious Pickles.

Lunch or Dinner

Take a break from strolling the shops or biking the trails and eat lunch at the Back Porch Bistro, Ellijay's "hidden gem." The restaurant, located in Historic Downtown Ellijay, is accessed through the Ellijay Marketplace. It's pet-friendly and features a variety of hand-made sandwiches, soups, or salads.

You can also refuel over a barbecue plate at Poole's Bar-B-Q, known for its pig signs and pit-cooked menu.

Enjoy the views at The Roof downtown, a rooftop restaurant serving burgers, seafood, and signature cocktails in the evening. Another fine-dining option is Emily's Bar & Restaurant, highlighting a changing menu to feature fresh in-season foods. Select from shared plates, butcher cuts, seafood, and delectable sides at this family-owned restaurant.

Dessert

Satisfy your sweet tooth at the Chill Out Ice Cream and Eatery, serving hand-dipped ice cream cones and shakes. The Bavarian Chocolatier offers a selection of fresh fudge, chocolates, and other treats. Stop by for dessert or to buy a souvenir gift to take home.

Stay a While

Book an overnight at North Georgia Glamping and tailor your camping experience to your comfort level. Airstreams with accompanying tree lofts and pavilions, a geodome, and a 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. The Ellijay River House supplies B&B lovers with an adults-only stay in a 1915 Craftsman house.

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